Time to look at cameras in the mid-range, which means $500-$1,200 (not including tax, shipping). My first urge was to keep the mid-range price below $1,000, but that left few choices. I like the low-end (under $500) camcorders for their size and ease of use, however, there seems to be a trend away from some professional necessities, such as mike input on both low and medium range cameras. And who knows what they might eliminate next – manual iris and focus. Let’s face it: most folks just want to point and shoot and they want the simplest and best deal they can get. (Frankly I don’t understand why the camera companies don’t get rid of the special effects first.)
If you need a review, go to “How to Choose a Camera” for more details/definitions about terms and features.
When you pay more for a camera, expect more. It should be sturdier, definitely have manual controls, better lens, more/higher count CCDs. In order to make my list below, the camera must have a mike input, headset out, zoom of at least 10x (I wanted 15x or better, but again that doesn’t appear to be possible), and manual iris, focus, and white balance. It also, obviously, has to fit in the price range of $500-$1,200 and take mini-DV tapes. I do not generally like cameras sold as part of a kit: unless you are familiar with exactly what is in the kit, you’re taking a chance that someone else knows what you want. Finally…I’m not looking at low light ability, interchangable lenses or other features you may want. This is just a quick look-see to find out what you can get in a certain price range.
The lowest priced camera to meet my requirements, the Panasonic PV-GS500, has three 1/4.7 chips rated at 1.07 megapixels each. There is a mike jack, but strangely enough – no headphone jack. I’d like to know how Panasonic expects you to monitor audio (and I’m willing to bet it’s through the yellow AV port – confirm this before purchasing). Cost today at B&H (1/4/07) is $900.
Next up the price range is the very professional looking Panasonic AG-DVC7. It only has a single 1/4″ 680k CCD – a step up from the 1/6 inch CCDs in the under $500 crowd, but not as good as the Panasonic PV-GS500. It has both microphone & headset jacks and a 15x zoom. If you want a mid-range camera that doesn’t look like a handycam, check this one out. Price is $1,000.
Now for the suprise: that’s it with mid-range camcorders with mike inputs/headset jacks and manual controls. Even at this price the manufacturers are not including the ability to record clean sound. It seems that the general public values quality in pictures…but is still clueless about the need for good audio.
If we push the price up we can look at the Panasonic AGDVC20, the JVC GR-HD1, and the Sony HDR-HC7 1080i – all for under $1,500. Still disappointing though…