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Old August 22nd, 2007, 06:00 PM   #1
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Low-End MiniDV w/ 1/8" External Mic Jack?

Hi all,
I've been tasked with recommending a low-end (sub-$600) MiniDV camera for my university's department to purchase for our grad students' use in documenting their projects. I have a background in high-end video (shooting on the DVX-100/A/B), but the last time I looked at the low-end/consumer market was about 4 years ago, when I bought a Panny DV953 (on the advice of this site, actually). Looking at JVC/Canon/Panasonic/Sony websites, it seems like nobody's making a basic consumer camera with audio input anymore -- and external audio input pretty much the only non-baseline feature these folks will want, considering a lot of what they'll shoot is people talking about and demonstrating their projects. Are any manufacturers still making low-end cams with external mic jacks?

I apologize for dropping out of a long hiatus to beg for advice, but I figure if anyone knows an answer, it'd be you all. :)

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Old August 22nd, 2007, 07:34 PM   #2
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We don't see too many of those these days, but the Canon ZR800 is small, cheap, and has a mic jack. It doesn't have a headphone jack though. You can find these for about $279. The quality is pretty decent for a camera of its size and price.
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Old August 26th, 2007, 07:00 AM   #3
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Small digital camera w/ ext. 1/8" mic jack?

O.K. guys, think humble here. I know this is stooping a little low for this forum, but I need some help.

I'm looking for a small, memory-card based digital camera with 640 x 480 movie mode that has a 1/8" mic jack for an wireless mic for posting to the web. Something like the Canon Elph or Sureshot series would be perfect, except they don't have external mic jacks. I and the engineers that work for me need something we can carry in our briefcases wherever we go to document field projects. I can bring back bigger video cameras later or hire a crew if merited. For this use, sound is really the limiting factor, the built in mics on these cameras are really poor and funnel in a lot of undesirable noise. I would like to avoid having to use a separate audio recorder, since that complicates editing significantly.

For project use I'm having to downgrade the video to 320 x 240 in most cases to post to the web and most pieces require 5 - 15 minutes of footage and are 1 - 4 minutes in length when edited. I keep the pieces in 640 x 480 for office presentations, which works fine for my purposes.

I'd like to avoid the hassle of tapes and large video files sizes when editing, and camera size is very important. Editing from a memory card at lower resolutions is really efficient for this use. I can often produce a piece with voice-overs in less than 2 hours and get my ideas across effectively to a large, dispersed audience.

Any ideas for the common working man?
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Old August 26th, 2007, 08:34 AM   #4
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I recommend that you check out B&H Photo's website.

They have a wonderful webside, full of useful information, and they are one of this site's sponsors. They are a very reputable dealer and their prices are real.

"You will be able to review most of the current offerings to find your perfect camera (camcorder).

For your needs, the following is the general area where I would start:

To view the entire B&H Photo's site, start here:
Dan Keaton
Augusta Georgia
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Old August 26th, 2007, 12:14 PM   #5
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AFAIK, most still cameras with a "movie mode" use a reduced frame rate closer to 15 fps, as well as a smaller than normal image resolution. This plus the lack of external mic connections makes it seem like this wouldn't be a very viable direction to try to go. What about a small consumer-grade mini-DV camera instead?

Edit: Your post got me curious and checked out the B&H pages for "Shoot and Share" card-based consumer camcorders. It looks like Sanyo has a couple, both in the $500 range, that have external mic inputs. Don't know anything about them but if interested, see
Good news, Cousins! This week's chocolate ration is 15 grams!
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Old August 26th, 2007, 12:42 PM   #6
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I've been using the movie mode in 640 x 480 @ 30fps and the video quality is quite good. Sound, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired. Here's a link to a Canon S3 video @ this size and rate:

Something like the Canon TX1, which has 720p, would be ideal if it had at least one external mike jack.
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Old August 26th, 2007, 12:56 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Steve House View Post
AFAIK, most still cameras with a "movie mode" use a reduced frame rate closer to 15 fps
They've gotten a lot better recently... I have the tiny Canon SD600 and it will do 640x480 at 30fps although I believe filesize is limited to 2GB.

Nevertheless I suspect you'll have a hard time finding a still camera with aux audio input. I would also look at the little video cameras with flash or hard disk recording but I don't know anything about these personally.

I saw this little Panasonic at NAB and it looked very cool :-)
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Old August 26th, 2007, 01:16 PM   #8
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Pretty cool camera. I already have a Sony HDR-HC3, which is pretty small. Once I go to tape and HD, the editing time/rendering.... goes up significantly. I've also noticed that the small Canon Powershots/elphs/S3's seem to do better for spontaneous shooting with faster focus than my video gear. They can't match the quality of the camcorders if you take time to set them up, but they seem to do better for informal shooting in the harsh environments I find myself. I do a lot of shooting with my camera over my head, way at the side around objects..... and the pictures just come out looking good for the purposes I need.

I'm not sure this makes any sense, especially if you are an experienced videographer that eats, sleeps, and dreams about the layout of your camera. I'm an engineer that loves to shoot video at home. Unless I really think it through and plan it out, it doesn't come together very well. When I'm in the field taking these work project videos it's very dynamic and I'm preoccupied with dodging people, materials, and equipment. I've got to step in, grab a snippet, back out, go back in, take another shot... then sew it together in the editing suite. I also do a lot of work by grabbing a great still shot, then using the editing software to pan and zoom through the shot while narrating. A great still camera with good vid is better than vis versa.

I was looking at a Sony HDSR1 AVCHD on clearance for $899, but it's a little bigger than I wanted and rendering and editing is much more time and system intensive and the stills wouldn't be as good as with even a decent digital camera.
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