Looking for a camcorder
January 7, 2005 1:12 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a camcorder. [mi]

My husband and I are expecting our first baby in a month and we wanted to buy a camcorder before the baby comes. We've looked at many different ones but can't seem to decide on one.

We've also considered the new jvc ones that may or may not be available right then (link1, link2)
but they are so new that they are still quite expensive so we were thinking it might be worth buying a mini dv format for a year or two until these digital ones are more widely available and thus cheaper.

Any recommendations are welcome since we've never owned a camcorder and don't know where to begin shopping for them.
posted by karen to Shopping (12 answers total)
I like the ones that write directly to DVD. You can not imagine what a pain it is to have to use the camcorder to watch the tapes. Mine just died and now I will have to get the tapes transferred to DVD just so I can see them. The downside is that these DVD writers have lower resolution than some others (writing to DVD on the fly is complex so they do not use the best compression is what I hear) and they are expensive.
posted by caddis at 1:22 PM on January 7, 2005

camcorderinfo is a source of information I trust. I purchased a JVC GRD-72 on their recommendation.. I've been totally happy with it.

My basic methodology was: I have 400$... what's the best camcorder I can get for that money? Camcorderinfo has good reviews and "Best camera for X$" features. Good luck.
posted by fake at 1:24 PM on January 7, 2005

Response by poster: oh and I meant to say that I'm planning to make movies with it using my Powerbook since most of my family is outside the country. I plan to email them (or put them up online somewhere) for them. So the simpler the interface with the mac, the better. thanks so so much in advance!

caddis: we looked at the DVD ones but they seem to be quite a bit more expensive and at that point, i thought it might be worth waiting for the microdrive ones.

fake: thanks for the heads up on camcorderinfo, i'll go check them out now.
posted by karen at 1:41 PM on January 7, 2005

The NYT had an article a couple months back that included two excellent reasons why you do not want a camcorber that records directly to DVD:

1. Not all software is compatible with the compression used.
2. The picture quality is inferior (they had a side-by-side comparison).

You probably want one with the MiniDV format.
posted by pmurray63 at 1:42 PM on January 7, 2005

With a Mac and MiniDV you can just firewire the recording over. Just make sure your cam has a firewire/1394/iLink port. It takes an hour on my canon to transfer an hour of tape.
posted by Mitheral at 2:56 PM on January 7, 2005

what pmurray63 and Mitheral said, plus editing is a lot more difficult if not impossible on a DVD camcorder.

MiniDV, a computer with a firewire card and a DVD burner offers a lot more flexibility for a lot less. I don't know anything about editing software for Macs, but there are lots of options.
posted by BigFatWhale at 2:57 PM on January 7, 2005

The 3" DVDs that are used with the DVD-burning camcorders generally will not work with the slot-loading Macs (iMac DV, iMac G5, iBook G4, Powerbook G4 Al and Pt) without a 5"-to-3" disc mount.
posted by AlexReynolds at 3:20 PM on January 7, 2005

I just bought a camcorder for exactly the same reason. I got a Panasonic PVGS15, which can be had at Amazon right this minute for the bargain price of 379.00 after $60 in rebates.

It's a mini-DV with firewire transfer, and has good reviews everywhere I've looked. UPS is bringing it to me on Monday.
posted by ewagoner at 4:03 PM on January 7, 2005

Since you are planning to make movies with your PowerBook I agree that a mini-DV camera makes more sense. I have too little time for that and hence the convenience of direct to DVD appeals to me. Mini-DV meets your needs better, it is cheaper and it has better resolution.
posted by caddis at 7:51 PM on January 7, 2005

I found a Panasonic GS120 for $500. It's a mini DVD but one of the few in that price range with 3 CCDs, so the colors look very good.
posted by muckster at 9:47 PM on January 7, 2005

I've been thinking about your question a bit more. In your situation (videotaping a new child) you're going to be in situations that are really low light situations. To most camcorders, indoor scenes not lit by extremely bright lights come out grainy and dark. It's not intolerable, but some camcorders do better jobs than others and this is one point I think you should buy on.

Another big factor is size and weight. My guess is you want this camera to be around when your child does something interesting or special. Which means it will probably end up in the baby bag, or at least get tugged along on outings and so on. There are lots of cameras that fit the bill...

Consider, too, battery life. Most cameras come with a 60-minute battery that will fill the tape once. The aftermarket "extended life" battery is almost always worth it.

Getting a polarizing lens cover is a great idea. They can be had for cheap (like 30$) at your local camera shop. This will protect the lens from damage and reduce glare.

Finally, tapes. Buy them in bulk. You don't want to be taping over tapes, because that shoebox full of source tapes can be re-edited later.. and you can get tapes really cheap if you look.

I highly recommend the camera I bought- (jvc-grd72 it can be had from online retailers for about 300$, it's surprisingly easy to use, connects to my Mac at work and my PC at home, and it's small.

Good luck.
posted by fake at 3:50 AM on January 8, 2005

B&H also has good prices on tape.
posted by muckster at 11:47 AM on January 8, 2005

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