New camcorder suggestions

Discussion in 'Professional Video Production' started by Luis Ortega, Feb 1, 2009.

  1. Luis Ortega

    Luis Ortega Guest

    I have a Sony TRV 900 camcorder that is about 10 years old now and still
    working fine, but it won't last forever and I am looking for a possible

    The TRV 900 was a great camcorder with 3 ccds, manual exposure and audio
    levels, and both analogue and DV in/out, and I am looking for something
    with similar features.

    The new crop of camcorders today seem much more limited in terms of full
    manual controls unless you are willing to spend several thousand pounds.

    I think that the AVCHD and memory card recording format sounds like the
    best choice for the next generation of camcorders, based on what I read,
    so I am looking for something that uses that. I don't think that hard
    drive camcorders are robust enough and the mini dv tape ones appear to
    be using aging technology.

    Can anyone please suggest some camcorders around the 1500 pound price
    point that might be comparable in manual control features to my great
    TRV 900 and use the memory card/AVCHD format?
    Obviously, image and sound quality are critical, too, but I definitely
    need good manual controls for exposure and audio levels.

    Thanks a lot for any advice.
    Luis Ortega, Feb 1, 2009
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  2. Luis Ortega

    Luis Ortega Guest

    Thanks, Smarty.
    That looks like an excellentt option, and not much more expensive than
    the original TRV 900 price point.
    Luis Ortega, Feb 1, 2009
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  3. While that camera (the Panasonic AG-HMC150) is a superb camcorder
    by all accounts, it is not without some drawbacks (which "Smarty" will
    be annoyed by my pointing out...;-). It is no where near the price range
    of the TRV-900 (it is $3200-3400 in the US compared with the $1500
    or so of the TRV-900 when current, but its MUCH greater capabilities
    *are* worth the difference in price, if you can afford it). More important
    to some of us are the difficulties with editing AVCHD (especially the
    higher data rate of 24 Mbps that camcorder is capable of), the exporting
    of files with that data rate retained, the authoring of disks that can keep the
    quality of that data rate, use full frame rate instead of being limited to 24p,
    and which can be played on common players. No small limitations at this
    point unless you are willing to jump through some rather high "hoops".
    (Here is where "Smarty" is ***really*** going to respond with a
    "vengeance"...! ;-). HDV (on tape) does risk occasional dropouts, but
    editing it is considerably easier - as are archiving edits and authoring disks
    in a standard format that is read by all Blu-ray players (or by some
    players if you choose at the tail end to convert files to AVCHD and author
    red-laser disks on cheap standard DVD blanks using standard writers).
    I've owned MANY TRV-900s and several of the superior VX2000s,
    and even the cheap Canon HV20/30 is superior to those for image
    quality in every respect but one: low light range - and it has many picture
    adjustment controls (more than you mention...). You can find my review
    of this remarkable little and cheap camcorder at: BTW, for
    a comparison of the image quality of the more common (and *somewhat*
    easier to handle) AVCHD data rate of 17 Mbps in the Canon HG-10
    with that of the HDV HV30 (which uses the same lens and sensor, so
    only the format abilities are being compared), go here:
    (you need to click above to get rid of the annoying advertisement...).
    This comparison shows problems with 17 Mbps AVCHD compared
    with 25 Mbps HDV even with the (potentially) superior compression of
    AVCHD (but AVCHD "drags along" all of its other negatives, although
    AVCHD does offer speedy and easy file transfers between the camcorder
    and computer - but then the troubles begin...;-). There are also fancier
    HDV camcorders several other makers that are more "pro" than the HV30

    and which offer far greater low light range. OK, I must now quickly
    duck to avoid being too severely injured by "Smarty's" soon to come
    brickbats...! 8^)
    David Ruether, Feb 1, 2009
  4. Luis Ortega

    Luis Ortega Guest

    Thanks for your input.
    Are you suggesting that the AVCHD format is not the best to go for at
    this time?
    I am open to suggestions here. I reasoned that mini dv is on its way out
    and that hard drive camcorders are too delicate, so I was focusing on
    the flash memory camcorders as the best option, but I am not very well
    versed on the latest recording formats.
    I use an 8 core Mac Pro with fast sata video drives and 10 gb ram for
    video editing. Would that be good enough to work with the AVCHD format?
    Luis Ortega, Feb 1, 2009
  5. Luis Ortega

    Mike Kujbida Guest

    Luis, in a recent discussion about AVCHD on the Sony Vegas forum, one
    guy who uses Panasonic HMC-152EN and HDC-HS9 cameras is using FCP to
    edit and loves it.
    Here's his reply:

    "I now use FCP which converts the AVCHD into Apple ProRes in faster than
    real time at import. I can then edit without all the problems discussed
    in this thread, and others, about transcoding because it has already
    happened. Of course there is a downside as the files grow by a factor of
    around 10X but the results are definitely worth it."


    Mike Kujbida, Feb 1, 2009
  6. That had been my impression due to various difficulties with it...
    AVCHD does look attractive for shooting and transfering convenience,
    but it can apparently come up short in the image quality area compared
    with HDV unless working with it in 24 Mbps form, which is usually quite
    difficult (or even impossible with most software).
    Likely, and see "MK's" quote of someone who apparently uses sufficiently
    able hardware and software to edit AVCHD, "I now use FCP which
    converts the AVCHD into Apple ProRes in faster than real time at import.
    I can then edit without all the problems discussed in this thread, and others,
    about transcoding because it has already happened. Of course there is a
    downside as the files grow by a factor of around 10X but the results are
    definitely worth it." But, I do wonder what one does with the resulting
    video after editing it - and why one bothers to spend all that money and
    effort when a much simpler/cheaper approach is available using another
    format, especially since it gives comparable quality at output...
    David Ruether, Feb 1, 2009
  7. Luis Ortega

    Luis Ortega Guest

    Thanks, I wasn't aware that it compared worse than HDV in terms of image
    quality. I will have to look into these formats more closely.
    I assume that HDV camcorders also come in different media formats, such
    as flash memory, hard drive, mini dv tape?
    I still like the idea of flash memory cards as the media for storing
    footage since it sounds more robust than hard drives and uses fewer
    operating parts than tape camcorders.
    Luis Ortega, Feb 2, 2009
  8. Luis Ortega

    Smarty Guest

    Luis (and David),

    At the exchange rate of pounds for dollars being quoted this minute, the
    budget Luis asked for translates to about $2200. While it is true that the
    Panasonic is being sold in the U.S. starting at about $500 more, I used my
    TRV900 purchase price 10 years ago as a frame of reference (as I believe
    Luis also did in citing his 10 year old TRV900) and this was literally above
    $2200 in 1997 when I purchased mine. In fact, I sold mine used for just
    slightly under $2000...........

    Thus I still suggest that the Panasonic is roughly equivalent in today's
    terms to a TRV900 in the time frame when Luis and I bought

    If indeed the Panasonic is beyond the budget Luis wishes to establish, I
    apologize for overshooting by 10 or 20%......

    Now, as regards HDV versus AVCHD....

    David, a hammer if ever there was one, sees the world as being absolutely
    full on nails.

    If you ask him which screwdriver to purchase, he will always insist that a
    hammer is better, and will, effectively drive screws with his hammer since,
    after all, the fastest way to get a screw in place is to whack it with a

    Perhaps a lousy metaphor, but my point is that David, who has never owned or
    used an AVCHD camcorder or any software with AVCHD, ALWAYS provides the
    same, stock answer, which is to forget AVCHD and instead get an HDV
    camcorder. I have asked him more than once to get some AVCHD experience
    personally before making this same HDV proclamation over and over again each
    time this issue arises.

    Luis, I am here to tell you that I own the very same camera David raves
    about, the Canon HV20, and have owned a total of 4 other HDV camcorders
    including the 3CCD Sony FX-1 (for $3500), and I now exclusively shoot and
    use AVCHD format. My HV20 and other HDV stuff no longer get used. I dumped
    my other HDV camcorders literally years ago.

    There are, to be sure, computer resource issues for AVCHD, but my latest 8
    core 3.0 GHz MacPro and Final Cut Pro did handle the format without
    complaint as did iMovie 08. I only had 4 GB of RAM. It would not be my first
    choice for authoring AVCHD / BluRay disks, although the very recently
    released Toast 10 Platinum (released on January 4, 2009) does handle these
    tasks for the princely sum of around $80. I have not used it personally so I
    can't offer an opinion.

    David probably can tell you all about it.

    Smarty, Feb 2, 2009
  9. Luis Ortega

    Smarty Guest


    Here is some raw footage if you want to experiment with 24 Mbit/sec pro
    Panasonic AVCHD from the HMC150:

    Smarty, Feb 2, 2009
  10. Luis Ortega

    mkujbida Guest

    But, I do wonder what one does with the resulting
    The thread I referred to on the Sony Vegas forum is titled "Would you
    use AVCHD PROFESSIONALLY?" and can be found at
    I suggest anyone thinking about this particular format read it to find
    out the yeas and nays for themselves.

    mkujbida, Feb 2, 2009
  11. [...]
    From reputable dealers, at "real" prices that one can actually obtain the
    camera at??? Not from "bait-'n'-switch" dealers, or in overpriced
    "package" deals? B&H *is* a reputable dealer, with good prices, and
    here is their price on the Panasonic 150 AVCHD camcorder --*&bhs=t&Go.x=16&Go.y=15
    I don't recall the TRV-900 EVER selling for anything near this price
    (that is closer to the price of the much more able VX2000). I bought
    my last new TRV-900 for $1500 from B&H, and I've owned 6 or 7
    (the VX2000 cost $2200 to $2500 when I bought them new, also
    from B&H...). Most of my TRV-900s sold for under $1000, most in
    very nice (LN) condition, when I parted with them long ago - but all this
    is really irrelevant...
    As I pointed out, though, its capabilities are well worth the price difference,
    and it appears from what "LO" describes as his editing gear that he has
    money to burn, so that camera is likely not beyond his reach if he chooses
    the AVCHD route (or one of the excellent top prosumer HDV models
    If ever there was one...! 8^)
    I *have* experimented with AVCHD, using two editors that handle
    it that I own, and I have authored AVCHD disks...
    I offer reasons why, at this point in time, there are REAL reasons
    for the *current* superiority of HDV for most people, but you
    insist on supporting a format that continues to have real limitations
    (this will likely change in the future, but why suffer these now when
    it is not necessary?). I also point out where AVCHD can be useful
    now, in the making of high quality cheap red-laser disks with standard
    DVD writers from edited HDV videos that can be used with many
    Blu-ray players.
    I have.
    That is your choice, and you apparently have the resources to handle
    the difficult 24 Mbps AVCHD (as it appears "LO" also does), but it
    still is a mystery to me if you can output at that full data rate with full
    normal frame rate (not 24 fps...) and write disks without significant
    loses and at a full frame rate that are readable on most Blu-ray players
    (without playing "tricks" that make for incompatibilities). Tell me you can,
    8^) Yuh...
    Look, I don't care what anyone wants to use, but it can be useful to
    point out alternatives when someone asks a question and they appear
    to be about to "go off the deep end" without knowing pitfalls they will
    likely run across in the process. So, you are saying we should all stand
    around and provide no warnings of likely difficulties or tell about any
    advantages provided by alternate solutions? Or should we only wait
    (and wait, and wait...) for you to do that...? But, you have already
    decided on the answers (for you...), but they are ones that may not be
    practical or ideal for most others - and you do not seem very happy
    when others offer alternative comments to yours...
    David Ruether, Feb 2, 2009
  12. No. It is a rigidly-specified (an advantage) tape-based system only.
    These may be advantages during shooting (but flash cards are not
    totally reliable, either). In practice, there may be little difference,
    except that tape offers good long term storage ***IF*** stored
    properly (with multiple copies), and hard drives can also be good
    ***IF*** the material is on multiple drives and the drives are run
    regularly. DVDs and flash memory may be less reliable for long term
    storage (although some claim good results for Blu-ray - but few do
    for standard DVDs...).
    David Ruether, Feb 2, 2009
  13. Thanks. "LO" should definitely have a look at this...;-)
    David Ruether, Feb 2, 2009
  14. Luis Ortega

    Smarty Guest

    Smarty, Feb 2, 2009
  15. If you are going to take something so far out of context as
    this, you'd better add a big, hefty "smiley" to your comment
    to indicate that you're doing it facetiously. To have any other
    intent is wasting people's time - and I will not argue with you
    just for the sake of arguing. You have much to offer here about
    video derived from your obviously extensive experience, so why
    weaken your offerings by including petty personal comments?
    And, others here, even if with less experience than you, also
    have things to offer that may be of value to others. You just
    may want to learn to respect that...
    David Ruether, Feb 2, 2009
  16. Luis Ortega

    Luis Ortega Guest

    Thanks a lot, guys!
    Both of you have given me a lot to think about and useful information as
    I must point out, though, that just because I have a nice Mac Pro, I
    don't have money to waste!

    The pricing of the TRV900 new for me about 10 years ago was 1600 pounds,
    and that was the best price I could find in London at that time. I found
    the Panasonic AG-HMC150 camera that was discussed for 1800 pounds here,
    so the price differential is not great, and I would consider it if it
    proves to have at least the same level of manual control as my TRV900.

    I have the luxury of being able to wait until my TRV900 bites the dust
    because I can use a fall back camera from work if it were to die
    suddenly, so I want to find out as much as I can about the new and up
    and coming formats before making a purchase for that amount. If the next
    camcorder proves to be as good as my first two, I will be very happy. My
    first one was a shoulder mount JVC GRS707 svhs which had full manual
    controls and served me well during the 90s until I bought the TRV900.
    It seems that the camcorder manufacturers are no longer offering the
    same level of manual control at the price points of these two venerable
    camcorders. I can't afford the 2500+ pounds that the current crop of
    well specified camcorders cost, and I am not interested in getting a
    consumer model without manual control. I was under the impression that
    the Canon hv20/30 models aren't really full manual control so I haven't
    been considering those.

    My storage medium would be multiple dvd backups and maybe blue ray
    copies later on, so the archival durablity of flash memory cards is not
    an issue for me.

    I am truly tired of logging and capturing from tapes and would love
    being able to access from a digital file like on a hard drive or memory
    card for editing, so if HDV is strictly tape based, then it is a serious
    minus for me.

    That might mean that I am limited to AVCHD and a flash memory card
    system because I don't plan to invest in a hard drive camcorder.

    I am going to read that other thread that was suggested on the Vegas forum.

    My NLEs are FCP studio 2 and also Premiere Pro CS3, although I plan to
    move to the CS5 adobe suite if they finally add true support for
    multiple cores and more ram. The CS4 apps still can't exploit the
    multiple cores and large amounts of ram in the Mac Pro. I understand
    that the next Mac OS, Snow Leopard, will add a lot of functionality in
    these areas and will feel like I have gotten a hardware boost by moving
    to that OS.
    Luis Ortega, Feb 2, 2009
  17. Ummmm.....8^)
    [ ;-)]
    It is "microscopic", given the quality and capability difference! ;-)
    It has much more.
    The 900 was certainly a step up, if for no other reason than for the
    ease of editing and the lossless copying of the Mini-DV material compared
    with VHS - and image quality was almost certainly higher, too. BTW,
    whichever format you go with, make sure your editing software uses
    "smart rendering" (which copies unchanged video footage rather than
    recompressing it all - which Premiere unfortunately does with HDV).
    You are assuming incorrectly, although some controls are somewhat
    awkward to use. The picture can be modified slightly for contrast,
    brightness-bias, saturation, and sharpness - and the camera can be
    operated beyond full auto in program, shutter-priority, or aperture
    priority modes. And, the exposure additionally can be locked and
    shifted as desired for special needs. What more do you want? The
    manual focus is admittedly so-so, but the I-AF autofocus is excellent
    and generally quite reliable for most purposes. You can also use a
    skin-tone smoothing mode, ""film" response mode, and 24p mode.
    Again, what else do you want? ;-) And, it's cheap and small and
    light - with an excellent optical stabilizer (that even works with my
    tremor, unless that gets too violent...). It doesn't look "pro", but it
    can produce very high quality results if light levels are sufficient, and
    if you do not zoom too far toward the tele end (at the wide half of
    the zoom range, even with the .66X Raynox on, even in the corners
    wide open the picture is sharp and free of chromatic problems).
    Don't consider DVDs archival...
    That is a consideration, and the Panasonic camcorder is certainly
    excellent and brings with it the advantages you mention - but I hope
    you read the Sony forum on the difficulties and limitations of using
    AVCHD at this point. You could be in for a rather unpleasant time
    trying to handle those files afterward. Paraphrasing someone there
    (and almost the consensus among the MANY posts there), AVCHD
    24 Mbps is great for shooting, but then the troubles begin..." They
    are anything from running up against the DVD data rate that is much
    lower than 24 Mbps, through the limition at input and/or output to
    lower data rates, and if you use a lower data rate when shooting to
    get around these problems (including "slow as mud" processing
    speeds), the image quality may drop noticeably below the easier
    to use HDV. If it is all up to the camera choice, the Panasonic looks
    great, but if you add in everything else and balance everything out,
    you may want to rethink it. But, you do at least have a good start
    with your computer editing software/hardware, and with some bit
    more money, as "Smarty" points out, and probably working out
    some problems that are likely to come up, you can make Blu-ray
    disks (expensive as they can be if you make very many...).
    Do - it's an "eye-opener"...;-(
    But, watch out for that "hokey" Panasonic add that is sited - I don't
    know where P. got such a terrible HDV camcorder from for making
    AVCHD look better (trust more the camcorderinfo comparison
    that is more "apples and apples") - I have NEVER seen macroblocking
    or any other failure of the HDV compression with my HV20, and
    I have "pushed" it with situations that should have shown it if there
    were a problem with it.
    Good luck - and TRY to have fun with it! 8^)
    David Ruether, Feb 2, 2009
  18. Luis Ortega

    Luis Ortega Guest

    I guess what I am referring to is that I have seen some camcorders that
    offer manual exposure control but still use some sort of automatic gain
    control so that as you pan across a scene with different light levels,
    the picture blooms as it re-adjusts to the light changes.

    For me, manual exposure means that I can pick the shutter speed or the
    aperture and set it and the camcorder will record exactly that way.
    Also, I can set the audio recording levels and the camcorder and record
    audio as set without any automatic audio gain.
    Obviously, manual focus and external mic input is expected, and a manual
    zoom ring, as opposed to the rocker switch that limits control of the
    zoom speed, would be very welcome. Ideally, it would also have analogue
    AV in/out as well as dv or hdv in/out.
    I don't really care much for built-in preset effects in a camcorder
    since I can do any of that in editing later.

    I would gladly consider any camcorder that offers that sort of manual
    control. The TRV900 uses the zoom rocker switch and I have never liked
    that feature. My old JVC GRS 707 had the manual zoom ring in addition to
    everything else mentioned.

    What makes it hard is that the published specs on some camcorders don't
    state clearly whether the manual exposure controls offer a full manual
    or the modified manual controls. Sales persons are next to useless
    because they will tell you anything that you want to hear, and often
    they don't even have a clue. That's why these forums are so important,
    but once I can narrow the choices down to a few options then I start
    hitting the stores and asking to actually handle the camcorders to
    confirm things for myself.
    Are you saying that the Canon hv 20/30 models offer this level of manual
    controls? If not, then regardless of their attractive price or image
    quality I would prefer to find something that did what I want for more
    money. The frustration of dealing with limited controls for many years
    is not worth it to me.
    Thanks again for your advice.
    Luis Ortega, Feb 2, 2009
  19. Luis Ortega

    Smarty Guest


    For the final time (I promise):

    People come here with specific questions and you ignore their question and
    provide an answer which fulfills your need to re-direct them, often on a
    wild digression.

    In the prior case, the specific question very explicitly posed a question
    regarding the use of Premiere Pro with AVCHD.

    In the present case, the specific question very explicitly states "Can
    anyone please suggest some camcorders around the 1500 pound price point that
    might be comparable in manual control features to my great TRV 900 and use
    the memory card/AVCHD format?" and precedes this by very explicitly stating
    "I think that the AVCHD and memory card recording format sounds like the
    best choice for the next generation of camcorders, based on what I read, so
    I am looking for something that uses that."

    Either you cannot read, have no respect for others, or are so blatantly,
    stubbornly convinced of your HDV solution for everybody that you, once
    again, entirely ignore the original question.

    Since you opened the topics of respect for others and taking things out of are clearly a master of both.

    I implore you for the final time (I promise)........ please listen to the
    questions others are asking and then offer some answer which respects their
    wishes, not your own (very wrong) impression of what AVCHD is or is not.

    I have no desire to argue with you. I am just so appalled and disgusted that
    every time a question arises here regarding AVCHD, this robot names David
    Ruether automatically replies with an HDV solution which makes no attempt to
    reply to the original query.

    No doubt the engineer in me as well as the grandfather in me both demand
    that I urge others to listen well and respond to a specific topic precisely,
    I apologize to you if my criticism seems harsh or inappropriate. It is very
    difficult to suffer the obvious and repeated 'non sequitors' which to me are
    no different than:

    "I am looking for help to drive a screw with a screwdriver and........."
    with a reply from DR which always states: "A hammer is always better than a
    screwdriver and let me tell you why.......".

    Since both you and I and, no doubt, others are tired of this topic, and my
    pleadings have had no beneficial effect, I am done trying to ask for your
    consideration of other people and their specific questions. Since you
    obviously love to tell your HDV story regardless of the question being
    posed, perhaps you might just post questions to yourself and then answer
    them. At least in that case there would be some logical connection between
    the question and the answer.

    Smarty, Feb 3, 2009
  20. Luis Ortega

    Smarty Guest


    Both the Canon HV20 and HV30 use a tiny joystick and menu system which makes
    exposure control very awkward, and settings of audio gain, video gain,
    neutral density filters, etc. are not available. Audio AGC cannot be
    defeated, and there is no manual focusing ring. The HV20/30 are nice low
    cost consumer cameras selling for around $600-$700 presently in the U.S.

    David loves his HV20. Mine is on craigslist for $400 or best offer.

    Smarty, Feb 3, 2009
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