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MiniDVD Camcorder - Advice/Reccomendations?

Old 03-17-08, 09:24 PM
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MiniDVD Camcorder - Advice/Reccomendations?

Ill be leaving to Alaska in a few months and I want to buy a miniDVD Camcorder. Ill be there working for 3 months and I want to 'document' the whole thing. Problem is the family camcorder is from 89' and other family members have none newer than 5 years old. So I want to buy my own and try to get the best bang for the buck. I dont know what to look for with these new video cameras so if anyone here can give me ANY suggestions, like best model, features and technology specs to look for, even DVDRs to use would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks to anyone who helps out.
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Old 03-18-08, 09:16 AM
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From consumer reports:


Buying advice Camcorders
Analog models have lost out to digital's quality and ease of use.

You can do a lot more with videos shot on camcorders than play them back, unedited, on your TV. You can edit and embellish them with music using your computer, then play your productions on your DVD player or PC. You can also e-mail them to friends or family.

Digital camcorders still dominate the market, accounting for the vast majority of new models and purchases. They generally offer fine picture quality and decent sound, and most are quite compact--many weigh about 1 pound, and the smallest are closer to half a pound. You can duplicate recordings without degrading picture or sound quality, and even take still photos with most new models. Digital camcorders capable of high-definition recording (HD) are the newest arrivals. If you'll be watching your video on an HDTV, it's worth considering an HD camcorder, but be prepared to pay hundreds more for one.

As prices on digital camcorders have dropped, analog camcorders have been relegated to a very small part of the market. While they are the lowest-priced option, picture and sound quality are a step below what you can get with digital models. Some analog units are as easy to handle as digital models but tend to be a bit bigger and bulkier.

New recording formats are also becoming more important. Most digital camcorders store your video on miniature tape cassettes or DVDs, but others record onto an internal hard drive or removable flash-memory cards similar to those you'd use in a digital camera. A few models combine two storage options, such as a hard drive and DVD or memory card, for added flexibility.


WHAT'S AVAILABLE

Sony dominates the camcorder market, offering multiple models in a number of formats. Other top brands include Canon, JVC, Panasonic, and Samsung, with Hitachi and Sanyo accounting for some sales as well.

In years past, the major distinction in the camcorder category was analog vs. digital, but analog models have dwindled, with only a few remaining. Most analog camcorders use the Hi8 tape format. (VHS-C and Super VHS-C are fading from the market.) Blank tapes range from $3.50 to $6.50. Analog camcorders usually weigh around 2 pounds. Picture quality is generally good, though a notch below digital. Price: $200 to $300.

Among digital camcorders, one major distinction is the resolution the camcorder can capture. Most camcorders on the market are standard-definition, but more high-def camcorders are arriving. Those look just like conventional standard-definition (SD) models but they use a higher-resolution image sensor and more-advanced recording technology. They record in wide-screen format. HD video contains much more detail than SD video, but you'll be able to see it only on an HDTV.

Some HD models can record video in 1080i, the same high resolution in which a lot of HDTV programming is broadcast. Other models record in 720p, an alternative HD broadcast format. Note that (in general) HD recordings take up much more space than standard-def video, so you'll fit less footage in a given amount of storage; 720p files are not quite as large as 1080i, though. But high definition recordings made on MiniDV tape (HDV) store the same amount as SD recordings on MiniDV tape (DV). AVCHD recordings made on DVD or HDD hold almost as much video as SD on the same media. With some formats used to record HD, such as AVCHD, you might need HD-capable hardware, such as a Blu-ray DVD player, to play back recordings. You can also connect the camcorders directly to an HDTV.

Some HD models give you the option of recording in SD, which enables you to store more video. That also provides for broader playback compatibility if you want to share recordings with others. You can also down-convert HD video either within the camera or after you've transferred it to a computer.

The other chief distinction among camcorders is the recording medium they use. Camcorders using MiniDV tapes have been the most popular for the last few years but models that record on miniature DVDs, built-in hard drives, and memory cards, are becoming more common, in SD and HD versions.

MiniDV. MiniDV camcorders use a unique tape cassette, and the typical recording time is 60 minutes at standard play (SP) speed, which gives you the best quality, or 90 minutes at lower quality. Expect to pay about $4 for an SP-60 tape. While the cassettes are inexpensive and readily available, the tape can tangle and jam in the camcorder transport, which should be handled carefully to avoid damage. You must use the camcorder for playback. It converts the recording to an analog signal that can be played directly into a TV or VCR. If the TV or VCR has an S-video input jack, use it to get a high-quality picture for SD. For HD, models use component jack or HDMI to get a high-quality picture. You can fast forward or rewind sequentially through a recording, but you can't randomly jump to specific points on the tape. You can also transfer video to a computer for editing. That takes place in real time, so it's a slow process. Because of the gentler compression used, edited MiniDV video tends to look better than with the other types of camcorders. It's the only recording format that allows frame-by-frame editing. Price: $200 to $450 for SD; $775 to $1,150 for HD.

Disc-based. The disc format offers benefits that tape can't match: When handled with care they have durability, compactness, and random access to scenes as with a DVD. That makes for more carefree recording, though you should avoid bumping the camcorder while recording and keep dirt out of the mechanism. The 8-centimeter (about 3-inch) discs record standard MPEG-2 video, the same format used in larger, 12-centimeter" commercial DVD videos. The amount of recording time varies according to the quality level you select, from 20 minutes per side at the highest-quality setting for DVD-RAM to about 60 minutes per side at the lowest setting. (Double-sided or dual-layer discs double the capacity.) DVD-RAM discs are not compatible with most DVD players, but the discs can be reused. DVD-R is supposed to be compatible with most newer DVD players and computer DVD drives, but the discs are not rewriteable. DVD-RW and DVD+RW are reusable, rewriteable disc formats that promise similar compatibility. You can transfer files to a computer rapidly via a USB connection, but the files aren't "frame accurate," meaning you have less-precise control during editing. And, you generally get more artifacts in the edited recording because of the compression used.

With HD models, you might need different playback hardware than with standard-definition camcorders. For example, HD video recorded onto DVDs with the new AVCHD format can be played only on a Blu-ray disc player.

Camcorders using discs often require more time to power up and shut down. (Disc prices range from about $4 to $20.) Price: $300 to $600 for SD; $700 to $1,000 for HD.

Hard-drive-based. Camcorders that record onto tiny, built-in hard drives are even more carefree. Because the drive is internal, it's protected from most things including some level of mechanical shock. There's also no recording media to buy or carry along on trips. Like DVDs, hard drives are random access, but they're even faster. Most models have over 30 gigabytes of capacity, providing seven to nine hours of recordings at the highest-quality mode and 25 or more hours at lower quality. Some models can use removable memory cards to provide even more storage. This type of camcorder attaches via FireWire or USB to a computer and appear as mass-storage devices, so transferring files is a drag-and-drop affair. This format is very flexible, with an easy connection to computer: no special drivers are necessary, video and photos are already computer-compatible file formats and transfer quickly, so no conversion is necessary. As with discs, you generally don't have frame-accurate editing control and edited recordings have more digital artifacts because of the compression used. With this type of camcorder, you must be comfortable with the idea of using a computer to transfer or archive your video.

Acronym confusion worth noting: Some models are marketed with the acronym "HDD" which typically stands for "hard disk drive." Consumers looking for an "HD" (High Definition) hard disc drive-based camcorder, should carefully look for other indicators--such as "720p," "1080," "full HD" or "high def"--that the particular model does indeed record "high definition" video. Price: $400 to $800 for SD; $900 to $1,400 for HD.

Flash-memory-based. With digital formats using Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) or Memory Stick memory cards, the amount of video you can record at the highest quality level can vary from 15 minutes to 1 hour on 256-MB to 2-GB cards. Even larger cards with greater capacity are available. (To get a more precise estimate, check a camera's specifications.) As with hard drive-based models, you must be comfortable with the idea of using a computer to transfer or archive your video. Price: $350 to $800; $900 to $1,500 for HD.

Combo models. "Hybrid" camcorders--a relatively new category--that combine a hard-drive and a DVD drive or memory card in one unit. The hard-drive or memory card is fast and convenient for recording, while DVD is best used for archiving or sharing videos. Price: $410 to $700 for SD; $800 to $1500 for HD.


HOW TO CHOOSE

Buy a digital model unless you have old tapes to play back. It won't cost you much more, and you'll get better-quality recordings, usually longer recording times, plus more features and a wider choice of models. If you're replacing an older camcorder, think about what you'll do with the tapes you've accumulated. One option is to transfer them to an easily viewed (and more durable) medium, such as a DVD.

Consider an HD camcorder if you have (or will be buying) an HDTV. An HDTV can make the most of the higher-resolution video quality from a high-def camcorder. But keep in mind that it will probably cost you several hundred dollars more than a comparable standard-def camcorder. If you want the best possible video and it's worth the money to you, HD is the way to go.

Decide which recording format suits you best. The recording format you choose determines not only how much you'll be spending for tapes, discs, or memory, but also how much recording time you'll get. See the specifics for each storage format under A guide to formats.

Check the size, weight, and controls. In the store, try different camcorders to make sure they fit your hand and are comfortable to use. Some models can feel disconcertingly tiny. You'll need to use a tripod if you want rock-steady video, no matter which camcorder you choose. Most camcorders are designed so that the most frequently used controls--the switch to zoom in and out, the record button, and the button for still photos--are readily at hand. Make sure that the controls are convenient and that you can change the tape, DVD, or memory card and remove the battery without any trouble.

Check the flip-out LCD viewer. Most measure 2.5 inches on the diagonal, but some are larger. That can add about $100 to the price. Some viewers suffer from too much glare, making them difficult to use outdoors in bright sun. Check the display in the store to make sure you're satisfied with the usability on any model you're considering. The quality of the display is especially important if the camcorder has no viewfinder. Some have a "brightness boost" button, conveniently situated by the LCD.

Think about the lighting. A camcorder isn't always used outdoors or in a brightly lighted room. You can shoot video in dim light, but don't expect miracles. In our tests, using the default mode, most camcorders produced only fair or poor images in very low light. Many camcorders have settings that can improve performance but can be a challenge to use. There are models that do decently in dim light--say, in a darkened auditorium or at a child's birthday party with only candles for illumination. Check our Ratings for the best low-light performers if you expect to shoot in that type of setting.

Decide how much zoom you want. Most camcorders have at least 10x zoom, but if you expect to be shooting across a soccer field or from the rear of a school auditorium, you may prefer a model with 30x or even 40x. Although an image stabilization feature can help with the "shakes," we still recommend a tripod when using a long zoom.

For top audio quality, look for a model that accepts an external microphone. Most camcorders we tested were just OK for audio because of noises picked up from inside the camcorder. If you want cleaner audio with reduced room noise and echoes, use a highly directional microphone or one you can put at the source of the sound.

Consider your editing standards. You can edit any digital recording medium, but MiniDV allows you the finest control. It's your best bet for professional-style frame-by-frame editing.

Consider traveling convenience. If you don't want to be weighed down while traveling, consider a flash-memory- or hard-drive-based model. High-capacity SD and Memory Stick cards are pricy, but hold nearly as much video as blank tapes and discs--and with much less weight and bulk. Built-in hard drives means you can record for hours without the need to carry any blank media at all. But with both types, you'll have to be comfortable with using a computer to transfer or archive your recordings.

Is simple sharing super important? If you want the convenience of showing off your videos without dragging out the camcorder and cables, consider getting a DVD-based model. In most cases, the DVD from your camcorder (once finalized) will work in most current DVD players.
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Old 03-18-08, 04:49 PM
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Hey Thanks man! This will help.
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Old 03-18-08, 04:59 PM
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My guess something small and rugged for your trip to alaska
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Old 03-18-08, 06:18 PM
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Buy a MiniDV HighDef camera...

Because of the gentler compression used, edited MiniDV video tends to look better than with the other types of camcorders. It's the only recording format that allows frame-by-frame editing.
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Old 03-18-08, 08:30 PM
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Yea but after reading that I think MiniDVD is the best to go. Ill be living in a cabin in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of rangers (in seperate cabins of course). There will be only one computer for us all to share in a 'cantina' and DVDs look better than MDV. Its only in editing where MDV wins

Last edited by Ravenous; 03-18-08 at 08:49 PM.
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Old 03-18-08, 11:09 PM
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Do not buy a hard drive/dvd based camera!

Buy MiniDV and you won't regret it. Also, if you have money to burn you can always get this bad boy:



B+H, hands down has the best service in the industry, they also sell a bunch of 'lower end' cameras too:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc..._3CCD_24p.html

*edited to add: The quality this camera produces is insane, some feature films have pick up shots filmed by this camera... your friends and family will think you're a pro once they see the results.

Last edited by hal9000; 03-18-08 at 11:13 PM.
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Old 03-19-08, 12:58 AM
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Bwahahaha!!! Im not spending $2500 on a camera! Do you work for these guys?
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Old 03-19-08, 02:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Ravenous
Bwahahaha!!! Im not spending $2500 on a camera! Do you work for these guys?
Ha! I said if you had money to burn.

And no I don't work for them but I've 'played' with one... tons of features, the ability to shoot 24fps (film like).

Whatever you do stay away from those gimmicky DVD cameras. The hard drive versions are just as bad (imo). If you really want editable, archival video footage you must go with MiniDV.
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Old 03-19-08, 04:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Ravenous
Its only in editing where MDV wins
Uh, no. MiniDVD is awful. It's made for technophobic soccer moms who value immediate convenience over any other consideration.

Originally Posted by Ravenous
Yea but after reading that I think MiniDVD is the best to go. Ill be living in a cabin in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of rangers (in seperate cabins of course). There will be only one computer for us all to share in a 'cantina' and DVDs look better than MDV. Its only in editing where MDV wins
I agree with hal. Stay away from the DVD-based camcorders. They're sensitive to any kind of jostling during recording. Plus, you only get 20 minutes per disc if you're recording at the best quality setting. Anything lower looks like crap. (Actually, overall I prefer MiniDV's picture quality, because the MPEG-2 encoders in most cameras aren't all that great.)

MiniDV tapes are more reliable and durable. And when you eventually come down out of the wilderness you can easily transfer them to DVD.

You wrote in your first post that this camcorder will be for documenting your Alaska adventure. If you're looking for the best picture quality and the best long-term flexibility (editing, etc.) then MiniDV is hands down the way to go. If your only concern is immediate convenience of being able to watch the mini DVDs on the cantina DVD player while you're still in Alaska, well ...

Actually, my choice in the latter instance would still be MiniDV. Just plug the camera into the TV and use it as the playback device. Most cameras come with remotes for such use.

As far as specific camera recommendations, Canon has a nice selection of MiniDV camcorders but I'd need to know a price range before I could give you specific recommendations. Sony also makes good camcorders, but I'm less familiar with what they're making these days.

Last edited by Mr. Salty; 03-19-08 at 04:27 AM.
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Old 03-19-08, 09:25 AM
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I hate it when someone scares off a perfectly good customer for MiniDV by showing some $2500 camera....

Sony HDR-HC9 - $999
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...Camcorder.html
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Old 03-19-08, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Chrisedge
I hate it when someone scares off a perfectly good customer for MiniDV by showing some $2500 camera....

Sony HDR-HC9 - $999
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...Camcorder.html
I try, I try.

Plus, in my defense, if he really wants to knock the socks of of friends and family, spending $2500 on a really really good product has it's advantages... especially if you can write the purchase off on your taxes. People are more than willing to drop that much on a HD TV or HT set up and yet they run the other way when it comes to purchasing a recording device that might be used in such a way that generations of family members can enjoy.

Remember you pay for what you get... cheap MiniDV cameras (sub $400) will result in great but not stunning quality. That Sony you suggested would be perfect. I paid $1600 for my Sony 6 years ago. I use it at least once a week. In my opinion it's paid for itself 10 times over. My next camera purchase will be that Pany that I linked to. Because, I realize in hindsight I'd much rather pay for quality that my family will be able to appreciate years from now.
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Old 03-19-08, 02:46 PM
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the canon HV-30 is your best bet - under 1000 bucks and gives a phenemonal image and true 16x9 widescreen image.

It's HDV - Mini DV is being phased out.

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....=1199496731823
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Old 03-19-08, 06:41 PM
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Thanks for the ideas and write up everyone; theyre really helping. What I wanted to do and why I thought miniDVD would be best was to Film as much as I wanted and mail the DVD(s) home at the end of the week for everyone to view. I'll be buying more blanks in town or have some mailed so I can continuously film. I wont be watching them in Alaska but it looks like home wont be able to see them caue I;ll have the camera. Theres no other way they can view the tapes? Im a bit skeptical on the longevity of the tape life as isnt DVD suppose to hold up better over time than tape?

Unfortuanltey Im still a dude trying to pay student loans soooooo I was hoping to spend around $400 on a camera.
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Old 03-19-08, 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Matthew Ackerly
Mini DV is being phased out.
No, cheaper, lesser quality formats are getting more exposure, but MiniDV for HD isn't going anywhere.

You see it on the better pro-sumer cameras like the Panasonic above...And the camera you linked to is MiniDV...
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Old 03-21-08, 12:47 AM
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When you talk to the experts, all of them will tell you to avoid the HD and DVD cameras. I was buying my first video camera last year, and like you I wasn't interested in tape. But after hours and hours of research, I realized the best camera would be a MiniDV.

I got the Panasonic GS85 , and it's an excellent MiniDV camera in the $300 range. I'd recommend it, but I think they've moved on to a newer model.

I see Amazon has the Panasonic PV-GS320 on sale for $330. That's another camera I was looking at, but at the time it was a little out of my price range (around $450).

You should check out the message boards at Camcorder Info. There's some fanatics that can help you out:

http://www.camcorderinfo.com/bbs/

Remember to factor into your budget all the accessories. Those can really add up. You'll need a bigger battery, a case, blank tapes, a UV filter (to protect the lens), lens cleaners, etc. You also might want to get a mike and some additional lens (for panoramic and zoom shots). Plus you'll probably need a bigger hard drive for video editing.

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Old 03-22-08, 08:03 PM
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Okay you guys are doing a good job of convincing me. Ive been sick the last few days and will be the whole weekend so Im doing my research now. MiniDVD does seem to be the best. I like that I can get more HQ material on a tape than I can a DVD. Plus all signs point to tape lasting longer than DVDs.

But my only concern is that I need the camcorder to see these. What if my camcorder breaks? Do they make a tape adapter than you just put it in a VHS shell and can see it on a VCR? I know I can transfer stuff to a DVD but what about the original tape?

So what MiniDV is recommended? The Panny GSV90 doesnt even have a USB or software for editing. Id like the camera to come with all that.

Last edited by Ravenous; 03-22-08 at 08:07 PM.
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Old 03-22-08, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Ravenous
MiniDVD does seem to be the best.
I hope you mistyped that and meant MiniDV.

Plus all signs point to tape lasting longer than DVDs.
It's not so much the longevity of the tape as it is the write-head of a DVD camcorder being sensitive to jostling, etc., during recording.

But my only concern is that I need the camcorder to see these. What if my camcorder breaks? Do they make a tape adapter than you just put it in a VHS shell and can see it on a VCR? I know I can transfer stuff to a DVD but what about the original tape?
No, there's no such adapter because the tapes are completely different sizes and formats. VHS is analog and MiniDV is digital.

In my opinion, I wouldn't use the original tape any more than I had to. I would treat it like a film negative for still photography. It's your original, so you don't want to risk damaging it.

Shoot on MiniDV tape, then transfer it to DVD so you can view it easily on any DVD player. Put the original tapes in a safe place in case you need them again.
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Old 03-22-08, 09:05 PM
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Oh yea, that was a typo

Okay I see the advatages more clearly after doing some reading. Alot of people dont know how long a DVD can last and can mess up quite easily. Even I have well condition DVDs/CDs that fuck up for no reason. Plus I still have old VHS tapes that look fantastic.

Okay so last question. To transfer to a DVD, is that done through computer or do I need a DVDR machine or what?
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Old 03-26-08, 05:33 PM
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BB has a package deal with this camera:

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....&ref=10&loc=01

+extra battery+tripod+case+tape

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....&ref=10&loc=01

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....&ref=10&loc=01


Should I jump on it now? Is this a good deal/buy? Any advice would help as the sale ends Sat. Or do you think I should wait for a better deal?
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Old 03-27-08, 02:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Ravenous
Okay so last question. To transfer to a DVD, is that done through computer or do I need a DVDR machine or what?
Really, you could do it either way.

If you use a DVD recorder (that you connect to your TV), you would be converting the digital video to analog, playing it through your camera's output jacks into the DVD recorder's inputs.

The preferred way would be with a computer. An easy way would be to use software like ULead Movie Factory. You connect the camcorder to your computer via USB or Firewire, and start the software. The software will take control of your camera, downloading the digital video to your computer. You can then edit the video and create menus using templates in the software. The software then creates the DVD, converting the video to MPEG2.
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Old 03-27-08, 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Salty
Really, you could do it either way.

If you use a DVD recorder (that you connect to your TV), you would be converting the digital video to analog, playing it through your camera's output jacks into the DVD recorder's inputs.

The preferred way would be with a computer. An easy way would be to use software like ULead Movie Factory. You connect the camcorder to your computer via USB or Firewire, and start the software. The software will take control of your camera, downloading the digital video to your computer. You can then edit the video and create menus using templates in the software. The software then creates the DVD, converting the video to MPEG2.
Well thats good to read. So most cams should come with the software that takes care of this right?

Any thoughts on the Sony Best Buy deal peeps? I wanted to get one early so I can starty playing with it before I go but I dont want to buy crap
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Old 04-30-08, 06:53 PM
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Okay peeps getting close to buying time so some advice in this department would help:

What is recomended?

I know Canon is tops, but I didnt like it. Should I go with the Panasonic above Sony, or is one better quality wise than the other? Kinda getting down to the wire where I have to purchase soon.

What about Samsung? BB has a great deal with one as we speak.

So here are the options:

Sony Model: DCR-HC52
Panasonic: Model: PV-GS90

or

Samsung: SC-D382
JVC: GRD850US
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Old 04-30-08, 07:17 PM
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What's wrong with Canon? I have an HV20 (which was my "upgrade" from the GL1 workhorse I had for years) and I love it. Not much bigger than a digital still camera, shoots in 1080i (though compressed - HDV isn't "true" HD) and even has an accessory shoe for my shotgun mic.

Couldn't be happier with the purchase.

Last edited by Draven; 04-30-08 at 11:05 PM.
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Old 04-30-08, 07:22 PM
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Well I didnt like the way the zoom worked or was displayed. It also seemed a bit diffucult to navigate the menu and get to it on the fly. The Panny excelled it in that department. However I read that only SONY comes with a type of night vision and I really wanted that feature. So Im kinda torn on what to get.
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