Camcorder performance at night

Jul 9th, 2006, 07:16 PM
  #1  
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Camcorder performance at night

I am currently researching which camcorder I should buy. I've read a lot of reviews and understand most of what I see. However, I have four basic requirements to which I cannot seem to match any particular camcorder, but which I think might be familiar needs to some of you all. Anyone have any suggestions for something that does the business in all three of the following departments:

1. Ease of use (my wife will be designated user and since she HATES buttons a really good Auto mode is essential).

2. High performance in low light - one or two button pushes acceptable here - which includes both good colour retention around dusk and ability to film animal movement in even more extreme conditions (preferably without turning everything green, unless that is my only alternative).

3. Not too extravagant- I'm saying this instead of "inexpensive" because it is just too ridiculous if we have a pro-standard camcorder and my wife is asking me if this is the ON button... especially when I have to take a look to confirm that it is ;-) and on that basis perhaps our maximum budget should be something with a rrp below US$1200, but can be flexible).

4. Optical zoom preferably 12x or more... definitely open to advice on this.

By the way, appearance or reputation doesn't matter (see "ON" button comment above) and even if there are other weaknesses I'd be interested if your camcorder meets the above requirements - I can find almost nothing that does.... very low light performance being the big sticking point (since I know my camera's performance is limited in low light and we will be quite active at night on our upcoming trip, it's really important we have something to catch it all).

Thanks for any ideas!

Paul
kimburu is offline  
Jul 10th, 2006, 12:44 AM
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Paul, recently went through this decision process and selected a mid-range priced mini-DV player, Panasonic GS-500.

Ease of use - decent, but does have flexibility for adjusting some manual features. IMO, Sony is easiest to use.

Low Light - decent in low light if the settings are set properly. There is a delayed image where it looks a little like things have been slowed down filming in magic pix mode. It does hold color well with 3CCD. But there are probably more expensive better cameras for low light - look above $1k for them.

This web-site referred to me from the board was a god-send: http://www.camcorderinfo.com/

Sony had a new hard-drive version camcorder recently released SR100 maybe. But the reviews on low light performance weren't good enough to sway me away from GS-500.

Total cost for the GS-500, plus 3 piece kit (UV filter, Polarizer, flourescent light filter), plus warranty = $850. Used price grabber and bought from dbuys.com.
lovetodiscover is offline  
Jul 10th, 2006, 12:46 AM
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One other point on ease of use. Think it would be easy for a beginner to use, since I was one myself. Received it the day before leaving on my vacation and after reading the manual - learned pretty fast. Some trial and error, but pictures were light, bright and good color. There is a "auto" shoot mode too.
lovetodiscover is offline  
Jul 10th, 2006, 12:54 AM
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Thank you. I hadn't noticed that model and will take a look.
kimburu is offline  
Jul 10th, 2006, 12:56 AM
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Broken thoughts - I'm tired. GS-500 is 12x Optical Zoom and does have image stabilization. I did notice the shakiness more pronounced at the higher zoom levels (was sailing on a boat at the time), but think that's a characteristic that's not brand or model dependent.

I'd recommend the GS-500 and would buy it again after my trial use.
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Jul 10th, 2006, 04:51 AM
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If you buy online, first check out the store at resellerratings http://www.resellerratings.com/seller1937.html
or bizrate. http://www.bizrate.com/ratings_guide...id--28403.html
There are a lot of scams out there in this business and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is a scam.
shmulb is offline  
Jul 10th, 2006, 08:55 AM
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I've been happy with my Sony camcorder, but it's several years old. It is good in low light and also has a "night shot" setting (just push one button.) Because the camera is using an infared beam in this setting, the video is in black and white. I've gotten some good shots of wildlife on night drives that way.
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Jul 10th, 2006, 09:18 AM
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Sony cameras with Nightshot will give a green image, like IR. With a little light, the vehicle spotlight is plenty you can shoot without using the nightlight function. Optical zoom at 12x will give camera shake unless you use a tripod of are able to rest the camera on a firm support.
I use the Sony dx2100 which has 3ccd and excellent auto, but a camera where you can adjust exposure yourself, with reference to Zebra striping (a function that is needed if you plan to adjust exposure). On my last trip the quality of video is much improved with manual exposure adjustment. In low light I simply opened up the exposure and kept opening and got some great shots in almost darkness, then when the spotlight was used, I actually had to close down a little.
That camera is about $2k and definitely for use by the more serious.

I recommend Sony, try and get something with Image Stabilization, don't worry about more than 12x, you wont use it, and if the camera does allow manual exposure changes, get it, even if you don't use it first time. As you get better, you'll want to experiment.

Sony also run some on line courses to help you shoot better.
napamatt is offline  
Jul 10th, 2006, 09:52 AM
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We have/had a camcorder with 22x optical zoom and have found the additional zoom useful on occasion. I guess it depends on what other equipment you have, but I'm glad we were able to capture footage such as a night time aarvark which was too far for my still camera. We used the vehicle for support.

I'm in the market for a new camcorder too as something's wrong with that one and it's too old to be worth repairing.
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Jul 10th, 2006, 11:44 AM
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Patty

No question the extra zoom can be useful, and any footage of an Aardvark is awesome, but for the most part, zooming out to 12x will result in camera shake, much less noticeable with IS, but still there.
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Jul 10th, 2006, 11:54 AM
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I bought the Sony HDR-HC3 Hi Definition camcorder (with digital camera) and this was my first camcorder I have ever owned/used. Video from safari was excellent. This is Sony's second consumer HD camcorder and the footage just pops when you see it on a HD TV (will be able to transfer to HD DVD when Blu Ray comes out).

Specs:
1. Price full retail $1,500 (have seen for $1100 online)

2. Hi-Def Mini-DV, amazing picture quality!

3. Very easy to use (one touch Easy setting puts everything on auto)

4. Night Shot with IR light works at night (if plan to use extensively get the external IR light, doubles IR light range to 20ft).

5. Excellent low light video (early morning and sunset)

6. 10x Optical Zoom (80x digital but using digital will degrade pic quality. I stuck with optical zoom). Can do slow zoom using zoom control on the LCD screen.

7. Antishake technology works great, I filmed even when driving slowly and the images still looked great.

8. Bonus. Solid little digital camera built in (decent photos comparable to other sony digital cameras).

Here's a review of this camcorder and others as well:

http://www.camcorderinfo.com/content...der-Review.htm

Cons:
1. Higher end pricing
2. Microphone, only support Sony hotshue (can only use one external device at a time)
3. Built in mic decent but will pick up a lot of wind noise but since it's flush with camera body, hard to put a windshield on (will nee to rig up your own).
SeeSee is offline  
Jul 11th, 2006, 09:59 AM
  #12  
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Thanks for all the advice.. wow, we're back to Sony..... started there and then went off it because the mid-range models didn't seem that great in low light without nightshot. Looks like for what I am after in low light I may need to be more extravagant than I would like. Is that a fair conclusion or are green movies not as sleazy-looking to others as to me? ;-)


kimburu is offline  
Jul 11th, 2006, 10:01 AM
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Oh... and are there any disturbing or upsetting the animals issues with infra-red?
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Jul 11th, 2006, 11:44 AM
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Kimburu

I used a cheap Sony analog model for a few years before getting serious. I found that I could get pretty good pictures (close up ideally) with the vehicle spotlight shining on the subject. I rarely used the night shot because I didn't like the effect.
For the most part, I shoot nocturnal animal sightings, mainly so we have a record. At Vumbura we saw a Wild Cat and Kitten, fairly relaxed, which I shot. Not great footage, but better than all the photographers in the party.
napamatt is offline  
Jul 11th, 2006, 01:57 PM
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I've never gotten green-tinged video when using Sony's NightShot feature; only black and white. That said, if you are using the regular video at night for spotlighted animals, there is a setting that will help offset that "hotspot" from the spotlight.
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Jul 15th, 2006, 02:21 AM
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The nightshot looks like black and white picture with a faint khaki colored tint, not bad at all; and nightshot picked up better low light conditions with video vs built in camera but we got some got photos as well with night shot.

As for night shot video, we got some great footage of genet babies running around at night, it was totally cool!! Without the nightshot (with external IR light), it was just pitch darkness but looking through the LCD, you can see them clearly. And the animals don't seem to be disturbed by the IR, the prey animals noticed us more than anything else and were just nervous since it's night time.
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Jul 16th, 2006, 09:14 AM
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That sounds good to me - obviously the ease of use of the Sony is a big plus in our position. Thanks ... back to the reviews and the stores!
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Jul 17th, 2006, 12:38 AM
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kimburu

Have fun shopping! As a novice videographer, I never had to take the Sony HCR-3 off "Easy Mode" and the auto focus in changing light conditions was also very responsive.

But I encourage you to go to a store (Best Buy etc) and play around with different models to make sure you like the way it handles. I did notice that my hand did get a little tired after operating a camera for a while, it feels like the weight is not perfectly balanced laterally in you hand...but not enough of a detractor compared with the picture quality.
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