After having our first child, we quickly discovered that we needed to get our own camcorder. Even though I am the techie type, this is one area where I have not been up on for quite some time. So, it took some research to find out all of the current features available. So, here I’ve compiled my results.
The first thing to keep in mind when buying a camcorder is not “what can it do?” but the question is “what do you want to do with it?”
My requirements were:
- Good indoor and low light performance
- Good color representation
- High quality transfer to my PC
- Compact size
- $500 price range
After a lot of hunting on the internet for reviews, I came to the conclusion that the Panasonic PVGS120 stood out as the best value for my dollar that met all of my requirements. The biggest thing that makes this camera unique (in this price range) is the 3 CCD technology. A CCD stands for “charge coupled device.” The CCD is a light sensitive integrated circuit that converts light intensity to an electrical signal that gets digitized and, in this case, gets stored to the miniDV tape. The majority of camcorders have only a single CCD. With the 3 CCD system, each CCD is responsible for a different color range: red, blue and green. The end result is a camera with better color representation and superior low light performance.
Of course, since this is a miniDV camera, the information is stored digitally, and can be transferred to your PC via the IEEE1394 connection (also called Firewire.) All transfers must be done in real time, which can b
e a disadvantage over the miniDVD format.
The miniDV format also means the tapes are very compact. This usually is the constraining factor for the physical size of the camera. Therefore, most miniDV cameras are compact, but still big enough to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand.
Finally, since the PVGS120 has been on the market for a while the normal $700 MSRP has dropped to $500. Below, I have a link to Amazon where you can get more details on the camera. However, keep in mind that both Sears and Costco are selling this camera at their retail stores for $500.
The only major complaint I have with this camcorder is that the LCD viewing angle is fairly low. If you’re not looking directly at the LCD, you do not get a clear view of the image. However, I had read this on other reviews, so I knew about it going into the deal.
One unexpected nice feature it has is the ability to “throttle” the digital zoom. It has 10x optical zoom and 700x optical zoom. However, it has three settings for the digital zoom: Off, 25x and 700x. I’ve found the 25x setting to be very nice in that a little digital zoom isn’t always that noticeable, but once you get beyond 25x the picture starts to get very grainy.
So, for me this has turned out to be a great digital camcorder. If your requirements are different, then the PVGS120 may not be the best camcorder for you. So, with that in mind, take a look at my Digital Camcorder Primer. This has some basic information on current features of consumer camcorders on the market. Hopefully it will help you make an informed decision when buying the best camera for you.