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  1. #1
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    What to buy for non-profit startup?

    I'm interested in views/experience that compare the Canon HV20 with newer competitors, such as Sony HDR-SR12.

    Usage will be in a faith-based "learning lab" and first products will be standard definition to support web/DVD-based seminars or perhaps You-Tube-type mini-videos.

    We want to use professional grade mics (i.e. Shure lavelier) with XLR-to-micro pin transformer cables so that any voice tracks are as good as we can get them. If I understand the Sony specs, the external mic input is some kind of proprietary thing, but I'm not absolutely sure on that. The Canon seems to have an industry standard input impedance. The built-in image stabilization feature will be important, but I'll probably "require" as much on a tripod as practical, at least while folks are learning.

    We'll plan to edit on a modest Intel Duo-Core/Vista box with 4GB of RAM and plenty of hard-drive and probably use the Sony Vegas Pro (circa $150 I think).

    I'm seeing refurbished HV20's for under $600 while the new Sony is double plus.

    It would be helpful to hear from anyone who might be familiar with either or both cameras or have alternatives to suggest. I'd like to keep the budget for basic camera/editing rig at around $2K, although that's not a complete show-stopper.

    I spent the first 25 years of my adult experience in old-school broadcasting, with an exit to information systems consulting for the past 20 years, so my hands-on with video is pre-digital (edit 2-inch quad or 3/4-in videotape, or 16mm mopic as combat/broadcast photo). I think I understand the basics of shooting, but need to get up to speed on the contemporary technologies!

    Thanks in advance for any insights anyone takes time to submit. Posting or PMs would be wonderful!

    Dave Nuttall
    San Antonio, Texas

  2. #2
    Hi Dave

    The choice is really yours but you firstly need to bear in mind what tasks you have planned over the years.

    If you are planning on editing then you can forget about HDD or DVD based cameras as the clips are already compressed to MPEG2 and don';t fare very well in NLE's
    You probably need to look at either tape based aquisition or SD card based. The AVCHD systems are HighDef but need a pretty powerful computer PLUS you have to also remember that you need an HD Bluray burner plus A DVD Player and HD TV to watch it.

    Just be a little careful to balance your workload against the camera. Tiny domestic units don't last very long nowdays if you use them extensively!!
    The loading and drive motors are not designed to work hard. If you have a fair amount of operators and usage then consider used commercial cameras. Trust me they don't make cameras any more that you and I are used to. The new ones are tiny and "wear out" amazingly fast

    Chris

  3. #3
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    Quote
    Quote: ChrisHarding
    View Post
    Just be a little careful to balance your workload against the camera. Tiny domestic units don't last very long nowdays if you use them extensively!!
    The loading and drive motors are not designed to work hard. If you have a fair amount of operators and usage then consider used commercial cameras. Trust me they don't make cameras any more that you and I are used to. The new ones are tiny and "wear out" amazingly fast
    Excellent advice, Chris! Even though we "know" that to be true with lots of products, it was easy to ignore that kind of common sense in this case. Going to a prosumer camera should have the hidden benefit that with a more substantial investment, the group is less likely to abandon the effort to help out or that it is a hobby-style effort, not emulating a professional effort. Invaluable! Thanks.

  4. #4
    Hi Dave
    I am sorely tempted to "go HD" and the HV20 has some great reviews. However if you look at the size of the camera just holding it steady becomes a problem (however it's great for your overseas holiday!!) The physical size of the unit MUST mean that motors and drives are equally tiny and will just not be as reliable as a bigger camcorder if you are using it a lot. The bigger Panasonic units are probably a bit better to look at like the DVC series or DVX series. The Canon XL series also seem to be a lot tougher as are the Sony VX2000 cameras.
    Admittedly these are all discontinued models but are engineered a little better than current domestic camcorders.

    I really think that there is too much hype nowdays about "technical performance" when all in all it comes down to the person behind the camera. Shoot an identical scene with 5 different camcorders and I guarantee that an audience or normal viewers would never tell them apart!!

    Chris

  5. #5
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    Hi Chris,
    I did a quick scan on sources and found the Panasonic DVC-20 for a mere $1159 (USD) and a 2-year parts/labor warranty for another $130.

    A reviewer countered the lack of XLR input with "fact" that he uses a BeachTek XLR-to-1/8in to the cold shoe and it provides exceptional audio.

    An eZine review suggests that these four are "best", descending:
    1. Panasonic AG-DVC-30
    2. Sony DCR VX-2100
    3. Canon GL-2
    4. Sony DCR TRV950

    I like the looks of the VX-2100 but if Sony had it in stock refurbished it was last priced at nearly $1800, so I think the DVC-20 is looking very good and it's physically large enough to have more durable innards.

    Thanks for the dialogue.
    Dave

  6. #6
    Hi Dave
    Probably quite a good list of reliable cameras. Just make sure that if you choose the DVC20, that you are getting a genuine Panasonic and NOT the "grey import" version!!! These are a lot cheaper than the originals and have inferior engineering. Check that the DVC20 you are looking at has the original 1/4" chips as the imports have 1/6" and are basically a GS120 in a plastic box!! I'm a little biased because I'm a HUGE fan of shoulder mount cameras!! I just feel that you get a lot better footage when hand-holding compared to the tiny little camcorders you have to holdout in front of you!! Also you have to decide if 16:9 widescreen is important to you!!
    If not then you will have a much wider range to choose from!! Be careful about the "peusdo" widescreen that a lot of cameras use (which just crop the image) as opposed to genuine 16:9 !!
    Lastly often XLR adapters can be "balanced" or "unbalanced" If you don't really need a balanced audio input then you can easily make or buy simple XLR to 1/8" adapters that are way cheaper than the Beachtek units!

    Good luck and let us know how things are going

    Chris

  7. #7
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    May 2008
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    Hi Chris,
    You've got me perplexed with regard to the 1/6in vs. 1/4in chips in the AG-DVC20.

    I've checked all ten of the leading vendors (on price) and they all show a shoulder-mount camera but all are 1/6in.

    Alas, the Panasonic site doesn't show that model any more. However, even the CNET reviews speak of a 3 X 1/6in chipset.

    Perhaps there is a mystery here or not?!!!

    Thanks.
    Dave

  8. #8
    Hi Dave

    It sounds like the orginal DVC20 is now being made overseas for Panasonic but they use the 1/6" chips now. If they are offering a 2 year warranty then they must still be fairly good but make sure that it can be serviced or repaired locally. The overseas models don't have native 16:9 so if you film "widescreen" it's actually a cropped image from the normal 4:3 so be aware of that aspect!!
    At least it's current as most of the older units are not!!

    Chris

  9. #9
    Hi Dave

    I have been looking at the DVC20 cams and yes, all the new ones have 1/6" CCD's but they still give a great picture as well as being a shoulder mount camera. They also have heaps of manual functions and you have FULL audio control too so you can turn off the annoying AGC!!

    I bought myself one (the PAL version of course) and I can let you know my comments later if you still want them

    Chris

  10. #10
    Hey Chris, so you bought the DVC20 in the end?

    I am keen to know the results, esp low light conditions pls.

    And I can attest to how 'tough and hardy' they make cameras nowadays...
    There's no bad camera, just a bad user
    Loong . Singapore

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