Reader Question: A Camcorder For Trade Shows

Today’s reader question comes from my friend Jeffrey L Wilson who is the editor of 2D-x.com. He’s asking a question that lots of other tech journalists actually wonder about. You see, we all have our different niches, but when it comes down to more technical questions we all have our own specialized skills. Hit the jump; you’ve most likely been wondering the same thing.

“Hey Chris, how goes it?

I’m looking to get a camcorder, something under $300, that I can take with me to trade shows for footage. Typically, do these allow mic input? Anything that you’d recommend?”

Well Jeff, that one can be a little tough to pull off. You’re more than likely going to need the footage for the web so it needs to shoot 720p 30P. You also want a mic input and you want it cheap. If you need a mic input, you’re going to need to buy a mic as well to capture great audio on a trade show floor. It can be hard to get that audio when people are all talking amongst each other.

The problem with lots of trade shows is that they’re done in low-light. When something in low-light is recorded with a tiny sensor the image quality starts to degrade. Pros like my worry about that. To be fair though, YouTube’s majority has terrible image quality.

The Camcorder

My preferred outlet for getting these is B&H Photo and Video. Their site has the Aiptek Action-HD GVS Camcorder that shoots 1080p, has a microphone jack and optical zoom for $169.99. Despite the fact that it’s what you’re looking for, it does have its down sides. For instance, you can’t mount a microphone on it.

If you can find a way to afford it though, my ultimate recommendation is the Canon VIXIA HF R100. Though it is over your budget, it has a microphone jack, headphone jack, better optical zoom and much better image quality. Plus there is a spot on there to mount your microphone.

The Accessories

That should allow you enough money to go buy an Eye-Fi Pro 4GB SD card because it will allow you to upload straight to the web once all the programming has been done on your part. To be fair though, about five minutes of footage is around 1GB of space. So unless you’re shooting short clips (the way most journalists do) you’re going to need more. If you want more space without the internet uploading feature, then save your money and get a SanDisk 16GB Video card with a class 6 rating (meaning it writes to the card the fastest.)

If you go with the Aiptek, you’re going to need a microphone bracket. The Sima Video Bracket 1 should do you fine. Just attach it to the camcorder’s tripod base, plug the microphone into the input and mount the microphone in the cold shoe of the bracket. That is of course if you’re buying a shotgun microphone (one that is meant for mounting onto a camcorder) like a Rode Videomic. That’s what I usually use for my gigs and it serves me fine.

If you want one that’s versatile (by that I mean part shotgun, part handheld) then go with the Azden ECZ-990. For your price point it will work out well. Plus it comes with a shoe mount to work with the Sima. It’s a zoom mic so it should work well for your purposes. If anything, check it out here on YouTube to see the sound quality.

All the micrphones come with a cable that should be sufficient enough for your uses. You may also want to check out my DSLR videography article to see if you’d need any more items.

Thanks for the question Jeff, let us know how it comes along for you.

What would you recommend to Jeff and other journalists?

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