Best camera to film live music for under 400-500$?

Hi everybody!

I'm new around here and I have a question about which one you think is the best compact camera to film live music at the moment without going over budget.

Most cameras from the main brands do a pretty decent job with the image but my main concern is the audio. I've been using a Canon Ixus 980IS and the sound is incredibly good for a little thing like that, with very low distortion even with the loudest bass. But I need to replace it because the sensor is already missing pixels and the lens is feeling its age (spectacular flaring when hit with halogen lights).

What I'm looking for is something with high resolution, a good zoom and keeping that good sound which seems to be asking too much. My main choices at the moment are the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX20V and the Canon PowerShot SX240 HS. I'm currently leaning towards the Sony because I know the DSC-HX9V has a very decent sound quality. Not as good as my Canon (apparently all the stereo mics give more distortion than the mono no matter what) but good enough and the image is great unless the light is very low. Canon is usually better for that.

The choice pretty much depends on which one has the best sound and second but far which one is best for dark interiors. Any other suggestions are welcome as well and if anybody has any experience, please, let me know.


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Audio/Low Light

You have picked the two reasons for not buying a digital camera in that price range.
Most digital cameras have basic audio circuits, which means AGC (automatic gain control) only.
That makes them unsuitable for recording loud live music.

Low light is the Achilles heel of the "point and shoot" camera. The cameras with the better low light performance have very short zooms (about 3X). Even then they do not perform as well as a low cost DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera.

I suggest you investigate camcorders in that price range.


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Playing by the rules...

The thing is most large venues don't allow you to take camcorders and definitely not DSLRs so we have to play with what we've got. I completely agree with everything you said but I don't make the rules.

My Canon has a beautiful sound, comparable to the low-middle range of professional recording devices (mono, of course, so very low distortion), and it works great in low light (3.7x zoom). But I definitely need a better lens so I have to move on whether I like it or not.

I know the Sony DSC-HX9V does fare worse in low light and the sound is less rich than with my camera but there's very little testing I can do to know which one of the new range is the lesser evil, particularly with the sound. Nobody tells you that on the specs...

This is a video filmed with an HX9 just so get an audio of the very considerable quality you get. Sound is more muffled than with my 980 but, still...

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The audio from the HX9 suffers from overdriving the circuits.
The source (live) music is too loud for the position of the camera.
i.e. You are too close to the music source and the camera has no adjustment for this.

The distortion produces a muffled sound.
Since you cannot regulate the source, you must get further away from the source.

Another way to control this is to buy a digital camera that has a input for an external microphone.
If you get a "smart" microphone you can have some control over too-loud music. But such a microphone will cost over $200.

There is a digital camera (Panasonic ZS15) that was recently reviewed and gets good marks on video and sound.
The still pictures from the camera are exceptionally good. Low level lighting performance is better than the average for a camera in its price range:


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I was trying to avoid checking the Lumix because it would be making the list even longer. I have a friend who has the superior to that, the ZS20, and it's good but it saturates very easily. The annoying thing is the microphone is different between them. While the ZS15 has a mono system, the ZS20 has stereo, which makes sense if you say the ZS15 has good sound (where can I find that review, by the way?). That's the annoying thing with these cameras. It's they keep changing the configuration and combining these things that look cool on the specs list but then don't improve or even worsen the output. It's ridiculous...

I wish I had a way of test driving the 3 of them. Because I know they're all going to be worse than mine but at least I could compare. Thanks for the suggestion though...

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