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What DC camcorder do you recommend?
Dec 23, 1999


Q: I started shooting a documentary using a Sony DSR-300. It's a ten grand camera that now costs $400/day to rent. Perhaps it would make economic sense to purchase a camera?

I think you have a TRV-900. How does that compare with the VX1000? If I get one of those cameras will the quality be noticeably different from the DSR-300 when I edit the footage together?


A: Good question, don't know if I have a good answer. But given that there are many people shooting stuff using VX-1000's, XL-1's and even lower-end cameras, it would seem to make economic sense to own the tools of production (power of the press belonging to those who own the press and all that.)

However you do have a problem that you have already shot some footage with a different camera. I have no idea how the DSR-300 compares to other cameras; I've seen reviews comparing, for example, the VX1000 and XL-1 and saying that there's a noticeable difference between the quality of video shot by the two cameras. Not that one is necessarily better than the other, just different. Are you on the TRV-900 mailing list? or the DV mailing list? I'd post a question and see if anyone has any direct experience. Also note that some of this is personal preference; one person might tell you that there's no trouble cutting between the two, while another might tell you "no way!"

One other issue is that the DSR-300 is DVCAM, while the other cameras are miniDV. I'm not sure, but I don't think any of the TRV-900/VX-1000/XL1 will play DVCAM tapes, so you may need to transfer your existing tapes to miniDV if you don't have a DVCAM VCR. Or buy the PD-100A, the "professional" version of the TRV-900, which does play DVCAM tapes.

I suspect that the biggest difference between the DSR-300 and the other cameras is in the lens; it has a high-quality lens that will feel right to professional videographers. The other cameras you might consider; the Sony TRV-900, VX-1000, PD-100A, Canon GL-1 and XL-1 all have pretty good lenses, but they use indirect focusing controls which can be an annoyance to some users.

The quality of the image produced is probably better too; but I don't know how much of an issue that is. I think people are less likely to notice very subtle differences in sharpness across a scene than they are color shifts.

Here would be my quick, uninformed opinions about the three-chip DV cameras from what I've heard about them:

TRV-900: Neat little camera; image quality is very good (I think.) Focusing the lens manually with focus ring is "so-so" but okay so far for what I'm doing. Has manual audio control (one level for both channels); to use external mics you'll probably want to buy an adapter that provides XLR inputs (studio-1 or BeachTech).

PD-100A: Same model as TRV-900 but uses DVCAM and adds a wide angle lens and a SINGLE XLR input. Otherwise the cameras are essentially identical.

VX-1000: Been around a long time; popular and well known. Picture quality not as good as Canon's XL-1, but no one seems to be complaining! Has manual sound adjustment (said to be easier to use than the TRV-900), but again you'll need to get an adapter to use XLR inputs.

XL-1: This cameras seems to have it all; Manual audio control, XLR inputs, interchangeable lenses. But there's been a lot of complaints about the standard lens; both with soft focus and the way the focus control works. They have a fully manual lens coming out, but it's big bucks, and on top of the $4,000 for camera with original lens (which probably no one will want to buy!) Still, many people seem to be happy with this camera, so it's hard to figure what's up. Oh, and it looks cool!

GL-1: This seems to be Canon's answer to the TRV-900 (i.e. it's about $2000) but in appearance it actually looks more like a cross between the VX-1000 and XL-1!! It looks nice, the lens is supposed to be very good. For me there is one problem with it; no manual control of audio levels!!!

I made my decision on the TRV-900 based on price as much as anything else; I couldn't afford the $3,000 for the VX-1000 or the $4,000 for the XL1, and the lack of audio control on the GL-1 made me decide not to wait for it (it came out about a month after I bought the TRV-900.)

Hope this helps!!


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