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Need help choosing a camcorder

I need to purchase a camcorder for school. I will need the camera to tape various reports. I would like to have somewhat good quality, but nothing too spendy. My only requirement is that it films to a tape and has a microphone input. Any advice on which camera to chose? Im looking to spend 700 or less. thanks.

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Tape? What kind?

In reply to: Need help choosing a camcorder

Are you looking for VHS (analog) or something digital like miniDV (digital video)?

For tape, the current state of the art is miniDV. Unfortunately, for consumer grade new camcorders, the hot thing is either DVD or hard drive units, which are convenient, but much lower quality.

There are professional miniDV video cameras that are several thousand, but you can still get a high-def (HD) miniDV camcorder from Canon, model HV20. I'm seeing it on the internet well under $700 (BHPhoto, for example, has it for $620). I'd jump on this camera, as consumer grade video cameras are going for convenience over quality, as I mention above.

You could go into the used market and find something like a Canon Elura 100. You'd probably find one in nice condition for a couple hundred. It won't be of the visual quality level of the HV30 (the Elura is not high-def and has a smaller sensor). If you don't mind spending closer to the $700 mark, then the Canon HV30 would be a long-lasting choice. With that camera, you're not likely to want better quality unless you go big-time pro.

On the other hand, if you are looking for some sort of analog format tape (there are many), I think you will have to go used.

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Look at Sony and Canons offerings.

In reply to: Need help choosing a camcorder

There are some nice ones for under $700. HC96 and ZR950 are two that come to mind for standard def. HC9 and HV30 are two high def.

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Careful...

In reply to: Look at Sony and Canons offerings.

The Canon ZR950 does not have a mic jack - the ZR900 and ZR930 do. Neither has manual audio control. The Canon FS family has mic inputs and are flash memory based. The Canon ZR and FS cams are all standard definition.

The Sony DCR-HC96 has been discontinued for a while. It did not have a mic jack, but relied on the proprietary Sony "Active Interface Shoe" and using specific Sony mics made for that AIS.

The least expensive camcorders - of which I am aware - with manual audio control and a mic jack are the Canon HV30 and Sony HDR-HC9. They both can shoot in standard definition (4:3 and DV widesceen) and high definition (which by definition is 16:9).

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Skipped right over the word "mic"

In reply to: Careful...

Thanks for the catch.

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update

In reply to: Careful...

sorry for the message delay.

I would be using the camera to shoot video for a news class here at college, and would like to have fairly decent video. I have used a Canon ZR800, and it was ok, but maybe a little too basic. I think I have narrowed it down to the VIXIA HV30 and the SONY HC9. Right now the Sony is more expensive, any ideas why? Would you say they are both equally the same? I use a handheld mic, thus needing the mic input.

Thanks for all the suggestions.

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It depends what you want to do...

In reply to: update

The HV30 has 24p and 30 capture capabilities. The HDR-HC9 does not (but I think has a digitally derived "Cinemaframe" fake progressive wannabe feature).

The HDR-HC9 has "SmoothSlowRecord" (high speed 3 second burst resulting in 12 second slow motion playback) and "SuperNightShot" (a built-in infrared emitter for monochromatic video capture in zero or near zero light). Neither of which the HV30 has.

For your stated requirement, I'd say they are about the same since you probably won't need any of the above.

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microphone

In reply to: It depends what you want to do...

would you by chance have any recommendations for a microphone? I would like a wireless one, but its not required. All I am finding are karaoke type's, but I dont think these would be as professional sounding for what Im looking for. I found a Nady handheld and clip on mic with transmitter for about $100, not sure if that is a quality brand or not.

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I sort of understand your application -

In reply to: microphone

I do this for a hobby and find myself in odd situations. And a close friend is an audio engineer. When you use a wired mic plugged into the camcorder, chances are good that only one channel (right, I think) will be recorded, but this can be fixed in editing. So... lets back into this.

As always, what is your budget?

Presuming the mic cable may be longer than 15 feet long (4 feet from the camera to the ground, 10 feet from the camcorder to the person speaking, 4 feet to the person speaking, I would strongly suggest using shielded cable to eliminate picking up electro-magnetic or radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI). If you are recording in a studio, the lighting can cause both types of interference and unshielded cable is like a long antenna for that stuff. Generally speaking, this puts you into the realm of XLR mics because of the connectors and cables they use.

While it is possible to connect an XLR-connector equipped mic to the camcorder with a cable adapter that goes from XLR to 1/8" jack to plug into the camcorder, this can put a lot of stress on the 1/8" jack and you don't want to break that off in the camcorder. If you go this route, be careful and use some velcro or other method to support a "safety loop" on the mic cable.

Entry level:
Unshielded cabling; 1/8" jack: Audio Technica has a wired lavaliere that has a 20 foot cable...
http://www.amazon.com/AUDIO-TECHNICA-ATR-35S-Audio-Technica-Microphone/dp/B00006I51V/ref=pd_sim_MI_1
For wireless, http://www.amazon.com/Audio-Technica-ATR288W-Wireless-Microphone-System/dp/B00006HO3R/ref=pd_sim_MI_3

NRG Research makes the SA-568 that is an XLR-based "switchable" mic - but the "kit" comes with an XLR-1/8" adapter as well as a short XLR-XLR cable. You will also want a 20 foot XLR mic cable... The SA-568 plugs into one end of the XLR-XLR mic cable, the other end of the XLR-XLR mic cable plugs into the XLR-1/8" "tail" and the other end of the tail plugs into the camcorder.

Medium range:
You jump into XLR mics and converting from XLR using a real XLR adapter (not a cable tail) like those from BeachTek or juicedLink. With these XLR adapters, multiple mics can easily be used and you can control the individual left and right channels with the XLR adapter. The XLR adapter can mount to the bottom of the camcorder and has a short 1/8" cable to plug into the camcorder. The XLR adapters have a "mono/stereo" selection so if you use only one mic and select mono, the audio will be captured to both channels. Wireless gear starts getting into "Full Diversity" and VHF for best quality and least potential for interference. Shure, Audio Technica and Sennheiser are the usual suspects.

The high end gets to better mics...

I cannot recommend Nady or Azden (unless you go to the Azden pro gear).

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