Monday, June 05, 2006
I just purchased a Sony HC36 and documented the experience for a couple friends, so I thought I'd share it here. Here’s the lowdown on the process (skip to step 9 if you want to skip how I figured out what camcorder to buy).
- Consumerreports.org led me to a JVC camcorder, and any one of several Sony camcorders. Sony is the best overall brand, while a couple individual JVC, Panasonic, and Cannon camcorders rate well.
- I looked at Amazon to confirm the JVC camcorder, and was surprised to find lots of poor reviews for it. I eliminated it as a candidate.
- Took a look at CNET.com for the other camcorders. They had some reasonable advice, but being a tech-focused review site, they were pretty much only interested in “the best of the best of the best – sir!”. Their reviews basically pointed to buying the most expensive camcorder (like the Sony High-Def camcorder for $3600). I was able to at least discern some of the differences between the Sony units from CNET.
- Narrowed search down to Sony basically due to a) price (this eliminated the Panasonic) and b) a few features (like webcam abilities that eliminated the cannon).
- Googled for the differences between models and determined the following:
Older Newer Most capable/expensive DCR-HC42 DCR-HC46 Middle of the road DCR-HC32 DCR-HC36 Least capable/cheapest DCR-HC22 (?) DCR-HC26
- Of these 6 models, I determined that there is very little difference in the 2x/3x series. The 42/46 is significantly ($100) more expensive and has better technical specs, but the 2x/3x differs in just a few features and the core video capture capability is the same.
- The 32 was cheapest on Amazon and I tried to do better on eBay, but was unsuccessful.
- The deal I saw on Amazon went away and a friend pointed me to Pricescan.com. The price graph on the 32 showed a spike in prices in the current week, confirming prices were up overall on the 32.
- Based on pricescan, the prices between the 32 and 36 were pretty much even, so I looked around various sites (Amazon, buy.com, overstock.com, outpost.com, shopping.yahoo.com) to try to beat pricescan. I was able to beat pricescan.com, but only by $2.50.
- I used shopping.yahoo.com to check out merchant reviews and make a selection. The second best price came from the lowest price vendor on pricescan.com. They had a good review and Yahoo buyer protection and I was going to go with them until their website had a technical difficulty. I went to the cheapest vendor (4.5 out of 5 stars, but no Yahoo buyer protection) and placed the order there.
- I needed a set of accessories, and already knew where to get the best deals, so I went straight to newegg.com. I already had a DVD burner and media, but I ordered (total cost ~$75):
- Firewire card for the computer
- Firewire cable (6 pin to 4 pin)
- 25 pack DVD movie cases
- 512MB memory stick pro duo (I hate how Sony has proprietary memory formats).
- 6 pack of mini-DV tape
I passed on ordering a camcorder case. My plan there is to get all the stuff in house and then go to target and see what would hold all of it without taking up a ton of space. I did not see a significant savings by ordering the case on the Internet. I also passed on tripods, lens filters, etc. I just don’t think I’ll be going that professional, and if I did, I’d spend a lot more on the camera (the $800 price point will get you to a semi-pro level). I did get a phone call from the people I bought the camcorder from trying to sell me all the accessories. I told them “I had an older handycam and already own all the accessories”. That got them off my back pretty quickly, but I did spend the extra $30 for a 2-year warranty. I have heard rumors that the touch screen tends to wear out and it is not covered by Sony’s warranty.