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Camcorder questions?low cost, low light, Sony or Canon or..?

CNET friends...

My wife and I are charged with getting a birthday gift for our 13 year old of a camcorder. Our budget is $180 - $250?because, by my reckoning?it can be. But while the range of choices in this price range is plain?

a) either the Canon ZR 850 or one of the newer 900s
b) either the Sony DCR HC 52 or one of the other newer or older ones
c) or the Panosonic PV GS 320 (because it, like the Canon, makes a couple of the CNET lists)

I am trying to understand why this isn?t a no brainer for the Sony, which used to frequently be recommended (and I?ve only used these personally), but now gets on no recommended lists at all.

Reading with some effort through camcorder forums, there is agreement that finding a camcorder that works well in low light can be both highly desired, and also, a challenge. Still?the Canon appears on everyone?s recommended lists, and yet, it?s described as being challenged by low light conditions.

But?the Sony?s continued use of infrared technology seems to deal with this very nicely, making the need for even an extra light unnecessary, and making viewing the captured images in low to no lighting a possible and even interesting process. I?m even told the newer models have modified the off coloration that has been associated with this process, to make the results even better. And yet?this is no ones first or even second choice on recommended lists.

I see I can get the Sony 52, and it will still do this (provide infrared technology). It even seems to come with stabilization functionality that is not present in the Canon.

Can anyone share with me why the Sony isn?t widely valued for its unique ability to work well in low light conditions? Why would someone choose the Canon (or Panasonic) over it, given the importance to most casual users of this desirable functionality?

Many thanks,

Ira Z.

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It's very simple.

In reply to: Camcorder questions?low cost, low light, Sony or Canon or..?

Low light while desired is a factor of sensor and lens. You need the best in both which increases the costs. The Canon strikes a balance of cost and performance.

It's the same question about autos. You want 100 MPG, and seating for 15.

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I'm not sure you've recognized the fact pattern...

In reply to: It's very simple.

Do you know the nits of the Sony vis a vis the Canon.

Though I don't know them in impression is they actually have similar qualitative stats...but that only the Sony implements you the additional benefit, without some "loss" you're suggesting you have to give up to get this benefit.

Can you be more specific?

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That IR...

In reply to: I'm not sure you've recognized the fact pattern...

Is not good for much distance or area and therefore we are back to where we started. You seem to want the vendors to offer up the 199 buck works in low light like the old 5 grand camcorder model?

Until something of a breakthrough happens your "want" will remain just that.

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It's not very clear what you think the IR will give you.

In reply to: I'm not sure you've recognized the fact pattern...

I can tell you what it won't give you. It won't give you a video whose scenes appear to be well lighted, and in full color. My Sony tends to get very noisy (grainy) and become monochrome in appearance if it doesn't have enough light. That is long before near dark conditions are reached.

There is no miracle at your price level.

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I think the Sonys

In reply to: Camcorder questions?low cost, low light, Sony or Canon or..?

don't get better ratings for the IR capabilities because adults do the reviews. It is a novelty for a couple of minutes. If the subject being taped is within 10 feet away, then the zero light monochromatic capture is funky. Check "Ghost Hunters", "Blair Witch Project"... The DCR-SR52 does not have manual audio control and does not have a mic in jack.

The Canon ZR800, ZR900 and ZR930 may not have the IR, but they do have a mic in jack. They do not have manual audio control.

The Panasonic PV-GS320's 3CCDs do a good job with the color saturation...

So... there are trade-offs...

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Panasonic revisied and thank you boya84...

In reply to: I think the Sonys

I do appreciate the revisiting of the Panasonic, which I expect is the underdog and less popular option, but which CNET, upon second review...

reminds me may be a smart pick after all.

I wonder though, if there are reasons to go instead with the more popular Canon, or even the recognizable presence of Sony. For example, my local Circuit City says this Panasonic model...although listed at the Panasonic outdated, and is only at their Illinois stores. Also, my local Penn Camera, a quality DC shop, doesn't seem to stock Panasonic, and a visit to Ritz last night had the storekeeper sharing about her own fondness for Panasonic, but she noted she heard Panasonic may be getting out of the camcorder business.

Any thoughts to extend this comparison is welcome. Sounds regardless like any from these three may be reasonable.

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I think it is more about what the equipment

In reply to: Panasonic revisied and thank you boya84...

will be used for.

Yes, the PV-GS320 has been around for a couple of years. If the selection was limited to this camcorder and the Sony HC52, I'd pick the PV-GS320.

But audio is important enough (to me) to pick the Canon ZR800/ZR900/ZR930 with a mic-in jack over the others...

I agree that any of these on your short list are appropriate... I re-read your posts - we don't know your computing environment or what happens to the video after it is captured by the camcorder. I don't know if any editing is planned. If yes, then the computer to be used for that editing needs to have a firewire 400 port - aka: i.LINK, DV, IEEE1394a. A firewire cable will need to be purchased separately as they are not included in the box with the camcorder.

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thanks again...

In reply to: I think it is more about what the equipment

editing is important as a feature to my son...(and otherwise, he had preferred to get a DVD drop in type).

We have a straightforward simple desktop computer at home...(HP I think...or Compaq). I'm sure we'll need the firewire, and perhaps editing software, too...but I guess he should start with getting some content.

I asked my son this morning if he'd prefer a) being able to take pictures in the dark, or b) some other features. He asked me what the other features are. Smart him. I think I'll ask him to look over this discussion, too, and see if he can help here.

I don't really even know what "mic in jack" is about. I do see that the Canon has some other advantages over other Canons (ability to take stills, and memory for doing so...and does IT have the "mic in jack." I had thought that, despite the 850 being harder to get, it may be worth the effort to do so...but maybe the more current 900 series is better after all.

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The "mic-in" jack is a 1/8" (3.5mm) receptacle

In reply to: thanks again...

that allows you to plug in an external mic.

If the camcorder is at the back of a room trying to record someone speaking at the front of the room and there is no PA system or the camcorder is not near a speaker (or the audio isn't very loud), what the camcorder will record is the boominess of the room and not-so-good quality audio. The trick is to get the mic - hence the camcorder - nearer the desired audio source. Since the built-in mics are built-in, this means getting the mics closer translates into getting the camcorder closer - which may not be possible - or desirable.

If an amateur film is being made, let's say the shot is from across the street. The built-in mics won't get the audio if someone is speaking across the street. But a wireless mic clipped to the person speaking will and the wireless mic's base station plugged into the mic-in jack will get the audio into the camcorder. In some cases, wireless is not appropriate - the audio source can't deal with a body pack and clip on mic. If within about 20 feet from the camcorder, a "shotgun" mic attached to the camcorder might be appropriate. If the sound source allows, placing a wired mic (hand-held or on a mic stand) may be allowed - and the camcorder can be anywhere the wire allows.

So... it just provides more flexibility. It is one of those, "I'd rather have it and not need it than need it and not be capable of doing it..." items. Note that most camcorders in this range do not have a mic-in jack.

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thanks again

In reply to: The "mic-in" jack is a 1/8" (3.5mm) receptacle

Today was my son's birthday, he got put in charge of what ended up being framed as "shooting in the dark" aka the Sony 52...or shooting with an external mike, aka the Canon 930. He chose the latter...also mindful that I/we already did own a Sony.

Info here was influential, and my son has been busy reviewing the manual, charging the system, and getting up to speed. Still not confirmed...but it seems our HP has the built in port for fire wire.


Ira Z.

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In reply to: thanks again

and good luck!

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