Choosing a Camcorder for Mac

Two weeks ago, the dean asked me for a recommendation on a digital camcorder to film his talks. Before I began my research, I knew that I needed a camcorder that would work on the Mac since both him and I are on MacBook. I don’t know much about camcorder, but based on my previous experience Panasonic and Sony were out of the picture.

About a year and a half ago, my colleague asked a professional videographer for a recommendation and he suggested Panasonic. I couldn’t remember the exact model, but it turned out to be a nightmare. Panasonic worked only on PC and the format was proprietary. Getting the clip off the camcorder alone was a pain. All the editing had to be done on a PC and then exported out into a format that could be posted on YouTube. The dean has a Sony and we faced the same issues.

My next step was to get on Apple web site and search for Apple’s recommendation. After searching and reading some reviews, the Canon VIXIA HF S200 seemed like a good choice. The regular price is $899, but Amazon listed for $679. I made my suggestion and the dean told me to get it within 3 business days for his next talk. I ordered a one-day shipment through Amazon, but the expected delivery date was not fast enough.

The alternative step was to find a local store. I looked up Penn Camera and they carried a Canon VIXIA HF M32 for $599 after $400 instant rebate. I hopped on the Metro and brought the camcorder. The salesman was very nice and helpful. On the Metro ride back, I opened up the manual to read up on the new camera because I knew I’ll be supporting it. To my surprise, the manual has pen marks all over the pages and food stain as well. The camcorder worked fine, but if I shook it lightly, I could hear the weird noise as if something was loose inside. I was disappointed that they sold me a used camcorder.

I came back to the store the next day to report the issues and would like to exchange for another one. The nice salesman from yesterday changed his tone a bit and told me that he didn’t remember hearing the clicking noise before the camcorder left the store. Since that was the last one they had, I exchanged for a Canon VIXIA HF M300, which also had $200 instant rebate. The only different the M32 and M300 is that the M32 has a 64-gig hard drive built in and the M300 has none. To compensate for the differences, I bought a 32-gig external disk and an extra battery that has a double lifespan of the one that comes with the camcorder.

The M300, as Apple describes it, “a superb blend of capability, quality and convenience for shooting Full HD video,” turn out to be a great choice. The camcorder is easy to use and the quality is superb. The only painful feature is the touch screen navigation. Luckily the M300 comes with a very convenient remote control.

Yesterday I filmed his talk in L’Enfant Plaza Hotel, which had very low light room, but the video turned out decent. Editing the clips with iMovie is straightforward. All I needed to do was firing up iMovie before plugging in the USB and importing the video. I use iMovie for the very first time last week and already loving it. As with many of Apple’s applications, iMovie is so easy to use. The app has enough features to help me make a decent video and upload directly to YouTube. I am thinking of purchasing one for my own personal use.