My first ditital camcorder was a Canon ZR-25MC, which proved frustrating, because:
- it stopped working reliably after just three years (2001-2004).
- its memory card feature is painfully slow (felt like using floppy drives on an original IBM PC).
- the memory slot no longer kept the memory card in place, even though I rarely used it.
- its FireWire connection has a known problem transferring movies to Maxtor hard drives (random disconnects).
I warned my wife I'd be needing a new camcorder for two reasons: (1) to transfer the rest of our home movies to DVD; and (2) record our kid's concerts. For all my other movie needs, I use the movie mode on my Canon S1iS digital camera, such as for my daughter's figure skating competitions.
Last Thursday I bought the new camcorder. The incentive was the upcoming tour to Seattle by our high school band. Originally, I planned to get another Canon, so I could reuse the batteries and power supplies I already have. But Canon uses a different battery on their new models, so there went that incentive.
Doing some shopping, I discovered that Samsung and JVC were nearly $100 cheaper than the cheapest Canon, yet had better features. My list of required features was short. In order of priority:
1. Has Firewire connection and uses miniDV tapes. (Some low end models lack FireWire).
2. Optical zoom greater than my old camcorder (more than 10x).
3. I didn't want the memory card feature, which I found useless and added to the cost.
4. I didn't want special effects (I found I never used them and could always add them with the digital video editing software), but wouldn't mind effects like slow-motion and night recording.
Checking prices on-line, I discovered the best price-performance (for me) was JVC GR-250U for CDN$469 at Future Shop. (I also got the four-year extended warranty, because it includes free annual cleaning, which I think may be the problem affecting the old one. The store also threw in four miniDV tapes for free.) It has:
- 25x optical zoom
- FireWire (but no S-Video, which is fine, because I've never used it)
- Somwhat smaller, feels lighter, and noticeable faster (in switching between FF, REW, and PLAY) than the old Canon.
- slow-motion (1/4000 sec) and fast motion (1 image per second), snapshot mode, kind-of night mode (slow shutter speed and high sensitivity)
- turns on and off when the LCD screen is opened and closed.
And a number of other features I'll never use. Drawbacks are that the menu system is difficult to use, and the folding LCD doesn't fold flat back into the body in the viewing position.
The most important thing is that it works! I tried it out yesterday, successfully making a DVD from the last video tape recorded by the old Canon.
As for my wife, she expressed surprise at how large it was (even though it is slightly smaller than the old one). I guess in this day of miniaturization, things that aren't really small seem oddly large.