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Please help a noob shooting sporting/HD cam quest

by Captainobvious99 / August 31, 2007 8:29 AM PDT

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I am admittedly a noob when it comes to camcorders. I've done a bit of reading and researching, as well as some hands on evaluation of the models I'm comparing/considering. I'll list goals, then my current pc setup/etc, then the camera models. Please give me some advice or insight, not just a "read the site comparison", as I've already done that.
Thanks in advance.

My Goals:
I will be shooting a bit of sporting events, boxing, etc. amongst other things like family/short movies, etc. I want to be able to shoot in high def, upload to my PC, and be able to down convert to SD for DVD's that can play on a standard player. (From what I've gathered, you need a blue ray player to play the HD-burned dvd format and I'll want the discs to be able to be accessible to everyone I distribute to easily.) Keep in mind that some of the shooting will be faster action so I'll need to know which camera will perform better in that respect.

My Equipment:
Right now I'm using an Acer Aspire notebook with
-AMD Turion 64 x2 TL50 (1.6 GHz, 512KB L2)
-WXGA display
-ATI Radeon Xpres 1100 graphics card
-120GB 4200rpm PATA HDD
-DVD-Super Multi Double Layer drive
-2GB DDR2
-Windows XP media center ed.

The Camera's:
- Canon HV20
- Sony HDR-HC7
- Sony HDR-HC5

Features I prefer it to have:
-External Mic input
-Quality "working" OIS
-Good lower light peformance (will be shooting in darker gymnasiums)
-Reliability and good construction

OIS is important to me as Im not going to have front row seats for all of the events, and I may not be able to bring a tripod or monopod into some venues.
Also, Im concerned as I stated above with video quality while filming fast action sequences.

My price range is around $1000 give or take a couple hundred, but I'd prefer to keep it around a grand to allow for accessories (lenses/filters/mic/bag/battery, etc.)

Please provide any info you think would be helpful in my quest for my first HD camcorder, and any experiences good or bad you've had with the listed models.
Thank you very much for those of you that take the time to respond. I certainly appreciate it.

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I did a quick scan of the camera specs...
by boya84 / August 31, 2007 10:21 AM PDT

For the most part, they will be pretty similar... image-wise.

The Canon HV20 has a built-in video lamp - that is effective up to 4.9 feet away. In my book, I would rather rely on an external light. No advantage to either camera.

The Sony HDR-HC7 has a proper mic-in jack; the HC5 does not (only the Sony Proprietary active interface). Canon HV20 has a mic-in jack. Drop the HC5 from the list.

The HC7 and HV20 both have 10x zoom. Whichever camera you get, turn digital zoom off. This is a tie.

The HC7 has a LANC terminal. I use mine all the time. It is a wired remote to control zoom (and can also take stills while capturing video and turn the camera on/off standby mode - but don't get the one built-in to the tripod). Advantage to Sony.

The HC7 has a "smooth slow record" feature. HV20 does not. Advantage Sony.

On to your computer...
You *should* be OK. Importing hidef video will not be real-time... 1 hour of video could take about 2 hours to import. 1 hour of hidef video will take a little over 30 gig of hard drive space - I would strongly suggest and external FireWire drive just for the video projects... 250 gig minimum. The laptop hard drives don't spin as fast as a decent 3.5 in full sized hard drive that should be in the external case. High definition video takes up about 3x more space than standard definition video - so you want the fastest drives and CPUs you can afford.

Your concern about downsampling to standard definition is valid - but unfounded. The video editing and DVD burning apps you have will take care of that for you on their own. Outputting the final project (no DVD menuing or anything like that) back out to the camera onto a miniDV tape over the FireWire cable will give you the basis for the hidef version when you are ready to get that DVD burner - just re-import it when that time comes, then burn out to the HD or BluRay DVD burner connected to your computer. In the meantime, you can connect the camcorder via HDMI or component cables to a HDTV for hidef playback of that tape-based final export.

Accessories:
That you are remembering to include "lenses/filters/mic/bag/battery" is good. Don't forget a tripod. I understand the potential venue limitations - There is NO handheld camcorder that will steady the shots you think you want - with any kind of stabilization. If the tripod is not do-able, how about a shoulder mount like a Spiderbrace? http://spiderbrace.com/

There are different kinds of mics... check the posting in the Camera forum sticky. A shotgun may be appropriate... a stereo shotgun will be expensive. Take a look at the NRG SA-800 or SA-568 at http://www.nrgresearch.com/ Audio-Technica makes great mics, too... If you mount a mic to the camera, consider using a camera bracket like this one: http://www.adorama.com/SVAS.html?searchinfo=angled%20camera%20bracket&item_no=313 along with a shock mount like the Sabra SMM-1 http://www.transaudiogroup.com/sabra_som.shtml

Given your known shooting situation, consider a video light... I have no specific recommendations - but an off-board light is likely best as it will not impact the camera's battery time.

I have not used ANY of the listed models - I currently use a Sony HDR-HC1 - the camera BEFORE the HC3, 5 and 7... and I like it a lot - it is the consumer-version sibling of the HVR-A1.

Suggestions:
Learn to pan s l o w l y.
Resist the urge to use the zoom... but if you must, do it s l o w l y.

Good luck!

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Great response! A few more things...
by Captainobvious99 / August 31, 2007 1:36 PM PDT

Thank you for a speedy and thorough response! I kind of figured that an external hardrive would be in the near future, especially considering as you said, that notebook hard drives are sloooow. Well, either that or trade up for a Mac =D

I also was planning on a tripod as well, but good catch there. I know that if Im using any amount of zoom, I'll certainly need one.

Its seems like whoever I talk to, they say that the HC7 and the HV20 are pretty much equal as far as picture quality and OIS, color and featureset.
I'm beginning to think that its more a preference of which one appeals to you more. The Sony certainly exudes more confidence with its feel, and build quality.

One other thing I didnt quite understand was that I heard that the HV20 has 24p and the sony doesnt. Sorry, but being a noob I'm not sure what this means exactly. Would you mind explaining it ?

Thanks again for your help. I greatly appreciate it!

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There is not enough room on this forum
by boya84 / September 1, 2007 2:11 AM PDT

to "explain" 24p and all the other permutations, advantages, disadvantages and reasons for progressive vs interlaced. Wikipedia does a good job of that http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/24p and I know there are others who frequent this board who will do a better job of explaining than I... there are lots of web resources, too...

For YOUR needs, I believe 24p is not applicable. For YOUR needs specifically, high-speed motion, 24p is not what you want to be recording at or outputting to... which is why it was not part of the comparison in the previous post. As you indicate, "whoever I talk to, they say that the HC7 and the HV20 are pretty much equal as far as picture quality and OIS, color and featureset"... which leaves two features the HC7 has that the HV20 does not - that apply to your shooting environment: LANC and "smooth slow record".

Even if you don't use "smooth slow record" (I understand the video quality is not that good when the slow motion plays back)... that LANC will be a very useful item and I strongly recommend it. I use mine ALL the time.

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I would at least handle both cameras.
by Kiddpeat / September 1, 2007 3:44 AM PDT

The people I know, who are normally biased in favor of Sony, express a high regard for the HV20. They think it's a very good camera.

I haven't used either one myself, but, when I look at Sony cameras, they strike me as very cumbersome to use. Controls that are located on the outside surface of my Canon cameras are only accessible via menus on Sony cameras. Adjustments that I can make while shooting cannot be done on the Sonys because you need to get into the menu and make selections. I am increasingly struck by the thought that Canon understands how cameras should work better than Sony does.

Bottom line. Look at the cameras. How do you adjust settings on each one? How do they feel to you. That may help differentiate your choices.

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I agree that the HV20 is a great camera...
by boya84 / September 1, 2007 4:27 AM PDT

Neither camera has great manual controls - or access to them. They are consumer-grade. The LANC is what pushes me in the Sony direction in this particular case...

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Actually, the GL 2 does have a 'Lance' type control
by Kiddpeat / September 1, 2007 9:04 AM PDT

capability. B&H lists Varizoom (VZ-STEALTH Zoom Controller) as one of the accessories available for the GL2. It also ships with a wireless remote control.

I'm guessing that 'Lance' is probably a Sony trade mark. B&H refers to cameras with 'L' controls. The GL2 has a connector for an 'L' control.

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Oops! Sorry about that guys!
by Kiddpeat / September 1, 2007 9:06 AM PDT

Wrong camera!

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No worries on the LANC item...
by boya84 / September 1, 2007 9:48 AM PDT

The GL2 does indeed have a LANC input. It is an awesome camera - but not High Def...

LANC apparently came from Sony http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LANC but it is not limited to Sony cameras. That said, a LANC port is typically found on higher-end cameras... And many (not all) of the lower-end Sony cameras, too - I guess not having to pay a license fee helps (I suspect non-Sony manufacturers would have some sort of licensing requirement which might cost more$ and add to the price of the camera).

Many camcorders come with an infrared wireless remote. The problem with that is the receiver on the camera needs to be line-of site to the wireless remote - generally in front of the camera. I guess the "normal" use for that is controlling playback of captured video... like the IR remote asssociated with VCR decks.

The LANC is a wired remote that comes in handy when the camcorder is mounted to a tripod. The LANC is plugged into the LANC port and can be clipped to the tripod (tilt/pan) handle. The LANC has buttons that allow you to control the zoom from that LANC rather than the camera. Some of the LANC units also let you take photos and if your camera (and the LANC) allows, control focus. In any case, it helps keep the camcorder steady because you aren't having to touch the camcorder (to zoom, focus, take a photo)... just the LANC unit. Sony also makes affordable tripods with LANC built-in. But I don't like those tripods much.

http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&categoryId=8198552921644492285&accessory=true

The "Remote Commander VD1" is Sony's low-end version of an affordable LANC. The various "Remote Control Tripods" have LANC units built in to the handle.

Varizoom is one company that makes 3rd party LANC units. So does Bogen. Canon, too. There are others... but typically, they cater to pro-grade users and these 3rd party LANCs are a lot more $.

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