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March 20, 2013 at 5:57 AM #55474I have had about 6 different camcorders since 1996, ranging from Hi-8, VHS-C, Digital 8, Mini DV tape and one taking a digital memory card. However the last 2 are on the blink and I don't know whether it will be possible to repair these, at least at an economic price. Apart from the last one, which was sent as a replacement for one which could not be fully repaired, though was still useable, all have had separate eyepieces, though the more recent ones also have pull-out LCD Screens. I had not been aware that the model lacked a builit-in eyepiece and if I had been would not have accepted it.My main interest is amateur wildlife videography, and for these an LCD Screen only model is extremely restrictive. However it seems very few if any camcorders are now being produced with built in eyepieces; I just paid a visit to my local Curry's Store and they did not have any, and told me these were not now generally available.I don't want to give up filming wildlife but do not want to spend thousands on professional equipment. Can anyone suggest any reasonable affordable digital camcorders with built-in eyepieces, either using mini-DV takes or memory cards as storage format? Also essential is a good zoom range, of x20 to x 30, and excellent close-up facilities. The cost should be less than 1,000 pounds Sterling but ideally considerably less. If none such are available, I would be prepared to buy second hand – should I look on E-bay, etc?I had thought of looking in a camcorder magazine about this, but a local newsagent which stocks a wide range of mgazines no longer stocks these – I do not know whether this is because they are no longer published.Any help on this subject would be much appreciated.
March 28, 2013 at 6:23 AM #206689
Hi Butterfly, the best 25x zoom camcorder with a viewfinder/eyepiece in your price range is the £900 Panasonic X920.
This camcorder records to memory cards and has built in wi-fi for wireless transfer of your videos to your phone or tablet.
Here are a couple of examples of what this camera can do:
Hope this is helpful,
March 29, 2013 at 3:30 AM #206710
At last a reply – thank you for your comments. Can I ask a few questions?
1. Do you own one of the Panasonic cameras yourself – when did you buy it and/or when did it first come on the market? Camcorders seem to have a short shelf life these days.
2. If so, do you use it much for close-up and wildlife videography? This is my main interest, although I also use it for landscape, recording of live music, and more general stuff – including Cats! It would be essential that any such camera has a good close-up capability, e.g. that it should give good large images of butterflies and other insects. It obviously has a good Zoom Range.
3. If there are any major or minor disadvantages you have found with it I would be interested.
4. Do you know of any other camcorders with eyepieces, either cheaper or not more than a few hundred pounds dearer than the Panasonic?
Probably just a coincidence, but the 2nd Video with the swans, ducks and gulls looks a bit like it was taken at Lurgan Lake in Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland, a few miles from where I live; this is based on the edge of the lake and the fact that there is a large old looking building in the background on the left of the picture, which unfortunately I cannot see well enough to determine if it is Brownlow House.
April 4, 2013 at 7:16 AM #206818
I still use my TM900 – mostly for studio work and for school plays and other events. The camera is very capable – from close-ups to telephoto.
The camera has no major (or even minor) disadvantages, except that my camera is not the best in low light, but the X920 fixes that.
Other cameras with viewfinders are the Canon HF G10, and G25 – and some of the Sonys. These cameras have non-standard hot shoes, so you need an adapter to put standard accessories on them. The Canons are very good in low light, but have a short 10x zoom range.
As to where the video was shot, I don't know – but it was shot by Paul Allen, who, judging by his other uploads, also lives in Northern Ireland!
April 4, 2013 at 7:30 AM #206819
Thanks for reply. I note that there is a Panasonic X900 which costs several hundred pounds less, which is said to have a builit-in viewfinder – see http://www.amazon.co.uk/Panasonic-1080p-Camcorder-Built-In-Viewfinder/dp/B006U98G56/ref=pd_cp_ph_0 which seems to give good reviews. I wonder what the main differences between the X900 and x920 are, apart from price.
I note that with the X-920 and presumably the X900, the optical zoom is only x12; any camcorder I have had previously would have had an optical zoom of x20 or more. I dont really like digital zooms, though perhaps the Panasonic's Intellizoom is better.
As well as the built-in viewfinder, good useable zoom range and a good close-up capability, i.e. ability to focus down to a few inches or at least give a good magnification if one has to use the telephoto end of the zoom at a longer distance, would be deal breakers for me as Iike to film butterflies and other insects in close-up.
As Jessops has recently closed down, it is no longer possible to view a wide range of camcorders before buying them in Northern Ireland, apart possibly from in Curry's/PC World, whose local Branch, as stated above, tell me that they do not have camcorders with eyepieces.
Thanks for confirming that the footage was probably taken in Northern Ireland.
April 5, 2013 at 2:57 AM #206832
Here is a butterfly montage shot with the X900 (please watch at 1080p):
Hope this is helpful,
April 5, 2013 at 3:18 PM #206837
The colour and sharpness look fairly good, though it is hard to tell with footage on a computer whether it is any better than other camcorders I have used. There is also no extreme close-up used, although since the footage was of large butterflies in a Butterfly House, the images were large enough for the film maker as shown.
If the only real difference between the X900 and the X920 is that the latter has Wi-Fi capability and is also better in low light, then I am inclined to think it is not worth paying the extra 400.00 for the latter model for these 2 things alone. That is, if by low light you mean indoors at night, or outdoors at dusk; I do much of my filming out of doors and rarely too early or late in the day; I do film music sessions, etc, indoors at night but in this case the musical quality is more important than the picture, and even the former does not have to be broadcast quality.
At present it looks more like the X900 for me, but I have printed out the specifications of both from the Amazon website and will compare them. Unfortunately there are no reviews of the X920 yet on Amazon, whereas there are plenty on the X900, mostly positive or very positive but a few do not rate it so highly. There are 2 reviews of the X900 on the Which consumer website, one of which states that a mobile phone is a better buy as the quality of the X900 was only average – perhaps this person was unlucky.
I must admit that the x12 Optical Zoom Range is a bit disappointing, compared with those of other camcorders I have owned, which varied from x20 to x32, I think.
April 6, 2013 at 5:28 AM #206842
I'm glad to hear that the X900 seems to meet most of your needs. If the 10X zoom is really an issue, though, you may want to consider a video-capable "superzoom" camera. The video quality is as good as the best camcorders – and the best of them, the Panasonic DMC-FZ200, has an external microphone jack for better audio. I have one of these cameras (the Panasonic DMC-FZ150), and it produces video quality equivalent to my camcorder, with a much longer zoom and a lower price. Here is what the FZ200 can do (please watch at 1080p):
This camera also shoots 120fps motion at 720p (please watch at 720p):
Again – hope this is helpful.
April 6, 2013 at 10:39 AM #206846
Does the Panasonic DMC-FZ200 have a built-in eyepiece? If not, I am afraid it would not be suitable for my sort of filming. The x12 Zoom may not be too limiting if I can get a good enough close-up, although 2 to 3 times that woukd be better still.
April 8, 2013 at 7:21 AM #206869
I would also be interested in how many minutes of video footage one can get with the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 – I suppose it would depend on the size of the memory card, and also roughly how many minutes of filming one could get with a standard battery – again, this would depend on how much one used the zoom and whether you used the LCD screen or the built-in viewfinder.
I assume that one needs to buy a memory card to get the camera working – I wonder if the 2 memory cards which I used in my Canon Legria camcorder could be used. I presume that a 2nd battery would be almost essential, either if the original was lost or became discharged during filming.
April 14, 2013 at 4:27 AM #206947
I just bought a Panasonic DMC-FZ200 on Saturday 13th April at a local Branch of Currys. I have only taken a very few pictures and bits of video so far, all inside the house, so it is a bit soon to comment on detail, but so far it looks just the ticket. I would like to thank Bill above for his helpful advice which has probably saved me hundreds of pounds.
Since I started posting here, I have received news that my previous digital camcorder would cost well over 100.00 Sterling to fix, which I don't think is economic. The Panasonic cost about 450.00, although there was also a memory card costing about 40.00 and I also took out extra maintenance cover, and have ordered a spare battery. Even with all this, it would be a lot cheaper than the Panasonic; X920 although not too much less than the X900, in effect I am getting a camcorder and a digital camera, both suitable for wildlife and close-up filming and pictures, as well as more general subjects, for a lot less money, and space, than if I had to buy one of each.
Sorry for my ignorance as a newbie to this forum, but can one post pictures or video directly, or does one need to, for example, upload Video to You tube, etc, and then post a link to it?
April 14, 2013 at 5:58 AM #206948
To post videos to this forum, you will need to upload to vimeo or YouTube first, and then post a link.
June 27, 2013 at 10:12 AM #208045
Having used the Panasonic DMC-FZ200 for over 2 months to take hundreds of pictures and video clips, mainly of wildlife and live music, having filled up a 32 MB and a 16 MB memory card and also transferred this to a computer, I am now in a position to make comments on it.
I really wish I could wholeheartedly recommend this model for the sort of stuff I do but I am afraid it is not the case. On the plus side, the quality of image and sound is fairly good, even though I understand that other still cameras costing the same or less have a greater resolution. There are 2 main types of problems, one of which is I think due to having a faulty individual camera, and the other is probably due to an inherent problem with this type of camera, which is basically a still camera adapted for video rather than a regular camcorder.
1. Intermittently, though from about the very beginning, the record button and the Zoom have given problems; from time to time, the record button will not come on when you press it, or if already recording, will not stop when you try to turn recording off. In these cases I have had to use the main ON/OFF switch. Similarily, from time to time the zoom will not respond, if you try to zoom in or out, or will by itself zoom in or out when you do not intend it to. The camcorder has not been dropped or damaged in any way.
2. Close-ups of insects and flowers, etc, have always formed a major part of my video work in the past. Unfortunately at times it is very hard to focus either at wide angle or telephoto to get a good large image, yet at times one can get right in and get a large image in focus (the manual states that one can focus as close as 1 cm. from the lens, but in practice I have seldom found this possible); this seems to happen without me knowing how or why, though I have consulted the manual. Manual focus would be useful here at times but has to be done through a menu system, rather than pressing a single button, and this is fiddly and does not give the desired result. I have read that camcorders are better than still cameras at autofocusing on moving images than still ones, as one would probably expect, since camcorders deal primarily with moving images.
3. I have noticed that on a number of occasions, when the image in the viewfinder loosk correctly exposed, and gives a correct exposure when taking a still picture, that when one starts recording Video, it becomes somewhat burned out looking, though I think this depends on the lighting and contrast, etc.
4. There have been problems with copying files to my laptop, using the supplied software, called PhotoFunStudio 8.3; when one connects the camera via a USB lead, the default, at present, is for all files on the memory card to be selected for copying. One can untick the ones that one does not want, but of late even if one does this, they have still been copied to the computer anyway, and one then has to laboriously go through the recently copied files to delete the ones which were copied earlier so as to avoid duplicates. As the memory card becomes fuller and fuller this takes longer and longer.
I know one could avoid this by deleting any files on the memory card which have already been copied to a computer. I however like to keep these on, unless the card is full or nearly full, both as a back-up in case something happened to the computer, and also as I often wish to show people footage e.g. of wildlife or musical events, on the camera itself.
I seem to remember that in the early days when one connected the camera to the computer, a menu came up giving one the option of only copying new files, etc., but this does not seem to appear any more.
Although I managed to produce a DVD of music from files originally recorded on the camera, to do this needed another program, a free one called Amersoft which I downloaded from the Internet. Unfortunately when I did this, the name Amersoft appears in noticeable white Letters across the middle of the video, which is rather distracting. I was recently asked to film some performers at a local music session and upload the results to You Tube, and would prefer this Amersoft Logo not to appear; actually perhaps there is a mechanism for this not to appear, since it did not appear with a DVD I produced earlier with footage of a lecturer which I was also asked to produce. Perhaps it is possible to burn a DVD using PhotoFunStudio, though the camera manual which I printed out is not clear on this.
Another nuisance is that while one can view the file names in Windows Explorer, the image does not appear as a thumbnail, so without clicking on it one does not know what the footage or image refers to. One has to view the thumbnails in PhotoFunStudio to see what they are. I don't know whether one can readily copy these to a memory stick, etc, through PhotoFunStudio.
I do not know whether it is possible to save sequences of Files for future use, e.g. if one wanted to produce more than 1 copy of the same DVD, so that one didn't have to laboriously select the same files in the same order each time.
Burning DVDs also takes quite a long time; if one for example were burning an hours length of video footage to a DVD, it takes more than an hour, not counting the selection of the individual files, in the right order, beforehand. Not having burned DVDs before I don't know whether this is normal, although it is certainly longer than burning an hours worth of audio on to a CD; admittedly Video files are more complex than Audio files.
As far as I can gather, one cannot play the highest quaility images, called AVCHD, available on the camera, directly on a DVD; one must either set the default to MP4, or convert the AVCHD files to MP4 files, using a separate programme. I have set the default to MP4 for all future recording.
If I understand things correctly, one can actually take still photographs in the middle of filming video aLthough I haven't tried this yet. I have a vague recollection of reading somewhere that it is possible to put both Video footage and still footage on to the same DVD and later view both; I haven't tried this yet but it would be useful to do in in the case of the DVD of music above.
I don't wish this rather long post to sound like one complaint after another. Certainly it is good to have in effect a combined camcorder and still camera for £450.00, when prior to hearing about this camera I was considering paying twice this for a camcorder alone, which only has a zoom range of 12 rather than 24. Battery life is fine and I would not expect to run out of battery power during a normal days filming if the battery was fully charged at the start of the day, although I have bought a spare battery anyway. I also like the fact that the battery charger is separate from the camera; with some camcorders I have had, the battery charger was built in which mean that the camera could not be used when charging up a battery.
I realise some of the problems I have mentioned above, perhaps especially those concerned with copying files and burning DVDs, etc, may be solved as I become more familiar with the camera, etc; the manual when printed out, runs to 220 pages and I have not had the time to read all of it. The main concerns are the intermittent faults with the Record Button and Zoom lever, and the problems with focusing in close-ups, referred to above, are the main worry.
April 6, 2013 at 8:59 PM #206855
Yes, the FZ200 has a nice built-in viewfinder and an LCD screen. The FZ200's viewfinder has much higher resolution than the X900's (1.312 million dots vs. 263,424).
To see the viewfinder and the back side of the camera, go to camerasize.com here and click on "rear view" under "camera 1 orientation".
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