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Best format for camcorder special use plus regular video?

by thomasterrible / July 16, 2009 6:10 AM PDT

I have been looking at the sales and found HiDef Camcorders under 400.00 that look pretty nice for the money. They say they have image stabilization but I dont know if the format also contributes to the results.

I will mainly use the camcorder for home movies but also I want to do a special project having the camera mounted somewhere on my high performance motorcycle to get as close to an example of what it is like to take the bike on a high speed run or some stunts with the best results.

I dont know if the image stabilization is adequate for something like this and if the format would make a difference.

The ones that write to an internal hard drive are attractive as they seem to hold a good amount of recording and one can download the videos on to storage media to keep the drive empty for more video taking which seems like it would be the most compact and direct way to go about this.

However not actually having used these I am not sure if my assumptions are correct.

How good is the image stabilization for a project like this and is a hard drive the best media format for the project?

Aside from this project the main use will be the usual home videos of the kids and vacations etc. but I do have this one project to consider as well. It will be for distribution to family and friends only so it does not need to be of professional quality and my budget will only allow me limited choices such as the about 400 buck hard drive High Def sort I have been seeing on sale.

Thanks in advance for any advice.

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Given the vibration you will
by boya84 / July 16, 2009 8:02 AM PDT

have on the motorcycle, it is likely a hard drive camcorder will not record anything to the hard drive and be in "buffer overflow" mode.

Your best bet will be those that don't have this known vibration issue - either miniDV tape or flash memory.

At the $ level you are talking about, the camcorders will typically have only digital stabilization (Optical is better but most likely not available at your budget point).

You might be able to get away with a "hybrid" - that which has an internal hard disc but can also record to flash memory. Since they use the same highly compressed file type, I would pass - but perhaps they are "good enough" for you.

As well, high speed on a motorcycle would also mean high volume level. Most camcorders depend on their auto-mic gain to limit the audio so it does not get muddy or clip ("static" sounding). That means you probably want some sort of manual audio control.

The least expensive camcorder - of which I am aware - with manual audio control is the Canon HV300. It is about 2x more than you want to spend. Some lesser Sonys have a "MicRefLevel" setting in the menu for very rudimentary "Normal" and "Low" (for high audio levels) audio gain.

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How do the flash memory cams work?
by thomasterrible / July 16, 2009 11:37 AM PDT

Well I am willing to spend a bit more if it is necessary, how much storage will a unit with a flash drive hold? Another feature that seemed to be good at that low price was High Def which I would like to have. While it would be cool to have some of the sound of the bike I was planning on having my friends band record a soundtrack for it so the audio part may not be such a big deal.

It seems to me that storage on flash memory is a fast and convinient way to store the videos but are these also High Def? At High Def resolution how much storage space is needed for a set amount of recording time and how much do the flash storage devices cost to download from the camera to in effect have different "tapes" or "discs" as one would use with that sort of recording media?

The flash memory sounds like it would not be affected by the vibration at speed but not knowing about it I dont know about the quality attained via that format.

I have just been seeing several models advertised that were High Def under 400 bucks and that sounds good, but if spending a bit more gives me more than I am willing to do so.

Thanks Much

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There are currently four
by boya84 / July 16, 2009 12:45 PM PDT

types of media storage types for consumer camcorders

MiniDV tape: A 60 minute tape holds 63 minutes of HDV. If HDV, they are outside your set budget. They can also do DV and DV widescreen.
Standard def: Panasonic PV-GS320; Sony DCR-HC series; Canon ZR series
Hi def: Canon HV30, HV40 (none in your budget range)
MiniDV tape and DV/DV widescreen/HDV are the least compressed formats. Most prosumer and professional camcorders use this. Import over firewire to a computer for editing. Fill a tape, put in a blank and keep recording - do this until you run out of power.

Hard disc drive (HDD) and Flash memory: For standard def only, they store to the same highly compressed MPEG2 format - typically .mod, but can have other extensions. For high def, they typically store to an relatively new, very compressed, AVCHD (MTS file extension) format. Because of the compression, I understand that "action" video can have issues. High def DVD camcorders also use AVCHD - but they have other problems. Already discussed vibration issues regarding HDD camcorders. Flash memory can be "memory stick" (Sony) or SD memory - generally SDHC - needs to be class 4 or 6 or higher to accommodate data throughput and writing speed. HDD will be limited to the size of the hard drive and the video quality selected; archiving and data crashes provide exciting challenges. HDD cams also have known high altitude issues. Flash memory camcorders typically have removable memory, so when you fill a memory card, put in a blank and keep recording - do this until you run out of power.
Hybrid standard def: Sony DCR-SR series; some of the Panasonic SDR series (high numbers)
Hybrid Hi def: Sony HDR-XR series; Panasonic HDC series (none in your budget range)
Standard def flash memory only: Canon FS series; Panasonic SDR series (low numbers)
High Def flash memory: Canon HF and HF S series (none in your budget range)

More compression = more discarded video data = reduced video quality.

DVD based camcorders: for standard definition, they barely make useful doorstops and should never make it to anyone's short list. For high def, the record time is generally short (20-30 minutes?). Lots in your budget range - don't waste your time.

Honestly, for $400, you are barely breaking in to the entry level consumer environment. What did you see for $400 with high definition?

There may be some JVC Everios that fall into these areas, too, but I am not a big fan of their electronics... Their pro stuff is good, though.

MiniDV tapes are cheap and a cheap way to archive data - what process flow are you expecting to use with HDD and flash memory video?

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Camcorders that caught my eye
by thomasterrible / July 16, 2009 1:22 PM PDT

Here is an ad from Circuit City that I saw this cameras information and price of 399 which is what started me out thinking that perhaps I could get something decent for that amount of money, I did not notice at first but it is refurbished however that does not really turn me off if it is a good unit, perhaps you will be familiar with it. I just copied and pasted the ad for this one camera here for your examination, there are a few others that are a tiny bit more expensive that may have more features.....

Canon HG10 HD Video Camcorder - Refurbished
The name Canon has always meant photographic and broadcast television cameras with optical excellence, advanced image processing, superb performance, and the latest in technological advancements. Canon's new High Definition video camcorders are no exception. Add to that, our Canon Exclusives. Canon has long been a leader in bringing advanced features to its products, taking advantage of our superiority in optics and image processing. Thanks to a continuing effort to make better video easier to create, we've included a variety of these advanced and exclusive features only available in a Canon camcorder to help you do just that.

The Canon HG10 AVCHD Format Hard Disk Drive Camcorder delivers high definition technology with the effortless ease of recording video directly onto a hard disk. Incorporating the latest AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) format, it puts superb image reproduction and advanced features at your fingertips in a compact AVCHD Format HDD camcorder, which means you'll carry it everywhere you want to capture the special moments in your life in true HD.

Among the Canon Exclusive features on the HG10 are Canon's own Full HD CMOS sensor and advanced DIGIC DV II image processor. More exclusives are SuperRange Optical Image Stabilization, Instant Auto Focus and our new 2.7" Widescreen Multi-Angle Vivid LCD. With the Genuine Canon 10x HD video zoom lens and a host of other advanced features the HG10 is the right choice in HDD camcorders.

Image Resolution: 1920 x 1440
Movie Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Recording Definition: High Definition
Memory Included: 40GB Internal
Storage Media Type: Internal Hard Disk
Movie File Format: AVCHD
Optical Zoom: 10x
Digital Zoom: 200x
Focus Mode: Instant AF, Through the lens, Manual focusing possible

LCD Monitor: 2.7 inches
LCD Coverage: 100%
Maximum Aperture: f 1.8 - 3.0
White Balance Control: Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Shade, Fluorescent H
Shooting Modes: Portrait
Movie Image Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Video Out: Component, Composite
Battery Form Factor: BP-2L13 Battery Pack
Batteries Included: Yes
Depth: 5.1 inches
Features: Optical Image Stabilization

I guess at least the one thing with the one time project I want to do wont work well with the Hard Drive format, but this is what I saw in that price range.

I was assuming that there would be an obvious choice to select to edit the video when transferring to a DVD capable of playing in home DVD players depending on which camera I ended up with.

I like the idea of easy media storage like flash but not poor quality images resulting from over compression.

There are several others on sale within 100.00 of this example, what could I expect from a camera such as this example?

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The HG series are hard disc drive
by boya84 / July 16, 2009 1:45 PM PDT

and for your motorcycle requirement, should never make your short list.

In my book, AVCHD is strike one. Too much compression (remember - bad for action...).
Strike two, no manual audio control,
and strike three is that it is hard disc drive based.

The flash equivalent is the HF series. They are also AVCHD - bad for action - and I don't believe they have manual audio control.

The miniDV equivalent is the HV series (and these have manual audio control).

I can't keep up with non-MSRP. Sorry.

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by thomasterrible / July 16, 2009 2:37 PM PDT

Yes I understand that special deals may allow me to get something that would otherwise not be in my price range. When I read the ad I did not know about the HD being bad for action or the compression issue with that and flash drives. Otherwise it would just be too convinient huh?

I really only have the one motorcycle project and while they do make cameras specially designed for what I would like to do they would probably cost as much as an all around camcorder and be pretty worthless except for my one little project.

That seems to be the big strike out, the 1% of the use it will get on my motorcycle project.

I had also assumed that if it was High Def that the resolution would be good but I guess there is more too it than that (the compression issue).

I will print out your list and read it over and also check things against things on sale that fit the criteria. I do like the quality I get from my 175 buck 8 megapixel camera with the SD cards that can also double as camcorders in a pinch with audio, but I think getting the best media for the best camcorder and then getting it on DVD for watching on my big screen HDTV is going to be best for most everything I take videos of, and for relatives that may not have an HDTV too.

Thanks Much.

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Don't know where you are...
by boya84 / July 16, 2009 10:50 PM PDT
In reply to: Understand

perhaps you buy something that will cover the 99% of the time and rent something for the project?

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I live in Seattle area
by thomasterrible / July 17, 2009 4:59 AM PDT

I dont know about renting these things and I have not thought it through yet as to where to mount the camera but I would be a bit worried about using someone elses equipment if there is a place that rents them going 150mph on a motorcycle. I have seen cameras made for this purpose that are bike or helmet mounted but I question the quality of them. There is not that much movement if the camera is attached to me as opposed to the bike as by the time it gets to me I will have had the bikes suspension etc. take up most of the shock of the riding. The idea is to give people as close to a feeling of what it is like to ride agressively without their having to risk their lives to find out. I will look over the models on sale and they have a refund period that I can always use if it doesnt do what I want it to.

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