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Need digital camcorder recommendation/tutorial
Old 10-23-2005, 03:57 PM   #1
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Need digital camcorder recommendation/tutorial

Hi folks.

I need to purchase a new (digital?) camcorder in the next 2 days; been wanting one for a while and we are heading out on a trip wednesday so I need to just do it.

Generally speaking, my inclination is to always by the "best", like i did with my digital camera, but inthis case, I don't think I need the "best", but even if I did want the best, I'd only be able to tell by the highest price....

Basically I want to be able to take home movies, edit them on my PC and burn them to DVD's for long-term storage...I assume this means I want* a "digital" camera, but besides that I really don't know what features are "must have", "nice to have" or useless....

Anyone want to give me the 3 minute tutorial? and specific recommendations? I'd like to spend $500-$600, but could go up to $1000 or a bit more if the more expensive ones really do have features that are "must have".


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Re: Need digital camcorder recommendation/tutorial
Old 10-23-2005, 04:27 PM   #2
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Re: Need digital camcorder recommendation/tutorial

go to and check it out.* Are you talking about video or still cameras?* Steve* covers both -* he calls still cameras 'digicams' and digital videos are called 'digital camcorders'.*

In any case, this is where I go first for camera reviews.

Best regards


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Re: Need digital camcorder recommendation/tutorial
Old 10-23-2005, 04:31 PM   #3
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Re: Need digital camcorder recommendation/tutorial

farmerEd, I'm far from an expert on the subject but earlier this year I did some research before buying one. I highly recommend you pay a few bucks for an online subscription to and read what they have to say about them. They have a pretty good tutorial on the various formats (MiniDV, Digital 8, Mini Disc) and features available (image stabilization, audio quality, still image capture) and the pluses and minuses of each.

I bought a low-end Cannon model that they rated highly and have been very happy with it.
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Re: Need digital camcorder recommendation/tutorial
Old 10-23-2005, 07:04 PM   #4
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Re: Need digital camcorder recommendation/tutorial

FarmerEd, Here is a site I like reading:

Pretty techy longer reviews but they don't hesitate to say what doesn't work. I have a Cannon Optura 100mc which is a few years old but still mini DV. Lot's of new stuff now (DVD recording, hard drive recording, 3 chip prices coming down) to confuse you even more. Technology changes quickly here so you will have a hard time waiting for things to settle down and you can always get caught spending more for those few extra features. Mini DV should hang in for a while and you definitely don't want anything less than digital mini DV since it is "commodity" now. Here is the beginner tutorial:

I am no expert. My one piece of advice as a novice; whatever you get, invest the few bucks on good easy to use digital editing software and learn to use it. I use a basic version of Pinnacle Studio but I am sure others will work. I grab lots of footage because for every event I find about 5-20% is "good" footage. All kinds of neat things you can do editing a decent show on your PC or laptop including audio. For me editing is more fun than shooting. It teaches you to shoot smarter, and people are less likely to doze off watching the results. Good luck

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Re: Need digital camcorder recommendation/tutorial
Old 10-26-2005, 01:14 PM   #5
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Re: Need digital camcorder recommendation/tutorial

How long of a "movie" will you be making before being able to dump it off to a pc?

I ask because I was faced with the same conundrum last year. I looked at a lot of tape and mini dvd setups. They all had a lot of problems of one sort or another, either size, usability, ease of dealing with the resulting material on a PC without using some included crippleware to transfer the video to a format that was largely unusable by tools I liked to use. I think half the problem is created by legal limitations on converting media to dvd and the like rather than technical ones.

I discovered that a lot of digital cameras take surprisingly good movies with sound. Settled on the Canon SD300, which is a palm sized digital camera that takes 640x480 30fps movies with sound or 320x240 60fps movies with sound. The latter is pretty good for checking out a golf or bat swing in slow mo.

Stored on an SD card that cant kink or scratch, fail to finalize, and without tape hum, you get about 9 minutes on a 1GB card and 18 minutes on a 2GB card. You can carry ten of them in a matchbook sized case and the 1GB models are under $50 a pop on sale.

Once taken, I pop the card into a USB 2.0 media reader and in a minute or so copy the movie in raw AVI format with XP's camera and scanner wizard. I can import this into windows movie maker and edit it, or draw it into pretty much ANY movie editing tool or dvd making product. Nothing proprietary about it at all, except the media is not well compressed, hence the large size requirements.

The resulting quality, even in low light, beats the stuffing out of ANY of the half dozen high rated camcorders I bought and returned. I also tried some similar "digital camcorders" that used mpeg2 or mpeg4 compression and a digital memory card. The picture quality on those generally stunk and I was back to needing some manufacturer supplied crapware to extract and edit the video.

We've taken ALL of our baby photos and videos with this and both my wife and I are extremely pleased with it. It also has a tiny rechargeable battery that lasts for weeks of regular use and recharges in an hour or so.

I was really motivated to do this after our former 5 starr top of the line minidv camcorder was used to record our wedding and the damn tape was no good and had a hum in it, and the 4.5 star mini dvd camcorded I bought my mother in law for christmas last year failed to be able to finalize a disk of her grandkids playing at disney world.

Not much that can go wrong here, but if you want to keep the media it can get a little expensive vs tape/dvd, and you cant record more than 9/18 minutes at one pop. I found I do that very infrequently though.

For archival purposes I use an external 160GB firewire/USB 2.0 disk drive to periodically make copies. Periodically when we're at the in-laws I bring the drive with me, make a copy of the mother-in-laws photos and videos to it and dump a copy of ours onto her computer. Should be more than enough redundancy.
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