Pro rates Sony handicam best

Shopping With

Your Money

August 01, 2004|By Laurie Squire

The product: A video camera.

The expert: Dave Dorset, main cameraman and floor captain of CBS' Late Show with David Letterman. He also has been lead cameraman for Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather.

What I want: Lightweight and compact. I want to carry it on hikes, around amusement parks or circulating at a party, and I don't want to feel as if I'm lugging a cinder block.

I must have: Shallow menus. Life's best moments are never scripted. If you have to punch your way through several layers of options, you're bound to miss something.

What I hate: Many larger chains are staffed with overly enthusiastic kids trying to make employee of the month. Their knowledge is limited, and their recommendations questionable. I prefer the professional camera store.

Savvy shopper: Know what you want before you go near a retailer. Have features and model numbers on the tip of your tongue. Online shopping is convenient, but it cannot sweeten the deal (such as providing additional tapes, batteries or a tripod) as it unfolds.

My pick: Digital video is the highest consumer standard. Sony DCR-HC30 Mini DV has an easy handicam, a button that locks out fancy options so you can just point and shoot ($699).

Next best thing: A Sony or Canon Hi-8 camera. This format has 100 lines less resolution and no easy computer interface, but is a workhorse ($269).

Tip: Make sure you turn off the camera when you're done. A friend's wife shot wonderful footage of the kids, put the camera down on the dining-room table and for the next hour recorded every bad thought she had about her husband.

Laurie Squire is a staff writer for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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