Most helpful critical review
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Better as a music recorder
on October 8, 2013
I saw the price of $250 and ignored the warnings about the 720p(max)video quality because I have made some very clear recordings on my Kodak with the 720p/60fps setting. As long as the lighting is good, 720p is plenty of resolution for my purposes. I also ignored the fact that this unit can't record 96khz sampling rate with 720p because I've learned that the AD conversion is the most important characteristic of recordings >20bit and >44.1khz.
I almost cancelled my order when I discovered Sony is pre-selling a new model the HDR-MV-1 (+$50), but committed to the purchase when I learned the Sony has just one viewing angle and only a mic-in, no line input*. Now that the price is down to about $150 at Musician's friend, I'm a displeased with the $100 I wasted, but would definitely recommend this unit for that price. Note: the DR-40 is $140 and has XLR's, a simple interface, greater adjustment of the internal mics and a longer battery life for music recording.
*post note: another reviewer says that you can modify the input source to a proper <line-in> level on the LS20 and the new Sony HDR-MV-1
1.____Highest quality sound 4.5/5 (as good as any camcorder using H264)
I started a review comparing 6 mic's/built-in mics, 4 pre-amps the Zoom H2 and Boss BR comparing several sources(recording at highest sampling rates). My initial impressions, the unit's internal preamps are quite clean, the internal mics are of low quality. The noise floor I can hear is very low frequency and if that bothers you, the LFF can eliminate it. With the built in mics, the noise is more airy (upper mid). I have a semi-pro collection of microphones, using the line input with an inexpensive mixer (Behringer UB802), I can get a line-in sound that is very similar to a professional recording studio. Even the 24b/48khz has much greater definition, depth and sweetness than either the Zoom H2(@24b/96khz.wav or VBR mp3) or the MicroBR @(192kbps Mp3 or 24b/44.1khz.wav)
Mic-ing at 1m or less is superior to micing at the camera in my production environment. Recording with lapel mics (AKG3350, Pyle and HGE) using built in power was troublesome. Using the line input+ Plug in power (PNP), I could not get a signal, even with the highest gain settings. When I changed it to MIC input with PIP (as per directions), it sounded exactly like the built in mic's. This possibly due to a mono 3.5mm terminal of the mic (is stereo mic required for PNP?). It would be nice to have an LED by the mics to show if they were active when something was plugged in to the line/ext mic input. Although the sampling rate is bad and the sound compressed, the plug-in-power on my Kodak Zi8 seems to work much better than the Tascam.
The internal mics have a natural sound, with full range, and are quieter than most camcorders and smartphones. They ensure that you will always have a decent recording but I can't imagine using them for serious recording dates because the sound is not warm and rich (to my ears). I think they are best for small venues, though I'm not sure the video would be adequate for any but the most uncritical of applications. Video is prob. usable for family reunions, day-time, outdoor sporting events and concerts. Vblogs and "how-to" documentary production. I downgraded the sound by 1* because I can't use it to sync HD vid to 96khz sound, not that 720p is even HD to begin with.
2.____Remote operation: 3/5
Since this camera can be viewed from a table surface from behind or in front of the camera (or anywhere in between), I give this camera 3 *'s The default picture frame is close enough that it's not difficult to get to the controls from a chair when doing selfie recordings. I can record videos of myself playing guitar or doing how-to repair videos with a functional view of the action. Though it's hard to see the LCD clearly from 2 meters, you can at least discern the audio levels, play status and general framing. But.... there is no optional remote!! Unfortunately a lot of my work is documenting procedures where I may be working with glues, oils, solvents, etc so I would like to be able to operate the camera without having to clean my hands before making adjustments.
I wish there was a remote like the one I bought for $10 as an add on to my Kodak Zi-8
____Power options 0/5
Unfortunately this unit comes with neither a rechargeable battery set/fast-charger nor a power adapter.
I wish it had both and I wish that plugging in the unit and/or plugging in the USB to my computer would recharge the batteries like my phone. My Zi-8 can charge the rechargeable while plugged in but even it cannot be used to capture while charging via computer USB. A $250 camcorder that uses as much power as a DSLR ought to come with a power supply! Just buy the adapter when you purchase the recorder, battery power can't even sustain the internal clock for more than a day.
I would rather this unit come with an SD rather than microSD. I can appreciate the versatility of micro, but standard SD seems more durable. This unit doesn't read/write larger capacity microSD's without the MicroSDHC designation. The door to the memory card seems durable but it's a bit finicky to access. It's easy enough to unlatch but when new, the plastic is inflexible, so you have to maneuver the door to get it out of the way of the connections until you 'break in' the unit.
Note that the 96khz sampling (audio) rate is not available while recording either 480p or 720p video. I wasn't impressed by the video quality at any of the available settings or lighting presets. Besides a sub 1080P resolution, I had somewhat grainy recordings when recorded from 6 feet (no zoom+/-) in decent conditions with 300 watts of incandescent room light + a 3' x 5' south facing window at 4pm. IMO the auto setting should produce good color and contrast if you are in an environment that has stable lighting and very little motion. I shouldn't have to choose presets unless I'm in an unstable lighting environment. TBH, I probably would have returned the unit if I didn't REALLY need the selfie-view made available by the rotate-able mic/camera. I'm guessing there will be a better model next year. For now it's a $150 .wav recorder that happens to have video capability similar to a laptop's built-in webcam. The sound quality is noticeably better than a Zoom H2 or the Boss MicroBR.