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Help finding the perfect camcorder!

Hi, I'm looking for a relatively inexpensive camcorder ($250-$300). My project is a video documentary of a friend in the hospital. Shooting could be anywhere from 1-5hrs a day. I won't really have time to stop and download stuff, so I think the MiniDV would work best. I would love a good microphone (external is fine). I'm not too picky on much else, but I would love if I could be able to project the video on a large screen without being horrible looking. Any ideas?
I found the Canon ZR930 and Sony DCR-HC62. Anything better than those recommended? Thanks for any help!

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Thank you for doing some research.

In reply to: Help finding the perfect camcorder!

The Sony DCR-HC65 (and 52 for that matter) do not have a mic jack.

The Canon ZR930 (and 900) do (but the 950 does not). The down side about these is while they have a mic jack, they do not have manual audio control. However, if there is ambient noise, you will be OK - I don't expect there to be LOUD noise... but it can be very quiet. When it is very quiet, the camcorder's auto mic gain will listen intently for audio and turn that gain up. You may end up with camcorder tape-drive noise. This can be edited out if desired.

Consider getting a tripod, too.

For external mics, to stay out of the way, a shotgun mic is probably best. The space likely won't be very big. One of the mics from Audio Technica - maybe the ATR55 may be acceptable - though you may opt for a stereo mic instead for more "realistic" audio. The Audio Technica Pro24 works.

The ZR camcorders do not have an accessory shoe, so you need to add one for holding the mic - This one works and is cheap
http://www.amazon.com/Bower-Shoe-Video-Light-Bracket/dp/B000NL5X5S/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1225807207&sr=8-11

And of course, at some point that miniDV tape video needs to get in to you computer, so that will need a firewire port if it does not already have one - and you will need a firewire cable (USB transfer won't work).

I hope your friend is OK...

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other cameras

In reply to: Thank you for doing some research.

thanks so much for the quick response. Do you have a specific camera that you personally would use for this documentary? I know my price range is small, but I'm positive there is something out there! Or is that wishful thinking?
I'm willing to forgo some of my wants for the absolute needs (good mic, long recording time). I don't think there is going to be a ton of noise, hospitals are fairly quiet expect the walk to the surgery room. So I could possibly get away with no microphone. would that help with a different camera you suggest?

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Other camera suggestions will

In reply to: other cameras

cost a lot more. I think your biggest issue will be lighting - and that entry-level consumer camcorders do not do very well in low light - though hopefully there is enough lighting in the room in which you record. The only ways to resolve this will be to turn on the lights or use a video light or use a camcorders with bigger lenses and imaging chips (which will be a LOT more than your stated budget).

A "ton of noise" is one reason to use an external mic (to get the mic closer to the audio source you want to record). The other reason is very little noise - as indicated previously - a very quiet environment can be as challenging to audio as a very noisy environment because the auto-mic gain automatically increases as it listens for sound. And, in the case of entry level camcorders, in really quiet environments, the built-in mics are only inches away from the tape drive (which makes noise), so guess what the mics can hear...

One thing I would strongly suggest you learn to use is the "White Balance" feature. All you need to do is take a sheet of white copy paper with you to the hospital. The first thing you do before you start recording in the hospital is point the camcorder at the white paper and fill the camcorder screen - and "white balance" - basically, you are telling the camcorder that "this is white" so if the lighting has some other hue, it should correct back to THAT which you said is white.

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