View Full Version : looking at getting a video camera

12-16-2008, 20:39
Ok, so I am looking at saving up for a video camera. I was browsing through the cameras at best buy, and now I am totally confused. Camera range in price from low $200 to >$1500, and I have no idea how significant the differences are. The camera will be used for mainly underwater, so topside differences really do not mean much to me.
1. What are the differences that I should look for?

2. What recording media is best? (DVD? mini DVD? memory card?, any others I do not know about?)
My computer does not have a DVD burner, but I do have a DVD burner hooked up to my TV that has every possible connection, I am assuming that can affect my choice.

3. Lights? Are they a necessity, or a add on that can wait (avoid shelling out big bucks all at once? Most of my diving is off the NC coast (80-120 ft). I have heard of some people using their primary dive light for their video (I have a shockware II and a nemo).

When it comes to housings, I think I will avoid the electronic ones (would hate to loose both my camera and housing in case of a flood).

thanks all

12-16-2008, 22:35
Most of the new HD cameras perform very well under low light levels which is a plus. Look for a camera and a housing that accommodates that particular camera.

I would also suggest a camera that records on mini-DV tapes or to HDD instead of a DVD.

Although the newer cameras perform well in low light, video lights would make a huge difference specially the deeper you go.

12-16-2008, 23:20
How much editing are you going to be doing on your video? That will most likely have the biggest impact on which format you choose, miniDV, hard drive, flash memory. I would stay away from the DVD, they don't handle bumps/vibrations very well. Also, how much are you looking at spending? I've seen some pretty good quality video from the Canon Vixia HV30 (for a pretty good in depth review, check out Canon HV30 Camcorder Review - Canon HDV Camcorders (http://www.camcorderinfo.com/content/Canon-HV30-Camcorder-Review-34401.htm)). The HV30 can be had for under $600 now. I prefer the HDV (High Definition on a miniDV tape). MiniDV tape is cheap, and you don't have to worry about filling up the camera's hard drive or memory card. Just pop in a new tape start rolling. If I was going to buy a DV camera today, the HV30 would probably be the one I'd get.

12-16-2008, 23:23
One other thing, if you do get HDV/miniDV, your computer will need to have a firewire port (IEEE1394, iLink)

12-17-2008, 04:59
My take on it would be to select a housing mfr. first and then buy an appropriate camera. Since you've indicated you're not interested in electronic housings, your choices domestically are limited to Gates, Ikelite or Equinox.

Which further limits your camera choices to either the 3 specific models Gates supports, a large range of models Ikelite supports and similarly Equinox - though they have a universal model that they'll custom-fit around any camera you send them.

In the prosumer range (sub-$1500) the only models Gates supports are the Sony HC7/HC9 and HC3. They build a nice housing but it may be overbuilt for your depth requirements, they're good to 450'. It starts about $2K and can be double depending on port selection.

With Ikelite, you'll need to select something they house. That means most current Sony, Canon or JVC models. A finer point with Ikelite is that they don't offer any sort of external monitor, just a stick-on mirror on some models. And only their Sony models offer optional reversing circuitry, with Canon/JVC the image in the mirror pans backwards.

Equinox supports the same three plus most of the newer Panasonic cameras. They sell a back-mounted LCD monitor option, not sure if it's Hi-Def though. Viewing 16x9 Hi-Def on a std. monitor is pretty useless except for general shot framing, you can't see the focus clearly enough for macro work.

If you think lights aren't an option for you now, then getting a camera/housing package that supports Manual White Balance will be important. MWB allows you to tell the camera what's "white" at depth so it can compensate for the loss of reds as you descend. All of the housings have a red-compensating filter for shallower water use but below about 80', even in bright tropical water, you'll likely remove it as it decreases the amount of light entering the lens substantially.

MWB is typically done by accessing the camera's white balance menu with a mechanical touch control hitting the LCD screen. Even the electronic housing mfr's do it this way as Sony no longer supplies a MWB button so all do it via the touchscreen.

Using a dive light with a diffuser may work but probably not well. a typical divelight with a center gathering reflector yields poor results for video. If your lights are typical in that they produce rings or bands of light, they're not going to be great for video. I've wondered if the newer LED lights might work better. UK Light Cannons are sometimes used for video, but they sell an optional diffuser for this purpose.

fwiw, good video lights can cost twice as much as the housing and camera combined.

My other take on the current state of technology is to consider something with solid state or HDD storage. There's been a shift in recent years, it used to be that an hour tape was the limiting factor, now with some cameras equipped with 120GB HDD's the limiting factor is battery life.

The fewer times you open your housing the less likely you'll flood it. So now the consideration is what camera/housing/battery combo gives you better recording time. Since most camcorders have several extended range batteries, it's easily possible to record 5-10 hrs. of video without needing to change/charge anything. I have a friend who has an HDD camera with a 40GB drive, he sometimes deletes unwanted footage during his SI's just by using the edit options available while the camera is still housed.

Another recent technology update is that the new Canon HDD models now record in 24MBPS AVCHD. This is equal to the best HDV tape based quality. However the computing resources needed to natively import/edit this higher bit-rate AVCHD format are pretty extreme. Most of the video editing software packages detail their requirements on their websites.

A "gotcha" with Sony Solid-State models is that they use their proprietary Memory Stick Duo media, which sell for about $35 each per 4GB. So if you're considering an SSD camera, I'd look for one that uses SDHC cards.

Another consideration with the bigger HDD/internal SSD models is if you do a week trip somewhere, a laptop or other storage device may be needed to d/l your footage during the trip.

btw, if you are interested in an electronic housing, the better ones seal the electronics internally so if they flood all you lose is the camera. And I believe only Gates offers a optional flood alarm on the mechanical side.

12-17-2008, 18:33
Ok I though I posted this once and it did not stay??

Thanks for the info.

Hooligan - I do not mind playing around editing, but I do not want to spend 5 hours editing 20 minutes of video (does that help me choose a format)

My price range - I am flexible I was thinking around $2000 (before lights, as a max), but the lower the better!!! (provided it lasts and does the job)

I really do not need HD (my current equiptment - computer/DVD burner/DVD player does not support it). If I do go HD, can I record in SD (or save in SD) therefore if in the future I upgrade, I still have the camera??

I am not sure taht my laptop has the firewire, I will have to check when I get home. Is that a connection most lap tops have? Mine is only 2 years old??

12-17-2008, 18:34
diversteve, do you have links to any of your video?

12-17-2008, 19:51
another questions, since my current laptop does not have a DVD burner, can I
1. down load the video to my lap top,
2. edit it
3. upload it back onto my camera ( or hook it up to my TV - not sure how to do that)
4. play the video on TV and burn it with my DVD burner connected to my TV?

12-17-2008, 20:39
another questions, since my current laptop does not have a DVD burner, can I
1. down load the video to my lap top,
2. edit it
3. upload it back onto my camera ( or hook it up to my TV - not sure how to do that)
4. play the video on TV and burn it with my DVD burner connected to my TV?

1. Yes
2. Yes
3. Yes
4. Yes

12-17-2008, 20:51
I have never tried to re-upload an edited video back on to minidv tape... I don't know if it is possible to do so.

My video workflow goes soemthing like this:

1. Shoot video w/ DV cam (mine uses miniDV tape)
2. Hook DV cam to computer via firewire.
3. Transfer video from DV cam to computer (tons of HD space required)
4. Edit video in Sony Vegas (or other video editing program), add music, effects, etc.
5. Save video in a compatible format for your DVD player.
6. Burn saved video to DVD-R .
7. Delete the raw video files from hard disk (if low on disk space). I keep my miniDV tape with original footage in safe place. I only use each miniDV tape once. When I'm done recording I push the little tab on the tape to make sure you can no longer record on it.
8. Put DVD-R in DVD player and enjoy your work on your TV.

Now for the fine print: I am by no means a professional when it comes to anything related to Digital Video, weather that means shooting or editing. It's just a little hobby that I don't spend too much time on. For your particular eqipmnet setup, I think actually editing your video and getting back on to the camera might be difficult.

12-17-2008, 21:12
I have never tried to re-upload an edited video back on to minidv tape... I don't know if it is possible to do so.

Normally it's called print to tape... It may be called something else under Vegas.

12-17-2008, 22:08
I have never tried to re-upload an edited video back on to minidv tape... I don't know if it is possible to do so.

Normally it's called print to tape... It may be called something else under Vegas.

I'll have to check it out. I've just never had the need to do it. I either burn dvds or post it online for my peeps to download ;).

12-18-2008, 03:18
diversteve, do you have links to any of your video?I don't as I don't post my video online. Check out some of RonScuba's work on Vimeo.

To see what's possible with a single-chip HDV camera check out Underwater Video Housing, Underwater Camera Housing, Light & Motion, Light and Motion (http://www.uwimaging.com/gallery/gallery.htm) Chuck Nicklin shot those with the HDR-HC1, Sony's first 1CMOS HDV camera. The HC9 is it's newer cousin.

Once I captured some HD video in SD onto my laptop - it's also not fast enough to capture in HD. A photographer friend who has a great eye for detail watched it later and commented that it appeared better than other SD footage he'd seen.
Any HDV camcorder can also output SD video. So you could edit now in SD and keep your raw footage on tape for later.

Something to check on also with the newer SSD cameras is that since they are capturing in AVCHD, I would guess that it should be possible to transfer the raw footage via USB 2.0 to another storage device - such as one of those cheap external drives - for future import into an editor on a computer capable of capturing in HD if/when you get one. I just bought a WD MyBook, it's a 500GB drive with a USB 2.0 port on it. ($90 at Best Buy) Most of the newer HDD cameras have a USB 2.0 port also. 24MBPS HDV stores at around 13GB per tape hr. so it's an option.

My sister has a Canon Vixia, I just bought her a Canon WD-100 DVD burner ($169) to allow her to transfer video from her camera without a computer for output on her HDTV. I haven't tried it yet, but it says it burns in HD (AVCHD).

12-18-2008, 11:19
If you don't want to go with HD, the JVC MG575 with Ikelite housing.
Price for camcorder and housing would be under $1500.

Ikelite | IK6014.09 UW Housing f/ JVC GZ-MG555/ | 6014.09 | B&H (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/511981-REG/Ikelite_6014_09_IK6014_09_UW_Housing_f_.html)

12-20-2008, 19:49
I have never tried to re-upload an edited video back on to minidv tape... I don't know if it is possible to do so.

Normally it's called print to tape... It may be called something else under Vegas.

Ye, in Vegas it's called print video to tape or print video to HD tape if you have a HD camcorder. Very straight forward and easy. If you've captured the video from your camcorder to the PC via firewire with your editing program, you should see the print video to tape option under the tools menu in Vegas.

Sure send a SD DVD to your friends, but IMHO, if you have an HD camcorder and an HDTV, it would be a shame not to watch your edited video in HD. Just connect your camcorder directly to your HDTV via the HDMI connector or the component video cables. Done, EZ-PZ.