Recommend a video camera under $500

I’m looking into getting a cheapish video camera and I have no idea what’s good or bad, or even what format I want.

It’s only going to be for casual use, so I don’t have many requirements. I’d like at least a reasonable zoom lens, maybe 3x, has to function decently in relatively low light (I don’t want a camera that’s only good for outdoor daylight work), and have a reasonably priced universal media.

I’ve heard of digital video tape, but I don’t know anything about it. Do DV cameras have firewire connectors generally so you can automatically capture video to your system? If they do, do you need a seperate capture card, or can you upload the video directly to your computer?

In that case, I’d definitely give due consideration to DV cameras, but I’m also looking into hi-8 and vhs-c (those are the big formats as far as I know - which is better between them?)

Anyway, any experience you have with different cameras and format types and brands would be appreciated.

Pretty much any DV camera from Sony, Canon, or Panasonic… they all have lower-end models for under $500. Most have at least a 10x optical zoom. Firewire connections are pretty universally standard.

The Panasonic PV-GS70 is a good camera. If you check Ebay, I’m positive you’d be able to find one for under $500.

I bought my JVC Mini-DV camera about 18 months ago and it works pretty well. I got it because you can edit it on the computer and then either record to a CD-DVD or back on the tape. It does use a Firewire connection and came with basic editing software from ULead. You should be able to get a Mini DV easily for $500.00 or less depending on features. The only extra thing I bought was a larger battery because the one supplied is pretty small.

Bumpity bump (probably buying soon).

Ended up getting a sony TRV460. It’s their highest end digital 8 camera, which is to say it’s competitive with slightly above entry level mini-dv cams. I read a bunch of reviews apparently from videophiles that scared me. They made it sound really mediocre, but I think it’s only because they’re hardcore videophiles and compare it to $1k+ cameras. I haven’t used it extensively, but so far it seems pretty cool. I wanted the lower end model, the TRV260, because it had more manual controls and not everything was done through the touch screen… but the latter model has analog to digital pass through and it’ll save me from buying a capture card (I hope) so it was worth the extra $50.

From what I’ve read, mini-dv has roughly the same quality, as they use the same format (though mini-dv cameras tend to have more expensive/better lenses and stuff), but digital 8 seemed fine for all my uses. I actually prefer a beefier camera to the kind that fits in the palm of my hand, so I’m happy.

No idea why I’m writing this, actually… I’m just happy about my new toy I guess.