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Least expensive 0 Lux, 1080p Name brand camcorder or IR vs Low Light

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hello Everyone,

I have an ancient Sony DCR-TRV230 camcorder which has a night shot feature. It uses IR (infra red like night vision goggles) so that you can record in complete darkness. My camera is in excellent working condition, but I want to be able to record at 1080P. Also, I'd love to have something a little smaller.

Most of the time I use my camcorder to record non extraordinary events like a trip to the amusement park or a birthday party. However, from time to time I'll go back packing and attempt to film wildlife by starlight (or less than starlight). My Sony with it's IR Night Shot can do that. On the downside it makes everything look a greenish monotone, but it has allowed me to get video that none of my buddies could capture (their cameras are ancient too). For example, One time while camping out at the base of a cliff, I heard rustling close by but couldn't see anything. I turned on the camera night shot and filmed a raccoon nosing around the trees.

What are the least expensive camcorders on the market from well known manufacturers that can do what I'm looking for?

I love the IR but I'm not stuck on it. When I bought my camera (12 years ago?) this was the only way to film around a campsite under the stars. I have not seen how the modern low light cameras handle filming in the dark. Someone at Sony told me I just needed a camcorder with Exmor R CMOS and I'd be perfectly happy. I'm not sure I believe them. The only camera they said that currently has the 0 Lux feature is the Sony HDR-PJ790V, and it's $1600. I can't afford that. At best I can make a stretch to $700. I'd rather spend around $300.

I'm open to recommendations. Anything from $200 to $650?
post #2 of 13
i tested a canon hf m40 to a sony ccd-trv308 and the sony could see in darker conditions a litter bit better, but also was very grainy.

the canon hf m5xx series have the same low light ability i believe. if ur willing to get a refurb canon has this model cheap

post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the response.

I had about two hours free to do a little more research, so I called Canon about the camera you mentioned. First, Canon told me that if I want true night vision (IR) that I have to go to their professional line. The least expensive IR camera they have right now is the XF100, which retails at $2,999, or $2,499 on Amazon (as of 9/20/13), and it's a fairly large camera - about as long as my forearm. If I was still attempting to film documentaries I'd spend the money and be done with it. But that's way out of my price range and wouldn't fit in my fanny pack when I'm taking the kids to the zoo.

Canon suggested that I could get excellent low light recording with a consumer model. They also recommended the HF-M52/M50 but added in the HF-R40/R42. I took a look at some YouTube videos and I must say it's impressive what you can see using the R40 in low light, but it's not in the same class as a camera with true IR. When recording outside with no more light than what is provided by a full moon, the Canon's will allow you to see the outline of the trees you're standing in front of, which is not bad. But a camera with IR will reveal the leaves on those trees.

It looks as though the only company currently making consumer priced cameras with IR is BenQ (Bell and Howell). They are selling on Amazon between roughly $200 and $230. The newer model is the Bell and Howell DNV16HDZ, and the older model is the Bell & Howell DV900HD. While these cameras do a good job with the night vision they are pretty weak in all other categories. Instead of being grey scale, they cast a purple hue when in night mode. To make matters worse they don't power off the night vision sensor when you switch to regular mode, so some images come back with crazy coloring.

I'm pretty surprised that there are so few options available. When I purchased my Sony, it seemed like one out of three consumer cameras had the night vision feature. Today, if I want true night vision, the only options I see are to either wait for a used Sony HDR-PJ790V to come down into my price range, or to buy the Bell and Howell DV900. The PJ790V is smaller than my existing camcorder, but it's still bulky. The Bell and Howell would do a great job with night shooting, and is small enough to make me happy, but I'm sure I'd soon be out looking for a second camera to use for filming everything else I like to do (it's not even stereo).

Any other suggestions folks?
post #4 of 13
the bell & howell is garbage, your old sony will be better. also note there is no zoom on the b&h. if your absolutely set on IR shooting it would be best to look for older sonys on ebay like sr11 or cx7. tho note those are 1080i, not 1080p
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
I could probably work with 1080i. I'll go investigate those, thanks!
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
The Sony HDR-SR11 is selling new on Amazon for $1699, used for $450. The YouTube results are pretty good.

I'm somewhat excited by the CX7 though. It's the size I wanted. It's outrageous at $1,599 new, but very reasonable used at $199 (Amazon). I would prefer 1080P, but I could settle for 1080i on a CX7 for $199. At that price I could still afford to get a 1080p camera for normal recording, and use the CX7 for night shooting. The CX7 would still be good enough for recording a family daytime event if I needed it. It certainly could replace my old TRV230.
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Bummer. I did a little more research. Turns out the CX7 is 1440 X 1080, not widescreen. So my only option is the SR11 which is $450 used (today). That's a little high for a used camera, but I might go that route since I have my heart set on IR. Are there any other recently discontinued models with IR?
post #8 of 13
its widescreen, its just recorded as 1440x1080 and has the pixels stretched to 1920x1080
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
I'm leaning towards getting the SR11. But I'm a little confused by the format - AVCHD. I normally pull video off the camera and edit it in Adobe Premiere CS6. Will I have any trouble getting video off the SR11 and into Premiere? The few articles I've read all suggest its a nightmare, but they date back to 2008.
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
I can get a HDR-CX550V refurbished for $530. Apparently it has night shot. Overall, is it a better camera than the SR11?
post #11 of 13
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 
I ordered the CX550V. I like being able to use memory cards, I think it's 1080i, and I'm ok with that. I can find a 1080p camera without ir for my wife, and use that when needed. 1080i will be ok for me for a few years to come. It's small enough to make me happy about trekking it in my backpack. I think I'll be happy with it. Thanks for the help!
Edited by MoonTimber - 9/22/13 at 11:53pm
post #13 of 13
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