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TwinDad
3rd Mar 2013, 01:13 AM
Took a long hard look at my available camera equipment and the budget, and it looks like the DSLR will have to wait a (long) while.

Next up on the priority list is a decent camcorder, both for indoor (model / video blog) and outdoor (railfan) work. Budget is probably less than $500. One thing I'd like is a good optical zoom, and the ability to zoom while recording. Handheld, portable. I've already figured out that optical image stabilization is probably out of the budget, but digital might be nice, I suppose. Oh, and it needs to be Mac compatible.

Beyond that, I'm really not sure what I'm looking for. Help?

bc6
3rd Mar 2013, 03:45 AM
Id give www.bhphotovideo.com a look, I use them for both personal and professional video and audio needs. They have a wide selection of camcorders in your price range so youre in luck. The Canon VIXIA line is a good place to start for a mid-range camera and then you go up to the Everio. Dont forget to get yourself a decent tripod & at least a 32 gigabyte memory card.

Ridgeline
3rd Mar 2013, 03:47 AM
Oh! Me too! TD I'll be interested to know what you decide to go with... :thumbs-up:

grrf
3rd Mar 2013, 07:58 AM
and me , my stills camera does nice photo but poor to average video and terrible sound my budget not as high as that though.

PW&NJ
3rd Mar 2013, 09:31 AM
I second the suggestion of going to B&H Photo's website. You might also try calling them on the phone. They are EXTREMELY helpful people. One time when I called them to get info on what I thought I wanted, the salesman told me about another similar model that ended up being a better choice, and it was CHEAPER than what I had originally planned to buy. I'd also HIGHLY recommend the Panasonic line of camcorders, and the Panasonic Lumix line of cameras. The video quality is just plain fantastic (1080p full HD using high-speed SD cards and AVCHD video encoding) and the prices are in your budget range. I use several of these cameras for live broadcast event coverage and the results are definitely "broadcast quality".

PW&NJ
3rd Mar 2013, 09:47 AM
Here's a quick link to the Panasonic camcorders in your price range:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?atclk=Brand_Panasonic&mnp=1&ci=1871&Ns=p_PRICE_2%7c1&N=4294548093+4259332489+4259332488+4291296566&mxp=499.99

And here's a link to the Lumix cameras (all of which include VERY awesome HD video functionality):

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?atclk=Brand_Panasonic&ci=9811&N=4288586282+4291296566&mnp=1&mxp=499.99

These also include the micro four thirds format with changeable lenses that are just excellent (manual focus, optical image stabilization, etc., all in your price range). :thumbs-up: And definitely don't forget to check out the deals in the used section!

TwinDad
3rd Mar 2013, 10:18 AM
Thanks for the tips so far, guys. I've heard nothing but good stuff about B&H from several sources. And those Panasonics do look pretty nice.

Can we talk a bit about specific features that are important to have?

Sleeper
3rd Mar 2013, 10:34 AM
I bought the JVC Everio gz-mg750bu and Iím not very happy with it.
Now Iím almost afraid to try anything new especially after my recent purchase of a Coolpix S6300 which is the worst camera Iíve ever had. :(
My favorite camera was my old Canon a360 PowerShot, but it didnít last long for all the abuse it took.

PW&NJ
3rd Mar 2013, 10:38 AM
Sure! When possible, I prefer my camcorders to have external mic inputs. Not that the onboard mics are bad, just that I like to add shotgun mics, etc. depending on the specific situation. Manual focus ability is a must for me, preferably with a nice focus ring (though you don't find that much in your price range). Digital image stabilization is pretty much standard for the Panasonic line with some including what they call "hybrid optical image stabilization". As for the physical setup, I must say I'm not really happy with any of the handheld cams. These little palmcorders always seem to fit in your hand in ways that are likely to get tiring almost immediately. I mostly use a tripod, a hand-held steady-cam-like device (homemade), or suffer and hold it in my hand when I can't use the other stuff. I highly recommend video on the high-speed SD cards. This means you can plug it right in to your computer (Mac/Win/Linux) and copy the files easily (no more transferring from the camera through a cable, or video capture). You also want a camera that handles low light well (Sony and Panasonic to a GREAT job with this).

These are my suggestions, but tell me more specifically what you want to do with your camera and I might be able to help you narrow it down some more. :thumbs-up:

TwinDad
3rd Mar 2013, 11:13 AM
I noticed the "handheld" issue right away when borrowing my M-I-L's Sony Handycam. My Canon P&S is much more comfortable.

As for what I want to do...

1)Trackside roll-bys, for which I *REALLY* want a decent zoom and the ability to zoom while recording (my Canon P&S locks the zoom when you start recording)

2) model trackside recording, for which again I think the zoom will be handy, as would small size, maybe a macro mode, remote trigger, what else?

3) Vlogging, for which I could use just about anything I suppose

4) general family videos, including general purpose anything video. Quick indoor clips of the kids, hiking or other outdoor, travel, etc.

have a look at my YouTube channel. I want to do that, only better.

PW&NJ
3rd Mar 2013, 11:21 AM
OK, especially considering the annoying hand-held issues with the camcorders, I think you're going to be MUCH happier with the micro four thirds format cameras like the Lumix G3. You can get a nice starter kit for $350 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/768477-REG/Panasonic_DMC_G3KK_Lumix_DMC_G3_14_42mm_Lens.html) that will do everything you want to do, and you'll have leftover money in your budget for more trains! :woot:

TwinDad
3rd Mar 2013, 12:07 PM
So... Is this Four Thirds thing like an industry standard lens mount? Can you use other brands of lenses?

PW&NJ
3rd Mar 2013, 12:10 PM
You've got lots of options: http://lenshero.com/lenses/panasonic-dmc-g3-lens

TwinDad
3rd Mar 2013, 01:11 PM
Hmm... It also appears that with the right adaptor(s) I could use dad's Canon FD and EF lenses with it as well....

dcswift
3rd Mar 2013, 01:37 PM
TD,

I realize that you are looking for a camcorder, but have you considered a Canon t3i or t4i? Yes they are DSLRs, however they shoot 1080 video and have external mic jacks. I have been very satisfied with my t3i and often they are forsale at the price point you are looking at and with an adaptor you can use old canon lens.

PW&NJ
3rd Mar 2013, 01:43 PM
Unfortunately, unless he finds one used, he'd be outside of his budget, seeing as how the bodies alone start at around $599. Otherwise, not a bad choice at all. :thumbs-up:

TwinDad
3rd Mar 2013, 02:23 PM
Yeah, actually the T3i was going to be my choice - it's my dads camera and I've been really happy with the Canons he's had and I've used. Plus sharing lenses would be a nice plus.

But, unfortunately as PW says, the system is just out of my realistic budget. So I figured spending the money on a camcorder would fill a bigger void than the DSLR would anyway.

Plus, the one thing I did find awkward on dad's T3i is the way you start/stop video recording. I missed some shots because of it.

PW&NJ
3rd Mar 2013, 02:33 PM
Well, if you can get a lens from your dad, there's one used body for sale at B&H for $439.95 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/800933933-USE/canon_5169b001_eos_rebel_t3i_digital.html). They do test the used equipment prior to sale, and it even comes with a 90-day warranty. Condition is listed as a 9 (shows signs of use, but very clean).

ragnarock4
3rd Mar 2013, 02:48 PM
As PW mentioned, manual focus is a big big feature. It may be used infrequently, but when it's needed and you don't have it you may as well not even hit the record button.

dcswift
3rd Mar 2013, 04:26 PM
Yeah, actually the T3i was going to be my choice - it's my dads camera and I've been really happy with the Canons he's had and I've used. Plus sharing lenses would be a nice plus.

But, unfortunately as PW says, the system is just out of my realistic budget. So I figured spending the money on a camcorder would fill a bigger void than the DSLR would anyway.

Plus, the one thing I did find awkward on dad's T3i is the way you start/stop video recording. I missed some shots because of it.

I don't know where you are shopping, but I purchased my t3i for 499.00 at Best Buy about 5 weeks ago.

TwinDad
3rd Mar 2013, 04:32 PM
I don't know where you are shopping, but I purchased my t3i for 499.00 at Best Buy about 5 weeks ago.

Did it come with lenses? It's pretty useless to me without a 28-80 and/or a 70-200+ mm zoom (or equivalent). With the stock 50mm I might as well be using my point and shoot for my purposes. I haven't seen a package with lenses for less than around $700 or $800 and I just simply can't swing that right now.

@PW, the only lenses he would give/loan me are the FD lenses. He's still using the EF lenses and were too far apart to truly share them. I don't think Canon makes a DSLR that takes FD lenses, do they?

TwinDad
3rd Mar 2013, 04:37 PM
We're getting a bit away from the "camcorder or equivalent" subject of the OP. having used my dad's T3i for video already I don't like the way it works. It's a great DSLR and it (or something better) is still on the someday wish list, but it's not going to work for me for video purposes.

Leith all due respect, can we get back to either the true camcorders or the MFTL cameras? It does look like something there might suit my needs and budget better.

bc6
3rd Mar 2013, 06:19 PM
One of the first things Ive done before making an investment in a camera is to do some research. Steves Digicams (http://www.steves-digicams.com/)has been around for a while and Ive based most my purchases on reviews found on this site. Another thing to do is to read the reviews at B&H for a camera your'e interested in, Cant tell were youre located but if you were in NYC id visit B&H. Another review site I like is http://www.dpreview.com/ check them both out before you buy anything.

PW&NJ
3rd Mar 2013, 07:56 PM
Indeed, Best Buy does have the T3i on sale right now, but it's just the body and the price is $528. With a lens is also on sale, for $599. So, with that said and considering the annoying hand position for the little camcorders, I think the mirrorless point-and-shoot options are your best and most affordable bets. And just like BG says above, check the review sites. I've used both of those for years and used them when I made my most recent camera and camcorder purchases. :thumbs-up:

TwinDad
20th Mar 2013, 03:49 PM
So... here's what I ended up with:

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8245/8574402457_af04638ea6.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bgtwindad/8574402457/)
My new camera! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bgtwindad/8574402457/) by BGTwinDad (http://www.flickr.com/people/bgtwindad/), on Flickr

It's a Panasonic Lumix G5, with a 14-48mm zoom lens. Kit was $500. 16MP, ISO 160-12,800, 1080p MP4 recording at 30fps, and both a 3" touch screen and a viewfinder.

I plan to pickup a Canon FD -> Micro 4/3 mount adaptor so I can use my dad's old Tamron 28-80 and 70-210 zooms and his Canon 50mm primary. I'll have to use them in fully manual mode, but hey, that'll just teach me how to use the camera properly in the first place. Eventually I'll pick up a 45-175mm power zoom that will be handy for railfanning.

I've been taking some family shots and other random things, trying to get used to it. It fits well in my hand, though I have to be just a touch careful that I don't squash the rear-panel buttons with my thumb. I *really* like that you can snap still shots while it is recording video. That should come in handy.

I'm having just a bit of trouble getting used to the white balance settings. It doesn't appear to have a preset for fluorescent, and I've got a lot of CF bulbs in the house, including the desk lamp I build my models under. I can dial in a specific color temperature, though, so that may work.

grweldon
20th Mar 2013, 04:19 PM
From my understanding, this camera is mirrorless, thus rendering the SLR (Single Lens Reflex) term not applicable. I assume the image on the viewfinder is still through-the-lens(?) which is what SLRs wer developed for...

TwinDad
20th Mar 2013, 04:32 PM
From my understanding, this camera is mirrorless, thus rendering the SLR (Single Lens Reflex) term not applicable. I assume the image on the viewfinder is still through-the-lens(?) which is what SLRs wer developed for...

Right. It's not a DSLR. It's a "Mirrorless System Camera"... or one of two or three other names they go by. I wasn't shopping specifically for an SLR (or DSLR), just for a really good camera that would balance higher still-photo performance than my existing P&S and also taking good video, within my budget. This seems to strike the right balance for me, for now.

The "viewfinder" is a miniature LCD that shows the sensor image, same as the 3" LCD on the back panel. There's a small proximity sensor just beneath it that shuts off the main LCD when you put your eye up to the viewfinder, and vice versa.

PW&NJ
20th Mar 2013, 04:53 PM
Excellent choice! :thumbs-up:

SoSueMe
6th Apr 2013, 10:11 AM
Santa left this one for me.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=orderHistory&A=details&Q=&sku=838772&is=REG

It has a lot of capabilities for a very modest price*. The one complaint I've heard in reviews is the lack of wide-angle capability which might limit it for model railroad use.

*note - I paid $100 less than the current sale price just before Christmas.