recommendation for new digital camcorder

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Gabe Anderson

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May 11, 2003, 2:36:57 AM5/11/03
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I have an old school JVC GR60 (VHS-C) camcorder and am in the market
for a new digital camcorder. I don't know much about what to look for,
but it seems like MiniDV camcorder will be my best bet (as opposed to
Digital8 or any other format).

The first major event I'm looking to record is my wedding this summer,
so I want the quality to be as good as possible. I understand that
most MiniDVs aren't good in low light, so I'm concerned about that. Is
that usually the case? Can that be corrected with a concentrated light
source? I'd say quality is my biggest requirement, along with a price
tag in the $500 neighborhood.

From poking around Amazon, it seems like some of these may be good
bets for me:

Canon ZR60 MiniDV Digital Camcorder ($473.94)
Canon ZR65MC MiniDV Digital Camcorder ($499.88)
JVC GRD30 MiniDV Camcorder ($382.94)
Sony DCRTRV350 Digital8 ($499.99)
Sony DCRTRV19 MiniDV Camcorder ($599.99)

Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Gabe
---
http://gabeanderson.com

Jeffery S. Jones

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May 11, 2003, 3:31:20 PM5/11/03
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On 10 May 2003 23:36:57 -0700, ga_nospam_v...@fastmail.fm
(Gabe Anderson) wrote:

>I have an old school JVC GR60 (VHS-C) camcorder and am in the market
>for a new digital camcorder. I don't know much about what to look for,
>but it seems like MiniDV camcorder will be my best bet (as opposed to
>Digital8 or any other format).

MiniDV and Digital8 have the same recording quality. D8 lets you
use the somewhat larger and more durable video8 tapes (also a bit
cheaper than MiniDV), but MiniDV is available from more makers, and it
also has an upward range of products -- VCRs, larger size tape, etc.

Either one is fine for home and personal use. Both use exactly the
same digital data format, totally interchangeable and transferable
without conversion.

>The first major event I'm looking to record is my wedding this summer,
>so I want the quality to be as good as possible. I understand that
>most MiniDVs aren't good in low light, so I'm concerned about that. Is
>that usually the case? Can that be corrected with a concentrated light
>source? I'd say quality is my biggest requirement, along with a price
>tag in the $500 neighborhood.

It is the new, smaller, lighter, less battery power using camera
elements which cause light sensitivity to drop. On the other side of
things, the somewhat darker images often retain more detail, are
sharper, have less grainy noise, so it isn't entirely a loss. There
isn't much way around this -- the smaller size, more economical,
higher resolution CCDs are technically superior to the older ones used
in analog, which couldn't do the resolution that digital offers, and
tended to be heavier and harder on the batteries.


In better light, and it doesn't need to be all that much better, the
digitals have much better picture quality. Compared to VHS, of
course, they'll look even nicer -- SVHS or Hi8 are closer, but neither
one offers quite the image sharpness (resolution) of DV formats.

Another thing, you can capture the low light DV and apply a
brightening/gamma shifting filter to make it look brighter than it was
recorded. Do this on analog and you're likely to see a lot more
grainy noise. I've been quite impressed with how nice some shots in
dark areas, and I mean club or candle light dark, look after
manipulating them a bit. Might be nice to have an in-camera feature
to help with that...

... but the real solution for low light and DV format is a higher
end camera like Sony's VX2000. While I use a "consumer" D8 for my
home stuff, and it does take decent pictures, the prosumer 3 chippers
are almost as big a jump up as going from Hi8 to D8.

My Sony D8 offers two compensations to make up for the low light
sensitivity. Both change the picture some, but when that isn't a
problem, it works nicely. There is a slow shutter speed, which will
cause motion to turn blurry but allows very clear color pictures in
very low light. It also has a "nightshot" infrared mode, which uses
an invisible infrared light to illuminate subjects in darkness, but
this loses color info -- like a night vision lens thing.

Still, though it isn't as good in low light as some cameras I've
used, my TRV740 is good enough for most circumstances. If you go with
a Sony, there are some tricks to help with low light:

1) Turn off steady shot. There is a trick which may let you lock
the shutter speed and iris and keep it on, but if you're serious about
stable shooting, just use a tripod and turn that feature off.

2) Go to manual exposure. This is kind of obvious, because it
works with lots of cameras, and usually gives the nicest looking shots
in all lighting - once you learn to adjust it.

3) Switch to manual focus, if you haven't already. While some
cameras do use an autofocus which can see in the dark, most don't, so
auto works poorly in low light.

Or, in short, go to no steady shot, manual control, and it works
better. This should work with most models; only cameras with optical
image stabilization rather than electronic don't compromise something
in image quality, and you won't get that feature on low cost cameras.


>From poking around Amazon, it seems like some of these may be good
>bets for me:
>
>Canon ZR60 MiniDV Digital Camcorder ($473.94)
>Canon ZR65MC MiniDV Digital Camcorder ($499.88)
>JVC GRD30 MiniDV Camcorder ($382.94)
>Sony DCRTRV350 Digital8 ($499.99)
>Sony DCRTRV19 MiniDV Camcorder ($599.99)
>
>Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Any of them should work OK. I'm more familiar with the Sony. I
went with a D8 model because I had an 8 before, so I could swap some
tapes (not so critical, but I get tapes from other Hi8 using friends),
and both purchase price and tape price were lower than the similar
MiniDV model.

OTOH, MiniDV is smaller, lighter. Should get a little longer
battery life too, though *all* of these can run for hours if you get a
long life battery. No need for battery belt backs with these
machines. MiniDV is available from more makers, so you have a wider
choice (only Sony, Hitachi?, and Sanyo make D8 machines).
--
*-__Jeffery Jones__________| *Starfire* |____________________-*
** Muskego WI Access Channel 14/25 <http://www.execpc.com/~jeffsj/mach7/>
*Starfire Design Studio* <http://www.starfiredesign.com/>

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