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Old Friday 27th February 2015, 20:20   #1
Hobbes2
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First Camcorder

I have started to really enjoy making short videos of the birds & wildlife I see. So far, I've been using the "movies" facility on my Panasonic DMC-G3 camera with 100-300mm lens. A lot of the time, I'm using the extra optical zoom too, needing a very long focal length. The quality is pretty decent but the big problem is that in windy conditions (actually, even a slight breeze is a problem), the long lens vibrates and the image wobbles. I expect that a camcorder would be far more useable. However, I know nothing about them…

I was wondering if anyone could recommend what sort of things I need to look out for, please. I know I need a very long focal length but I'm not sure where optical zoom stops and digital zoom begins with this technology? Is there a selection of preferred "birding camcorders" (in the same way that a lot of birders opt for the Canon 7D + 400mm lens)?

Many thanks
Hobbes
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Old Saturday 28th February 2015, 12:28   #2
iveljay
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At long focal lengths on video I have found that a tripod with a video head is fairly essential. Before forking out for a decent video camera I would get a decent video tripod with a fluid head and see if that improves things. With video on still cameras (depending on the model) , even handholding, image stabilisation does not always work to your advantage.

In practical terms I know several folks have bought predecessors of this http://www.amazon.co.uk/Panasonic-HC...XM4HCRZRYCJTZA as a starter video wildlife camera (up to 1646mm 35mm equiv using its 'intelligent zoom' function and been quite happy with it.

The tendency with higher quality domestic camcorders is to provide higher resolution but with relatively limited optical zoom. Say 35mm equivalent 28 - 350mm but with considerable digital zoom in some cases.

At the domestic level I am not aware of any standard video camera, but you can get an idea of what is around by going on to the Sony or other manufacturers domestic or professional sites e.g. http://www.sony.co.uk/electronics/ca...cam-camcorders for the amateur end of things and if you really want to drool look at the pro kit at http://cvp.com/ Obviously Sony is not the only manufacturer - just the one I have used most.

In practical terms you need to work out what reach you need in 35mm equiv terms, the resolution, what you are going to use the results for and how much you want to invest (same as still would you believe). The Sony website tends to bury equiv focal lengths in the detailed specs section of each camera.

Unfortunately my video kit is so old that it is no longer relevant to this discussion, but the same arguments apply - especially in the case of evf viewfinders which I really need for long range, but bump the price up a bit.

Anyway I would personally go for the tripod option to see if you really need a video camera, the image stabilisation on a video camera is generally optimised for video but there are limits, especially if you go do digital zoom.

I think from memory the longest optical reach on one (ancient non-HD) camcorder I have (no longer available to buy) is just over 2000mm 35 mm equivalent ( and from twice that digitally) and there is no way I can even aim it handheld - let alone shoot anything at even the optical max! You need very clear air to use it!

If you are into high quality sound with your video you will end up needing a camera with provision for an external mic at the very least and eventually an external digital recorder.

Good luck!

Last edited by iveljay : Saturday 28th February 2015 at 12:45.
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Old Saturday 28th February 2015, 13:20   #3
Hobbes2
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Thank you very much iveljay. You've given me lots to think about and explore. I already have a very good tripod with video head so at least I'm part way there . As you say, some manufacturers really do hide the equivalent focal length details, especially on the Amazon site, where I've been reading reviews.

I had heard good things about the Panasonic camcorders (and had looked at threads on here), so, I shall go away and research those a little more.

Thanks again for taking the time to write a very helpful reply. It's much appreciated.
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Old Saturday 28th February 2015, 20:16   #4
shezza
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hobbes2 View Post
Thank you very much iveljay. You've given me lots to think about and explore. I already have a very good tripod with video head so at least I'm part way there . As you say, some manufacturers really do hide the equivalent focal length details, especially on the Amazon site, where I've been reading reviews.

I had heard good things about the Panasonic camcorders (and had looked at threads on here), so, I shall go away and research those a little more.

Thanks again for taking the time to write a very helpful reply. It's much appreciated.
Hobbes
I had a Panasonic HC-V550 with a really long zoom but when you go to the extreme zoom the quality suffers through pixles, although I could go all the way out and the inbuilt anti shake cancelled out all movement. I have now purchased a Panasonic HC-X1000 which is the new 4K camcorder with a 40x zoom but the great thing about it is when you are at the editing stage you can crop to make the image even closer with no quality loss.
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Old Tuesday 3rd March 2015, 10:11   #5
Hobbes2
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I had a Panasonic HC-V550 with a really long zoom but when you go to the extreme zoom the quality suffers through pixles, although I could go all the way out and the inbuilt anti shake cancelled out all movement. I have now purchased a Panasonic HC-X1000 which is the new 4K camcorder with a 40x zoom but the great thing about it is when you are at the editing stage you can crop to make the image even closer with no quality loss.
Thanks shezza. I'll have a look at that model - I especially like the sound of the cropping without loss of quality

Edit: just taken a quick look. Unfortunately out of my price range (<£500)

Last edited by Hobbes2 : Tuesday 3rd March 2015 at 10:22.
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