Total newbie needs help picking digital video camera

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Joseph DeMartino, Sep 6, 2005.

  1. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Unless you count my phone, I don't own a camera of any description at the moment. I'm just getting bids on a major rennovation of my condo (which will include rebulding a home theater that has basically been in storage for three years) and want to document the process, plus I have a new(ish) nephew and very new niece that I'd like to grab pictures of.

    I was starting to research digital still cameras when I realized I'd also like something to take movies, and I'm now inclined to look for a compact digital video camera that will also take good still pictures.

    I'm totally overwhelmed by the options. Hi-8, Mini-DV, DVD, hard disc storage... Help!

    I'm looking to spend something under $500 and to end up with a quality product that I won't want to chuck in two years. Bundled software isn't that big a deal since I already have Pinnacle Studio Plus 9. I'd prefer both Firewire and USB 2.0 connectivity since I do some video editing (from files) on my laptop, which only has USB 2.0, as well as my Firewire-equipped desktop. Other than that, I'm open to suggestions, and would really like to hear the pros and cons of various media.

    Help me HTF Community, you're my only hope. [​IMG]

    Later,

    Joe
     
  2. Thomas Newton

    Thomas Newton Screenwriter

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    Digital camcorders generally don't make good digital still cameras, and vice versa.

    There are a bunch of consumer camcorder formats. Of the once-common analog formats, only Hi8 is still worth considering. Hi8 is not as computer-friendly as MiniDV. If you go with Hi8, and want to do computer-based editing, you will need a fast analog video I/O card.

    Of the digital formats, the best is MiniDV. MicroMV is a proprietary Sony format whose main advantage is size (you can buy a very tiny, very expensive camcorder). Digital8 is a bridge format (MiniDV-type data on a Hi8-type tape); the computer interface and the tapes are each standard -- but the combination isn't, locking you into Sony for your next camcorder. DVD formats are appealing, but MPEG2 may not be as flexible an editing format as DV.
     
  3. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Thanks, Thomas. Good information. I'm leaning towards MiniDV, I think. [​IMG] I'm not sure what you mean by MPEG2 not being as flexible for editing. Can you elaborate? Also while I understand that still cameras that have limited "video" capabilities would suffer in terms of resolution, smooth playback, capacity or all three, I'm not sure what corresponding weaknesses digital video cameras would have when used as still cameras. Again, any further information you (or anyone else reading this thread) can provide will be appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Joe
     
  4. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    Digital video cameras don't make good still cameras. They are geared toward motion, not resolution. Output will look great on a television, but there is too little detail for stills. Certainly, anything in your suggested price range will make far too many compromises to do both video and stills well, limiting you to 1 or 2 MP.

    MPEG2 is not appropriate for editing because of the way it is compressed. DV is compressed only 5:1, and doesn't have the keyframe issues the MPEG2 has.

    -Scott
     
  5. Thomas Newton

    Thomas Newton Screenwriter

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    Low resolution, for one. NTSC TV frames only have about one-third of a megapixel of resolution at best. Sensor resolution beyond that generally would not improve video much (without extensive processing).

    Typically the megapixel counts on camcorders have lagged those of "moderately-priced" (by digital camera/camcorder standards) point-and-shoot cameras. The extra $100, $200, or $300 that you spent to get photo specifications like 1 megapixel of resolution might get you halfway to the cost of a 2-3 megapixel still camera. (Megapixel counts have gone up since when I bought my equipment, but you get the idea.)
     
  6. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Besides what's been said, I'd point out that 2MP should be fine enough for small prints upto 5x7, which may be all you care about (for the forseeable future). Don't know if you can get 2MP in a
     

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