Thank you for being a valued part of the CNET community. As of December 1, 2020, the forums are in read-only format. In early 2021, CNET Forums will no longer be available. We are grateful for the participation and advice you have provided to one another over the years.


CNET Support

General discussion

Camcorder Recommendation for Aspiring Video Journalist

Dec 28, 2007 5:23PM PST


I'm looking into buying my first camcorder, and I need some recommendations. I'll be using the cam for freelance video journalism projects and for collecting footage to use on my news demo tape. I'll also be using the camera for video webcasting of sporting events. I'm entering graduate school for journalism soon, and I think it might be useful to have a camera that I can use well when I start. Here's what I'm looking for:

-Mini DV format (for use with Avid Xpress Pro editing software)
-Mic Input (essential for shooting stand-up material)
-Headphone Jack (helpful, though not necessarily required, for monitoring audio levels prior to shooting stand-ups in the field)
-Some sort of manual focus capability
-Hopefully less than $400

From what I've seen, the Canon ZR800 is one of the few consumer-level camcorders to offer a mic input on a Mini DV camera. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a headphone jack. I'm also somewhat concerned about the image quality on the ZR800. How good does the picture look? I'd like the material I shoot with the camera to be suitable for inclusion on a demo reel.

I also have the option of going with a used camera of some sort. Three cameras that have caught my eye are:

-Panasonic PV-GS65
-Sony DCR-TRV38
-Canon Elura 100

My main concerns with these cameras are image quality and durability, since they are all older models. Does anyone have experience with these cameras? The Sony in particular seems like it can be had on eBay for around $250-300, which is right in my price range.

My final option is to go big-time with the Canon HV20. I've seen prices as low as $660 on the internet, and it *might* be a good option if I can justify spending the extra dough. Not sure I can do that, though- any thoughts on whether or not this upgrade would be worth it? From the research I've done, the HV20 seems to be the best camera for me, but the price is steep.

Any thoughts on these cameras would be great- is the ZR800's picture quality going to satisfy me? What about one of the used cameras I mentioned? Would it be stupid to break the bank and get an HV20?

Thanks so much for your help!

Discussion is locked

- Collapse -
If I were gathering tools for my
Dec 28, 2007 10:20PM PST

potential future livelihood, I think I would be getting the best I could afford - and as close to what is in use today (or even recent history) by people who do it for a living... I don't think any of the camcorders you list are used by professional videographers or news gathering companies.

As close as I can get might be a Canon GL2 or maybe Sony DCR-VX1000 or VX2100. They have been workhorses for several years and you may be able to find some used in good shape. More typically, pros use shoulder-mount units (on a tripod) - not hand-helds - from Sony, Panasonic and JVC (and occasionally, Canon) - especially for talking heads. Have you spoken with any video journalists? Perhaps they have gear for sale? I know looking in the consumer environment is easiest and cheapest, but they are far from what working video-journalists use. They will also have manual audio controls (not just a mic-in jack) that most consumer rigs do not have.

If you have good control of your lighting and are expecting to replace the camcorder in a year or two, then your list looks OK - I have no experience with eBay and "cheapest on the internet" will get you what you pay for:

Are you expecting your webcasts to be live or delayed/edited? How are you planning to set up and do the webcasts?

- Collapse -
Can I get by with something that's within my budget?
Dec 29, 2007 2:28AM PST

If I could afford something as nice as one of the pro cameras you mentioned, I'd probably go for it. But I'm just looking for something that will help me get through grad school- I don't really ever plan on owning one of the professional rigs, since I'll have access to that stuff through a TV station if all goes well and I get a job in the industry. I'd like to believe that I could get something that is of reasonable quality that's within my budget...maybe I'm wrong?

The webcasting will be done live using Windows Media Encoder software. Usually, these will be one-camera shoots, but occasionally I'll feed the camera into a Newtek Tricaster for use in a 3-camera production.

- Collapse -
Whether you can "get by"
Dec 29, 2007 5:19AM PST

in building a reel with consumer-grade gear is up to you. "Reasonable quality" is subjective. I am not in the business. Can it be done? I have no idea - but I see no reason why not.

Have you spoken with other on-air folks? How did they get where they are? What gear did they use?

Have you spoken with your undergrad teachers? Were any actually on-air? What are their recommendations for equipment?

What grad school are you planning to attend? Have you spoken with any of the faculty? Were any of them on-air? How did they get there?

During your years before grad school, did you meet anyone aspiring to be a camera person? Have you stayed in touch with them?