Need help choosing a camera for video
November 25, 2009 8:26 AM   Subscribe

Wife wants a video camera, I want a still camera that shoots video. Hope us!

The wife and I are soon going to be parents and as such I would like to be able to take HD video of our son.

I currently have a Panasonic Lumix Camera that managed to get some dust inside the lens. Ideally I would like to replace this with a newer Lumix camera that shoots HD.

I don't know if the wife wants HD or if she just wants to be able to shoot 3 hours straight of video.

Either way, I don't really want to have to worry about carrying a still camera and a video camera but I may lose that battle.

To me, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 seems to be the best bet. I've been very happy with the stills on my current Panasonic, aside from dust smudges.

So that was the build-up, here's the question(s):

Will the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS3 shoot video for as long as I want, or is there a limit to video length other than memory card size? Is there a better option for shooting decent stills and HD video aside from that camera in the $300-$400 range? Or, is there a decent handheld HD video recorder that is much better than the video taken by the Lumix that is around that price?

That's a lot of questions. I guess the bottom line is I'm looking to find out if digital camcorders in the $300-$400 are superior to the P&S cameras in the same price range. I doubt that they are, but I have no evidence to back it up.


Note: As great as I'm sure they are, DSLR cameras are out of the question. I'd love one, but they're just too big.
posted by bDiddy to Technology (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A friend who is big into video likes his Panosonic GH1. Might be too big for you? It's going to do a MUCH better job at video than any point and shoot. Not sure how much they sell for now.

My friend has an Panosonic LX3, which is a really nice P&S camera that also does 720P video.

That said, 3 hours of video is crazy long. I'm not sure how big a card you would need to store that much video.
posted by chunking express at 8:38 AM on November 25, 2009

Almost all digital cameras use FAT32 on their memory cards, which has a file size limit of 4GB. That's the only movie length/size limitation on cameras these days.
posted by zsazsa at 9:01 AM on November 25, 2009

Response by poster: 3 hours was a bit of an exaggeration. However I don't know how much video my wife thinks is the right amount to be able to store. The manual seems to say that the ZS3 (I wrote LS3 on accident at one point up there) will shoot 4 hours of video on a 32gb memory card. I just don't know if it limits it to 2 minutes at a time or something. In my head, the ZS3 is the best bet for us based on size, price, and reviews I've read.

The LX3 is awesome. But I think it's still just a bit high.

On preview: zsazsa, that's what I expected. 4GB should be plenty.
posted by bDiddy at 9:06 AM on November 25, 2009

Will the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS3 shoot video for as long as I want, or is there a limit to video length other than memory card size.

Memory card file systems are formated in FAT32, which has a limit on file size of 4 gigs. This is usually the limiting factor in HD video length, which will vary depending on the quality of the video (higher quality resulting in less time. The Canon 5d mark II records beautiful full 1920x1080 HD but at a maximum length of about 12 minutes.) This is going to be true of any camera that uses compact flash based memory.

I'm assuming you ment the DMC-ZS3 instead of the DMC-LS3 since that model is out of production. The DMC-ZS3 records in 780p so you are going to get longer than the 5d's 12 minutes but you are probably going to run into a limit around 20mins or so.

The question you have to ask your self is if the stills or the video are more important. If the video is more important you probably want to just buy an HD camcorder, which will also be able to take decent stills.

If you are going to be taking HD videos you also need to consider how you are going to capture and edit it on your computer if that is what you want to do. There are an annoying amount of different HD codecs and it is better to make sure you understand how to use the files you get from your camera before you purchase it.
posted by afu at 9:21 AM on November 25, 2009

Let me attempt to dissuade you from getting a camcorder and using it for stills. If you're currently used to using a still camera, stills from a video camera will look terrible to you. The clarity on even a good camcorder are much less than you can get from even a cheap still camera. It looks great for video, but we expect more from stills.

Stills and video are related, but they require different things. Any tool you get is going to be optimized for one, with the other function hacked on with a greater or lesser degree of success. If you can decide which is more important, you know what you're looking for. If they're equally important, you need two tools.
posted by echo target at 9:37 AM on November 25, 2009

The spec here says about 15 minutes tops with the DMC-ZS3
posted by bonehead at 9:40 AM on November 25, 2009

Best answer: Just get the P&S that you want, and pick up a Flip (or equivalent) on ebay or after-Christmas sales. I know it doesn't solve the problem of two devices, but really - point and shoot cameras take decent video for a short amount of time. They take great stills. Little camcorders or Flips take perfectly good baby video, but horrible stills. C'est la technological vie.

You're going to be carting around a ton of crap for the kid anyway. One more little camera isn't going to make or break the baby bag.

Oh. And get a backup harddrive or two. With all those photos + videos, you'll want to have them stored securely. And repeat after me: NO DIGITAL FILE REORGANIZATION WHEN SLEEP-DEPRIVED. :-) You're almost guaranteed to hit the wrong button.

posted by barnone at 9:48 AM on November 25, 2009

Oh and another reason to have a video camera and a still camera. There will be times you want both! It's really fun to be able to show first steps, eating messes, etc., and those Flips make it insanely easy. Aren't they coming out with a wireless Flip or something?
posted by barnone at 9:51 AM on November 25, 2009

Best answer: Get the still camera that you want, and pick up a Kodak Zi8 video camera to go with it. Best of the flip class of cameras right now.
posted by entropic at 10:24 AM on November 25, 2009

Response by poster: I have also considered the Zi8 or the flip. That seems like a good alternative. Though I'd still enjoy a new still camera. Dust on the lens drives me nuts!

Thanks all.
posted by bDiddy at 10:30 AM on November 25, 2009

If you like your current camera aside from the dust you could always take it to a camera repair shop, or send it to a reputable place. The cost to fix it may be less than the price of a new camera with similar features.
posted by 6550 at 1:04 PM on November 25, 2009

Get your wife a Flip or Flip mino for Christmas, and in the meantime buy that still camera for yourself.
posted by misha at 1:29 PM on November 25, 2009

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