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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I found this site through a Google search, and after reading through some of the posts here it seems to be a quality forum with great members willing to help noobs like me cut through all the marketing B.S. and make a wise purchase. I hope I have not mis-judged!



At any rate, here's my situation. My wife and I are expecting our first child at the end of January 2009. We have never owned a camcorder before, so we truly are noobs in this. The camcorder will be used for video at least 95% of the time - I have my Canon D-SLR (30D) and lens collection for still pictures.


I don't anticipate doing a lot of heavy editing. We mostly just want a video camera to capture precious moments on video for archival purposes, as well as to be able to send to friends and family (on DVDs) that are not in town.


We have an Intel Core 2 Duo (E6750 overclocked to 3.0GHz) computer (Windows XP Pro operating system) with 2GB of DDR2 800 RAM, a GeForce 7600GS video card, and plenty of hard drive space (internal and external). I know this isn't the best system for video editing (quad core would be better) but for my limited editing plans and DVD creation hopefully it will not be too bad?



Characteristics of a camcorder that are important in my mind right now include the following (in no particular order):


- Physical size of camcorder (prefer smaller to larger)

- Good video quality

- Excellent flip-out screen or viewfinder (or both ideally)

- Decent audio quality (external mic jack would be a nice option)

- HD capability if I want to record in HD

- Ease of transfer from camera to computer (for backup) and then to DVD

- Ability to plug camera into TV to watch what we've recorded

- Good battery life


Characteristics that are NOT important in my mind right now include the following:


- Still picture quality

- Brand

- Color of the camcorder itself


Taking all these things into consideration, I'd love to get away with spending US $1,000 or less for all the items I need (camcorder itself, extra battery, case, cables, media, editing software, etc.). That being said, I could probably stretch the budget to US $1,500 total if there's a convincing argument to be made that the extra money will be well spent.


Please help me wade through all the various decisions that I need to make like which recording media to go with (tape, hard drive, flash memory, etc.), how much optical zoom should I be looking for in a quality lens, will the included editing software be adequate for my needs, etc.


If I am missing anthing in my analysis, please don't be shy in letting me know! Like I said, I am a total noob when it comes to camcorders.


Best regards and thank you in advance for any help you can provide.


Jason
 

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Welcome Jason.


As to which camcorder to get, there are a number of choices for you. I will tell you what I got, why, and how I like it so far. Hopefully that will give you something to think about as you look over other options.


I got the Sony SR11. The reasons I chose that camcorder were as follows:

1. It was HD. Although it is AVCHD, which is somewhat more demanding to edit, but more on that later. The AVCHD format seems to put out a better picture than it used to and seems to be at least equal to, if not slightly better than, the older format HDV.

2. It had a combination hard drive and memory stick slot for storing your captured footage. At first I was a little leary about moving away from tape, but as I used the cam more and more, I came to really like the hard drive and how it stored the footage. Your captured shots are shown as picture icons on the LCD and all you have to do to access one of them is to touch the icon on the screen. I have not purchased/used any memory sticks yet.

3. It has both a great LCD (very clear) and a viewfinder. Both are a must with me.

4. It came with a program for your computer called Picture Motion Browser that I could use to download those video shots directly from the camcorder to my computer. It has very limited editing capability, but it is so easy to use and quick (relatively speaking) for downloading off of your cam. I also burn DVDs to use as archiving and can burn either AVCHD format or regular SD format. Once I get Pinnacle 12, I will be able to download those video shots from PMB, do my editing and produce a final product. At least that is the plan.

5. It produces a very, very nice picture.

6. Low light capabilities are better than most other consumer HD cams (slightly better), but still not as good as DV cams.

7. Easy to hook up to my plasma (using an HDMI cable with one end being a mini). And the picture looks GREAT.


As to the editing of AVCHD. Since you said you would do very little editing, this should not be of major importance to you now. But in the future, you will want to upgrade your computer since AVCHD requires a lot of computer.

Programs capable of editing AVCHD are becoming more numerous and better, so things are looking up. For the time being, the PMB should do the job for you.


Things I don't like so much about the SR11:

1. Auto focus wanders a bit in certain situations; low light shooting, or shooting distant (small) objects. For most other situations, the auto focus works pretty well. There is also a nice way for you to manually focus if you so desire.

2. Lack of a larger optical zoom. Since I shoot more outside, I could use a more powerful optical zoom. My old DV camcorder was a 20x zoom and boy do I miss that. The SR11 is 12x. Since you will be shooting mostly indoors with your subject being family, I suspect the zoom factor will not be important to you.

3. The 9,000 foot altitude limit of this cam. It seems that if one were to go above 9,000 foot, you would run the risk of damaging the hard drive. Since I shoot video whenever I go out west into the mountains, this will be a concern for me. Again, it may not be a concern for you.


Overall, I like this camcorder. I looked at the Canon HV30, but didn't like the feel of the cam itself. And as it has turned out, I am glad I didn't go for it since it is an HDV cam and uses tape. I also looked at the JVC HD7, but after reading about it, there was some question in my mind about its picture quality and editing capability. Aside from that, I really liked the size and handling of the HD7. I did not consider nor look at the Panasonic offerings.


So I hope this helps. Good luck.

Mike
 

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Oh yes and one more thing. The build quality of the Sony is great. I dropped my brand new camcorder from off of my tripod onto a cement road (from about a four foot height). After bouncing once, it finally came to rest. I was in shock. After picking it up and examining it, I found it to be perfectly fine (other than a scratch or two). It has worked well ever since.


Of course, I did have insurance on it, just in case, since I seem to be more and more of a clutz lately. But the insurance wasn't needed, and the cam is just fine.


Mike
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Mike, thank you very much for your detailed response. Your response has prompted a few additional questions:


1. Most of my immediate family (parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, etc.) have not yet made the jump to HDTV yet (I know, you're thinking WTF are we waiting for?), so will an HD video camera produce an acceptable SD video? Can I have the camera shoot in SD, or do I down-convert it with software on my computer?


2. Can video be recorded to CD as well as DVD? I ask because I'm not positive all my immediate family have DVD players, but I know they all have CD readers in their computers.


3. The altitude limitation is something I had not thought of before. Are there any consumer-grade camcorders out there (in my price range) that do not have this kind of limitation, or at least a higher altitude rating than 9,000 feet? Like you, I would want to take this with me if I am on a trip in the mountains.


4. Why are DV cams better at low light than AVCHD cameras?


5. Are there good cameras in my price range (up to $1,350 for the camera itself) that have better auto-focus, longer optical zoom, and better low-light capabilities than the SR11 from Sony?


6. Where do you recommend eventually purchasing the camera? Are there on-line stores with good reputations and cheaper prices than places like Circuit City and Best Buy? I know for my digital camera needs, I pretty much stick to the internet and B&H Photo, Beach Camera, or Adorama for my needs, as they have excellent service, great return plans, and good prices.


7. If I were buying the camcorder today, I have my eye on the Sony HDR-SR11, Sony HDR-HC9, and JVC GZ-HD6. Of these three, would you still recommend the SR11 and why?


8. Since my wife and I are mainly purchasing this camcorder based around the arrival of our first child in about 6.5 months, should I hold off on purchasing anything until we get closer to the due date? When do camcorder manufacturers announce new models? Are there any new cameras or technologies expected (in my price range of course) that I should wait a few months for?


Sorry for all the questions. I just want to make sure I make an informed purchase decision.


Regards.
 

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Well, I can answer a couple of your questions. I feel other people, who are more informed than I, can tackle the others.


First, using the Picture Motion Browser program, once you download your HD files to your computer, you can make either a high definition video on a DVD or burn an SD video on a DVD. I shoot in HD and then burn an SD DVD, rather than shoot in SD to begin with. You can always downres. high quality HD footage to SD quality, but you cannot move up to a higher res. HD from lower res. SD footage. Hope that makes sense.


Second, As for altitude, get a cam without a hard drive and the altitude problem goes away (as far as I know).


Third, for better low light, bigger optical zoom, and better auto focus for under $1350, I don't know. Probably not on all three.


On purchasing a cam, good prices can be had by purchasing from REPUTABLE online venders. Using a credit card can offer some peace of mind when it comes to "security". Me, I like to buy locally, due to service and the ease of returning the item if I don't like it or if it is defective. Many times you can barter with Best Buy or CCity and they may price match (even from an online offer, but very rare).


Yes, I would still buy an SR11/12. Only because I haven't tried the others in a number of months so I don't know whats out there that has since been introduced.


New stuff is always coming out and from time to time, sales and incentives are being offered to move merchanise. It is a gamble, but many times it can be good to wait if you can. Besides, it is always wise to let a product get some time under its belt and read about everyones views and experience with the product, before committing to a purchase.


Mike
 
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