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Yet another camcorder novice looking for advice...

Discussion in 'Camcorders, Action Cams & Video Editing Forum' started by cerebros, Jul 19, 2004.

  1. cerebros

    cerebros
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    Hi all,

    I'm yet another camcorder novice looking for advice. I do know some things I'm definitely looking for with a camcorder (at the cheaper end of the market, say £500 absolute tops, although preferably closer to £300):

    Mini DV
    DV In & Out
    Decent optical zoom range
    Good low light performance

    I'm also interested if possible to get a model with a widescreen mode where the camera isn't just masking off a 4:3 frame, but records a true 16:9 image and then converts to an anamorphically squashed picture for display on a widescren TV (I'm guessing a true 16:9 camcorder would be several times more expensive than the end of the market I'm looking it.)

    I've also got a couple of questions I'm hoping someone can answer. Looking at some of the models on Canon's UK website, the focal length of the lens is quoted as being 2.8-56mm, which leads me to wonder what the equivalent 35mm SLR focal lenghts would be - I'm into 35mm photography (working my way towards mostly passable results at the moment) and just trying to work out how wide the camcorder lens is in photographic terms.

    Also on the specs of some Canon camcorders the following is listed under the audio options
    . Now does this mean that the camcorder is able to make some sort of surround sound recording, is is this just some way of trying to create better sounding stereo recordings?

    So does anyone have any recommendations of any good models (or any to avoid like the plague)?


    thanks
     
  2. Roy Mallard

    Roy Mallard
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    There is no easy way round the low light issue, cameras need light to work, without enough light there will be a compromise.

    Some cameras will boost the gain level to the point where the picture colour becomes totally desaturated (washed out) and the picture noise is unbearable.

    Some others slow the shutter speed to gve a longer exposure time and thus catching more light, the trouble with this is that motion becomes adversely affected after a point.

    Sony cameras feature a nightshot mode which uses infra-red recording and can work in zero light, the problem again is the effect on colour (the camera is filtered for IR light, so all of the visible colour spectrum is lost).

    If you are going to be doing a lot of low light stuff you might be better advised to buy a camera top light, cheapy canons, cheapy MINIDV sonys and all but the cheapest panasonics give you a hot shoe to attach the light to, I'd buy an independant model from the likes of Hahnel.

    You mention that you are getting into SLR photography, this to my mind would make the Panasonics quite appealing as they are the only cameras at this end of the market to express exposure in f-numbers, gain and shutter speed combinations, should you fancy being more technical.

    You are right about the 16:9 option, triple your budget and you might stretch to a sony trv80 or a PC330, the next rung up would be a sony PDX10 (£1700).

    Optex have announced a lower cost anamorphic adapter for consumer cam users, not sure how far away this is though according to the IOV magazine cost will be around £200-£250.

    Most camcorders offer two audio modes, single track stereo channel 16 bit 48khz audio for the best on camera quality, which is what I'd recommend you use, adding commentry or music is much easier in the editing stage rather than on cam.

    The two channel 12 bit 32khz option is only really useful for cameras with more than one audio imput, so you can mic from 2 sources. The camera I suspect you refer to is the canon xl1s, which via an optional XLR adaptor, offers 4 inputs.

    The sound quality is reduced in the 12-bit 32KHZ mode but would still be perefectly acceptable for dialogue, though probably not for an audio recording.

    In practice if you were recording 4 audio sources you would probaly go though a sound mixer first, which would usually give you either an A1 & A2 output or stero left and right output depending on your mixer and how it has been set up. This is academic as such mixers dont's come in at less than a grand for an ASC, £1500 for a shure and £3000 for an SQN.

    This may be as clear as mud, in short I would recommend a panasonic (NVDS33?) with hahnel light.
     
  3. Roy Mallard

    Roy Mallard
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    Also focal length, because the chips on a camcorder are much smaller than a slide of 35mm film the 35mm equivalent is reduced, it would depend on the model of camera you were looking at (most within your range are either 1/6 or 1/8th of an inch).

    Typical wide angle is around 40mm in 35mm film camera terms, so only a moderate wide angle. Telephoto will depend on zoom factor (400mm on most, 720mm on the canon mv7xx's).
     
  4. Roy Mallard

    Roy Mallard
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    In fact the GS15 would seem to do the same job for you, doesn't have a memory card stills facility (which is pretty useless on the gs33 anyway) and is £80 less. Does have dv-in, is miniDV and gives you roughly 40mm-400mm 35mm equivalent focal length.
     
  5. cerebros

    cerebros
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    Thanks, that's quite a bit of info

    Does this mean that you have the option to manually set the exposure on lower end camcorders? If so, how do manufacturers other than Panasonic go about expressing the exposure details?


    Feared as much... I'm amazed this sort of feature hasn't reached the low end of the market as it must be a good selling point for the increasing number of widescreen TV owners (can't remember the last time i saw a big screen 4:3 set on sale...), and I can't believe it's that difficult or costly to make a 16:9 CCD, especially when you're only talking about 600k pixels for PAL (~1025x576 res for 16:9). Or is it that the processing power required to handle the anamorphic squeeze is too costly for the low end?


    Hmm... Which is almost the cost of a camcorder in its own right... Guess I'm going to have to give up on the idea of widescreen images for the time being


    Actually it was Canon's MV7xx series which as I understand it are the bottom end of the range. To quote the specs from the website:

    "Audio
    System PCM Digital Stereo
    16bit - 48Khz - 2ch
    32bit - 32Khz - 4ch"

    Which appears to be different from what you're talking about here (but then again I may be mis-interpreting what Canon's site is saying, knowing pretty much nothing about sound recording on camcorders).
     
  6. MartinImber

    MartinImber
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    THe Sony TRV33 does widescreen properly - I assume the HC40 does as well
     
  7. Roy Mallard

    Roy Mallard
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    low end Canons only really give you an exposure compensation mode, you can make the picture brighter or darker (up to 2 stops + or - EV) but you are still constrained by the cameras initial reading.

    You can change shutter speeds on the low end canons, but you never have complete manual control over the iris or gain.

    A low end Sony will give you a + or - option with no information on aperture or gain, there is also the facility to lock the shutter at 1/50th, otherwise the shutter is left in auto. This does mean that you can control the exposure manually but you don't have any information to base your judgement on.

    To get a fully communicative manual sony you have to go right up to the vx2100.

    For full manual with useful info on a budget you'll need to opt for a Panasonic.
    I can't comment on JVC's, i don't really rate their doemstic range.

    It's not the extra resolution as such (though some cameras use non-square pixels so the resolution is the same as 4:3) jus the fact that at the moment they make far more 4:3 ccds, so it's economies of scale.

    I'm surprised at that facility exisisting on the mv700, I suspect the 2 channel is likely to mean a single stereo channel and that the four channel will give you 2 stereo channels.
     
  8. cerebros

    cerebros
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    Yeah, after weighing up all the options, I'm strongly looking at this one. According to Panasonic's site, the 35mm focal length equivalent is 39.5-948mm (which would equate to a multiplier of 18.8 to estimate the 35mm equivalent focal length of a 1/6" CCD) although I suppose that long end is pretty pointless unless you're going to tripod mount (which I probably won't be in using whatever camcorder I get).
     
  9. cerebros

    cerebros
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    Had a look at these, but to be honest for the amount of use I'm likely to put my camcorder to, I don't think I can justify the asking price. And what do Sony have against using a higher than 10x optical zoom? All the specs I managed to find on their camcorders (from sites other than Sony's which I note is still crap if you want proper specifications on its products) showed that they're resolutely at 10x, which seems a bit odd considering most of the other brands have cheaper camcorders with higher factor zooms.
     
  10. Freelancer

    Freelancer
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    Might anyone have first hand experience of the Hahnel battery for the Sony DCR-HC90E camera, battery model number NP-FA70 (~£40)? I'd like to know if it works well with the handycam's battery charge indicator display..? I've heard some unofficial compatible batteries have problems being read by the cam's battery display?
     

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