For new units prices start around $230 for the good old standby VHS-C. These are the tapes that will play in a home VCR with a $10 adapter that makes the much smaller cassette fit into the full size opening. The drawback here is running time, which is 30 minutes, and low picture quality at 240 lines.
PV-L454 VHS-C Palmcorder Camcorder - NEW!
Panasonic makes most of the ordinary VHS-C camcorders and these units are somewhat large, bulky and heavy. They are, however, among the lowest priced camcorders you will find so buy-in is easy, especially among newly weds and teenagers looking to make videos.
JVC also markets a VHS-C camcorder and it is a bit smaller and offers you the option of making the higher quality S-VHS recordings. While these 400 line quality tapes won’t play directly in an ordinary VCR, you can connect them to your TV set or VCR with cables. Priced under $250 the GR-260 is an attractive entry level unit that gives you the option to make tapes of a high enough quality to air on cable television. This unit also comes with a VCR adapter so you will save the $10 required for many other VHS-C units should you want to play the standard 240 line tapes in a home tape player.
Most people today have both a VCR and a DVD player and in talking to the average consumer they readily prefer the picture quality they get on the DVD over that of VHS tapes. Given a choice in viewing either a movie on VHS or DVD they’d much rather see it on DVD, which is twice the quality at 480 lines.
Yes, there are now camcorders that record a DVD, but on a smaller size disk and in formats that are not always compatible with every DVD player, especially those made before the year 2000.
DCR-DVD101 DVD Camcorder - Records on DVD ! Exclusive Video Advantage - $100 Value Free!
Panasonic and Sony both market this disk recorders. Some record in the DVD+R format, which is not highly compatible (it is DVD-R that is the most compatible with players). You get about 30 minutes to an hour of recording time.
The Panasonic units use their own double sided format, the DVD-RAM, which is only compatible with other Panasonic DVD players designed to handle this format. Since it is double sided and uses a finer recording track you get more recording time than on DVD+R camcorders, but playback in the average DVD player is almost impossible, so you may have to view the disks using connecting cables to the TV set.
The price is also out of reach for most consumers, sitting at around $900 base price and going up to $1,500 for the camcorders with more frills and optical zoom. The disks are not always easy to find, either.
Sears markets one of these disk recorders under their own name, but it is made by a company like Panasonic for that retailer. Sears, therefore, is a good place to find the blank disks.
DV-Mini is coming of age. You can now buy into one of these high quality digital camcorders for under $400 and get virtually all the features you want. Big optical zoom range, steady shot, night vision, digital effects and other frills generally come in even entry level units.
The format, however, is misunderstood. People still think it uses a disk or memory card. DV-Mini (or DVC) uses a 6mm tape that is a smaller size than the professional news media tapes. Like VHS-C some professional camcorders used in the television industry can play back DVC tapes using a special adapter in their DVP or DV-Pro camcorders.
PV-GS50 Mini-DV Camcorder - Includes the Video Advantage - $100 Value Free!
Panasonic, JVC, Canon, Sharp and even Sony market the DV-Mini camcorders. The top of the line Canon units allow you to put an external or wireless microphone into the camera, making it a good choice for cable access and wedding videographers. The Canon also lets to record back to the camera via the S-Video and composite connectors. Finally the Canon is one of the few units that offers a color viewfinder as well as a color LCD screen. Most other camcorders – in any format, be it VHS-C, Hi-8 or DVD+R – generally offer a black and white viewfinder.
ZR80 Mini DV Camcorder - Exclusive Video Advantage - $100 Value Free!
Most of these units provide up to 530 lines of resolution, which exceeds analog broadcast television quality, thus they will provide a near broadcast quality video image for cable access and music video producers.
On the down side the Canon units still provide the lowest quality, being just under 500 lines of resolution, still good enough for cablecast work, but a little shy of the competition.
Sony still makes their mainstay of Digital 8 and Hi-8 camcorders. Both use the same Hi-8 tape, which is larger and wider than the DVC or DV-Mini tape, thus the size of these cameras is 50% greater than the dinky little DV-Mini camcorders.
DCR-TRV330 Digital8 Camcorder - Clearance! - $450. Off Original Price!
Some Digital 8 camcorders will play back Hi-8 tapes. Hi-8 is the analog format with 400 lines and is equivalent to S-VHS in quality except the tape degrades faster than S-VHS. Digital 8 is the 500 line digital format and competitor to the DV-Mini and DVD+R camcorders.
In the under $1,700 range you will still only find the single chip camcorders. Professional television broadcasters use 3 chip camcorders which deliver a more stable and pure color image on larger DVP or DV-Pro tape formats. The recording quality, however, is the same 530 lines.
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Camcorders 2004 | Capture Cards 2004 | HD-DVD
From our archives we have these articles from the 2002 Issues: