Camcorder for a dummy

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norm
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Camcorder for a dummy

Post by norm » Sun May 22, 2011 11:26 am

I want to buy a decent quality camcorder that is very simple to use. I would spend up to $500. Any suggestions?

livesoft
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Post by livesoft » Sun May 22, 2011 11:57 am

All camcorders are easy to take videos and play them back in the camera. They are easy to connect the camera to a TV and play them back as well.

They are not easy to copy videos from the camera to a DVD or hard drive. So you might want to get a video camera with the largest possible memory. Then you just buy a new camera when it fills up. :)
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deerhunter
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Post by deerhunter » Sun May 22, 2011 12:23 pm

I once had a super 8 digital camera that used tape. I would download it to my computer and use the free program Windows Movie Maker and another free dvd program that came with the computer. I was able to make some fabulous videos that I easily downloaded to a dvd. They had special effects and I could use my collection of MP3's for music.

After some hard use, the camera gave up the ghost so I bought a new one that used memory sticks. I thought this would be great, just download off the memory sticks. No way. I couldn't get Windows Movie Maker to recognize it and finally I gave up in disgust, took the camera back, and found a new hobby.
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vectorizer
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Post by vectorizer » Sun May 22, 2011 12:28 pm

I have an overly-expensive camcorder because I wanted a lot of manual controls. So I don't have a particular model to recommend to you. But here are the things I recommend you look for ....

1) For $500, you can afford a high definition (HD) model. Even if you don't think you want HD today, the home video world is going in this direction and you'll be glad you made the decision in a few years. Plus, even if all you want to do is create a DVD (not HD) from your movies, the results will be nice and sharp. Look for 1080 resolution, 30 frames per second interlaced at minimum, option for 24 frames per second progressive ("1080p" or "24p") I think is usually offered in your price range.

2) Get a model that has a "secure digital" (SD) memory slot to record movies, if you have an SD reader on your PC (almost all laptops come with SD readers these days). That's the easiest way to get files into your PC - pop out the SD card from the camera and pop it into your PC, where you'll see a new "drive" with the camcorder files. Plus, if you go on a long vacation, you can get a new SD if you fill one up. Internal flash memory is OK too, in which case getting your files off of the camcorder involves connecting a USB cable; this is almost as easy as the SD card, but a little slower.

3) Do not get a DVD drive in the camera (low quality pictures esp. if you edit). Do not get a hard drive in the camera (heavier, bigger, prone to breakage). Do not get a tape drive in the camera (hard to find these now anyway). Flash memory only, either SD card or built-in.

4) When reading reviews, consider what kind of movies you think you'll be mostly making. Outdoors? Then zooming and iris control is important. Indoors? Low light performance is important. Close shots of people? Wide angle (at lowest zoom setting) is important.

5) If you're not interested in signficant movie editing, the PC you use doesn't matter too much as long as it's just a couple years old. But if you think you'll be doing extensive editing, it's very important that you have a pretty powerful computer to edit HD files.

6) The free Microsoft Windows Live Movie Maker you can download in Windows 7 does a decent job with simple editing tasks; it's limited, but might be all you need. Your camcorder will almost certainly have editing software, but typically they're not good. For extensive editing, you'll want a consumer version of pro software (~$50-70) like Sony Vegas Movie Studio (my favorite) or Adobe Premiere Elements (more popular).

7) Figure-in the cost of an SD card (if not supplied with the camcorder). Also strongly consider getting a spare battery you can take along to extend your recording time.

8) Buy only from a store with a generous return policy if possible. Use the camcorder and view the results; if you don't like how it operates or how the video looks, take it back. Camcorder features and picture quality is subject to personal taste.

[edited for grammar and to correct the name of the Windows movie editor]
Last edited by vectorizer on Sun May 22, 2011 6:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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linuxuser
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Post by linuxuser » Sun May 22, 2011 1:33 pm

deerhunter wrote:After some hard use, the camera gave up the ghost so I bought a new one that used memory sticks. I thought this would be great, just download off the memory sticks. No way. I couldn't get Windows Movie Maker to recognize it and finally I gave up in disgust, took the camera back, and found a new hobby.
The new camcorders that store the videos to memory sticks and hard drives are storing the videos in MPEG4 files. Windows Movie Maker does not recognize MPEG4 format to import.

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Boglenaut
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Post by Boglenaut » Sun May 22, 2011 1:46 pm

linuxuser wrote:
deerhunter wrote:After some hard use, the camera gave up the ghost so I bought a new one that used memory sticks. I thought this would be great, just download off the memory sticks. No way. I couldn't get Windows Movie Maker to recognize it and finally I gave up in disgust, took the camera back, and found a new hobby.
The new camcorders that store the videos to memory sticks and hard drives are storing the videos in MPEG4 files. Windows Movie Maker does not recognize MPEG4 format to import.
My high def Sony saves .MTS format. Windows Vista did not recognize them with additional software, but Windows 7 does.

I agree with Vectorizor about the flash (no Disk, hard drive, or tape). Sony requires proprietary "Memory Stick", but so far I have not filled up the internal flash so have not bought one.

Give some thought on how you will watch the results. Life got a lot easier the last few years:

In the "old days" -- 2006 -- I used to make DVD's on my PC from the tape. It took me about 5 hours to make a 45 minute disk. Now, I just use Windows 7 Media Center and watch the .MTS files produced by the camera directly from my PC. PC's have HDMI or buy something like the WD device you can connect to your HD TV. I'll never make another DVD.

deerhunter
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Post by deerhunter » Sun May 22, 2011 3:47 pm

I guess I need Windows 7. I have Vista on my laptop and the old Windows version on my Desktop.
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vectorizer
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Post by vectorizer » Sun May 22, 2011 6:40 pm

Boglenaut wrote:Now, I just use Windows 7 Media Center and watch the .MTS files produced by the camera directly from my PC. PC's have HDMI or buy something like the WD device you can connect to your HD TV. I'll never make another DVD.
I agree with regard to today's workflow, the final output movies in HD are just kept in files, no optical media to deal with or wait for when you want to see a home movie. We use a PS3 to play them, but there are lots of media players out there that can do that. I do still make DVDs though for other people. For friends with late model BluRay players, I've burned AVCHD discs (holds about 40 minutes of HD) on cheap DVD media blanks. Haven't found a need to get a BluRay burner.

Skiffy
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Post by Skiffy » Mon May 23, 2011 11:43 am

To fit the simple to use requirement: get a flip video camera! Quality of the pictures on the newer HD versions is very good and they come with the cable to hook up to your TV or computer. Very easy to use.

norm
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Post by norm » Mon May 23, 2011 2:54 pm

Skiffy wrote:To fit the simple to use requirement: get a flip video camera! Quality of the pictures on the newer HD versions is very good and they come with the cable to hook up to your TV or computer. Very easy to use.
What is a "flip" video camera?

Thanks for all of the replies. I found a lot of useful info.

norm
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Post by norm » Tue May 24, 2011 6:37 pm

Skiffy wrote:To fit the simple to use requirement: get a flip video camera! Quality of the pictures on the newer HD versions is very good and they come with the cable to hook up to your TV or computer. Very easy to use.
What is a flip camera?

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Boglenaut
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Post by Boglenaut » Tue May 24, 2011 6:46 pm

norm wrote:
Skiffy wrote:To fit the simple to use requirement: get a flip video camera! Quality of the pictures on the newer HD versions is very good and they come with the cable to hook up to your TV or computer. Very easy to use.
What is a flip camera?
Surprisingly, to be discontinued.

Skiffy
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Post by Skiffy » Wed May 25, 2011 12:25 pm

Here is a link to their website:
http://www.theflip.com/en-us/

Retailers like Target, Wal Mart, Sam's Club etc also carry them, and they go on sale frequently.

Andrew1234
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Re: Camcorder for a dummy

Post by Andrew1234 » Wed May 25, 2011 6:24 pm

flipcam. no wires. easy software to link with your tv, computer, facebook, youtube. it's perfect.
norm wrote:I want to buy a decent quality camcorder that is very simple to use. I would spend up to $500. Any suggestions?

jpark1982
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Post by jpark1982 » Wed May 25, 2011 7:46 pm

Just a quick heads up, Cisco is discontinuining the Flip camcorder.

iSkysoft makes a great program that converts almost all video (including M2TS which my Sony HD camcorder uses) into what format you're looking to save it to.

What I do is

Step 1 - Shoot video
Step 2 - Connect via USB
Step 3 - Copy files onto computer.
Step 4 - Convert into whatever file type I'm looking to do (whether that's MPEG for DVDs, MKV, or H.264 for iOS's.)

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