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Choosing the right camcorder

ruben5's picture
Last seen: 2 years 3 months ago
Joined: 05/24/2012 - 5:54pm

Hi all,

I'm planning to buy a (flash memory) camcorder and I've been reading a lot on different websites about which will fit me best and it's very overwhelming. I have a few things that I don't understand and I hope somebody can help me.

I will write my videos on DVDs and from what I understood, you can't write HD videos on DVDs. So,is it still better to have a HD camcorder in this case? Does HD mean better quality, even if it's on DVD? If no, then what SD camcorder would yourecommend(up to $1,200)?

I will record in all kind of environments, outdoors as well as indoors, long and short films. I'm also looking for a good quality in low light.

Thanks a lot for your help!


Rob Grauert's picture
Last seen: 7 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 02/16/2008 - 10:47pm

"I will write my videos on DVDs and from what I understood, you can't write HD videos on DVDs"

You can't write HD to DVD because DVD Spec requires that your video be SD. If you want HD delivery, then you're talking about Blu-Ray. If you want to deliver DVD, which is still quite common, the workflow is to shoot HD, edit in HD, export and archive your Master in HD, and then convert your HD master to SD for DVD.

"So,is it still better to have a HD camcorder in this case?"

Most people will say it's better to down convert HD to SD rather than shoot strait SD. I can't argue with that.

"I'm also looking for a good quality in low light."

Cameras with large images sensors work very well in low light. For instance, the Canon 5D and 7D HDSLRs have very large, light-sensitive sensors.

But on a side note, just light your scene. Sheesh...


Woody Sanford's picture
Last seen: 1 week 3 hours ago
Joined: 10/19/2010 - 7:33am
Plus Member

Hi abi,

"Good" and "Quality" are subjective terms that are going to be different for everybody. I was recently on a shoot with a friend that needed a second camera guy/grunt to help out. During set up our conversation was around if either of us were looking at the new Blackmagic camera or Sony FS700. During that it somehow turned to what was a "Pro" camera and what wasn't. My friend was pretty adamant about the whole "Consumer", "Prosumer" and "Pro" classes of camera. He constantly turned his nose up to my idea that cameras are just tools and when I pointed out that during this discussion we were having that he was in the process of setting up a 300 dollar GoPro camera for footage in his "Pro" project, you would have thought I kicked him in the shin.He did laugh later on about it though.

Bear with me, my little story does have some meaning in regards to "Quality" some assign to HD video. HD is the future of video for now but if your end product is DVD's then an SD camera is still a strong contender. Technology has come a long ways lately, especially in the HD cameras in the 1,200 and less price point but there are still limitations that are the nature of the beast to get a camera to that price point and under.

HD is a larger resolution and the modern cameras (even at low price points) are capable of incredible picture quality but that's not the only quality of a good video. A lot of the lower end cameras are good for "Head" shots and still work on a tripod but suffer from "Rolling Shutter" effects like wobble and skew that make pan's impossible and vibration will make video look horrible. They are also mostly narrow of field of view with small lens's and not that great in low light.

You could go the DSLR route with say a GH2 and be in HD and down scale to SD for DVD but you're going to add cost to that for low light/fast primes and its going to have other limits to content with or you can go the used SD camera route. We are at a time right now where there are a lot of good higher end used SD cameras on the market that are loaded with features (Tools) that will help make video look great. You can find a GL2 for 400-600. It may not be HD but makes up for it in a lot of areas the lower end HD cameras fall short, especially with its 3CCD's.

Your going to have to make some compromises being in a 1,200 dollar budget range (like the flash memory) but if this was some sort of competition to produce a DVD, I'd get a used GL2 and spend the rest of the budget on audio equipment like a H4n and a used shotgun mic. Then enjoy the simple easy and fast editing and rendering of SD nowadays.


Ian Kirkpatrick's picture
Last seen: 4 weeks 1 day ago
Joined: 07/06/2008 - 1:38am

I have just recently completed the transition from SD to HD, having owned some good quality SD cameras including a Canon XM2 (the PAL version of the GL2).

My opinion is that you will be better off with a good prosumer HD camera rather than a older Semi-Professional SD like the GL2. You can easily convert HD to SD, or even export from the camera in SD with most cameras, but you can't do the reverse.

If you record video in HD, edit in HD then export from your workstation inMPEG2at DVD standards, the results always seem to look better than when you start with SD direct from the camera. Maybe the export encoder is capable of doing a better job. It certainly has more detail to work with. While theoretically the definition can't be any better,after all the number of pixels are fixed, there issignificantly less overshoot and text especially is much more readable.


vid-e-o-man's picture
Last seen: 6 months 1 week ago
Joined: 02/06/2010 - 4:20am
Plus Member

abi, I think that we have had similar discussions on this forum about putting HD filesonto DVDs. You can put HD onto DVDs. There is a limit of about 20-30 minutes that will fit. You will need a Blu-ray player or a PS3 in order to play these DVDs. I've used later versions of Sony Vegas Movie Studio to accomplish this (directly from the timeline, not using DVD architect, no menus). I had a standard DVD burner in the computer, it would burn the DVD with HD but wouldn't play it!