With a baby on the way, and a freelance project out the door (with paycheck in tow), we decided to get a camcorder. You only get those baby videos one time right? And this is something I dnd't want to wait around and do research on in December... right up to the last minute.
A few weeks ago I did a bunch of research on camcorders, not knowing much about them (even though I'm already a bit of a photography buff). What I wanted was not the best camera, but one that I'd like to use, had the necessary features, and was easy enough for my wife to use with zero or no training. Natually, I went to CNET to get their $.02 and the Sony DCR-PC109 was rated the best family camcorder... topping out anywhere from $800-900.
Before buying it, we went to our local BestBuy to see if we really liked it. Crazy thing... it made both our hands cramp up! Hard as heck to hold. So my wife makes the comment "what about this one?"... the HC40 right next to it. It was significantly less (~$500) and everything on the little spec sheet showed it has the exact same features as the PC109. I couldn't tell the difference between the two, so I asked the sales person. What did they do? Look at the spec sheets to see if they could tell the difference. Gee, thanks guy... I'll go back to CNET. The only difference I could find: the PC109 came with a cool docking station like device that was always connected to the AC power and to the PC via firewire. So... for $300 I get the peace of mind that I don't have to plug in two cables when I want transfer stuff to the computer/back to the camcorder? Yeah, I got the HC40 :)
First I took about a 10 minute video of Hurricane Jeanne as we got the effects in northeast Florida (note: hurricanes look very insignificant on video... in person, they are much more impressive). The next trial was when we went to San Deigo last week (check out pictures on my photo album). So easy... we filled up two 60m tapes, thanks mostly to our 5 hour trip to the San Diego Zoo. When I got home, I wanted to try making a DVD of my videos. Previously I had tried Ulead's Video Studio, but after paining myself with the sluggish/laggy UI, I returned it and got Roxo's Easy Media Creator 7. So glad I made that switch. There were two things that take longer than I wish they did: transferring the video from the camcorder to the PC (takes as long as the video is) and the building of the DVD file (creating an ISO by encoding all the videos and building the DVD menu, in prep for making the DVD... took about 5 hours for a 4.6GB DVD on my P4-2Ghz 1GB desktop). Other than those two long running tasks, it was so incredibly easy. I started working on my DVDs (yes, 2... containing a total of about 1hr 45m video from 4 clips and 4-6 slideshows... with Easy Media Creator did for me too) on a Monday night (which all I did was the video capture) and had everything created by Thursday. I only spent about 40-60m of my time working on it... the other time (like when I was at work) involved the DVD build process while I was at work (Tuesday's failed on me). So easy. This was sooooo easy.
The only thing I was hoping for was to get a camcorder that didn't use tapes, but some sort of digital memory (removeable laptop-sized hard drive, huge (4+GB) microdrives... something like that. However there wasn't anything out (that I could find) that fit it... until what I saw this week: . Oh well, prob cost an arm and a leg.