Now, let’s cover low-level HD camcorders.
I really like this tier of cameras. The image quality you can produce from these low-cost cameras is actually quite good. Some examples include the Canon HV40, Canon HFS21, and the Panasonic HDC-TM700k. You can find the HV40 for around $650, the HDC-TM700k for around $750, and the HFS21 for around $1,000. You are not going to win a head-to-head battle with the mid-level HD cameras, but you can still produce some amazing video.
Back in 2007, Canon put out a great consumer camera called the HV20. This was the first consumer camera to shoot 1080p 24FPS, making it a huge hit. Canon followed the HV20 with the HV30 and HV40. These cameras are all fairly similar; they just made small improvements as they came out. Beyond using DV tape, the big limitation that these cameras have is that, while there are manual controls, you can’t see the settings you are choosing. You can only put the settings on hold, then increase or decrease from there. That makes it hard to have consistency between shots, and the 24FPS can be jittery because you cannot see what the shutter is set to.
This is where the HFS21 comes in. It has the great image quality of the HV40, but it adds a whole host of features. It has internal memory instead of using tapes. It also has two SD card slots. With those two features you can start recording, and when the internal memory fills up, the camera automatically spills over onto the first SD slot. Then, once that card fills up, it spills over to the second SD card slot. That allows you to record for a very long time! It also has full manual controls, and it tells you exactly what the camera is doing. The touch screen is nice. You just have to get used to using it, as the screen is not as responsive as an iPhone. Also, the HFS21 has LANC, which allows you to use a remote to control zoom and focus. LANC is a big plus if you are going to use it as your live service capture camera.
The other camera in this category is the Panasonic HDC-TM700k. I hear good things about this camera, but the one bad thing I hear is that the fans are loud and can sometimes fail. It also does not have LANC.
So, in this category, I really think that the Canon HFS21 is a real winner. I think the features and image quality make it a great choice. If you just cannot afford the $1,000, I would go with the HV40 or find a used HV20/30 in good condition.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments!