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When I read this I was under the impression you were asking for suggestions of camcorders priced under $1000 with those features you wrote about. I often thought to myself, “That’s going to be hard to find in a camcorder priced under $1000.” In my experience, a camera priced at under $1000 dollars is aimed toward average consumers, and average consumers aren’t concerned about those feature. If they did have those features, they probably wouldn’t know how to use them either. You’ll probably find headphone jacks, 3CCDs, and firewire on all consumer camcorders. External Mic Jack? It won’t be XLR. And I don’t think USB carries video, at least, I’ve never heard of it. Firewire is a common for digital video. Higher end cameras may have HD/SD-SDI or HDMI.
Then I got to the last line of your post: “What do you look for in a camera?”This is how I go about it:
First, I have to decided what my wants are. Then I look at what I actually NEED to produce the videos I create. I want a higher end Sony XDCam HD camera, but I really don’t need that. While I am capable of creating many type of videos, I specialize in the documentary style. I wouldn’t say the high end XDCam HD cameras are over-kill for what I do, but I’m only 21, don’t run a business, or make any steady income. A Sony EX1 or possibly the new EX3 would be fine for what I do, and from what I’ve heard, they create images that are hard to distinguish from the other higher end XDCam HD cameras.
Once I narrow down my list of possibly cameras, I look at what they record to. I really don’t want something that records to tape. It’s slow and drop-out is SO freakin annoying. So if the camera records to a card or a hard drive, I’m interested. I like the JVC GY-HD250U and the Canon XH-A1 and probably would have gotten one of the two already if they recorded to a card or a hard drive; however, I think it was just announced at NAB that they are going to make a hard drive for this camera.
Next I look at the codec and sensor resolution. HDV is alright, but it doesn’t record native 1920X1080 like the Sony EX1. HDV records 1440X1080. The Panasonic HVX doesn’t even record native 1920X1080. This is another reason why I love the Sony EX1. HDV is also highly compressed.
I also look to see if it has XLR connections. And I look for cameras that have a lot of manual options. Those are a must for me.
Those are some of the major things I look at.
I also look at picky details that don’t really make a big difference to me. For Example, the JVC camera I mentioned above has interchangeable lenses, however, I don’t really NEED that. And I could always purchase a 35mm lens adapter, such as the Letus35, SGPro, or Redrock M2 for a camera that doesn’t have interchangeable lenses. I like my camera to have a large LCD screen. It’s nice if it has a shotgun microphone mount too. If a camera allows for a lot of options for custom presets, thats nice too, but it’s not major. As long as it shoots a very clean picture, I can do color grading in post if I have to.
Another thing I look at is how well will this camera help me pick up chicks. If i walkin around the city just carrying my camera, do hot girls start following me around? When they drive by, do they turn and stare at me only to drive into a light pole? Hahaha…I’m just kidding. I hope my response was helpful.