First and most important the camera. A camcorder is like a person and is somewhat of a commitment. If you pick the right one you will have years of enjoyment together. My old Sony-VX2000 just died after 10 years. I loved that camera for a few reasons.
- It felt good in my hands
- It was well balanced
- It had a lot of glass (big lens) So images looked clear and crisp
- The manuals controls were easy for my hands to find
- It shot well in low light (had a good lux rating)
- The tape mechanism was near bulletproof
- It would hold an external light , microphone and would take XLR input with the use of a small box
Camcorders to AVOID AT ALL COSTS - Ones that use AVI as a format container. Cams that record to DVD. Cameras that record MPEG-2 (same as DVD I know)
Things TOO look for: Mini DV, Firewire, AVCHD, MPEG-4, iFrame, .MOV then double check on the Apple site for iMovie compatibility. Not being on the list does not mean it will not work but it means Apple has tested it and it does work.
I have tried to keyword this Amazon link to remove all the camcorders that will not work.
Now it took me a while to finally decide on another camcorder and in the digital age I certainly wanted a high definition camera preferably with all the same attributes. Off the table, of course, was tape. While many pro’s still use DV tape and standard def television is still around I think it is time to move on. I also know that I can’t have my BIG camcorder with me all the time so I have a little one that fits in my pocket that I keep in the door of the truck. Here are some suggestions in every price range.
On a Budget
Sanyo VPC-FH1A Full HD Video and 8 MP Digital Photos
Its Big Brother - I have the a previous version of this camera that only does 720P
Sanyo Xacti HD1010 MPEG4 10x Optical Zoom
The one I have
Panasonic Professional AG-HMC40 AVCHD Camcorder 12x Optical Zoom
Its Big Brother (I would love to have this)
Panasonic AG-HMC80 3MOS AVCCAM HD with HD and SD Recording
Steady your Shots - With the detail and resolution of HD camcorders it is even more important to keep your shots still. iMovie can only stabilize so much. Do NOT by a cheap tripod at Walmart for $20 you will be sorry.
At a MINIMUM get a monopod
3 Section Manfrotto Monopod
But a good fluid head Tripod would be better.
Video Camera Tripod with Fluid Drag Head
BUY GOOD MEMORY - You can get MUCH less expensive SD or SDHC memory cards but when you get a parity error on your kids 16th birthday party footage and have nothing... don’t say I didn’t warn you
Transcend 16 GB Class 10 SDHC Flash Memory Card
If you have a camera that shoots at a high data rate, as mine does, you will need to buy the faster 30MB/s cards or you may get artifacts. Sorry.
SanDisk 16GB Extreme SDHC Class 10 High Performance Memory Card
Get a Card Reader with and extension - Otherwise you can lose ports since the reader is so wide it blocks the others.
IOGear 12-in-1 USB 2.0 Flash Memory Card Reader
Buy a good Microphone -Yes, the internal mics do an O.K. job but for $150 you get near production level audio. Buy this and you will thank me. Oh and pick up the wind muff for it to if you are going to be shooting outside
Rode VideoMic Directional Video Condenser Microphone w/Mount
If you are doing interview type videos please use a lav mic. Again, you will thank me later.
Audio-Technica ATR-35S Lavalier Microphone
If you have video footage that need some audio "cleanup" Sound Soap does the job.
BIAS SoundSoap 2
If you have a friend with good XLR mics you CAN use them with this adapter. Also comes in handy if you are shooting an event and can hook to the soundboard. I still have the same Beachtek I bought 10 years ago and it works perfectly with the new camera.
Beachtek DX-A2T "Tough" Dual XLR Compact Audio Adapter for all Camcorders.
The biggest, fastest drive you can afford and keep your iMovie projects on that drive your OS on another. (if you Mac supports 2 drives) These days you can buy 2 TB’s for next to nothing
Western Digital 2 TB Caviar Black SATA 7200 RPM 64 MB Cache
If you do not have a place to put a drive internally. This one will connect to any computer on its fastest interface.
LaCie d2 Quadra Hard Disk 1 TB eSATA/FireWire800/FireWire400/USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive (Aluminum)
or something like this if you just want to mount a bare drive.
Thermaltake Sata HDD USB Docking Station
Cheap USB drive for copying things around
SanDisk Cruzer 16 GB Cruzer USB 2.0 Flash Drive