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Digital (VCRs) Camcorders for mountain use:- any suggestions?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I am looking to buy a small digital VCR suitable for use whilst skiing. Obviously price will be a consideration but it needs to be
  • Easy to use outside in cold for prolonged periods (5 mins.+)</font>
  • Small</font>
  • Light</font>
  • Adaptable to cold conditions</font>
  • Easy to use for lunchtime reviews</font>
  • Large record capacity</font>
  • Downloadable onto a PC via Serial, USB or Parallel port</font>
  • Reasonable battery life</font>
  • Preferably dual PAL/NTSC o/p</font>
It does not need to be broadcast quality but only a resolution suitable to display well on a TV screen.
Any recommendations or recorders to avoid?

[ November 28, 2002, 03:48 PM: Message edited by: Nettie ]
post #2 of 11
I assume you mean a Camcorder or DVR. I have a 4 year-old sony, which has worked great. It's not the mini one (that looks like a paperback book) but the next size up (has a bigger 4" fold out monitor. The auto white-balance works great, and I have not had any issues with temp. or otherwise. I usually keep it in my fanny pack.

One thing to note - on sunny days, the fold-out LCD screens are useless - it is so bright off the snow that you can't see anything. So whatever you do - get a camera that has a comfortable and fairly good optical viewfinder - you will be using this more often than you think!
post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the input. I was hoping a few more people had some suggestions. It is hard to get an old model nowadays.

Lots of people have been posting vid clips and they must have a digital camcorder of some sort.

What model do you use guys and gals?
post #4 of 11
I use digital cam Canon ZR25 for 2 years(now they have zr50 but that is ~the same I suppose).
Positive sides:
Very good pic outside.
Very reliable(had some spectacular falls on slopes
with this thing in my backpack - nothing happened).
No complaints at low temperatures(though used it only till
Negative sides:
Tape moving mechanism is taped and heard afterwards.
Needs good light for indoor taping.

Overall: recommended for outdoor use.

Take care,
post #5 of 11
I use a Sony DCR-TRV900 (now replaced by the 950) which cost me about $1,600 before accessories. I ski with it inside of a GEXAR lumbar pack which will protect it even if I fall off of a cliff. The GEXAR is a well padded neoprene and nylon belt with a Pelican 1200 waterproof case attached to it. This camera is too expensive to take any chances with, but takes incredible quality video.

It is probably a little bigger and heavier than what you're looking for though. For something smaller, and lighter but nearly as expensive, you might want to check out the PV-DV952. It's also a 3 CCD camcorder with a top quality Leica lens. Not as good as the Sony in low light, but you're going to be skiing, so who cares.

Both these are 3 CCD camcorders, which have the best color accuracy, but you'll save a lot of money by getting a top 1 CCD model. Ignore all the specs about a digital camcorders still image capabilities. I can take still photos onto a Memory stick, but I NEVER used it after the novelty wore off. You're going to be taking video. For stills, get a cheap 2 or 3 megapixel pocket camera later.

I've edited some video from my TRV900 with Abobe Premiere and burned it onto DVD, and it looks nearly broadcast quality. The GEXAR lumbar pack is very well made and comfortable but a bit bulky. I got used to it though, and almost never ski without it when I take a trip out west. I fit an extra tape, spare battery, filter, and an i-cuff DV viewfinder hood - which is a great accessory for keeping bright sunlight from seeping into the eyepiece, because as rueps said previously, the LCD monitor is completely useless in sunlight.

I also recommend a good quality Neutral density filter to protect the lens and CDD in bright sunlight.
post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by Carvemeister:
I use a Sony DCR-TRV900 (now replaced by the 950) which cost me about $1,600 before accessories.
Wow! Semi-pro gear is a little out of my league, I was thinking more in the $800 region. This equates pretty much to me spending £1000 in Europe as far as I can gather by the specifications. Part nos used are not common across continents.

I may forgo the NTSC/PAL requirement and stick with a 1.3 MP 1 CCD. The reminder about a neutral density filter is a $ saver; I always forget things like this and I use to work in CCTV!

According to many magazines Canon are considered to be the industry leaders but I think Sony make all the CCDs.

Igorig's suggestion of the DR 40-45-50 series sounds like a good idea.

Sizewise, I am looking for an inside pocket job rather than a special protective pack. I have chest padding . I want to be able to do some punter videoing for MA towards my Level III.

I may even go for a secondhand camera to save a bit of cash. The DR25 are selling quite reasonably. I would want to check to make sure the CCD is still giving out almost the same resolution and that pixels aren't blown. I would imagine that over exposure of the CCD is more of a problem in the US than over temperature. I have tested an old, large CCD camera to 65C for a couple of days in a chamber without significant degradation.

For stills I have a Kodak DC215 that came free with my printer. It does an OK job.
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks Bob,
As you say the one you use is a little big for what I want, but the secondhand quality/price is tempting. Before I leave UK I obviously need to get my laptop upgraded. I have no Firewire and my hard disk is half full with music. But that is about enough room for about 45min of video. I have a CD rewriter (no DVD) and may put everything on CD with temporary downloads to a virtual drive.
post #8 of 11
You want budget?
You don't mind about quality?
You want small?

I saw this recently, and was nearly going to buy it, just to have another gadget around the house...
Pocket Digital Video Camera

(for those who don't know, £99 is under $160US)

post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
Good link Foxy and a great price. Shame they haven't got the Lexar memory sticks in stock yet as the rest of the world has.
Unfortunately it has one major drawback: it has no zoom from the specs. No stabilization either but then it is cheap.

Without the zoom I would have to stand on the front of someone's skis to get a good shot and I don't ski backwards THAT well. I'd get a great shot of all your best features though!

I reckon 18 or 22X optical zoom may be the way to go. I am not sure on the frame rate of the more expensive cameras. The Lexar is only 10fps which will visibly judder with moving objects.

Maybe Lexar will produce some more cameras in the near future although I understand they are a memory specialist.
post #10 of 11
I don't have my camera with me, so I forget the exact model number. It's a $900 (or was it 1000?) sony that I got probably about 3 years ago. It's worked extremely well on the slopes. Cold hasn't affected it at all. I would recomend getting a lense cloth though, cause every once inawhile the lense will fog up or something. I'm not sure what the new ones have, but mine only has firewire, which is better than USB, although much less conveniant, as most computers (like my laptop, for instance, dont have firewire.

Good luck!

[ November 30, 2002, 11:17 AM: Message edited by: bicyclekick ]
post #11 of 11
Hi Nettie--

You can get a great camcorder that will fit your needs for your $800 budget. Many of the smaller 1 CCD MiniDV camcorders fall into that price range.

I wouldn't be surprised if you could find the TRV-900 now, perhaps used but in good condition, for that price, if you wanted it. You probably don't, though. It's hardly "pocket-sized"!

Like Carvmeister, I've used the TRV-900 for several years. It's a great machine. If you've seen any of the photos and sequences I've posted, you've seen pictures from it. Unlike CM, I ski with mine on a strap around my neck. It's small enough to carry that way, but you'll definitely know it's there. It's also very tough! You're more likely to injure yourself than the camera by falling on it (I nearly broke a rib last winter). And I have video of myself and the camera being taken out hard by a slalom racer skidding out of the course.... It's never skipped a beat! I put a polarizing filter on mine for skiing, rather than a neutral density filter. It serves the same purpose, and can reduce glare and make the blue sky more intense and colors appear richer as well. If you shoot in the high shutter speed "sports" mode, which gives the clearest still image, you won't need more than the built-in ND filter to manage the bright light. But a filter of some sort--polarizer, ND, or clear UV/Skylight will protect the lens. I never carry the camera without some sort of filter on it.

Two other hints if you end up with the TRV-900 or similar. Remove the rectangular lens hood it comes with, and replace it with an inexpensive collapsable rubber lens hood, available at any decent camera shop. (The TRV-900 uses a 52mm filter, hood, and lens cap, the same as many Nikon camera lenses, so accessories are easy to find.) It will take less room, and more importantly, it will allow you to use rotating filters like polarizers. (There is a small risk of slight "vignetting" with some round hoods, where you can see the hood on the corners of the image when zoomed to wide angle. You can solve this problem either with a "wide-angle" lens hood, or a larger--55mm--hood and a "stepping ring" adaptor--my preference.) Second, on cold or snowy days, get a standard fleece neck gaitor with a draw cord and cord lock on one end (available at Walmart), and cinch the draw cord end around the lens, just behind the hood. The gaitor will protect the camera from snow, give it a little protection from sudden temperature changes (and the condensation that results), and provide a little protection for your hand as well. It's cheap, light, and takes up very little space, unlike some of the commercial alternatives.

Anyway, you'll probably prefer one of the more compact and less expensive digital camcorders. Some are literally pocket-sized. They all take very good video. To edit on your computer, make sure the camcorder has a "Firewire" port (IEEE 1394, or "I-link" on Sony). You'll also need a Firewire port on the computer, of course. If your computer doesn't have one, it's an easy addition to a desktop computer, and a simple card to slide into a laptop. And you'll want a large, fast hard disk, the bigger and faster the better (1 gigabyte holds about 5 minutes of digital video). There are many software options for editing video now, ranging from basic and user-friendly to full-featured and sophisticated (eg. Adobe Premiere). With a little practice (and a fast enough computer), you'll be surprised how easy it is to create edited video with sound tracks, titles, and special effects.

Good luck with your search!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

[ November 30, 2002, 12:14 AM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]
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