Looking for 3 choices of camcorders that will pack light, give good video that is easy to edit in vegas for an overseas trip. An advantage would be that it can take reasonable stills. Maybe a DSLR might fit the bill. Too many choices these days. Mike
If you are mainly interested in photos, then a DSLR might be a good choice, but I find hand-holding my heavy DSLR to take movies to be both awkward and tiring. I presume that while travelling you will have little time and opportunity to use a tripod. Night shots might be an exception. Museums may allow stills but not videos, for some reason, and usually don't permit tripods.
" But that zoom? For travel will get you reach you can only gasp at."
I flirted with superzoom cameras for a while. I had a Fujifilm FinePix HS10 (30X zoom), which felt great while taking shots, but the disappointment came when viewing the results later. It was 10 Mpixels, but no sharper than my old 5 Mpixel Panasonic camera when digitally converted to 10 Mpixels.
The dynamic range was also poor. On travels you are at the mercy of the prevailing light, and the subject may be backlit or in partial shadow. With the Panasonic I used to soften the shadows afterwards, but with the Fuji all you got was blurred mush.
I now shoot every still with my DSLR in RAW mode and adjust shadows, highlights and overall exposure in Photoshop before converting to JPG. It is a bit tedious, but well worthwhile from my point of view.
For travel movies, I highly recommend a video camera with a sharp view finder. It is very frustrating trying to compose movies by looking at a LCD screen in broad daylight. Some movie cameras these days don't even have a view finder. You can't use the view finder on a DSLR while taking movies.
I've recently bought a Sony RX 100, about A$730. It is a very compact "point & shoot" type camera, with a much better lens & brilliant video capabilities (50 fps). The big plusses are that it is tiny, unobtrusive and no-one knows that you are taking stunningly good video and still footage. The image stabilisation is excellent and it fits in a shirt pocket, so it's always with you. I have stuck a 64 GB SDXC into it and it's a great thing. The downsides are: very limited zoom (only about 3.5 X I think) and poor low light capability on anything zoomed.
I used it solely handheld on a walk in N.Z last month and it's convenience and video capabilities (after noting the above) are supreme.
Worth thinking about if portability and quality of image are key parameters.
I recently visited the Taj Mahal in North India where there was a sign saying "No video cameras beyond this point". In these cases it's an advantage to have a stills camera that can take video as nobody knows.
Besides, there often are shooting restrictions in these touristic spots that nobody understands. At the Amber fort in Jaipur (also India) I saw a sigh saying something like "No photographing of elefants". Would they mind?
Restrictions on taking photos often seem quite arbitrary. Sometimes it is religious fervour. Sometimes it is commercial interest. And sometimes it is inexplicable.
In the Vatican city you can take photos inside St Peter's Basilica, but not in the Sistine Chapel. In Rome proper, you can in San Giovanni in Laterano (the cathedral church of Rome, of which the Pope is the Bishop) but not in Santa Maria Maggiore.
Tripods, no matter how small, can also be taboo. I had my 10cm tripod impounded during my visit to the Prado Museum in Madrid. In a Vienna museum, a guard stopped me from using it. I asked him if it was alright for me to rest my camera on the ledge that the tripod was standing on, and he just stalked off saying "stupid rules"! I also use a small bag of rice (the grippy kind) as a cushion instead of a small tripod. I wonder if it would be taboo also.
Oh! Oh! I used a naughty word. For **** read S T U P I D.
I kind of like the net nanny here. I can say the most harmless words like stupid or stupid and get sensored. People naturally assume that I am using much worse words like fuck or damn. When that happens, I look so much tougher than I actually am.
Your final choice might be determined by how, with whom and for what purpose you will be traveling. If I'm by myself and the purpose is purely photographic/video then I'll take my DSLR and a bag of lens every time. If I'm with companions, jumping on and off trains, buses, boats etc and our purpose is exploring new places I don't want to deal with much equipment so I put a Canon SX-230 in my pocket. If I anticipated shooting a long format event while traveling I'd take a Canon HF M500 camcorder.
If forced to pick only one camera to cover all possibilities it would obviously be a compromise but I'd probably take the little SX-230 (now the SX-260), extra batteries and SDHC cards. And...when I'm moaning because I don't have my DSLR I'd remind myself that a poor carpenter always blames his tools!
Sony has a small camcorder/still camera that seems to be flying under the radar. The GW77V. Less than $600 and, for a travel camera, takes great video and stills. I very much enjoy using the camera and its small enough nobody pays much attention to you or it. John M.
the sony hx200 takes nice pics and real clean 1080p video...better quality than some of my dedicated camcorders...it has a dslr look but lighter and smaller...i got it for the exact same packing light travel reason...one camera for photos and video without much compromise...
I agree with Steve; there are really no wrong choices. Look around and see what best meets your need.
I have a Panasonic TM900; it performed superbly on a recent holiday. Awesome 1920*1080 50P video, and in one area where video was not allowed I just switched to stills mode and got some lovely shots to include.
I think the current model is HC-X900.. Within your budget and is nice and portable - I carried mine in a little YellowStone camera bag - very light & unobtrusive.
Best of luck!
Just a note on zoom - if you go beyond 15x or so zoom, you will probably need a tripod. It's physically impossible to hold a camera steady enough to avoid really bad shaky video at that level of magnification. And you rarely need it anyway, so don't get too carried away with zoom numbers.
Another option is the Panasonic FZ-200. It's a super-zoom that shoots 1080 /60P. I have the older (2 yrs) FZ-100 that only shoots 1080/60i. For my hobbyist needs, both the stills and video are great--plus, no color matching problems. I also use a Panny ZS3 mini (even older) that shoots 720/60P, which I often prefer, since I can carry it in my my pocket. I believe the newer models (ZS10) support 1080/60P as well, plus it has GPS. Check out the reviews on Amazon.
aussiemick, this is a great time to be shopping for a travel camera. More than ever before, great things come in small packages. I would recommend the Sony RX100 or the NEX line. I have used them both, and the results - whether photo or video - are truly stunning.
I have generally found on overseas trips that the pressure to keep moving and other constraints often preclude such things as the use of interchangeable lenses (and tripods). But it of course depends on what you do on your trip.