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Camcorder for a Musician

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Hi Guys,

I hope you can help me. I am a complete novice when it comes to camcorders. I bought one in 2008, used it 3 times and now it seems pretty obsolete (mini-tapes).

I want something for my professional career which is singer/musician. I am on a tight budget (I'd say $600 max, $300 preferred).

Important to me (in order):

(1) I want to be able to make high-quality youtube videos of live performances (and also video blog).

(2) The camera will need to have the capability for high-quality sound (which I assume simply means external mic capability).

(3) I'd like to also be able to make artistic videos (stuff that looks like Super 8 for example and sync music to it)

(4) I am a novice so quality auto-focus would be needed.

(5) I also understand low-light capabilities would be very helpful too as I may be filming performances in questionable lighting.

(6) I'd like to be able to take quality still photos with the camera (less important)

(7) I'd like to use the camera as a webcam too (much less important).

Forgive me if my questions seem so low level for you. Any guidance would be appreciated. If I should consider other features given my expected uses, please enlighten me. I am a blank slate. :-)

Thanks so much
Mary
post #2 of 28
Hi Mary,

The 2011 and 2012/13 Canon mid-range camcorders: HF M400/M40/M41 and HFM500/M50/M52 (6 in all) all have decent on-board microphones and audio capabilities.

There is also manual level controls and an "attenuator" feature that limits audio during loud music. These camcorders also have an external mic jack if you wanted to add a microphone.

You might be able to find a refurbished HF M400/40 or 41 on ebay. There are refurbished HF M500/50/52 on ebay and also at the Canon Direct store..but only the most expensive HF M52 is in stock:
http://shop.usa.canon.com/shop/en/catalog/camcorders/refurbished-consumer-camcorders

(There are also the entry-level HF R30 and R300 in stock, but these won;t have the low-light Pro sensor or the audio capabilities of the others I mentioned.)

Canon refurbished camcorders are in like-new condition and now come with a one year warranty.
All of these camcorders have the HD CMOS Pro sensor, which is noted for low light ability. It will be decent for a camcorder, but will not have the low-light ability that you would get from a large sensor DSLR.

Whatever your capture method, it is a good idea to get editing software; both the audio and video can be tweaked and enhanced - including coloring the video to give certain looks or adding per-configured filters. The camcorders also have coloring filters built-in, but you can't remove them after recording like you can with an editor.

Sony Vegas Platinum 11 or Platinum 12 are good, affordable choices. You can actually get a good audio capture with the camcorder mics (at least with these Canon camcorders) and tweak the EQ, master the sound, etc. in the editor.

http://www.amazon.com/Sony-Vegas-Studio-Platinum-Version/dp/B0051M6I9O/ref=sr_1_3/180-4393706-0606913?ie=UTF8&qid=1374604446&sr=8-3&keywords=SOny+Vegas+PLatinum

http://www.amazon.com/Sony-Movie-Studio-Platinum-12/dp/B008MIMHDU/ref=sr_1_4/180-4393706-0606913?ie=UTF8&qid=1374604446&sr=8-4&keywords=SOny+Vegas+PLatinum

You can make music videos with this software. In your budget, I would consider an extra battery and tripod as well.

Others here are sure to have suggestions; this is what I recommend and have had experience with.

YouTube:

HF M41:
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=HF+M41

HF M52:
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=HF+M52
Edited by xfws - 7/23/13 at 11:35am
post #3 of 28
Good audio ==> XLR ==> either a pro camcorder (starting from ~$1300) or an XLR adapter ($200-$400). Possibly can get by with a dedicated recorder planted close to a singer.
post #4 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ak44 View Post

Hi Guys,

I hope you can help me. I am a complete novice when it comes to camcorders. I bought one in 2008, used it 3 times and now it seems pretty obsolete (mini-tapes).

I want something for my professional career which is singer/musician. I am on a tight budget (I'd say $600 max, $300 preferred).

Important to me (in order):

(1) I want to be able to make high-quality youtube videos of live performances (and also video blog).

(2) The camera will need to have the capability for high-quality sound (which I assume simply means external mic capability).

(3) I'd like to also be able to make artistic videos (stuff that looks like Super 8 for example and sync music to it)

(4) I am a novice so quality auto-focus would be needed.

(5) I also understand low-light capabilities would be very helpful too as I may be filming performances in questionable lighting.

(6) I'd like to be able to take quality still photos with the camera (less important)

(7) I'd like to use the camera as a webcam too (much less important).

Forgive me if my questions seem so low level for you. Any guidance would be appreciated. If I should consider other features given my expected uses, please enlighten me. I am a blank slate. :-)

Thanks so much
Mary

Hi Mary - at your price point, the best pro quality audio, video and stills solution is probably something like the Canon EOS M still/video hybrid camera combined with an inexpensive external recorder with XLR inputs.

With the latest firmware upgrade, the EOS M has quick and accurate autofocus - and with the 22mm f2 kit lens, it is very good in low light.

Here is what this camera can do:




It is also a very capable still camera - able to produce DSLR-quality still images. Here are some examples from the EOS-M group on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/groups/eos-m/pool/


And when you are no longer a novice, this camera can grow with you in a way that a consumer camcorder will not (e.g., better lenses, Magic Lantern RAW video recording).

You can get the EOS-M, with the 22mm kit lens, for $345 new on eBay. It is the about same price for the camera with the 18-55 zoom lens on Amazon (but that lens will not be as good in low light). I recommend the 22mm kit. You can always "zoom with your feet" by moving closer to, or farther away from your subject.

You can add a Tascam DR-40 4 track recorder with XLR inputs and phantom power for $199. A Sescom cable that will match the output of the recorder to the input of your camera is $27.

With this setup, you will be able to produce high quality sound, stills and video for a total price that fits your budget. You will, of course, still need some kind of camera support, mics and lighting - but that can come later.

One caveat - this camera has a 30 minute continuous video recording limit. If you plan to leave the camera running to record very long live performances, a camcorder (or a Panasonic hybrid) may be a better option.

Hope this is helpful,

Bill
Hybrid Camera Revolution
Edited by brunerww - 7/24/13 at 4:23am
post #5 of 28
Bill, I agree the EOS M achieves great results, but...

The EOS M with the 22mm is not a good camcorder-like device for someone just starting out. There's an auto mode, but it's not as user-friendly as a camcorder. There's no flip-out screen- I would imagine the OP might sometimes want to see what she's doing on-screen while playing.

Besides the time limit you mentioned, the EOS M runs very hot with the risk of having to shut down to allow for cooling (similar to T2i that also doesn't have flip-out screen).

There's no zoom, the autofocus is way better on a camcorder and that EOS M kit would, for the most part, have to be on a tripod,..whereas camcorders have very good stabilization.

Not trying to knock your suggestion, I actually agree in a sense since I own one. smile.gif
Perhaps if OP is really wowed by quality, she will be willing to deal with the learning curve of the EOS M - I just think a camcorder is a lot easier for someone just starting out.
post #6 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by xfws View Post

Perhaps if OP is really wowed by quality, she will be willing to deal with the learning curve of the EOS M - I just think a camcorder is a lot easier for someone just starting out.

You're 100% right. I should have been clearer - although an interchangeable lens camera would be more of a challenge, i wanted to offer Mary a higher quality "growth option" that still fit within her budget.

Best,

Bill
Hybrid Camera Revolution
post #7 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ak44 View Post

(7) I'd like to use the camera as a webcam too (much less important).
Also wanted to mention that camcorders are meant to be used intermittently.

You can easily find a cheap webcam that can be active for any duration you like.
I've seen sales at Staples for good Logitech webcams for only $15...there are so many places to buy something decent for cheap.
post #8 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys for the thoughts and input -- really interesting

I was kind of looking at stills and webcam use as a possible bonus but not necessary. It seems to me that those aspects might easily be filled by low-cost or used options that would probably suffice for me.

I looked at a Nikon 3200 DSLR (what Samy's camera suggested) but was concerned about ease of use and lack of quality auto-focus and low-level lighting (among other things).

If I weren't worried about still photos or webcam, what straight-up camcorder would you suggest? The Canon(s) xfws mentioned above?

Also, I would use an external mic as I have some very good ones that I use for recording which I hoped would be compatible with the camcorder and translate into high-quality sound. Am I to understand that the xlr track recorder thingy is a necessity for quality sound?
Edited by ak44 - 7/24/13 at 9:18pm
post #9 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ak44 View Post

Thanks guys for the thoughts and input -- really interesting

I was kind of looking at stills and webcam use as a possible bonus but not necessary. It seems to me that those aspects might easily be filled by low-cost or used options that would probably suffice for me.

I looked at a Nikon 3200 DSLR (what Samy's camera suggested) but was concerned about ease of use and lack of quality auto-focus and low-level lighting (among other things).

If I weren't worried about still photos or webcam, what straight-up camcorder would you suggest? The Canon(s) xfws mentioned above?

Also, I would use an external mic as I have some very good ones that I use for recording which I hoped would be compatible with the camcorder and translate into high-quality sound. Am I to understand that the xlr track recorder thingy is a necessity for quality sound?

Hi Mary - the preamps in consumer camcorders and hybrid cameras are generally pretty noisy. That's why I suggested a $199 external recorder with the $27 Sescom cable as a low budget way to record to the camera and a high quality external track at the same time. But there are other ways to do it.

Another option is a $179 Beachtek XLR mixer/adapter for camcorders. This will provide a balanced, quiet input to the camera.

If you don't mind using the camera's preamp, you can use a $20 line matching cable like this one to plug your professional XLR mics directly into your camera's 3.5mm consumer audio input jack.

As for video - any of the Canon camcorders that xfws recommended will do a fine job. If you're concerned about autofocus and low light, a $300-$350 (eBay prices as of today) Canon EOS M with the 22mm f2 lens will do a fine job too, and give you higher image quality smile.gif

Good luck with your decision!

Bill
Hybrid Camera Revolution
post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ak44 View Post

If I weren't worried about still photos or webcam, what straight-up camcorder would you suggest? The Canon(s) xfws mentioned above?

There are definitely other brands you could consider, I happen to have experience with the Canons. TBH, if you haven't owned a decent camcorder yet, you would likely be impressed by any of them.

With Bill's suggestion of a separate audio recorder, you can also sync the better audio later in an editor (without out connecting the recorder to the camcorder or anything else at all).. This would permit untethered placement of the audio recorder anywhere in a room. Once later synced in the editor, the camcorder's audio is used only as a reference and is muted before rendering the video - using only the better audio from the external recorder. With this method, you don't have to worry about any XLR connections, adapters, etc.

It's not difficult once you got the hang of it:
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=sync+audio+with+video
post #11 of 28
You will need a camcorder with OK preamps and manual audio level control.

The Canon 600D DSLR kit (inc lens) can be had between $250 used, and $450 new on eBay, and has manual audio level control.

But... to record audio properly, I would strongly recommend you stump up for a Sony D50 audio recorder - I have one, and it is a truly pro-device, and not so expensive.

Sony D50 is $700 new, but have seen it for $300 used. The D50 is a 96KHz / 24bit recorder, with a 5sec prerecord function, variable pitch control, great mikes, 90dB + S/N, plus a rather unique overload control, that records a duplicate track @ -20dB and is subsituted should overload occur. A very pro item indeed. The D50 also has optical in and out, and a stonkingly good head phone amp - heaps of people buy these just to listen to their tunes !

The D50 has much better (a different league) to a DSLR audio preamps.


There is also a cheaper model Sony M10 for $200
post #12 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ak44 View Post

Thanks guys for the thoughts and input -- really interesting.
For a musician, I would put the emphasis on sound quality.

With a budget of $600, I would invest rather in a good used Fostex portable recorder - with luck, at $300. It will give you standard XLR inputs (stereo) and so you can hook up your preferred mic(s). You could also use a Zoom H1 but frankly, the Fostex records a better (cleaner) sound. As for the image, I'd get the best DSLR possible (used is OK and even better) with emphasis on optical stabilization. Canon DSLRs are really good. (A used DSLR is possibly better because it means that you can read reviews from users as opposed to being "bleeding edge".) I think you can find a used, low-end Canon for $250. Another option is to go with a cheap, second-hand camcorder having good optical stabilization reviews.

Then, you'll have to match up your wav sound files from the Fostex/Zoom with the recorded mts video files using software in post(-production). That's much easier to do than you might first think. You can get good software to do this for less than $50. There may even be free software available depending on what you want to do.

Keep in mind that with the Internet/youtube, a typical viewer will see/hear your video on a screen that is not 1080p and with so-so speakers/headphones. This emphasizes errors so it is important to capture initially as best you can. A standard DSLR will capture a good image. It's sound that matters to you.

====

BTW, DSLRs don't capture sound well, or at all. Among camcorders, Sony camcorders are distinctive because they capture sound well (compared to Canon and Panasonic). But Sony camcorders are pricey and offer features that you don't need.
Edited by August1991 - 7/28/13 at 12:26pm
post #13 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by August1991 View Post

For a musician, I would put the emphasis on sound quality.

With a budget of $600, I would invest rather in a good used Fostex portable recorder - with luck, at $300. It will give you standard XLR inputs (stereo) and so you can hook up your preferred mic(s). You could also use a Zoom H1 but frankly, the Fostex records a better (cleaner) sound. As for the image, I'd get the best DSLR possible (used is OK and even better) with emphasis on optical stabilization. Canon DSLRs are really good. (A used DSLR is possibly better because it means that you can read reviews from users as opposed to being "bleeding edge".) I think you can find a used, low-end Canon for $250. Another option is to go with a cheap, second-hand camcorder having good optical stabilization reviews.

Then, you'll have to match up your wav sound files from the Fostex/Zoom with the recorded mts video files using software in post(-production). That's much easier to do than you might first think. You can get good software to do this for less than $50. There may even be free software available depending on what you want to do.

Keep in mind that with the Internet/youtube, a typical viewer will see/hear your video on a screen that is not 1080p and with so-so speakers/headphones. This emphasizes errors so it is important to capture initially as best you can. A standard DSLR will capture a good image. It's sound that matters to you.

====

BTW, DSLRs don't capture sound well, or at all. Among camcorders, Sony camcorders are distinctive because they capture sound well (compared to Canon and Panasonic). But Sony camcorders are pricey and offer features that you don't need.

I agree with most of this, up to the "BTW". It is too blanket a statement to say, implicitly, all DSLRs do not capture sound well. And while I agree that the audio from Sony camcorders is good (see my video demonstration of one: http://youtu.be/eKtZyTzl_CI)
the fact is until the latest Sony top camcorder model, you could not defeat AGC on Sony camcorders or their NEX cameras (no manual control of audio). Manual control of audio levels is the first capability you need for good audio.

BTW, the Canon EOS-M permits manual control of audio, has a mic in, and records uncompressed PCM audio at 48Hz, 16-bit.
post #14 of 28
The EOSM is good (I have one) but a dedicated pro recorder like the Sony D50 is much better for recording music.

I have a D50 too, and it is truly audiophile quality and in an entirely different league than the EOSM.

I have seen the Sony D50 as cheap as $300 2nd hand.
post #15 of 28
Also, the Sony D50 walks all over any of the Zoom recorders.
post #16 of 28
Thread Starter 
thanks again for the great advice

i'm a little disappointed to hear that I basically need a separate recorder for quality sound

what do you think was used to get the sound in this youtube recording http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xG0wi1m-89o (which is the viral video of Maria Aragon doing Lady Gaga's Born This Way)?
post #17 of 28
The Nokia 808 shoots 1080p and has better quality audio than any low cost camera.
http://www.amazon.com/Nokia-808-PureView-Factory-Unlocked/dp/B003U8EN7A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375184087&sr=8-1&keywords=Nokia+808



Quote:
Recorded using the Amazing Nokia 808 pureview with Nokia rich recording Technology with stereo haac speakers and the 41 megapixel Pureview pro sensor.
post #18 of 28
Thread Starter 
Since it seems like my best move will be to invest in separate recorder (up to $200) for audio, the Canon M50/500 is a bit out of my budget. Unfortunately, the refurbished ones never seem to come into stock at Canon's site.

What do you think of the Sony HDR CX260V for my needs?

Mary
post #19 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ak44 View Post

Since it seems like my best move will be to invest in separate recorder (up to $200) for audio, the Canon M50/500 is a bit out of my budget. Unfortunately, the refurbished ones never seem to come into stock at Canon's site.

What do you think of the Sony HDR CX260V for my needs?

Mary

Mary - I know you're more concerned about sound quality and ease of use, but before you decide, you should see what you're getting for your money.

This is typically what you'll get from a camcorder like the $498 CX260 - audio recorded externally to a Macbook Pro with Garageband - (please watch at 720p):



And here is an example of what you'll get from the $345.59 EOS-M, audio recorded internally to the camera with a Rode Videomic Pro (again, please watch at 720p):




My vote is to save yourself the $150 bucks and get the EOS M. You'll get more pleasing images, a conventional hotshoe for mounting microphones (something the Sony lacks) - and in auto mode sitting on a tripod, it's not that much more difficult to use than a camcorder smile.gif

Again, good luck with your decision!

Bill
Hybrid Camera Revolution
Edited by brunerww - 8/26/13 at 4:39am
post #20 of 28
you should focus on the sound equipment, and worry less about the camcorder. videographer? you'll find soon enough shooting enough places that you're merely a sound tech with a video camera.


sound is almost 90% of the video. get that right, and how matter how bad the video is, nobody will care too much. get a good audio recorder and setup where you can plug mics into it, and then have a audio cable going into whatever camcorder you choose.
post #21 of 28
Thread Starter 
if I were to get the TASCAM DR-40 and use an external mic (I have some nice ones), would my sound quality be pretty good? it's hard to tell from youtube review videos but it seems as though it might be pretty nice

a couple questions

is the need for the sescom cable merely to allow me to shoot the video with the audio automatically synched with it? does the sound quality get reduced by using the sescom cable and tying it into the camcorder? I know I am a neophyte with even the basics

lastly, what type of budget camcorder would you guys advise if I were looking for something with decent HD video (I will consider the canon eos m but I think my budget can't handle it right now) primarily for youtube performances in controlled environments? I have hopes to use it for other things too (like live shows, attempts at traditional music videos) but I understand that with a budget I can't get everything perfect. I am ready to put sound above video in respect of my needs.

Thanks
Mary
post #22 of 28
Hi Mary - I have the Tascam DR-40, and you're right - the sound quality is pretty nice. Sadly, it's hard to find one for less than $200 these days unless you are willing to buy a refurbished unit like this one for $179.

The $27 Sescom cable allows you to record in-camera audio at the same time as you lay down your external track. This does 3 things:

1. Allows you to use your XLR mics with your camera (the recorder becomes a relatively inexpensive XLR adapter)

2. Helps a lot when syncing the sound from your recorder during editing

3. Allows you to use in-camera audio in situations where it is "good enough" and you don't have the time or inclination to sync the external sound.

If you can't afford a Canon EOS M ($330 on Amazon as of this post), and you don't mind 720p, you might want to look at a new or refurbished Nikon P7000 point and shoot with an external mic input for less than $300.

Here is the image quality you can get from this camera:



Here it is with sound from an external (wireless) mic:


Again, hope this is helpful.

Bill
Hybrid Camera Revolution
post #23 of 28
post #24 of 28
You got me thinking. What lenses do you have?
post #25 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys

I bought the Tascam dr-40 today at guitar center for 170 (plus tax) which I though was a really good deal. I believe that there were some labor day deals happening there. ebay and craigslist both were at around 140 so I thought buying it new was a good idea.

I'll definitely get the sescom cable.

I'm not inclined to get the Nikon if I am only saving 50 dollars or so. I thought that the canon that you guys really liked was the eos m with the upgraded lens which was 399 when I last looked. I may just bite the bullet with the canon and hope that my lack of experience won't come back to bite me.

I think i'll give it a few weeks just to see if a great deal pops up.
post #26 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ak44 View Post

I think i'll give it a few weeks just to see if a great deal pops up.

Refurbished HF M50 camcorder back in stock $349.99:
http://shop.usa.canon.com/shop/en/catalog/camcorders/refurbished-consumer-camcorders/vixia-hf-m50-refurbished

Will be in like-new condition with a one year warranty and all accessories/software.

Main difference between this and "new" is generic packaging with the refurbished.
post #27 of 28
Thread Starter 
thank you xfws

I pulled the trigger
post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ak44 View Post

thank you xfws

I pulled the trigger

Good going. HF M50 is a nice camcorder. I have one, also.
Hand-held image stabilization is awesome and great image quality. smile.gif

The flip screen will come in handy.
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