low-budget buying advice for a non-tech savvy user - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 01-31-2007, 07:45 AM - Thread Starter
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My dad's large old dinosaur VHS camcorder finally took a nose dive. Now he wants a very cheap camcorder that will be very simple for him to transfer video to his stand alone DVD recorder or record straight to full sized DVD disc.

He doesn't own a computer and isn't very good at electronics.

What models should I recommend him?
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post #2 of 14 Old 01-31-2007, 01:55 PM
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Any MiniDV camcorder and any DVD recorder that has an internal hard drive should fit the bill. I like Panasonic DVD recorders like the DMR-EH55 (I hope that is correct). I don't like any camcorder under $2300 so I won't recommend a make or model. They will all work great outside in daylight. But they will all suck indoors where there isn't much light. His old VHS camcorder would probably work better in low light conditions than anything for sale today under $2300. The industry removed the low light capability from the under $2300 camcorders about 2001 so you either get s Sony VX2100 or buy floodlights for indoor use.

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post #3 of 14 Old 01-31-2007, 02:15 PM - Thread Starter
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That's very interesting. I always thought technology would improve. Why did they remove low light capabilities??? Almost any low-end camcorder will be used at home in low light.
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post #4 of 14 Old 01-31-2007, 06:12 PM
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Two reasons:
1. The trend is to make things smaller and cheaper. Smaller and cheaper camcorders don't hold the large CCD's that work well in low light. The smaller lenses don't pick up as good as the old larger lenses.
2. Too many Prosumers that were the life blood of the Prosumer Camcorder divisions started buying lower priced consumer camcorders because before 2001 they worked well in low light. All camcorder manufactures fixed that at the same time by making all consumer camcorders work poorly in low light. This action stopped the trend of Prosumer customers from switching to cheaper consumer priced camcorders because low light performance is a must-have feature for people who make their living doing wedding video's. Unfortunately it killed low light performance for poor consumers. But they gave us bone to keep us quiet: Still pictures to memory cards at no extra cost. Aren't you thrilled with that little crumb that nobody wanted but now have in exchange for poor low-light performance? It wouldn't cost the manufacturers a thing to give us one model that had an old, large, low pixel count CCD but you won't find even one from any manufacturer, even though it is old proven technology. Aren't you thrilled with all your choices of camcorders that take marginal stills but suck in low light? It's no accident they all did that at the same time and didn't provide even one cheap model that still worked in low light. Low light is now a minimum $2300 feature because too many prosumers started switching to low priced consumer camcorders before 2001. At least that is how it looks to me. No other explanation will account for zero models after 2001 that work in low light as well as the before 2001 models. "Constant improvement" was never a promise made by camcorder manufacturers. "Baffle them with BS and Memory Sticks" is their current motto.

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post #5 of 14 Old 02-01-2007, 06:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Well that totally sucks.
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post #6 of 14 Old 02-01-2007, 10:28 AM
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Robodude, look for a mini-DV unit with 3CCD, I think it'll serve the purpose just fine. You'll be disappointed in the lowlight performance with anything less. They can be had for under $500 if you look around.
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post #7 of 14 Old 02-04-2007, 02:42 PM
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I'll second Dave's recommendation for the Sony VX2100 and Panasonic EH-55. I/we use both, 3 VX2100's and the EH-55 for weekly recording of our church services (through a DataVideo SE-800 video mixer).

The VX2100 is so much better than a $1100 camera we temporarily borrowed from our pastor that he jokingly asked if we had a light inside our camera.

A sister church upgraded to some HD cameras, and had to go thru a major lighting upgrade. I'm not sure their quality is noticeably better; I find the jitter on fast motion, like waving a hand, distracting. So I'd say the VX2100 is the standard to measure any other choices against.

Th VX2100 has 4-pin firewire dv, as well as s-video and yellow-white-red composite, input and output. Input for remote microphone; side loading tape, meaning you don't have to remove from the tripod to change tapes. And be sure to use a good tripod as much as you can.

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post #8 of 14 Old 02-05-2007, 02:12 PM
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I believe he is asking for "low budget buying advice". For most of us that will mean 2-$500

Love the VX2100 though!

- Jim -
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post #9 of 14 Old 02-05-2007, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Yea I'm meaning $100-$200. It's for my retired dad.
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post #10 of 14 Old 02-06-2007, 04:22 PM
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Check cnet and eBay; you might find some pretty good values in used cameras around five years old, 8mm or Hi-8.
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post #11 of 14 Old 02-06-2007, 05:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Good tip Richard... so are the 8mm or Hi-8's DVD quality? Or should I focus on mini-DV? Essentially he wants one that can he can transfer video to DVD... or should I look for one that will write directly to a full sized DVD? The easier the better for him... he's not tech-savvy at all.
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post #12 of 14 Old 02-14-2007, 02:08 AM
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From your first post, your dad already has a stand-alone dvd recorder? Does it have hdd (hard disk drive)? If so he could do a lot of simple editting on that. Does his dvdr (dvd recorder) have dv input? If not, there is no great reason to limit yourself to a mini-dv camera, just be sure the camcorder has s-video out, whether Hi-8 or mini-dv.

In comparisons we have made, there is considerable difference between video input to our dvdr and s-video. Some on the DVD-RECORDER section would contest this. Video is not that bad, just that we've found s-video better, brighter, sharper. The difference between s-video and dv input was almost undetectable. We were using a 15" HDTV.

DVD quality? Look at the numbers: Standard tv displays about 240 lines per inch, VHS and 8mm tape store at about 270 lines per inch, S-VHS and Hi-8 about 400, and dv 500 lines and up.

DV (firewire) Carries audio as well as video, but I wouldn't attach much importance to dv just for that reason.

We saw more difference between a single ccd digital and 3-ccd digital than between an older Hi-8 and single ccd digital.

As for a camcorder that records directly to dvd, still pretty new, (never buy the .0 version of anything), you're joining the high-price club, and how would you make copies? The life expectancy of dvd's is an unkown, some failing in just a few years, so tape would be the archive medium of choice for anything you want to keep.

Some of the newer technology is pretty good. Have fun. Good luck.

Richard
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post #13 of 14 Old 02-14-2007, 07:10 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks Richard... I'm going to hit eBay and see what I can find for about $100 bucks. Any models/brands you suggest?
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post #14 of 14 Old 02-14-2007, 11:12 PM
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Oh Boy, Just took a spin on eBay-- what a large assortment!

Try to lean toward recent technology. My Hi-8 is a 1992 Sony, black-and-white viewfinder, no lcd panel, autofocus tends to search more, so newer technology is better.

Sony Handycams 8mm, Hi-8, Digital 8, mini-dv; Canons seem to have a good reputation: I'm sure there are many other out there that are excellent. check cnet.com for ratings.

What connections does the dvd recorder have? Composite and s-video are pretty much standard, dv more limited. You'll get good video with composite (yellow-white-red) input, but a little better with s-video, and dv carries audio. Some mini-dv cameras may not have s-video output, so if the recorder does not have dv, you'll have to use composite.

Watch for side-loading tape rather than bottom loading, so you won't have to remove the camcorder from the tripod to change tapes.

Do you have a Wal-mart or Costco available, so you can get a "hands-on" look? EBay is good if you know what you are looking for, but it's hard to do comparisons. You need to check cnet.com or resellerratings.com for that.
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