Quality camcorder for under $1000

drevin

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Sep 5, 2010
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Hello,

I'm looking for a good quality camcorder for under $1000. It will be used for general outdoor and indoor filming, as well as making macro videos of little objects such as insects. I'm currently using a JVC GR-D270 (http://support.jvc.com/consumer/product.jsp?modelId=MODL027367&pathId=26&page=3&archive=true) for this purpose. It only records in 720x576 resolution, but has a nice 25x optical zoom. Here is an example macro video that I've captured:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtFAIBBGHGM

By default the GR-D270 can't focus on close targets - I attached an extra lens with a rubber band to achieve that. It would be great if I could use this extra lens with the new camcorder too. Even better if present day camcorders can do full-zoom macro videos out of the box, *without* extra lenses. Another option is a new add-on lens that allows full zooming up close, as long as it's not terribly expensive.

Requirements:

-Good magnification for the close ups, preferably 20x or higher optical zoom

-Ability to display video output on external monitor (much more convenient for long
indoor macro recordings than using the camcorder's small LCD)

-Can record video directly to PC's HDD for practically unlimited space (not 100% required but
preferable, the GR-D270 can do this)

-Good quality snapshots are a plus

-Being able to capture in a dark environment is a plus

-Portability, battery life and mic quality are not particularly important factors

So far I've come up with Panasonic HC-VX870 (~700 €) and Sony FDR-AX53 (~1000 €). Both support 4K recording and have 20x optical zoom. Should I go for 4K, or would a FullHD choice in the same price range give a better bang for the buck? Is the quality difference between these two big enough to justify the price difference? Are there other, even better alternatives? How about the Panasonic VX989 and VXF999?
 

bjornl

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Mar 16, 2016
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Since you aren't getting much in the way of answers I'll share a little of what I know, but I don't use cam-corders for video as I tried them out but they didn't meet my quality requirements.

4k is a trendy thing, but it takes ALOT more time to process, alot more diskspace to store etc. At a minimum it will take 4 x as long. If your PC is less than state of the art it will take even longer. If your target displays are 4k, it might be worth it. If they aren't, then clearly it is just one more sticker on the box which means nothing.
Recording to a PC is called tethering. Some which claim to support tethering in fact only support receiving a few limited commands from the PC (such as start and stop). Since this varies, best to confirm that it supports what you care about (writing to the PC disk).

MACRO video is not likely to be supported out of the box on any camcorder. The reason is that the focus plane is so thin at macro distances that autofocus can't keep up. Nearly all DSLR macro fans use manual focus for macro for this reason (and a DSLR has a much more robust AF system). So the problem I see with making a claim of macro video support is most who buy the camera for this feature would be disappointed in the low % in focus frames and would want their money back or clog up the support lines. Your water beatle video was pretty cool, but it was also a remarkably stationary subject, focus was hit and miss and when you zoomed in just didn't seem to happen, also it was a relatively large subject and the parts which were in focus were more the lower magnification ones (where the AF system had more of a chance). Not picking on your video (which I do think was very cool), just pointing out some flaws and some things which made it work to put my comments about true macro (1:1) being unlikely to be supported. Some day this should be possible. 1:1 = what we call 1 to 1 magnification meaning if you open your camera and measure the size of your subject on your sensor it will be the same size as if you measured your actual subject in the water dish.

Many (most?) current cameras have HDMI out. You can attach an HDMI out. You can attach any sized screen which supports HDMI or an HDMI tranmitter and have it beam it to a nearly by reciever (for example your TV set).

Low light... generally look at the sensor size. The larger the sensor the better. f-stop plays a big role too, just not as big a role as sensor size.

SO not info you were looking for, but hopefully helpful.

 

bjornl

Estimable
Mar 16, 2016
399
0
3,060
156
Since you aren't getting much in the way of answers I'll share a little of what I know, but I don't use cam-corders for video as I tried them out but they didn't meet my quality requirements.

4k is a trendy thing, but it takes ALOT more time to process, alot more diskspace to store etc. At a minimum it will take 4 x as long. If your PC is less than state of the art it will take even longer. If your target displays are 4k, it might be worth it. If they aren't, then clearly it is just one more sticker on the box which means nothing.
Recording to a PC is called tethering. Some which claim to support tethering in fact only support receiving a few limited commands from the PC (such as start and stop). Since this varies, best to confirm that it supports what you care about (writing to the PC disk).

MACRO video is not likely to be supported out of the box on any camcorder. The reason is that the focus plane is so thin at macro distances that autofocus can't keep up. Nearly all DSLR macro fans use manual focus for macro for this reason (and a DSLR has a much more robust AF system). So the problem I see with making a claim of macro video support is most who buy the camera for this feature would be disappointed in the low % in focus frames and would want their money back or clog up the support lines. Your water beatle video was pretty cool, but it was also a remarkably stationary subject, focus was hit and miss and when you zoomed in just didn't seem to happen, also it was a relatively large subject and the parts which were in focus were more the lower magnification ones (where the AF system had more of a chance). Not picking on your video (which I do think was very cool), just pointing out some flaws and some things which made it work to put my comments about true macro (1:1) being unlikely to be supported. Some day this should be possible. 1:1 = what we call 1 to 1 magnification meaning if you open your camera and measure the size of your subject on your sensor it will be the same size as if you measured your actual subject in the water dish.

Many (most?) current cameras have HDMI out. You can attach an HDMI out. You can attach any sized screen which supports HDMI or an HDMI tranmitter and have it beam it to a nearly by reciever (for example your TV set).

Low light... generally look at the sensor size. The larger the sensor the better. f-stop plays a big role too, just not as big a role as sensor size.

SO not info you were looking for, but hopefully helpful.

 

drevin

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Sep 5, 2010
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Thanks for this information. I'm not very experienced when it comes to this stuff. But I'm in no hurry to make the purchase, for now I'm mostly just trying to absorb information and opinions about the subject, because it would be awful to spend ~1000 € on something and then be disappointed in it. The best case scenario would be if I could borrow such a device from someone I know, to test how well it suits my needs before making the purchase. I have read good things about Sony camcorders, but on other hand the 240fps slow motion mode of some Panasonic models sounds interesting.

Getting a camera instead of a camcorder is not out of the question either, I just would prefer the simplicity of a camcorder, and have more previous experience with them. Also the macro videos will be just one of the planned uses I have for it, i'd estimate that about 75% of the shooting will still be ordinary everyday shooting, mostly outdoors.
 

wordofmitch

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Jun 28, 2013
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Hi Devin,

I'm going to piggy-back off bjornl's post in saying that 4K recording, as it stands now is not going to be useful to the average camera user. At the moment it is still rare to find people who can support displaying 4K and I don't think it will be even remotely popular for another 5 years. I'd save some of your money on resolution and put the extra cash into the sensor size. 1080p is still the standard and will perfect for any and all applications.

Most modern camcorders will come with a macro feature that will help when taking macro video, But there will still be discrepancies between models in how close you can get to a subject. The thing to watch out for in macro shooting is that digitally zooming in on a target and physically moving the camera closer are two different things. Zooming in is essentially a telephoto effect in which the background and the intended subject have a smaller separation. The effect has its pros and its cons. Look at this webpage for more info if you want to look into it: http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2015/03/31/what-do-telephoto-lenses-really-do

What i'm trying to get at is you need to first work out what style you are going for and then you want to be looking at lens specs for something called the "focal length". The larger the numbers the better the telephoto effect and the farther the zoom of the camera. But don't get focal length mixed up with digital zoom. Digital zoom's are the camera digitally zooming and its notorious for other problems that I wont get into. A way to avoid the digital zoom is to buy a DSLR. DSLR's are well in your budget and I would recommend them as they are extremely versatile.

TIP's FOR LOOKING FOR A DSLR WHEN THE INTENDED PURPOSE IS MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY/VIDEO:
1) Look for a camera with a high megapixel count (18MP or higher).
2) Find a camera/lens combo that includes a lens with a long focal length (80-200mm~)
3) Some lenses are "Macro lenses" and are sold with that name. See if you can afford one of these in your budget.

I would recommend Panasonic, as thats the brand I personally use. However, Nikon have some cheap DSLR's with high megapixel counts that may also tempt you. Don't be put off by all the buttons and dials on DSLR's. Most if not all DSLR's include a variety of automatic modes and also some 50/50 auto/manual modes to help you transition from full auto to DSLR expert!

I hope this helped somewhat!

-Mitch
 
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