Videomaker – Learn video production and editing, camera reviews › Forums › Cameras and Camcorders › Other Camcorders › Journalist turning videographer › Sorry for the slow respons
Sorry for the slow response. Speaking of which, the issue with smaller or "palm size" camcorders is that there manual controls are typically buried in the menu or are not as tactile as their professional counterparts. Furthermore, when it comes to exposure there are several major controls (I’m sure you know this, but for the sake of the forum), shutter speed, iris, gain. In the smallest of camcorder you generally can’t modify each of these controls independent of one another. So you may have to use the same knob or dial to not only focus, but set your iris. That could slow you down. But, I want to be careful not to run you away from these small camcorders, because with a good (very well practiced) shooter I think your response time in impromptu situations could be close to that of an experienced shooter with a professional camera. Also, the auto modes are not too bad. Just be careful to note whether a camcorder in auto mode will automatically adjust gain. That could be the biggest killer in quality.
And, you point about flying under the radar with smaller cameras is incredibly valuable. The documentary filmmaker, James Longely, used a DVX100A to film "Iraq in Fragments." (Side note. Our Jennifer O’Rourke met up with him and we’ve got an interview on our YouTube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlhBeL4-lKQ ) He specifically chose this camera because it met his goal of achieving a decent image quality, yet it was small enough to not draw too much attention to himself. I don’t consider the Panasonic DVX100A to necessarily be a "palm size" but it certainly is smaller than most cameras you used to shoot a documentary that would be print to film. With that said, consider your delivery method, too. If you shooting for the big screen consider something prosumer (at least). Or if you intend to video blog, expectations here a much lower, and you could get away with almost anything, including a lipstick cam.