Videomaker – Learn video production and editing, camera reviews › Forums › Cameras and Camcorders › Other Camcorders › Need advice on upgrading from digital 8 camcorder
June 19, 2006 at 8:33 AM #42490
I come from the world of vhs to svhs to currently digital 8. I think I want to go with mini dv (not dvd or hard drive).
I’d love to know what professional videographers would buy for their family to use.
Primary requirements are:
1. Excellent video quality in all lighting situations
2. Good zoom control: slow and smooth
3. Ease of output to VHS or DVD recorder
4. Portability is nice, but I don’t mind if a camera has some heft to it.
I am inclined toward Sony but not stuck on them. I have looked at HC1, HC3, even HC96.
I’ve also considered the Panasonic 3-chip GS series but I don’t know if they are really better.
It would be nice to stay in the $1000 (or less) area but I am open to any suggestions you might have. I would rather spend $2000 and be happy than $500 and be unhappy.
Thank you and I appreciate your advice,
June 19, 2006 at 8:41 AM #178434AnonymousInactive
Are you just looking for a general all purpose camera for family use?
There are a lot of cameras out there that suit various needs.
June 19, 2006 at 8:58 AM #178435
Thanks for the reply RAM.
Yes, I guess it is for general use. I have a camera with me whenever I am with my daughters and/or grandchildren. So it is mostly for family use. Occasionally someone asks me to do an informal shoot or their wedding or anniversary party, but not often.
I want to shoot really good video of my kids and their kids and be able to assure the best duplication to tape — generally I copy to VHS because I don’t have the hware to dupe to DVD. Someday I hope I will have a DVD recorder.
Maybe I want too much out of a moderately priced camcorder: very high quality image, smooth zoom, portability (even some of the pro cams are pretty small I think).
I hope I answered the question. Thanks again for your input.
June 19, 2006 at 9:09 AM #178436
Thanks for the input. You are right. I am blessed and cursed with too many choices. I will look into the two Sonys you mention.
Are there any in the consumer line that you like?
Like everyone, I want my cake and …
The more I read magazines and online, the more confused I get. I wish there was a way to try out cameras. Generally, what you buy is what you get.
June 19, 2006 at 9:23 AM #178437
This is very good advice and I appreciate it.
June 19, 2006 at 10:45 AM #178438TomScratchParticipant
I realize you may consider that you are past the point of know return, but if you care to read it, here is a case for sticking with Digital 8.
A few years ago, I was a happy D8 shooter and went looking to buy another one from the latest models. What a disappointment. The latest models were cheap all the way, starting with chips that were a fraction of the size of the best D8 cams from earlier years. Understandably, Sony had given up on this format and was making its mark in the miniDV field. Since then I have bought two VX2100s and am immensely happy with the results as are many paying customers. This cam is truly the low light champ and that happens to be my forte (night shots/bands/events/clubs).
That being said, my favorite backup camera for shooting motorcades, underground subway arrivals, misbehaving diplomats, and whatnot around Washington DC is still the easy to carry around anywhere Digital 8 DCR TRV520. I also own the later bottom loading model D8 830, bought when Sony was still not giving up on putting quality in its D8 format cams. But, I think I really lucked out with the 520. It is quite possible that this was the ultimate D8 cam ever made. Thats what the articles and hype say, but I feel that way based on my own experience. I mix footage from this cam with VX2100 footage and do so without hesitation.
(The whole truth: With the 520, in darkened clubs, in order to get good color saturation with little video noise but capturing motion (a definite underground look but better than a lot of vintage performance videos you can buy from amazon), I needed to shoot at 1/15 of a second, i.e., slow shutter speed setting #2.)
The 520 takes firewire in/out as well as S-cable, making it compatible with the latest dubbing/editing gear, presumably for some time to come. If you do not have a problem with mail ordering, Hi8/D8 tapes will be available (e.g., from B&H etc.) for as long as you are. The electronics of images on the larger hardier D8 tape format is the same as for images on the smaller miniDV tapes.
Last November, someone coveted my original 520 cam enough to steal it. Two months ago, I won a bid on ebay and bought a used 520 for $305 plus shipping. The replacement has (so far) been as good as my original. If you go to ebay you will see that people are dumping the cheaper D8 cams by the truckload. However, you will see that at any given time there will be only 2 to 4 TRV 520s up for bid (i.e., based on recent history). The bidding starts out slowly but these cams end up with winning bids in the $200 to $400 range, representing a respectable percentage of their original purchase price ($800+). This was my first time bidding in 3 years and I won, although it took entering 3 bids in the final 70 seconds.
I dont know what D8 cam you own. If you bought when Sony was launching into the miniDV market, I can understand your desperation to get away from this format. If you bought one of the good D8 cams, than you already have some respect for the product. I think you could save money and also get very good quality if you went with a used D8 520 cam. I do realize there is a caveat emptor issue; you must ask yourself, do I feel lucky
REGARDS … TOM 8)
June 19, 2006 at 6:00 PM #178439
Thank you Tom for your very extensive reply, and thanks again Hank.
We have three D8 Sonys in the family: a TRV-720 bought in 2000 and two TRV-840 camcorders bought in 2002.
Shall I stop looking and be happy with what I already have?
June 22, 2006 at 9:44 AM #178440TomScratchParticipant
Owning 3 Digital 8 cams shows a higher than average passion for the fun of video shooting. And these cams were produced when Sony was still interested in making a quality D8 product.
My comments/suggestions are:
Keep shooting D8. With good lighting you can shoot good stuff and show it off in a room with work produced on todays consumer state of the art camcorders and not elicit groans but instead quizzical looks in your direction about how you can produce such quality work with such an historical camera.
With S-cable and firewire ports on your D8 cams, you will be able to transfer your digital video to any format you want for the foreseeable future, using new products coming out throughout that foreseeable future era. For a DVD burner that you might buy in 2-years, if its a quality one, and if you can afford as needed repairs in the coming years, the foreseeable future window shoots up to 15-20 years. Today, right now, you can still buy yourself a turntable (aka record player) and a laser disc player. If the future speeds up and home products are not available for transferring to VHS, DVD or whatever, there will always be outside transfer services to do this for you. Within the past year, I had 3 reels of super 8 film shot at a rock festival 35 years ago transferred to miniDV for purposes of working on a doc about it. (No births, no deaths, no rampaging hell’s angels, and only one stoned MC who couldnt continue, so its not that famous.)
Check out all of your D8 cams to see how they are doing. Shoot the same scene with all three cams and check the results, ideally doing an A/B comparison with side by side TVs. If any arent up to par or are significantly behind the others, clearly mark and set aside.
Always have one of these cams with you. Practice quick draw. Can you retrieve from wherever you have the cam and be recording the family cuteness or the headline newsworthy event in 30 seconds, in 10 seconds???
Get other family members shooting with these cams. Do you have footage of them shooting you shooting them? Someone in your fam may have a latent interest/aptitude that could blow your mind. (Do Not Do This At Home WARNING: Shooting some video footage of a wedding reception for a friend, I handed a maid of honor (approx 8 years old) a D8 cam in the RECORD mode, comparable to one of yours, and told her to go visiting. Ninety percent of this footage is unwatchable, five percent is charming, five percent is priceless.)
Keep your D8 cams in the mix.
You D8s are solid cams but they dont make great images in low light. Acceptable images for many, but not great. For example, if you look in the shadow areas of stationary shots, you will see grain-like twitchy video noise. Some or all of these cams may have night shot." This is a very unrealistic effect, unless you are looking for a franken-monster Point Of View shot, a military night operations scope type of shot, or similar fantasy effect. O.K, for the effects arsenal, but limited normal usefulness.
Because of your passion for video as shown by your current collection of cams and active use of them, I would recommend that you add a Sony VX2100 miniDV to you collection. We spend half of our time when we need to supplement light just in order to see whats in the room. With the 2100, thats all the light you need in order to shoot very good video. You will not need extra video lights. In some magical way, the VX2100 takes what little light is in the room or outside, be it lightbulbs, lightning, birthday cake candles, or fireflies and amplifies digitally to produce highly watchable images with a minimum of noise. What the VX2100 gives you that most other cams available to regular mortals in the $500 to $5000 price range do not, LEAST OF ALL HD (hi def) CAMS, is the ability to shoot any time any where with whatever light is available when you show up. (I shoot at 1/30th BTW, which also gives me a movie look.)
Keep shooting your D8s but start shooting also with an VX2100. A good rule is One Cam Is Never Enough.
REGARDS … TOM 8)
June 23, 2006 at 5:18 AM #178441
Thanks again Tom. I will certainly view our D8s in a different light now, and look into the VX.
Our D8s are four and six years old respectively and never been cleaned. I bought a tape cleaner but have never used it because I am afraid of damaging the heads. What would you recommend for cleaning them? Is there someone you use to clean your cameras or do you do it yourself.
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