Decisions, decisions....

Discussion in 'Video Cameras' started by S Akky, Aug 22, 2004.

  1. S Akky

    S Akky Guest

    Prolly the most annoying thing for you guys are noobs coming on and
    asking for advice about camcorder choice - I'm sure one more wont hurt
    too much! ;-)

    I'm after a MiniDV cam with good video performance and features. I've
    narorwed it down to three cams all seen at and would like
    to hear your thoughts/opinions/experiences about them:

    1) Sony DCR-PC109E (£499.95 inc VAT)
    *Good price
    *16:9 mode
    *Zeiss lens

    2) Canon MVX25i (£714.51 inc VAT)
    *DIGIC DV/RGB filter (good colour reproduction)
    *14x Optical zoom
    *Manual focus ring

    3) Panasonic NV-GS400B (£1,039.95 inc VAT)
    *Stretching budget (an then some!) :)
    *3 CCD (3x 1/4.7")
    *OPTICAL image stabiliser
    *Multi manual ring

    Thanks in advance.
    S Akky, Aug 22, 2004
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  2. S Akky

    Matej Artac Guest

    You'll probably find the votes on this board for the Sony units. I have one
    (a DCR-HC85E) which I'm quite happy with (except that I feel the tape
    transport mechanism shouldn't be as audible while recording, and certainly
    not on the recordings themselves), and this is mostly due to the fact that
    it seems robust enough, it has good optics, and it tells you how much
    battery life there is left in minutes.

    I do wish that during my research I'd consider a Canon which, I guess,
    produces better images (both the stills and the video), but this is really
    only a guess from the fact that their still digital cameras make better
    images than the Sony's. However, at the time I ruled Canon out completely as
    I heard people complain about a loud tape transport mechanism audible on the
    recordings as well... (it seems that it's even louder than that of my
    HC85E). I am not at all familiar with their line, and even less with the
    Panasonic's. Sure, a 3CCD does sound good, but I wonder if they process the
    picture as well as Canon does.

    You know best why you chose those three models, but perhaps you could review again. Further, compare also their
    sensor pixel amount, as a two-megapixel camera usually produces sharper and
    better pictures on a film than one with less megapixels. If you can, test
    the cameras, see how easily they are used, how well they behave and, if
    possible, how good their recordings are.

    Matej Artac, Aug 22, 2004
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  3. S Akky

    :::Jerry:::: Guest

    Perhaps the OP might be better off looking at a site (or magazine) that has
    real reviews done by people who know what they are talking about and have
    the necessary equipment / expertise to carry out worthwhile tests and not
    just write a diatribe of personal views dressed up as something important -
    and to think the person behind the above site accesses others of being on an
    ego trip....
    :::Jerry::::, Aug 22, 2004
  4. S Akky

    Matej Artac Guest

    Certainly. Can you point out to such a site? I've been eager to find one
    myself when making decisions of my own purchases.
    has come as a great help when choosing a still camera because the reviews
    there seem competent and thorough, while there's also a great user base that
    posts their comments on each particular model. It's fairly easy to find,
    too --- Google quickly directs you there. Something I couldn't say for the
    camcorder world. And as for the magazines, I think you pointed out yourself
    on one of the occasion that it has to be competent, not just restating
    what's already in the specs section of the manual, only slightly more

    Now, when making decisions about technical purchases, you have two things to
    consider: the general. rough things one needs to know about properties of
    the gadgets, or, on the other one, exact findings about a particular model.
    The generalisations of newer vs. older models seem often futile (like my
    constant gripe, if Sony could make TRV models right, why the HC models have
    louder mechanisms?). So, in the lack of the latter, I found the info on the just what I needed to introduce me into what there
    is and what I should generally look out for. Besides, it says right in the
    beginning that the site is about the author's opinons and a collection of
    things discussed here. So, no matter what you may think about the author,
    concernes valid or not, that site is there for all to see and use, and I
    found the info there is valid. So until someone points (or even creates)
    another site that has equally good or even better content, I don't think
    anyone should really dismiss that page.

    That said, I hope the author will update some things, like a formerly
    discussed differences between types of the AVI DV format :)

    Matej Artac, Aug 22, 2004
  5. S Akky

    :::Jerry:::: Guest

    Why ? In the field they sap power, invite poor filming style (you know those
    adverts were the camera is being held out at arms length type of thing),
    colour viewfinders make it more difficult to focus correctly and in the edit
    suit they are pointless as it's better to use a production monitor or TV

    These days I'm not
    A single small CCD will be worse than a 3 CCD model, surely, as there will
    be lees active pixels for each colour on the single CCD than on (the same
    sized) 3 CCD's.

    I also
    True, money better spent on a half decent, fluid or fluid effect, tripod and

    "If you're looking Sony, then I'd suggest that you add the TRV80 to your
    list" How can you seriously say something like that after saying that small
    cameras are no good, they are or they're not ! It might be news for you Mr
    Morgan but the Sony TRV80 is a small (palmcam style) camera too.

    - though it
    "Again for handling, the MVX25i seems to be OK" But you then say that you
    haven't even used one (nor probably seen one), HTF can you first say that
    the handling seems OK but then admit that you have never in fact handled one

    Cut the BS Mr Morgan and please keep you inverted ego in check...
    :::Jerry::::, Aug 22, 2004
  6. S Akky

    :::Jerry:::: Guest

    <snipped but read>

    You probably won't find full reviews online, most of the worthwhile reviews
    in the UK are done by magazines such as Camcorder User and (to a lesser
    extent ATM) by Computer Video magazines and as their prime reason for being
    is to sell the magazine titles and back copies etc. it's not in their
    interest to put up free web pages IYSWIM. Both magazines are owned by
    Highbury Entertainment who also publish AIUI a television industry trade
    title or two and the What titles [1]. I have found some USA based sites that
    seem to have similar style tests but as they are of NTSC products their
    worth in PAL land is slight (other than general handling and the such) IMO.

    I've said it before but I'll say it again, IMO the web is not the place to
    look for (meaningful) product reviews as it take time and money to test a
    product correctly and the people who do those tests want some return on that
    time and cost.

    AIUI one of the many criticisms of the (late) magazine 'DV World' was that
    they didn't review the products but just reworked marketing blurb.

    [1] such as What Home Cinema, What Satellite & Digital TV, What Video & TV,
    What Video Best Buys etc.
    :::Jerry::::, Aug 22, 2004
  7. S Akky

    :::Jerry:::: Guest

    But you don't know what you are talking about Sir, you have proved that time
    and time again and you have never once apologised for calling other people
    liars or ego-jerks after they have shown you up a wrong (most recently when
    discussing DV AVI's), preferring to 'plonk' them in your kill file until
    such time you hope they have forgotten. Trouble is Mr Morgan, I suspect
    there are to many elephants on this group and you know what is said about
    elephants, they never forget...
    :::Jerry::::, Aug 22, 2004
  8. S Akky

    Matej Artac Guest

    I suppose it's a thing of a choice and having freedom to film things in
    one's own style. A bigger LCD does provide an ease of use, and the hybrid
    technology makes it more visible outdoors in the sunshine, where you can
    also switch the backlight off to make it less a burdon on the battery.
    However, as you said, the colour viewfinder does seem to be low in detail
    and makes it hard to discern details and when things are in focus. Instead,
    the manual of the HC85E suggests to zoom in on an object to make manual
    focusing easier (which obviously makes it rather useless during the
    shooting), or to use an extended focusing available in the memory mode which
    automatically enlarges the central part of the scene when one rotates the
    focus ring. Again, usless when one is already recording in the tape mode.
    Too bad they didn't implement a similar system that my Canon still camera
    uses: when focusing manually it shows a window within the display enlarged
    enough for the focusing to be visible.
    In theory 3CCD is obviously better than a single sensor. But in reality it
    usually comes down to the quality of those sensors and the ability of the
    on-board software to properly process the visual data. My colleague had a
    few words with one of the Sony technicians, and he's told me that they use a
    redundancy of the CCD sensors to process the colour, so the more redundancy
    on the sensor, the better. The bottom line is, if you compare a good 3CCD
    camera to a good CCD camera, it is no brainer the former will produce nicer
    images. In reality, it's probably better to first test and compare, and then
    decide whether the difference in price outweighs the difference in quality.
    Depends on the way you look at it. TRV cameras are "horizontal" cameras,
    meaning that you can grip it with your palm oriented vertically. The PC
    series are "vertical" cameras, so it may be awkward to hold such a camera if
    one is used to the "horizontal" ones. So, all of them can be viewed as
    "small", but when the camera has a 3.5" viewfinder, it can't be too small.

    Matej Artac, Aug 22, 2004
  9. S Akky

    John Russell Guest

    I wouldn't even look at the PC109 because, (since it is one of these
    In reality small cameras will dominate the market as "ordinary" users will
    prefer the convienience over stability. Only the most enthusaitic amatuer is
    going to lug a large camera on holiday these days, and they will out
    numbered by the ordinary holiday maker with their handheld jobbies. I will
    be taking mine on holiday, along with a small shoulder pod.
    I do wish that a consistent set of features where offerred on these hand
    held jobbies though. Offering high zoom multipliers on such cameras is a
    nonsense even with image stabilisation. Although I have disabled digital
    zoom it would be nice to have a further user selected limit so that if
    it's hand help you don't get tempted into using 16x!
    John Russell, Aug 22, 2004
  10. S Akky

    Matej Artac Guest

    What kinds of stuff are you shooting? :)
    I don't suppose doing that would be easy. There is only so far you can go
    before having to dip into more technical matters. I've been thinking about
    it --- in the past you had a VHS camcorder, you shot stuff, took the
    cassette from the camcorder, put it into the VCR and watched the results
    right away. With a VHS-c, the most techical thing to go to was to plug the
    camera into a VCR and record there what the camcorder was replaying. Or,
    perhaps, use an adapter, but they already told you there and then that you
    shouldn't do too much fast-forwarding and rewinding.

    I suppose one can stay on the same level with digital camcorders, as it too
    has analogue or even digital output, and if one has a VCR, you can transfer
    stuff the same way one would with a VHS(c). Of course there isn't much use
    of the digital quality unless the master tapes are preserved and someone
    more tech-savvy does the capture and the editing. Or perhaps in this case
    they should get a DVD camcorder, learn to "finalise" their programme, and
    the effect should be the same even without having to plug the yellow, red
    and white plug to a VCR. But I suppose most of us have issues with DVD

    If people want to do DV without any technical background, I suppose we can
    tell them they have a MS Movie Maker sitting on their XP, that they have to
    plug the cable with that square plug that has a small notch at the bottom to
    the only hole on the camera that fits there, and capture the contents of
    their tape, then play with the recordings, add effects and transitions, and
    save the thing on a VCD or a DVD or even back to the tape. But beyond that,
    I suppose it's necessairy to know why those files on my hard drive are so
    big, what I lose if I want to make them smaller, and just what it is I can
    do with what I have. I suppose there are ways to explain these things in a
    simple English way that doesn't resemble Geek, but the main concern is that
    with more options one has to learn what those options mean and sometimes
    even why.

    So, yes, things can get confusing and overwhealming, and it isn't easy to
    make the explanation simpler, I suppose.

    Matej Artac, Aug 22, 2004
  11. S Akky

    John Russell Guest

    Oh and i'm not having a go at you Tony. As you pointed out these three
    cameras cannot be compared as they have different uses. Compare these with
    photography. I have an SLR and realise that seperate zoom's have better
    quality. But when I go on holiday I take a super zoom len's for the
    convienience. Equally if I was going to a social event I will pop my "super
    mini" 35mm in the pocket and leave the SLR at home.

    So what I'm saying is that users should have more than one DV camera if they
    can afford it. Anyone who can afford to pay £1000 for an "enthusasts" camera
    should consider adding a hand held jobbie for £300 (yes you can get DV
    cameras for that price if you accept you are trading performance for
    John Russell, Aug 22, 2004
  12. S Akky

    :::Jerry:::: Guest

    Very true, but as TM himself doesn't understand a lot about video and NLE's
    he uses the above as a way to make him look more informed than he really
    is - he simply can't keep quite on matters he know nothing about it seems
    and then calls people 'ego-jerks' and the like when they try and inform him
    of his errors.

    No, the simplest thing would be to tell them that they can connect there
    camcorder directly to either a VHS machine or DVD recorder and 'crash edit'
    out any bits they dislike !... Not technical issues beyond connecting the

    that they have to
    "What, you mean the one called USB, that's the one I plug my digital still's
    camera into so it should work"...

    You need to understand why USB is no use, to do that you need to know at
    least the basics of data rates etc.
    :::Jerry::::, Aug 22, 2004
  13. S Akky

    :::Jerry:::: Guest


    Well, technically what you should do (after putting the camera into manual
    focus mode [1]) is zoom right into your subject, focus and then zoom out and
    frame your subject - this will mean your subject should remain in focus even
    if it moves or you pan or zoom in or out.

    As I said, that is the correct way of doing it, but with the stupid controls
    know used on consumer cameras it's nought on impossible I suspect. :~(
    :::Jerry::::, Aug 22, 2004
  14. S Akky

    Matej Artac Guest

    I agree with your comments. But I suppose I've been spoilt by all the info
    available online for the digital cameras, phones and such. Being quite far
    away from the UK, this market also seems to be too small to have a magazine
    to even list the available products, let alone review them. Threfore, I was,
    and still am, relying only on the stuff found online.

    Matej Artac, Aug 22, 2004
  15. What you say is a correct and invaluable procedure for a zoom lens but the
    lenses fitted to cheapest cams may be varifocals which don't hold focus as
    the focal length changes. Such cameras rely on the autofocus mechanism to
    track focus in which case your procedure won't work. Or to put it another
    way they are worthless junk. ;-)
    Malcolm Knight, Aug 22, 2004
  16. S Akky

    :::Jerry:::: Guest


    I'm a keen DIYer with a garage full of power tools, and I'm
    I doubt very much that you will have much luck, considering the staple diet
    of the Home & Leisure channels etc.

    That is obvious, it seems that you don't even like to learn from them
    either, after you think all those that do must be on some form of ego
    :::Jerry::::, Aug 22, 2004
  17. S Akky

    :::Jerry:::: Guest

    You wish !
    No it is not, unless you know what you could have you won't know the
    failings of what you do (or will) have. What you advocate is called sticking
    ones head in the sand and saying 'there is no better camera, there is no
    better camera..<repeated infanitum>...'.

    A bit like

    Sorry, were was anyone comparing a 80k ukp 16:9 digibete camera + docked VTR
    with a 500 ukp camcorder ?
    :::Jerry::::, Aug 22, 2004
  18. S Akky

    Matej Artac Guest

    Well, actually I wasn't refering to it being clumsy, as the zoom is fast and
    the focus ring works nicely. What I mean is, it isn't something you want to
    do during the recording of a film (but I suppose a pro wouldn't need to do
    that, the number showing the distance in focus would suffice).
    That was my concern --- doesn't a focal length change during zooming and
    thus requires to refocus? From your reply I'd say cheap lenses do that,
    while the good ones don't :) (Just now I tried it with a 28-85 Nikkor, and,
    yeah, it stayed in focus even after zooming in or out completely).

    Matej Artac, Aug 22, 2004
  19. S Akky

    John Russell Guest

    Shouldn't you switch to manual focus and focus at the zoom setting with the
    smallest depth of field?
    John Russell, Aug 22, 2004
  20. No refocussing is necessary on a zoom lens. If otherwise it would be more
    correctly described as varifocal.
    An expensive Nikon lens for a 35mm still camera will be a true zoom
    maintaining focus as the focal length changes but I wouldn't mind betting
    that some of the inexpensive digital still cameras have variable focal
    length lenses masquerading as zooms with the aid of auto focus. In an 'auto
    everthing' camera how would anyone notice the difference?

    The same situation prevails with video cameras. My Fujinon lenses certainly
    maintain focus and I regularly zoom the lens well in solely to aid focussing
    before drawing back. No 'pro' lens has auto focus AFAIK.

    I have a varifocal lens fitted to the security camera I mentioned a day or
    two ago, they are much cheaper than true zooms, but as CCTV cams are usually
    in fixed and inaccessible places that is an entirely acceptable situation.
    You adjust it once and it stays that way. In a camcorder intended for
    serious film making it isn't acceptable.
    Malcolm Knight, Aug 22, 2004
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