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General Shooing Digital Video Camera Suggestions

by jooleyen / December 16, 2007 10:06 AM PST

Hello everyone, I joined this forum to get some suggestions for a video camera. Last year my MiniDV Canon ZR400 was stolen from me. I didn't like the video quality when it was transferred to my computer.
What I'll be doing is taping fishing, hunting, and camping trips, and general stuff.
I want high quality video that is pleasant to the eye on a normal computer monitor, but I don't want huge files like my old digital camera (Fujifilm E550) took.
I don't need a load of features. I do want a good amount of zoom, because I'll be shooting film outdoors at distances more than half of the time.
Here is an example of what I might do :
1. Go fishing and tape all of the catches.
2. Go home and edit them.
3. Put the occasional video on my website.
I read a couple of guidelines, but I'd like some personal recommendations.
I've seen some test videos from both Hard Drive and point&shoot/flash video cameras. I saw some test videos of the JVS GZ-MG130 and the quality was superb to my digital-video-inexperienced-eyes.
I am not quite sure of my budget, but I do know the range; around $400.
Any suggestions? I'd greatly appreciate any help.

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I guess I don;t understand why you didn't like
by boya84 / December 17, 2007 7:23 AM PST

the video from the ZR400... just our of curiosity, how did you transfer the video from camcorder to computer? Via USB or Firewire?

Just so you know, standard definition video comes out to be ~13 gig per hour imported. Is this what you consider "huge"?

If you liked the JVC GZ-MG130, how come you aren't getting that? Be aware that JVC uses a proprietary file format on their hard drive camcorders - not a big deal as there are workarounds, but something you should know.

For your price range, I don't think there is a decent hard drive based camcorder. Best video quality does come from miniDV tape (and the videographer's skill/experience)... I'd be looking at the Canon ZR800, 850, Panasonic PV GS320 and Sony HDR-HC96...

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by jooleyen / December 17, 2007 12:22 PM PST

The ZR400 didn't have smooth motion or crisp picture. I consider 75 megabytes per minute large, but my ZR400 was at about 10 megabytes per minute, which I am absolutely fine with. I transferred video via USB, NOT Firewire. Does this make a difference? Will the ZR850 have better quality than the ZR400? I like the idea of not having a tape, and also better quality of video. I looked at some test runs with the ZR850 and was pleased. Thank you for your reply.

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I have been told that it does
by boya84 / December 18, 2007 2:10 AM PST
In reply to: ZR850?

make a difference - video quality wise - if the miniDV tape video is transferred using USB vs Firewire. Adding a firewire port is typically easy (PCI card is cheap - or if you are portable, then a PCMCIA card). When transfered over Firewire, you are transferring the DV format - not so when transferring over USB (it is compressed, a lot - as you have discovered).

My take is that if you continue to use a miniDV camcorder and continue to transfer over USB (if you can), then you will continue to experience the results you have been getting. If you use a miniDV camcorder and transfer over Firewire, you will see a pretty substantial improvement. The model of the camcorder is not the issue. The ZR400 would have been just fine and the ZR800 or ZR850 will be just fine - when Firewire is used.

If you don't want to (or can't) add a Firewire port to your computing set up, you will be stuck with either memory card or hard drive based camcorders... my recommendation is to stay away from the cheap ones (anything less than $500). Both memory card and hard drive based camcorders will copy (compressed) video files from the camcorder to the computer - they are copied as data files, not imported like the miniDV tape video.

In the grand scheme of things, miniDV tape continues to provide the best available video quality... then comes hard drive and memory card based camcorders... and please don't even consider DVD based camcorders (which should be wiped off the face of this planet so we can pretend they never existed).

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I appreciate your help.
by jooleyen / December 18, 2007 7:40 AM PST

Thanks a lot man. That clears things up a bit. I am on a MacBook with a firewire port, so that will be no problem. So the ZR850 MiniDV camcorder is at the top of the recommendations list? Also, how much would I pay for, where would I buy, and what kind of cable would I buy?

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You will probably like some of my answers - others...
by boya84 / December 18, 2007 8:05 AM PST

... not so much...

ZR850 MiniDV camcorder is at the top of the recommendations list? I think the Panasonic PV GS320 and Sony HDR-HC96 are better than the ZR850... I like the ZR800 because it has a nice, real mic in jack - and external mics are much better than internal - though I understand this would be a hassle for you because of the environment you described.

Also, how much would I pay for, Uh... Have you been to recently? How about a local retailer?

where would I buy, I shop local retailers as much as I can - I like my neighbors employed and I don't mind paying taxes for roads, schools, police, fire department and all the other infrastructure things we get from paying taxes. Yes, I know - it costs more.

and what kind of cable would I buy? 4-pin camcorder side to 6-pin computer side. I use a Belkin. Any Firewire 400 cable that meets the camera's DV port (4-pin) and the computer (6-pin for Firewire 400) will work...

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