Tape me out?
February 1, 2011 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Best pocket camcorder for low lighting/garbage sound conditions?

I'm looking for a pocket camcorder to record some of my comedy shows, and while I'm reading reviews I was hoping for some specific recommendations based on the show environment.

I would need something that could handle occasional low lighting and bright stage lights, with a reasonably good internal mic (or external mic capability w/recs) to get crisp (or at least not "muffled") audio. For my purposes, I want to be able to record sets and if the quality is nice enough, possibly upload clips for promotional purposes. It would also be great to have something with standard tripod threading or the ability to stand up on its own.

Am I asking too much? I am not really willing to invest a lot of money in gear that will mostly be used for my own review, so fancy camcorders probably aren't an option.
posted by SassHat to Shopping (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Low light capability is expensive, period. So right off the bat, it conflicts with "I am not really willing to invest a lot of money in gear". The various flip type pocket camcorders are also poor when it comes to sound (though they're getting better, like the Kodak one). Finally, if you really mean pocket size, as in being able to put it in your jeans pocket, again, that's not - at this point in time - compatible with lowlight capability. All this may change 10 years from now, but that's where we are at today.

As to whether you are asking too much, it depends on how much money is too much for you.

Here's what would work, and you can decide if it's too much cash. The Panasonic GH2. It's not really something you can stick in your pocket, but it's not enormous (4.9 x 3.5 x 3 in). It can be had for about $800, body only. Now, when speaking of low light, it's all about glass. So you will need a fast lens. The lens from Panasonic, LUMIX G 20mm / F1.7 ASPH is a good bet, at only about $350 on amazon. Of course, you could get an even faster lens, but it would be more like $900 - Cosina Voigtlander Nokton 25mm F0.95, if you can get it at all (currently sold out and back ordered). The GH2 has a decent stereo internal mike, but if you want to get fancy you can always attach an external, but it's not necessary. The GH2 can be mounted on a tripod. Your outlay would be around $1200.

What do you get with this set up? The best low light video at a price point.

Now, I know you said "I don't want to spend a lot of money, because it's just a personal little review type project" - unfortunately, the cost is not connected to how significant/unimportant the project is, it's connected with your requirements. If you wanted to do this in plenty of light, you could get very cheap solutions. But if you want small + good low light + mic, you are talking expensive, no matter what the footage is used for ultimately.

The only other options, which may work, are the Canon S95, or Panasonic Lumix LX5, though it may ultimately not work, because the video function on these is most likely not going to be up to snuff (especially the Canon one), although both are pocketable (especially the Canon), and tripod mountable. And, either can be had for less than $400 new. What you should do is borrow/rent the S95 or the LX5, and run an experiment. If you are satisfied with the result, you have your answer, if not, you can see if the GH2 is something you're willing to look into.
posted by VikingSword at 1:03 PM on February 1, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for your extensive answer, VikingSword. Not to thread-sit but I just want to clarify that 90% of the use will be for my own purposes (ie: rewatching and analyzing performances), where crappy quality is fine so long as I can eke out what reaction I got with which line and can see what I looked like up there.

I do not need a red cam over here. I am looking for the *best* cheap option, not the best performing piece of equipment. Physical size is not the main issue - price is. If the best option means something that's only a little above what I can do with my cell phone camera, then that's what I will get. I can always have friends with serious gear record stuff when I want to use it for promotional purposes.
posted by SassHat at 1:12 PM on February 1, 2011

OK, then in that case I'd look into the Canon S95. I've seen it for as little as $350, new - if that's not too much, then that's what I'd recommend.
posted by VikingSword at 1:53 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

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