Looking to buy camcorder--suggestions please - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 35 Old 04-04-2012, 07:12 PM - Thread Starter
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I currently have a Panasonic zs3, and my wife has a small Sony digi cam with the interchangeable lens (Alpha NEX 3 perhaps). Our first born is arriving in 7 weeks, so we are looking for an actual camcorder.

We'd like to stay within the $400-$900 range. We are not professionals by any means. We would most likely just keep it on Auto & start recording. Main use would be for holidays, things around the house/outside, and nephew's basketball games.

We want something that is somewhat in which the files are easy to backup (I am paranoid and backup files often) AND play (on computer and TV). We have a ps3 and a 55" HDTV. Our computer is about a year old so hopefully it could handle these larger HD files the camcorder produces.

Also, what type of media are you storing the camcorder files on--for those very important moments you most definitely want to keep and watch often (DVD/blu ray/ex. hard drive)? I have digital camera experience but am clueless with today's camcorder technology.

Thanks in advance!

Edit: I was leaning towards the TM900, but noticed one reviewer states its Auto function is not too great. Is this true? Like I said I will use Auto most of the time.
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post #2 of 35 Old 04-05-2012, 03:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Okay I have been doing a little research. I don't know of I want to spend as much for the T900. Sounds like the TM90 will be enough for my needs (prob shoot on Auto all the time).

How about the TM90 vs. the new HCV-700MK though?

I'm a little lost with all the letters on Pany's models (TM...HCV). What would be the major differences between these 2?

Thanks in advance.
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post #3 of 35 Old 04-05-2012, 03:58 PM
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i keep hearing bad things about panasonics auto white balance. maybe check out other companys offerings
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post #4 of 35 Old 04-05-2012, 04:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by fishywishy View Post

i keep hearing bad things about panasonics auto white balance. maybe check out other companys offerings

Yeah I keep seeing that too. It seems like everything else other than white balance is better with Panasonic though. I keep reading and reading and keep finding things wrong with each Panasonic though.

I've read the 90 has bad picture quality (not much better than a point and shoot). I've also heard the higher 900 is not worth the extra $ if you don't use all extra features. So I can't seem to find a great all-around sub $1,000 camcorder.
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post #5 of 35 Old 04-05-2012, 04:57 PM
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I ordered mine today. I decided on the HCV700K. It doesn't have built-in flash memory, but I have 4 16GB Class 10 SD cards, so saved about $50 there. It came down to this:

1. Canon doesn't do 1080p60 (I was considering the VIXIA HF M500; M50 and M52 are slightly fancier versions).
2. Sony seems to trail in image quality, although 2012 cameras are too new to know if this is still true (I was considering the Sony HDR-CX260V).

One thing I didn't like was the short battery life claimed for the HCV700K. I expect I'll need to buy an extra battery, and probably wait for third-party batteries to be verified to work. I decided not to worry about white balance issues, since its hard to tell if they're real issues, preferences or mis-use.

An alternative is the Panasonic HDC-TM900K, which is last year's higher-end camcorder. Stocks are being sold out for a decent price.

Do watch some sample videos on YouTube and similar sites to get an idea of what the different models can do.
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post #6 of 35 Old 04-05-2012, 09:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ZXTT View Post

I ordered mine today. I decided on the HCV700K. It doesn't have built-in flash memory, but I have 4 16GB Class 10 SD cards, so saved about $50 there. It came down to this:

1. Canon doesn't do 1080p60 (I was considering the VIXIA HF M500; M50 and M52 are slightly fancier versions).
2. Sony seems to trail in image quality, although 2012 cameras are too new to know if this is still true (I was considering the Sony HDR-CX260V).

One thing I didn't like was the short battery life claimed for the HCV700K. I expect I'll need to buy an extra battery, and probably wait for third-party batteries to be verified to work. I decided not to worry about white balance issues, since its hard to tell if they're real issues, preferences or mis-use.

An alternative is the Panasonic HDC-TM900K, which is last year's higher-end camcorder. Stocks are being sold out for a decent price.

Do watch some sample videos on YouTube and similar sites to get an idea of what the different models can do.

Where did you hear about bad battery life for the HCV700K? I've heard about the TM900K. Seen some issues about fan noise, not worth the extra $ also. I'm lost on what to buy
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post #7 of 35 Old 04-06-2012, 07:51 AM
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Where did you hear about bad battery life for the HCV700K? I've heard about the TM900K. Seen some issues about fan noise, not worth the extra $ also. I'm lost on what to buy

From the manual. All the manuals list three to four numbers: charge time, continuous record and actual record time. For the HCV700K it's like this with the supplied battery:

Charge 2h25m
USB Charge 5h45m
1080/60p Continuous: 1h15m
1080/60p Actual: 40m

Meanwhile, comparing the power consumption specs between the different brands, it seems the Panasonics are power hogs.
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post #8 of 35 Old 04-06-2012, 08:34 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ZXTT View Post

Charge 2h25m
USB Charge 5h45m
1080/60p Continuous: 1h15m
1080/60p Actual: 40m

Meanwhile, comparing the power consumption specs between the different brands, it seems the Panasonics are power hogs.

Crap, I'd definitely need a spare. That's just barely enough time to record a youth basketball game

I'll keep this in mind. Thanks. The search continues...
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post #9 of 35 Old 04-06-2012, 08:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maverick22 View Post

Where did you hear about bad battery life for the HCV700K? I've heard about the TM900K. Seen some issues about fan noise, not worth the extra $ also. I'm lost on what to buy

I'm staying warm in my motorhome this morning. We are parked on the Oregon coast. It's raining too hard to go outside. My cameras would get wet. So, I have time to write.

I think many people that post frequently on this forum enjoy the technical part of video more than actually shooting and transforming the video data into fascinating stories. Part of their hobby is finding unusual situations were a specific camera does not do as well as another camera. The other camera will have it's own unusual situations. Links to YouTube or Vimeo here are typically demonstrations of technical features, not good stories. We also tend to learn more about the one or two cameras we buy and can't learn much about the ones we don't. The one exception is a guy that seems to buy everything that comes out with a new or unique feature.

You will never find a perfect camera on this forum!

In your first post you said you want to take video of your "first born" and you suggest photography is an accessory to your life, not life itself. I sense you will not, especially with a new kid, take the time to master all the settings, adjustments and features available. You say you want easy to use, easy to back up and easy to watch on the equipment you have.

Based on my experience has a father of three, grandparent of five, photographer for 50 years, videographer for a year and your list of wants, I think you can buy any current Canon, Sony or Panasonic that says "HD", "AVCHD" or "1080p" on the box and uses universal "SD Cards" for memory. Any price point will work, but as you spend more money you will get improvements in stabilization, low light and automatic operation, including focus. You can't go wrong.

If your goal really is to get good video of the kid, you need something you can pick up, point at the kid, push the button before his/her mood changes and turn it off after 10 or 20 seconds. Don't fret about fan noise, battery life or minor image quality differences.

(To get fan noise you have to run it long enough to heat up, be in a silent room and let the automatic gain control boost so high that it will record a pin drop. If the battery doesn't last long enough, get two. Any image you record will be processed by your PS3 or BD Player and then the TV before your eyeballs see it. Any high definition video of your kid, from any camera will be amazing by the time it gets through all the processors. )

Consider looking at a camcorder that matches your TV brand. I have a $300 Sony 1080p camcorder that captures amazing video automatically. It is instantly recognized by my Sony TV, when connected with a single wire, and can be fully operated with the TV remote. My much more expensive Panasonic camcorder (that also takes amazing HD video automatically) does not mate with the Sony TV as seamlessly.

To some of your specific questions:
" I was leaning towards the TM900, but noticed one reviewer states its Auto function is not too great. Is this true?" He was wrong. Buy one.

"what type of media are you storing the camcorder files on?" I use the software that came with my Sony and Panasonic camcorders to transfer and catalog my video files. Then I backup to two different external HDDs in an "A/B" rotating backup strategy along with everything else that may be on my computer. The good ones get copied again to a media player attached to my TV. Some get posted to YouTube or Vimeo. Some get made into DVDs. Some get made into AVCHD DVDs for play on a Blu-Ray player.

"We want something in which the files are easy to backup" The AVCHD standard, developed by Sony and Pansonic, not Canon make all of that easy on any reasonably new computer. It also make playback available and easy on so many devices, that it makes for an entire subject.

In summary, if you were my kid and going to take video of my new grandkid, I would tell you to buy a TM900. If you want to spend less money, I would tell you to buy a Sony HX9V, even if it does not look like a camcorder. Those are the only two I own and I can't find anything wrong with them. I would reverse that recommendation if you are looking for something to leave on the counter for handy, quick shoots of the charming baby.

On the other hand, if you are using the new kid as an excuse to buy a new toy, anything will work. If you are only concerned with good video (and not a new toy), your wife's NEX 3 that shoots HD video in 720p video will work very well.

Good luck! You probably have no clue how, or how much, your life is about to change!

Bill
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post #10 of 35 Old 04-06-2012, 09:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Wow, thank you VERY much for the informative/thoughtful reply, Bill. I assumed I'd get a lot of "use the search" replies. Yours was great though.

I want the best "bang for my back" basically. I'm willing to spend about $900 max. If the 900 is best $900 & down camcorder, I wouldn't mind purchasing that.

You're right, I won't have time to sit and play around with manual controls/features. I work a lot and hardly have time for myself. Introducing a kid into the picture is going to limit my time even more (but I'm looking forward to that--can't wait). I literally will pick up the camcorder and push the REC button.

I want the best camcorder I can afford though. A lot of moments I capture will probably be indoors as I have mentioned, so low light performance is important. I have heard the T900 produces better color, so I consider that a plus. Image stabilization also is important. I guess my next factor is ease of use to edit/store those "important moments". Actually that's really important. Like you said, many users on here are capturing landscape scenes/animals. That's fine and all. However, I'm recording, as you said "to tell a life story" in a way. I will want to hold onto these moments for as long as I live.

I have a Samsung TV, but in looking at many negative reviews for their other products (blu ray players, digital cameras), I tend to buy only TVs from Samsung.

Is it strange that I'm so worried about being able to back my files up and actually view them later? I just don't want to run into trouble. What's the point of recording something if you can't view it later?

Thank you very much again, Bill! Hopefully I will get more replies like yours! Your post has me leaning towards the T900 now.
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post #11 of 35 Old 04-06-2012, 10:12 AM
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......I want the best "bang for my back" basically. I'm willing to spend about $900 max. If the 900 is best $900 & down camcorder, I wouldn't mind purchasing that.
Buy it now on Amazon or B&H for $769. That is cheap compared to what many others have paid.

.... I literally will pick up the camcorder and push the REC button.
That's how it works. Leave it in all the default automatic settings and push the red button to start and stop.

...... so low light performance is important.
Don't get confused over "low light" performance. The TM900 is fine in light you can see in, including low light. If you want to wander the streets at night in the dark, there may be one other popular camcorder you might want.

.......I have heard the T900 produces better color, so I consider that a plus.
So does my Sony that I paid half the TM900 price. Color is subjective and maybe if you take two camcorders and shoot exactly the same scene you will detect a variance, but you might not get 10 people to agree on which is best. Your target will be skin tones on the kid and all the good ones get close enough on that - especially the TM900.

...... Image stabilization also is important.
The TM900 has a choice of none, regular and enhanced for long zoom. If you minimize the the zoom, leave it on default regular and don't wiggle with excitement over the new kid, it will be rock steady.

...... my next factor is ease of use to edit/store those "important moments". Actually that's really important.
It comes with software called "HD Writer" for PCs. It is very good software for Panasonic owners. It catalogs, trims and joins your video efficiently and rapidly. It is especially good at preserving the HD picture quality of original clips.

......I have a Samsung TV
If it has a spare HDMI in, it will be perfect for a direct connection to your new TM900

......Is it strange that I'm so worried about being able to back my files up and actually view them later?
No it is not. Only the ignorant loose files. You back up video files the same way you back up your Excel, Word or whatever files. Do it regularly.

.......Your post has me leaning towards the T900 now.
Buy one now.

As soon as you get it, take three or four shots with it set the way it comes out of the box. Take one outside. Take one in the kid's room. Turn the lights to dim in the dining room and take another. Then plug it into your TV with an HDMI cord so you can see how amazingly good it is. (I can't remember if the HDMI cord is included.)

Now, put the camera back in its box and leave it there while you install HD Writer. Print the instruction manual for HD Writer. It is a .pdf on the install disk. Read and highlight the parts that are important to you.

Read through the printed book that comes with the camera so you get an idea of what it can and can't do. It's kind of like reading a restaurant menu before you pick what you really want. Learn how the iA stuff works. It is really good if you let it be.

Last, hook the camera to your computer with the USB cord and use HD Writer to move your test files to the computer and practice trimming, editing and backing up. While your at it make a AVCHD DVD or Blu-Ray for your PS3.

By the time you get this done the kid will be here and you will be ready to shoot, store and watch a little video. Don't forget to hug the kid and wife a lot.

Buy it today. You don't have much time left!
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post #12 of 35 Old 04-06-2012, 10:35 AM - Thread Starter
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"low light" - meaning shooting indoors with poor lighting. I probably wouldn't do much night time shooting (maybe 4th of July now that I think about it).

"better color" - the T900 has the Advanced 3MOS System, which I believe the T90 does NOT have. That's what I was referring to. I don't know how much a difference that actually makes.

I have been reading and researching the past few days. I can't remember which SD model has the "guts" of the T900 and is still supposedly great.

Would that be a better route to go. What advantage does T900 have over that?

Thanks much again, Bill! You have been most helpful!

By the way I see Fry's has the T900 for $699.99 (none in store though--would have to have shipped). Not bad right? http://www.frys.com/product/6555103;...H:MAIN_RSLT_PG. I might go this route just in case it happens not to live up to my expectations and want to return it in store. I have never used B&H.

Also, what is the main difference of the HDC-HS900K versus the TM900K? I'm not clear on what benefits that 220GB HD might have. I see it's being sold for $737. http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-HDC-...3731772&sr=1-2
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post #13 of 35 Old 04-06-2012, 12:18 PM
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..........."low light" - meaning shooting indoors with poor lighting. I probably wouldn't do much night time shooting (maybe 4th of July now that I think about it).
I have no trouble with indoor shooting if there are lights on. There is also a "fire works" mode on the 900 that worked well for me last year.

.........."better color" - the T900 has the Advanced 3MOS System, which I believe the T90 does NOT have. That's what I was referring to. I don't know how much a difference that actually makes.
The 900 does have amazing color. I've said a couple of times you should buy it now. You are taking advantage of end of model year discounts. There is a new version that has only insignificant improvements and has not been around enough for any discounting.

......I have been reading and researching the past few days. I can't remember which SD model has the "guts" of the T900 and is still supposedly great.
There are several in the family. There is an SD800, but it may be gone and, more importantly, was cheaper because it does not have a viewfinder. It has only the screen. When the kid gets big enough to kick a soccer ball, you will like having the viewfinder. For the nephew's basketball too.

.....Would that be a better route to go. What advantage does T900 have over that?
The 900 has a viewfinder and I think a little better screen. But the TM-900, start practicing and get ready for the kid.

......I see Fry's has the T900 for $699.99
Buy it. Fry's is good.

..... what is the main difference of the HDC-HS900K versus the TM900K? I'm not clear on what benefits that 220GB HD might have.
None, because SD cards are better. Hard disks can break. There are no moving parts on an SD card. Depending on how your computer is equipped, it can be directly inserted and managed by HD Writer. Panasonic BD Players can play directly from them. USB card readers can be used if, like Sony BD players, they have a USB port.

Go buy the thing. Now. You are in a wonderful place. The electronics world is offering you one of the best consumer camcorders EVER from multiple quality retailers at a discounted price. Your limitations at quality video will not be from the camera. Any limitations will be skill based. Get busy and start learning.

Don't screw this up. If you only take 20 minutes of video of the kid and put the camera away, you will look back in 10 or 20 years and think you were brilliant. Get the camera, make sure you know how to ensure it is in iA and push the red button.

BTW, the screen will rotate so you can point the camera at yourself and the new kid. It has a remote too. Get a tripod, mount the camera, point it at you hugging the kid while your wife is getting needed rest, push record on the remote and post it on YouTube with HD Writer so I can watch it.
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post #14 of 35 Old 04-06-2012, 12:39 PM - Thread Starter
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Okay, Mr. Bill, you sold me on it! I went ahead and ordered through Amazon. There was only 1 left, and I just felt that "1" was for me haha. I also went ahead and ordered the HDMI-mini HDMI cable for my TV.

Any other accessories other than a tripod you recommend? I'm sure I will get a spare battery as soon as I research on this site which are good ones.

Thanks once again for all your help. I'm looking forward to receiving the unit and spending time with it before the little one is born.
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post #15 of 35 Old 04-06-2012, 01:05 PM
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.... I went ahead and ordered through Amazon.
I'm proud of you! Our "conversation" lasted from pre breakfast to post lunch. The rain has stopped and the sun is finally out on the Oregon coast!

.....Any other accessories other than a tripod you recommend? I'm sure I will get a spare battery as soon as I research on this site which are good ones.
Several!

-I rely on a cheap monopod with a ball head on it to keep me from wiggling the camera. Yes, it has great stabilization built in, but I'm not as rock steady as I once was.

- I have a large "d-ring" or clip that I keep on my belt. Maybe it is called a carabiner. If I need both hands for something (like picking up a new kid) there is a safe place to hang the camera by it's hand strap.

- A UV filter to keep dust and dirt out of the lens mechanism.

- A padded case no larger than the camera itself. Mine is made by Lowepro and can hang from my belt if I want. It is a hard to describe, but I use it like a holster.

- A small zippered bag I found at a luggage store. The camera (inside the padded case), all the cords, "d-ring", lens brush and manual are kept in the bag. It is a grab and go "video kit" with all the parts where I won't lose them.

- A spare battery made by "Wasabi". It is cheap and made in China. It works for a backup. I rarely find I need it.

.... I'm looking forward to receiving the unit and spending time with it before the little one is born.
And, I'm looking forward to a short clip of you and the kid.
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post #16 of 35 Old 04-06-2012, 01:47 PM
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Okay, Mr. Bill, you sold me on it! I went ahead and ordered through Amazon. There was only 1 left, and I just felt that "1" was for me haha.

When I click here http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-HDC-...3744637&sr=1-1, it says they have 14 left. Did you buy the HDC-TM900K?
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post #17 of 35 Old 04-06-2012, 01:50 PM - Thread Starter
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When I click here http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-HDC-...3744637&sr=1-1, it says they have 14 left. Did you buy the HDC-TM900K?

Funny you asked. It showed "1" left, and I bought that one. I went in my email and noticed price was like $770. I looked at Amazon's site again to see the price. I saw the $744 price which you just linked. I canceled my order and ordered the $744 one! Don't know what was going on with that first order
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post #18 of 35 Old 04-06-2012, 03:19 PM
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Funny you asked. It showed "1" left, and I bought that one. I went in my email and noticed price was like $770. I looked at Amazon's site again to see the price. I saw the $744 price which you just linked. I canceled my order and ordered the $744 one! Don't know what was going on with that first order

You owe me a beer or other suitable beverage! Maybe two since you saved $26!
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post #19 of 35 Old 04-06-2012, 03:23 PM - Thread Starter
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You owe me a beer or other suitable beverage! Maybe two since you saved $26!

Well funny thing was I canceled, re-ordered, and THEN came back to this forum. I really do appreciate all your help/input though. I already printed out your tips so that I'll be prepared as soon as I get the cam!
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post #20 of 35 Old 04-06-2012, 06:20 PM
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When I click here http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-HDC-...3744637&sr=1-1, it says they have 14 left. Did you buy the HDC-TM900K?

i see $710
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post #21 of 35 Old 04-06-2012, 08:52 PM - Thread Starter
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i see $710

Gee, it keeps dropping

Thanks, I think I'm going to cancel and order again!
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post #22 of 35 Old 04-07-2012, 07:21 AM
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This morning it refers to an outside contract vendor and the price is up to $799 plus $4 for shipping.
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post #23 of 35 Old 04-07-2012, 02:22 PM - Thread Starter
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This morning it refers to an outside contract vendor and the price is up to $799 plus $4 for shipping.

So glad I checked last night and snagged it for $710!
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post #24 of 35 Old 04-07-2012, 09:10 PM
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Good advice, Bill - and to Maverick - well done on scoring the camera for $710 - and congratulations on both new additions to your family!

Bill
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post #25 of 35 Old 04-08-2012, 04:56 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by brunerww View Post

Good advice, Bill - and to Maverick - well done on scoring the camera for $710 - and congratulations on both new additions to your family!

Bill

Thank you very much, Bill! I am very excited for both additions to the family! At the most, 45 days left before the little one is born.
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post #26 of 35 Old 04-09-2012, 07:42 AM
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You should have it or be getting it today. Initial reactions?
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post #27 of 35 Old 04-09-2012, 11:45 AM - Thread Starter
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You should have it or be getting it today. Initial reactions?

Amazon sent me an email saying it shipped. It won't be here until the 12th-14th though. I choose the free shipping.

I did play around with my father's HDx700xx (sorry forget the exact model number). I see what people are referring to re: auto white balance. I was following my nephew around the house (it poured cats and dogs yesterday outside here) for a small egg hunt, and the white walls were changing all the time. The white walls often appeared yellow on the camcorder's screen. Also, a message similar to "panning too fast" kept showing up.

I'll let you know my reactions when I receive the 900!
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post #28 of 35 Old 04-11-2012, 10:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Just had the camcorder delivered to work! Can't wait to try it out in a few hours (come on 7:00). Thanks again to all of you who contributed!
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post #29 of 35 Old 04-12-2012, 10:15 AM - Thread Starter
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I went ahead and ordered the Lexmark Professional 32GB Pro SD card. I also ordered the Wasabi extra battery + kit. Hope these will work out okay.

I got home too late last night so I just charged it up and hope to play around with it tonight.

I did notice in my 1 minute of playing around this morning that I got a "panning too fast." Does that simply mean the camera is moving too fast too record? Forgive my ignorance, I've never had a camcorder and never looked into it. I noticed my father's older 700 did this as well. I assumed it is just from moving too fast, and it's trying to "catch up" to be able to record.
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post #30 of 35 Old 04-12-2012, 10:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maverick22 View Post

........I did notice in my 1 minute of playing around this morning that I got a "panning too fast." Does that simply mean the camera is moving too fast too record? Forgive my ignorance, I've never had a camcorder and never looked into it. I noticed my father's older 700 did this as well. I assumed it is just from moving too fast, and it's trying to "catch up" to be able to record.

I'm not sure, but my understanding is that you are panning too fast for the image stabilization to work well.
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