Tag Archives: buying

Encore! 10 Tips on Buying a Prosumer HD Camcorder.

Are you considering the purchase of an HD camcorder? So am I.  My trusty Panasonic DVC 30  is now over 4 years old and by today’s standards, almost obsolete. I’ve been doing some research on a possible replacement.

Here are some tips to point you in the right direction…Read more.

10 Tips on Buying a Prosumer HD Camcorder.

Are you considering the purchase of an HD camcorder? So am I.  My trusty Panasonic DVC 30  is now over 4 years old and by today’s standards, almost obsolete. I’ve been doing some research on a possible replacement. Next week I’ll tell you what three camcorders meet my criteria.

Expect to pay $1,000 or more.  Before you rush off to spend your hard earned money, take some time to do your homework.  Check websites and video forums to  get the latest reviews. After narrowing your selection down to 2 or 3 models,  drop in to a reputable dealer and ask to test the cameras.

Here are some tips to point you in the right direction.

  1. Avoid Mini DVD camcorders. The disadvantages are numerous. The biggest for professionals is the inability to edit the disks on your PC.  In addition, the disks are expensive and the recording time on high-quality is low.
  2. Choose flash drive. Flash drives provide convenience and the ability to download instantly to your PCs hard drive. SD cards come in three formats: SD, SDHC, and SDXC. Cards that use the original SD format provide up to 2GB of storage, which isn’t adequate for prosumer video needs. Choose either SDHC cards (4GB to 32GB) or SDXC cards (64GB or more).
  3. LCD screen. The larger and brighter the screen and the higher the resolution the better. It makes it easier to see what you’re shooting.  Be warned though, a bright screen will shorten your battery life.  It’s wise to test the screen indoors and out  before making a purchase.
  4. Viewfinder.  Choose a camcorder that has a viewfinder. In addition to conserving power it’s particularly useful in bright light situations where the LCD screen may be hard to see.
  5. XLR audio input connectors. Make certain your camcorder is equipped with these connectors which are essential for professional sound recording.
  6. AVCHD format. Most new prosumer camcorders use AVCHD  introduced in 2006. More on AVCHD can be found here. You’ll need a powerful computer to edit this format. Check  your editing software to see what requirements they recommend.  Your PC should have a 2.0GHz or greater multicore CPU and a minimum of 2GB of RAM although 4GB or more would be better. You may also need to upgrade your editing software for full AVCHD compatibility. For more information click here.
  7. Avoid fully automatic controls. You want a camcorder with both manual and automatic options.  With manual, you have more control over exposure, speed, focus, and audio levels.
  8. Low light sensitivity. This is the amount of light required to produce an adequate image. Look for camcorders that perform well in low light. Anything between 5 and 10 lux is good.
  9. Image stabilization. Camcorders come with either optical or electronic stabilization.  Optical provides better results.
  10. Menus. This is where you need to spend some time with the camcorder before making a purchase. You’ll quickly determine whether the menu options are easy or difficult to access. Believe me this can be a deal breaker.

What are some other tips you’d suggest? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

And remember, next week I’ll be highlighting my top 3 picks for prosumer HD camcorders.

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email.

Part Two: How to Find an Audio Recorder That’s Right for You.

Olympus WS-321M

Olympus WS-321M

Last week I wrote a post about my search for a new audio recorder and some good options in the $600US to $300US range. You can check it out here. This week I’ve focused my research on recorders under $30oUS. Just click on the product for more information.

  • Tascam DR-1: About$300US to $250US.  “The Tascam DR-1 is a very good, affordable, fun-to-use recorder that sounds good too.”  WingfieldAudio.com. And Musician’s Friend writes, “The TASCAM DR-1 brings innovative portable recording to a size and price that make it the recorder you can’t leave behind. This hand-held portable recorder lets you record live gigs, rehearsals,  samples, songs, podcasts, or news events in MP3 or 24-bit WAV format. The DR-1 recorder’s built-in stereo condenser microphone can be arranged in variable angles to fit different recording scenarios,  such as desktop or shirt-pocket recording. A huge 1GB card is included for hours of recording.”
  • Tascam DR-07: About $280US to $200Us. ” The TASCAM DR-07 Handheld Digital Recorder lets you record to SD or SDHC Card Media. A stereo pair of electret condenser microphones captures great-sounding performances as 24-bit WAV or MP3 files. A 1GB SD card is included with the portable recorder.The TASCAM DR-07 is powered by AA batteries and files can be transferred to your computer using a high-speed USB 2.0 connector. All of this recording power is contained in a compact, sturdy case that has a mic stand mounting hole. Includes windscreen.” Musician’s Friend.
  • Zoom H2: About $180US. “The Zoom H2 is a very convenient small recorder, and can give remarkably good sound when using its internal microphones. It’s especially good at picking up musical performances or collecting stereo ambiences of events that are at least moderately loud. Internal noise resulting from turning the input gains all the way up make it ill-suited for recording very quiet, delicate events. And using external microphones, as would be preferable for most interviews, gives poor results overall. So this machine can be a valuable tool in the recordist’s kit, but won’t be suitable for all circumstances. But its price, size and flexibility make it attractive as a recorder to carry at all times, in order to capture spontaneous moments, or to dedicate it to specific tasks, such as recording ambiences, demos and musical performances.” Transom.org
  • Yamaha Pocketrak 2G : About $200US. “…the Pocketrak 2G is a solid — albeit pricey — choice for interviewers, students, and business types who need a tiny, large-capacity voice recorder that handles both MP3 and WAV files. In fact, with a built-in USB terminal and swappable battery, it is the ideal recorder for the backpacking ethnographer.” Review by O’Reilly.
  • Sony ICD-MX20:About $200US. “Reviewers are satisfied with the recording capability, software, and clear audio quality although there were issues with the tiny user interface and user manual. If you can overlook the user interface and user manual, it’s a decent option.” alateast.com
  • Olympus WS-321M: About $100US. “The WS-321M is a voice recorder first, and it does this well…All in all, the 321M offers enough advanced recording options to make it ideal for professional use. The 321M, however, is far more adept as a recorder than it is as an MP3 player..”  pcmag.com

Choosing an audio recorder is a very individual matter. So, I’m not going to tell you what you should buy. You have to work within your budget and decide what will be your primary use for the recorder. Are you going to record interviews that will be transcribed and turned into a book? If this is the case, audio quality doesn’t need to meet  broadcast standards. Are you recording interviews to edit and transfer to CD?  In this situation you’ll want the best audio audio you can afford.

What did I finally choose? I went with the Olympus WS-321M, not because it was the cheapest  but because it met my needs right now. I work primarily  in video and only occasionally have clients who wish a book or audio memoir produced. I didn’t want to go with a more expensive recorder that wouldn’t see much use. I  budgeted no more than $200 so that ruled out a good many of the recorders on my list. The Yamaha and Sony were possibilities as was the Zoom H2. The H2 has had a lot of good press but there are serious questions about noise when using an  external mic. And because I like to use a lavaliere mic when conducting interviews, this made me nervous about the H2.

Olympus has had a long history of producing good quality voice recorders and the reviews for the WS-321M were positive. I also had the opportunity of “test” driving a model and felt the audio quality was suitable for my purposes. There are some drawbacks to the WS-321M. It doesn’t record in WAV or MP3 but in WMA (Windows Media Audio). This means using free downloaded software to convert to  WAV, MP3 or AIFF format. It’s not a big deal but it’s another step you need to go through. The recorder has only one external mic input which doesn’t allow the interviewer to be on mic. Again, not critical but it’s nice to hear the interviewer’s questions as clearly as the subject’s response. But for the price, I’m not complaining.

I hope that my research has been of some help to you. Do you have a favorite recorder that I didn’t list? Let me know what you use and what you like about it.

Share this post:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine