What digital camcorder should I buy?

I’m looking to purchase a camcorder for my own artistic exploration and I would love some input from people who know what they’re talking about. I’m looking for a camera which would give me the best picture quality possible without breaking my bank account. I’m willing to drop a pretty good chunk of cash on this, and so I want to make sure that what I get is a good investment.

So far the only camcorder I’ve been exposed to outside of the home-video variety is the Sony DCR-VX2000 which my school uses for video arts classes. The picture quality was amazing (3 CCDs), and you can’t beat the convenient size, but $3,000 is quite a price tag. I’d be willing to splurge if that’s what I had to pay for broadcast quality, but I’m hoping that there have been advances in price vs. performance over the last few years.

One of the perks of this camera is the FireWire port that Sony puts on all their Mini DV camcorders, so I can stream digital video to and from my computer through a $70 PCI card. Do other digital camcorders have this or some other similar way to interface with my computer (a PC)?

They change all the time. Try reading the newsgroup, rec.video.desktop

A digital camcorder that uses 8mm cassettes can save you quite a lot of dough.

You might see if Consumer Reports has a recent test report.

$3000 is way too much, near broadcast should be around $1200 now.

I have a Sony DV120 which uses Digital-8 technology, and it is quite good. It was $720, it uses the firewire. If you SONY used to make the only D8 videocameras, but that has changed I beleive.

BTW, if you plan on doing video editing on your PC make sure you have the right specs. The most important thing is the amount of memory, the size and the speed of your hard drive. Also you will need the firewire card (IEEE1394)

I get this magazine Videomaker which has some reviews on various cameras. You might be able to get the same info at their website:

When you get the card you will probably get some basic video editing software. Basically allows you to do non-linear editing, add titles, voice over, music, and transistions. But the high powered video editing software like Adobe Premiere is about $600, but you can do some really cool stuff.

I strictly play around, I am not even at the level of hobbyist, really.

Adobe Premiere 5.5 or under doesn’t do DV. I don’t know about version 6.0, though, that might do it.

It’s interesting this question get asked a lot. Also, camcorders use caps in their manufacture so don’t expect them to last more than a few years on average.

Thanks for the advice guys, couple of followups:

Is the Digital-8 format comparable to Mini DV? Am I going to be loosing some quality by recording to D8 instead of DV? (assuming that the cameras used produce similar quality footage)

I’ve seen what the 3 chip cameras can do and the recordings have much more vivid colors than the cheaper stock, which often look washed out. Unfortunately they seem to be in the 2 to 3 grand range. Have the newer 1 chips like the DV120 that Tretiak mentioned bridged that gap? Idealy I would like to be able film footage which looks as professional as I can get it.

You mean that they purposely build cameras that fail after a few years?

“You mean that they purposely build cameras that fail after a few years?”

Yes, in a way, like most appliances, it’s called “planned obsolesce”

Digital 8 is the same as MiniDV, it just cost less to use. You know why its the same? Cause all the info is stored as 1’s & 0’s.

mpeg1 and mpeg2 are just ones and zeros. jpegs and targas are just ones and zeros. sorenson compression and cinepak compression are just ones and zeros. DVCAM and MiniDV are both ones and zeros, DVCAM records 50% more information.
do you see where i’m going with this, handy? d8 and dv are not the same.

mirage, if you are looking into the vx2000, i suggest you try to find yourself a vx1000. the advantages of the vx2000 are not signifigant, and you will save some money. who needs a flip-out screen? not i.

if you want to get broadcast-quality images, you will have to pay for it. what the posters in this thread seem to forget is that a good lens is just as important as tape format.

as far as desktop editing, i would suggest one of the mac systems featuring final cut pro. all the seminars i have been to have really impressed me. in fact, many of the heavyweight NLE manufacturers are suffering due to the quality of this inexpensive product.

anyway… if you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me.

One other thing, and KT maybe can back me up on this (or he can say I am full of…), don’t get to caught up in the “digital” zoom capabilities of the different cameras. It is not the same quality as true zooming. So even though 450x digital zoom sounds really cool (and it kinda is) it’s not like you got an electron microscope in your hands. There are definite quality losses with digital zoom. I am just saying don’t shell out extra bucks for mega digital zoom.

KT recommended a Mac, I am not going to argue with that…if you are planning on getting a new computer. But you may be trying to use your current computer just make sure you either have the drive space and speed, memory, etc. or are willing to upgrade to get it.

Kilgore Trout, you can use 8mm cassettes to record digitally. True, they are bigger than DV cassettes:

"Experience a revolutionary new technology that delivers all The
advantages of digital recording with all the convenience and familiarity of
today’s analog cassettes. There’s nothing quite like it. Because there’s no
other camcorder that captures digital information on a standard 8mm or Hi8
tape. With Sony Digital8 camcorders, you’ll see brilliant, sharp images with up
to 500 lines of horizontal resolution. You’ll hear rich, digital quality sound.
You’ll enjoy virtually unlimited editing possibilities. And you’ll record it all on
the most popular cassette format within the camcorder industry - 8mm tapes
- while still being able to play back all your current 8mm and Hi8 tapes. With
Sony Digital8, you can fast forward to the digital future without leaving your
past behind. "
“The least expensive Digital 8 model (TR7000, $650 mail-order) is the cheapest digital video recorder now available that has
firewire in and out.”

So how are they not both digital? (DV & Digital 8)

they are both digital. i didn’t say otherwise. but so are all the other things i listed… that doesn’t make them the same.

like i said earlier, miniDV and DVCAM are both digital, and they use very similar codecs. but DVCAM records 50% more information on the tape, resulting in much higher quality.

just because they are both digital, that doesn’t make them the same.

and yes, digital zoom sucks eggs. it is magnifying the picture digitally, as tretiak said. you will be able to do the same thing in your edit suite, not that you’d really want to that often anyway.

My parents are professional videographers. They use the Canon GL-1. It’s a 3-chip camera. I’m thinking of getting a camcorder, and they let me borrow several issues of Computer Videomaker, which is a very interesting camera to read, even if you don’t plan on doing any serious camera work (I just want one to play with, mostly). I won’t buy a 3-chip camera because of the $2K+ price, but my parents insist that you definitely should go with digital, and my mom likes Sony’s quality. Plenty of good ones exist under $1000.


P.S. Can I plug for them? http://videomemorieskemp.com

Uh, I mean, it’s a very interesting magazine to read.

BTW, can anyone recommend a good digital video editing program/suite for the PC? What I hace right now is Studi DV from Pinnacel that cam with my IEEE1394 card. It iain’t bad actually, but pretty basic: non-linear editing, transitions, voice-overs, titles but that is about it.