Should I buy this camera?
February 20, 2012 6:50 PM   Subscribe

How much should I pay for this camera?

A friend of mine is selling his JVC GZ-HD30U camcorder--80gb internal harddrive, "Records in 1080p, AVCHD + MPEG2 format"--.

I'm interested in getting into video stuff--mostly recording lectures, but with an eye towards more creative projects in the near future. Will this camera be worth my money, or how much of it? Should I just save up for a DSLR?
posted by parapluie to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry I can't answer your question directly, but the videographers I work with started shooting almost exclusively with their DSLR's about a year ago. If you want to go creative, you'll want the control & flexibility re: exposure & DoF that comes with a DSLR. (FWIW, both videographers started off as photographers, so that may explain their choices.) They do non-profit short-form documentary work.
posted by smirkette at 7:21 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

The newer model JVC GZ-HD500 is $500 from Amazon, so there's your top end. I can't even find used ones on ebay, which can often provide an used price range. You might be able to get a DSLR that does video for that amount, I don't know.

Couple of notes. Being a single CMOS camera (like every consumer-grade camcorder and DSLR) you might get the dreaded jello-effect when recording high-motion events. Lectures won't be a problem but be aware when you start to get creative.

No external audio input, meaning you can *only* record audio via the built-in microphone. No attaching an external mic. If you want audio from a different source you will have to sync in edit. Not hard to do and sometimes preferable.

If it were me, I'd have a hard time paying much more that $150 for any used consumer camcorder. I'd either want to spend more and get the warranty and latest features or save a lot of money.
posted by trinity8-director at 7:39 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

DSLRs won't work well for recording lectures. They have 20ish minute recording time limits, not counting finickiness due to overheating.

I can't speak to the exact camcorder model you're looking at, but for recording a lecture, you don't need to spend an arm and a leg for something simple which would record a lecture. As for future creative projects, it may well be a good idea to save up for a new, in-warranty camera, quite possibly a DSLR or DSLR-like camera, but it also might not be. If you will be recording hours upon hours of footage, especially if you're interviewing subjects for long, uninterrupted periods of time, then a DSLR won't work for you.

What sort of creative projects are you looking at? You might be best off getting a T3i to put Magic Lantern on it, or a Panasonic GH2 to similarly hack.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:13 PM on February 20, 2012

I have never met a consumer level HD video camera that wasn't a complete pain in the ass to get video out of and into an editable format. The MPEG2 format is only SD video on this camera - if you're shooting high def it is going to be the AVCHD files which can be a chore to deal with.

If possible shoot some test video and try to edit it.

I agree with the above - it's worth $100-$150 tops.

On a side note, if you are interested in recording lectures a DSLR likely isn't the right choice due to the recording time limitations. In that case, this camera would be preferable.
posted by davey_darling at 8:14 PM on February 20, 2012

Reading up on the GH2, it would seem that the hacked firmware gets rid of recording limits in general.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:15 PM on February 20, 2012

Thanks you all, this answers my question. The lectures I'm shooting are more choreographed things, and it's unlikely we'll have a shot longer than five minutes. I'll save up for the DSLR, especially because this one doesn't allow for external audio input. You saved me a couple hundred dollars!
posted by parapluie at 12:00 AM on February 21, 2012

The unhacked stock GH2 has never had any recording limits, nor any overheating problems, just FYI. The only limits are battery time (though you can always hook it up to an AC outlet) and card size... in fact the hacked GH2 would have a worse limit, because the hack footage generates much bigger files, and will fill up your card that much faster.
posted by VikingSword at 12:07 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite] is a good place to read about cameras (not camcorders). Sometimes the comments of their reviews can be really insightful for getting a sense of how people like them and the nitty-gritty of how their specs interact with lenses, etc.
posted by victory_laser at 12:40 AM on February 21, 2012

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