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Thread: Help me shop for a camcorder?

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    Default Help me shop for a camcorder?

    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?
    Never mistake a guy who talks a lot for a guy who has something to say...

    CH&FR Site and Blog: http://www.chfrrailroad.net and http://blog.chfrrailroad.net
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    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.

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    Oh! Me too! TD I'll be interested to know what you decide to go with...

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    and me , my stills camera does nice photo but poor to average video and terrible sound my budget not as high as that though.

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    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".
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    Here's a quick link to the Panasonic camcorders in your price range:

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search...566&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...p=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). And definitely don't forget to check out the deals in the used section!
    PW&NJ Railroad

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    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?
    Never mistake a guy who talks a lot for a guy who has something to say...

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    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.
    JohnnyB

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    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.
    PW&NJ Railroad

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    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.
    Never mistake a guy who talks a lot for a guy who has something to say...

    CH&FR Site and Blog: http://www.chfrrailroad.net and http://blog.chfrrailroad.net
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    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 that will do everything you want to do, and you'll have leftover money in your budget for more trains! :woot:
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    So... Is this Four Thirds thing like an industry standard lens mount? Can you use other brands of lenses?
    Never mistake a guy who talks a lot for a guy who has something to say...

    CH&FR Site and Blog: http://www.chfrrailroad.net and http://blog.chfrrailroad.net
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    PW&NJ Railroad

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    Hmm... It also appears that with the right adaptor(s) I could use dad's Canon FD and EF lenses with it as well....
    Never mistake a guy who talks a lot for a guy who has something to say...

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    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.
    Doug S.

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    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.
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    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.
    Never mistake a guy who talks a lot for a guy who has something to say...

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    Well, if you can get a lens from your dad, there's one used body for sale at B&H for $439.95. 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).
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    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TwinDad View Post
    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.
    Doug S.

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