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Best Image Quality - Hard Drive Camcorder - Indoor Video?

by scottyc32 / August 31, 2007 3:40 PM PDT


I own a Sony Handycam DCR-SR40 - I shoot a lot of video indoors under relatively low-light conditions and I am very unhappy with the image quality I get from the SR40.

Can anyone recommend a Hard Drive Camcorder that for less than $750 that will give me exceptional image quality (even under low-light conditions)?

I need to dump this SR40 and upgrade to something better asap.


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More Information...
by scottyc32 / August 31, 2007 3:48 PM PDT

Also, if anyone has any recommendations as to how I can get better image quality out of the SCR-SR40 while I still own it, I would appreciate it.

Currently, I download the videos to my computer and use a program called "Prism" to convert the files to wmv. I then use Windows Movie maker to edit and further compress the videos. I usually compress down to 10MB per minute of video - but at 10MB per minute of video, the video quality leaves much to be desired.

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A couple problems...
by whizkid454 / August 31, 2007 10:52 PM PDT
In reply to: More Information...

1) The SR40 was made to open the HDD camcorder world to people on a budget. I have seen firsthand how awful the video is which is why I don't recommend it. It gets worse in low-light...

2) Are you open to other formats (i.e. MiniDV, flash, etc.)? If not, please explain. The reason I ask is that with your budget of $750, the "best" HDD camcorder you could find would be the SR100. It's a couple years old, but was Sony's best all-around (and first) HDD camcorder. I use it often and am very satisfied with the video quality I get in
both bright-light and low-light situations. The problem you would have is that it isn't made anymore so your only hope would to find one somewhere on the Web from a respected and trusted retailer!

Your other options would be to look for a miniDV camcorder. They usually are cheaper than HDD camcorders since the technology is dwindling in the consumer market. But one must remember that tapes do cost money as well, usually around $3-4 per tape.

I do see that you are trying to compress your video as well. The reason why the compressed video is that bad is because... well.. it's compressed. Compression will not make video quality better nor will it keep the original video quality the same.

Please read these other posts concerning why the "picture quality" differs from "video quality":

P.S. I really don't have any suggestions to improve your situation other than to turn on a few more lights in the room and try to keep the camera still. Perhaps a video light on the camcorder for close up dark shots may help? The #1 reason you get sub par video from this camcorder is because of its sensor, and unfortunately, that can't be changed.

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More questions and a bigger budget
by scottyc32 / September 1, 2007 12:15 AM PDT
In reply to: A couple problems...

Hey Whiz -

Thanks for the detailed response.

It seems odd to me that the first HDD camcorder put out by Sony (SR100) would be better than than a subsequent model - you would think each generation would be better wouldnt you?

The only reason I went with HDD is it just seemed to make the most sense given what I use the camera for. I watch the videos exclusively on the computer - I don't need DVDs.

I market some of the material that I produce online so I definitely need to upgrade. What can you recommend if I can take my budget up to $1000 - $1250 range? Obviously, I'd prefer to spend the least amount as possible, but hopefully you recommend something that will give me the best bang for the buck.

-Also, I don't care about still picture quality - indoor video quality is my only concern.


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Things change, but sometimes they aren't for the better...
by whizkid454 / September 1, 2007 1:43 AM PDT

The SR200 and 300 (the successors to the SR100) lack a viewfinder which sets me off almost instantly. I'm sure the video quality has improved due to newer and more efficient lenses and sensors, but the more pixels you try to squeeze in a small amount of space the less light is able to enter. Take a look at more previous posts:

I see where HDD might have an advantage on the computer, but miniDV can be put onto the computer as well. I personally prefer HDD camcorders over miniDV for one main reason: ease of use. Others have different thoughts on this issue, but others use what works best for them which is great. To elaborate on transfer to computer, miniDV must be imported in real time (60 minutes of video will take 60 minutes to transfer to the computer), whereas HDD camcorders can transfer 3 hours of video in about 30 minutes (depending on USB connection speed).

Some models that fit your budget:

Sony SR100 (HDD)
Sony SR200 (HDD)
Sony SR300 (HDD)
Sony HC96 (MiniDV)
Panasonic GS320 (MiniDV)
Panasonic GS500 (MiniDV)

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Sony HDR-HC7 High Definition Handycam
by scottyc32 / September 1, 2007 3:04 AM PDT

I thought about it and I think I'm going to go with the:

Sony HDR-HC7 High Definition Handycam

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It's a great camcorder...
by whizkid454 / September 1, 2007 5:01 AM PDT

But be sure you know the compression and resizing will make your pristine Full HD video look like video taken from a $200 still camera. Also, be sure you have HDV-capable editing software if you decide to shoot in HD. Without the compression you will use, it would be a great camcorder.

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by scottyc32 / September 4, 2007 3:26 AM PDT

OK - but the video quality should still be better than what I'm getting from the SR40 no?

The files need to be compressed to under 10MB per minute and like I said, I've seen very good quality videos that met that size citeria.

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Yes and no...
by whizkid454 / September 4, 2007 5:46 AM PDT
In reply to: ?

It's actually quite complicated to explain the full brunt of compression in such a small amount of space. Yes the video will look a lot better since the lens and sensor are better, but no, it will still look pixelated if you try to compress it anywhere below 640x480 no matter how good the video looks directly for the camcorder onto say an HDTV. But as you said, in some cases, the video looks good either because they used a very efficient method of compression or did not compress as much. I believe the MPEG4 method is the most efficient (most amount of data per size unit) if I'm not mistaken.

Bottom line: The video will indeed look better, but know that harsh compression can make any video, whether it be HD or SD, look awful. Choose your compression method wisely.

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One other thing
by scottyc32 / September 1, 2007 12:19 AM PDT
In reply to: A couple problems...

Oh - one other thing - I compress the video because I need to make it manageable in size to post to a webpage. When I download the videos from the camcorder to my computer they are usually about 65MB for every minute of video (VERY LARGE!).

I need to compress these down to about 10MB for very minute of video. I have seen very high quality videos online that were much less than 10MB per minute of video. So my feeling is it's the equipment not the size that matters.

At least that's what I tell the girls....:).

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