Consumer-grade camcorders and Vegas 7

djriko wrote on 2/22/2007, 12:16 PM
I'm looking to use the Best Buy gift cards I got for xmas to buy a camcorder in the $300-$600 range and am looking for advice. I want to be able to use Vegas 7 to edit my videos, then share them with friends and post some clips on Youtube, etc.

I spent more than an hour searching the forums and reading past discussions on this topic. I learned a lot, but most of the discussions were done months or years ago, so I thought I'd bring it up again and see if the advice given in the past still holds.

Basically, my question is: Should I get a camcorder that uses MiniDV tapes or one with a built in hard drive? (I've pretty much ruled out the cams that record to mini DVDs, but if there's a reason to look at those again I would.)

From what I read previously, the MiniDV tape camcorders capture in the DV format, which is best for editing in Vegas, while the hard disk cams capture in mpeg-2, which people say is tough to work with in Vegas.

Does Vegas 7 handle mpeg-2 better than earlier versions of the software? If not, would using a program such as Super to convert the mpeg-2 files (to what I'm not sure) make them easier to use?

Does the higher quality of DV outweigh the convenience of hard disk cams (not having to carry and switch tapes)?

Any advice would be appreciated.


rstein wrote on 2/22/2007, 12:22 PM
Go with MiniDV tape. The hard disk camcorders, because they compress to mpeg-2, make editing of the content much more problematic than MiniDV (which is compressed to a much lower degree and actually records each frame).

nolonemo wrote on 2/22/2007, 12:23 PM
If you go with a Mini-DV camera (I expect everyone here will tell you to), look at the Panasonic GS-300, or if you can stretch quite a bit, the GS-500 (larger CCD, longer zoom). I believe these have been recommended on the forum before, some people have used them as backup cameras.
bakerja wrote on 2/22/2007, 12:50 PM
My 2 cents:

In this price range, I would go with anything but minidv. Every "tape based" camera I have ever used/owned has died because of the deck. That's where most of the moving parts are. I recently purchased a JVC Everio GZ-MG77US from for $521. This is an awesome little hard drive based camera for the money. I bought it for my 16 year old son for Christmas. He loves it! In his workflow, he just copies the files to the computer, burns a DVD for backup, then opens vegas and renders to .avi to edit with. A couple of extra steps over minidv based systems, but it really does not seem to slow him down. Especially if you consider the digitize from tape time is eliminated. The quality of the camera is really good for a camera in this price range too. True 16:9 also.

If I had to do it again, I would probably spend a little more and go with one of the new tapeless HD models. I understand that vegas will have AVCHD support soon and these cameras are very attractive.

djriko wrote on 2/22/2007, 2:10 PM
Thanks for the replies.

nolonemo, I will check out the Panasonics, thanks. A quick look at (I want to buy the cam there to use gift cards) says they have the Panasonic GS-320, not the GS-300. I assume that's a similar product.

Do others agree with JAB that tape decks are prone to dying and that rendering the mpeg-2 to avi, then editing the avi is a good way to go?

Thanks again.

CClub wrote on 2/22/2007, 2:28 PM
You'll likely find that the vast majority of advice on this forum will be to buy the mini-DV. Rendering from MPEG-2 to avi is not a quick step if you have anything more than a few minutes of footage or if you're doing a lot of editing/filters. Plus, as mentioned, you're losing a lot when you compress to the MPEG-2 footage initially instead of DV. I've had "cheapo" mini-DV Sony camcorders for years without any problems at all. I swear by Sony, but research around (check reviews on Amazon,, etc.).
nolonemo wrote on 2/22/2007, 2:44 PM
>>they have the Panasonic GS-320, not the GS-300. I assume that's a similar product.<<

As far as I can tell, the main difference is that the GS-300 will let you plug in an external mic, whereas you're limited to the internal mic with the GS-320. This may or may not matter to you.
john-beale wrote on 2/22/2007, 2:55 PM
I have owned and used ten tape-based cameras in the past ten years: Canon ES2500 (Hi8), Sony TRV900, Canon GL1, Sony TR7000, Sony TRV520, Canon Elura 2mc, Sony VX2000, Panasonic DVX100, Sony FX1 (2 copies). Most of these I still have, apart from three I sold after a several years of use. One camera (the very compact Elura 2mc) had the tape transport die. The remainder still work, or at least did at the time I sold them.

Tape drives are not perfect. I sometimes get tape dropouts, and you do have to occasionally clean the tape path for good reliability. I have never used a hard-disc camcorder, so I don't have a feeling for their reliability. What is their track record?

I do record HDV live to an external laptop-- I normally do this when an event lasts more than one hour.

If you record only to a hard drive which is later erased, how do you maintain an archive?
farss wrote on 2/22/2007, 2:58 PM
Do others agree with JAB that tape decks are prone to dying and that rendering the mpeg-2 to avi, then editing the avi is a good way to go?
Yes, ALL things are prone to dying. The better you look after them though the longer they tend to last. Ignoring the issues of compression tape and DV transports rarely fail catasrophically, I can't recall any of the dozens of cameras and VCRs we've got and had ever just going futt. I cannot say the same for HDD. Sometimes if you're lucky you might geta warning of a drive about to go, oftenly not.
Conversely we've never had a DV head wear out and we've got some kit with a lot of head hours, our service guys tell us they've simply never had a head wear out, this is quite different from the older systems that use metal particle tape.
What can and does go is the bearings, but you can hear them and the camera will still work for many hours even when it's groaning.
All you need to do is get to know your camera, if it starts sounding sick it probably is, take it to a doctor but don't panic, it only needs a GP not an ER :)

The other thing is you can buy any amount of tape and keep putting it into the camera, when a HDD is full what then when you're on the road?

TheHappyFriar wrote on 2/22/2007, 5:53 PM
everyone's talked about storage, i'll talk about "other stuff."

Get a top loading camera. In bottom loading cameras the tripod plate must be removed to put a new tape in. Increases "quick" tape changes from 10 seconds to 30/40 seconds. Doesn't seem long, BUT IT IS!!! :)

If possible, get one with a "mic in" input. Not all cameras have them. Mine doesn't & that's the one thing I wish I had (even more then top loading). Before you buy something off the Best Buy website, check the same camera in store. The website could be wrong!

get the extra "bigger" battery. Most stock batteries last ~1 hour if you zoom, use fx, etc.

keep a roll of duck tape & an extension cord handy. :)

Have fun!
jaydeeee wrote on 2/22/2007, 6:35 PM
In that price range?...hmm,go for the panasonic gs325 or GS500.

I agree with those that recommend minidv at that pricepoint. Trust them when they're warning against mpeg-avi, cuz they're right.

These Pana cams are a nice bang-for-buck experience. It'll hold ya until the HDv cams flow in and prices settle a bit. I have yet to see a NEED yet for HD myself, others here do however. YMMV

riredale wrote on 2/22/2007, 10:38 PM
MiniDV is tried and true, and self-storing. Until solid-state flash memory reaches the point of getting 10GB for $5, it's not a viable alternative. Hard drive camcorders? How do you archive it quickly and cheaply?

I haven't had as many miniDV camcorders as others here, but the ones I've had have never failed.
TLF wrote on 2/22/2007, 11:20 PM
HDDs have moving parts too. The discs spin around at a high speed, and the arm - holding an extremely delicate read/write head moves.

Couple that with the knocks and shocks encountered by a camcorder during transit, and I would think twice before considering a HDD based camcorder.

Of course, they have the advantage of being able to transfer recording to PC much faster than MiniDV, but editing MPEG is slow (I always render to AVI first).

What really matters, though, is whether it works for you.

Udi wrote on 2/23/2007, 2:59 AM
Look at
It provide a good explanation on different camcorders including technology, price etc.

Jeff9329 wrote on 2/23/2007, 8:37 AM
As a wedding, occasional commercial and a lot of home videographer, I believe you definately want miniDV.

Uncompressed video is just not currently feasable to store in large amounts on your hard drive, it is too large. Over time you are going to shoot lots of footage, some you will use for a small production now, some you will use later.

With miniDV tapes, you have an archive that is good for about 20 years and you write the contents on the DV tape liner, then you are done. With a hard drive camcorder, what will you do to store footage? How much will it cost? And you would still have to stream it off the camera. But when do you stream it off the camera? After it's full?

As far as the the format, DV versus a mpg file, DV is almost lossless but the mpg is not really that bad, it just takes more computer power. I shoot all HDV and the m2t files are not bad at all to me.

Good luck on the camera, they are all pretty good nowdays, read the reviews. With a price point of $600 you are pretty limited or I would reccomend HD (high Def). Vegas downrezzes HD (when needed) beautifully for NTSC DVDs.
johnmeyer wrote on 2/23/2007, 9:32 AM
My son puts his hard-drive iPod in his backpack. It gets thrown on the floor, with 40 pounds of books, every day. Virtually every runner I know runs with their iPod.

Based on that, I would say that these little portable hard drives are pretty rugged.
Jeff9329 wrote on 2/23/2007, 11:54 AM
The 1.8" hard drives used in Ipods are pretty tough. I don't think thats even an issue. Although if you search for "ipod hard drive" you will find hundreds of sites about failed hard drives and how to replace them. So like any hard drive, they do fail eventually.

The camcorders use a 2.5" harddrive which has a higher data throughput. If these drives were easily swapable, it could be an option to just get more drives as old ones fill up, to store data.

A 60 min DV tape holds about 13GB of data. At $4 each, 80GB costs $24.60 (I personally use much more expensive tapes). A lot cheaper than HD storage.

Unfortunately hard drive camcorders are recording in the MPG format (in HD and SD) rather than the DV format, Im guessing in order to make that limited hard drive space go as far as possible. MPG and DV use completely different video compression technology. The DV codec uses strictly an intraframe (spatial) scheme, whereas hard drive camcorders use the MPEG 2 video codec. MPEG-2 applies both intraframe (spatial compression) and interframe (temporal compression) to video-compression. MPG suffers from significantly more spatial and temporal (motion) artifacts. As a consequence of interframe (temporal) compression, MPG editing is more complex, and introduces greater distortion at the splice point (due to the interdependence of adjacent video frames.)

So basically, hard drives are bad.
daryl wrote on 2/23/2007, 12:13 PM
I gotta add to this one, I have the Panasonic GS500 mentioned several times in this thread, it is GREAT! 3CCD helps. Actually , I have used some footage from the GS500, which I was using as a "second" camera, behind a JVC broadcast quality (can't think of model right now) camera on an interview, GS is a wonderful camera in its price range. NEVER had a problem out of it.
Tattoo wrote on 2/23/2007, 12:35 PM
I think the only tangible benefit to hard drive camcorders is convenience. The video quality will definitely be lower due to the compression. It *may* be acceptable quality to you, but once you commit a moment to "memory" whether it's tape/hd/DVD, the image quality *never* improves. Re-rendering to AVI may make it easier to work with but won't improve the base image quality.

I guess it depends on what you intend to use the video for. Since I'm videoing my two kids mainly, I want a "master" tape that will have the very best quality for editing down the road. I know that video quality/expectations will likely continue to improve in the future, therefore video quality that is acceptable today will look relatively trashy years from now. If your video is of temporary use/value only, then you can decide what's good enough. If you may use the video years from now, I don't see how you'd accept lower quality source video in the same price range. Even *if* the camera were to die after a couple years (which I consider a low probability event), what's more important: the camera or the memories it has recorded?

djriko wrote on 2/23/2007, 1:59 PM
Thanks for all of the input here. I've learned a lot and appreciate everyone taking the time to add their advice. I'm going to go with a MiniDV model, either a Panasonic or Sony, and feel good about the decision now. I look forward to getting started with it :)