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Is High Optical Zoom Important?

Discussion in 'Camcorders, Action Cams & Video Editing Forum' started by gchappell, Jan 16, 2005.

  1. gchappell

    gchappell
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    Hi,

    I'm looking to buy an "entry-level" (i.e. inexpensive) camcorder for <=£300.

    Models that look promising so far are:
    - Sony DCR-HC18E
    - Canon MV700
    - Panasonic NV-GS11B

    The Sony model above (in common with most of their cheaper models) has an optical zoom of only 10x, compared to the 18x and 24x of the other two models. Is this a factor to be concerned about? Are there significant differences between the video quality of these models?

    I have read a number of complaints about motor noise. Which of the above models is likely to be least plagued by this?

    Any comments / views / opinions / insults related to any or all of the above questions would be greatly welcomed.

    Regards,
    Gerald
     
  2. Roy Mallard

    Roy Mallard
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    zoom: bigger gives more scope. The video resolution at 1x should be no different from 10, 18 or 24x. That said, according to the manufacturer my car can top 150mph. I can't think of the last time I went above 70 (honest officer).

    Do bear in mind that when you go beyond around 5x zoom you will probably need a tripod. (the camera you mention feature an inferior digital image stabiliser, the resolution drops a bit when you activate the image stabiliser).

    When you go much beyond 10x you will get colour abberation (also known as fringing, coloured halos, usually red or green, around the subject) on all the cameras you mention.

    Zoom lenses are generally bad news, on my stills gear I only have prime lenses, the bigger the zoom the bigger the compromises (pincushion & barrel distortion will occour at both ends of the zoom).

    As you zoom in you lose light (this is called f-drop) as the ratio between the size of the iris and the focal length increases. The bigger the zoom, the more light you tend to lose. This means that your picture is visibly darker at the telephoto end than at the wide angle.

    As you increase the focal length it becomes a lot harder to focus, as the effective depth of field is reduced massively.

    The canon gets the worst rep for motor noise, they all have the zoom lens right above the mic, so there si going to be some pick up on all cameras. One technique is to limit the amount you use the zoom when recording, this will also make your footage look very much more professional (how often do you see massive zooming on tv or in films?, you might see a creeping zoom in a drama, but rarely elsewhere), if you want to change shot sizes, change position and change the focal length, then shoot, this will look a lot better in the edit.
     
  3. meles

    meles
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    Even Sony's more expensive models like HC85 and PC350 only have 10x zoom. But in some cases, you can buy a converter lens to double this up. However, there will be much more potential for image shake at 20x and less light getting in. It depends on what you are filming. I do a lot of wildlife work, and could really do with a zoom greater than 10x. I tend to get round this by 'digiscoping' (using the video through a birdwatching telescope which gets you very close indeed), but of course the telescope costs as much as the camcorder...
     

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