Choosing between DV camcorders: Canon XL1, Sony DCR-TRV900 or VX1000
Aug 4, 1999


Q: I am interested in buying another video camera for traveling. I am stuck between the Canon XL1, Sony DCR-TRV900 and VX1000.

I will be taking interior shots in low light and want something with good sound. This is not for production, just high quality home movies. I also do not want to drag around a suitcase full of gear. Price is not my first concern.

A: Well, gosh! The three cameras you have picked are all pretty cool, and I'm actually considering buying the TRV-900 because cost *is* my first concern! :)

As you probably know, all of these cameras are three chip cameras, so the image should be better than you'll get with the other consumer level camcorders. Your home movie requirement and "not wanting to drag a lot of equipment around" comments on the face of them suggest the TRV-900. It's the smallest of the three. It also does a bit better in low light than the VX1000. The Canon is also supposed to do better than the VX1000 in low light.

Counter to that, I've seen comments about the sound on the TRV-900 not being as good as the other two cameras. Yet other people say it is okay; I suspect it depends upon your expectations and experience. I think most home users would be very happy with the TRV-900, but professionals may not be. Like the others it has manual gain control for the audio, but it's accessed through a menu rather than using knobs. You could buy a third-party add-on which provides XLR sound connections and some gain control, but that adds more equipment; probably not what you want. Since you mentioned wanting "good sound" than maybe you will find the TRV-900 unacceptable.

The VX1000 and XL1 offer great image quality and sound. Controls are a little better than the TRV-900. Pros may prefer the Canon's interface. The Canon is bigger than the VX1000.

Personally, if I were going to pick one, and price was no option, I'd get the XL1; but I'd want to buy a couple of additional lenses to go with it which would add another $4K to the price and make a very big package to drag around. And I wouldn't just be shooting home movies with it. That's probably not the solution you are looking for.

For home movies, the VX1000 may make more sense than the XL1; it's a little smaller and less likely to attract attention.

So now that I've included and excluded everything, what about the Sony DCR-PC1? It's really small and seems like a great home movie machine (easy to carry around, just point and shoot.) Picture quality and sound won't rival the other machines though, and there's no gain control for audio.

I think only you can really quantify your requirements for sound quality and other features. Try and get your hands on each of the cameras to try them out. Also check out these websites: An XL1 user page A TRV-900 user page A VX1000 user page

One other camera to consider; Canon just announced the GL1, which you might think of as Canon's answer to the TRV-900. It actually looks a little like the VX1000 in shape, but as designed by the XL1 designer. It's a three chip camera, and the picture is supposed to be as good as the XL1. But it has no manual gain control for audio, so again, this camera may be disqualified. Also, the camera won't be released until the end of September 1999 in the US. Canon's DV page.

Good luck and let me know what you end up getting!



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