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I am thinking of buying a digital camcorder, but I have a few questions.

Whats the quality difference between a high end minidv (XL1 or VX1000) and betacam? Would I get better quality from a used betacam?

Whats the quality difference from a high end mini dv (above) and lower end consumer mini dv (sony TRV900, Canon Optura)?

-- Jimmy (jlara@jps.net), October 31, 1998


Betacam will give you better results in editing, because the edit suite is built around the betacam component. If you are shooting to digitize into an mpg file, shoot dvc. Otherwise, if you are shooting for more traditional editing, shoot Betacam.

-- rock (rock@rock.rock), November 01, 1998.

I disagree with rock@rock.rock's answer. Editing suites -- at least the non-linear suites that are generally used today -- are not "built" around any particular tape format, but around an NTSC signal.

The DV format -- particularly via the higher-end DV cameras -- can provide a very good NTSC signal, quite comparable to Beta SP.

Providing you have a good DP, your results will probably not be all that different whether you shoot on Betacam or DV. The main difference is that you can probably afford to own a DV camera, and you probably can't afford to own a Beta camera.

-- Ben Wolf (bdw6@columbia.edu), November 01, 1998.

The differences between the mini DV stuff and the more traditional BetaSP BetaCAM.

Well, besides the obvious, size, cost, blah blah, there are a couple things that you should keep in mind.

The formats themselves are very similar when it come down to quality. DV, especially DVCpro, tends to be crisper than their Beta brothers. I do not like the DVC pro for this reason. It is not as noticeable with the Vx1000 or the XL1. Both are great cameras, and I recomend them both. Other than that issue the image quality is very similar. That is what the big stink is about dude! Now you can get a 60 thousand dollar image (that is what the average betaCam is going for) for only a 4 thousand dollar investment.

So what is the difference? Why aren't all the TV studios in the word dropping those bigg ugly cameras and buying truck loads of the mini DV stuff. Bells and frieking whistels my friend.

First you got the lens. You ever tried pulling focus on a VX1000. It doesn't happen. The XL1 is good there cause you can get different lens for it. the DVC pro is also good there cause their lens are easy to use. Shitty glass, but easy to use. If anyone know more about the canon lens please let me know.

Then you got audio. This is not a huge problem cause you can get balanced inputs on both the VX1000 and the XL1.

Then you got your timecode issue. That is where editing comes in. You can easly put your mini DV votage onto beta tapes. If you wanna go tape to tape, or if your usein the new avid that you got last christmas. I on the other hand got a lump of coal, and so I had to put and editing system together myself. 1100 dollars ontop of the computer that I already had, and I got two SCSI 9 gigs, one dv capture board (firewire technology, herd of it?), one SCSI controller, one 128 meg DIMM socket, and a partridge in a pear tree! (I ate the partridge, and I am still enjoying the pears.)


Try doing that with beta.

Another thing. The Beta format was really design for multiple usage. Lots of retaping. Useing the same tape again and agian. In short it is tough as hell and that is great. The mini DV format is alot weaker and you must be careful or you will get drop outs and other ugly things. This should not however prevent you from buying either the VX1000 or the XL1.

I shoot the BetaCam everyday at work and I love it, but I really love the freedom that I had when I was shooting my feature (we used the VX1000) cause I put it wherever I wanted. I could use the mini steadicams. People don't get all frieked out by a smaller camera. I was able to shoot all over the city without a single permit, even in the subway. The picture qaulity is awsome, and the freedom of movement, freedom to edit at home, the freedom to have a functioning production house with a five thousand dollar investment at the age of 22 is awsome.

Ya want some man? Everyone is doing it. Take it bro it'll make ya feel goooooooooood!

Oh yeah. The difference between top of the line and bottom of the line mini DV cameras. CHIPS! The XL1 and the VX1000 are both three chip cameras. It is really called a CCD. It is what sees and turns what it sees into data so that the tape can store it. In a three chip camera the light that enters the camera is split into the three main color spectrums. RED, GREEN, and BLUE. So in a three chip camera there is a chip for each of the three main colors. In one chip camera all the light is going onto one chip. that is alot of work to do so the image is not as good.

One chip = consumer

Three chip = prosumer

It is a big quality issue. Have them show you the difference at the store.

good luck, love Edward

-- Edward Seaton (visionfx@xsite.net), November 03, 1998.

Hello Jimmy

I have just come across your message concerning mini DV and Betacam. I own both a Sony VX1000 mini DV camera and a Betacam SP camera (broadcast version), so I thought I would pass on my own views to you.

I'm a freelance cameraman based in the North of Scotland on the Isle of Lewis and I'm working 95% of the time for the BBC shooting PAL video. I started off on "Video 8" (pre hi 8) in 1987 and changed to S-VHS in 1988 using one of the bulky JVC dockable models (KY 15/ BRS 410). I hated both of them. In 1990 I landed a contract with the BBC and bought a used Betacam camera (three tube model BVP 3 docked to a standard Betacam (oxide) recorder (BVV 1). This was superb after using the earlier cameras. In 1982 I upgraded to Betacam SP buying a 3 CCD Sony BVP 7 / BVV 5 combination. This was excellent picture quality.

The weather and climate where I work is very harsh and equipment gets a real pasting. My Beta SP camera has survived not only the weather but also several attempts buy thugs to smash it up! It has also survived bad winter conditions in a war zone when I was filming out in Bosnia (despite even more attempts to smash it up!).

The point I'm making is the broadcast version of Betacam SP is sheer class, great pictures and very robust. Operating a Beta SP camera is simply a joy. The controls are easy to use and not at all fiddly (like the VX1000). The lens are great to use, I use a Canon J14 x 8.5 (x2) zoom and occasionally a Canon J6 x 8 wide angle zoom. The viewfinders are sharp and judging exposure and focus is spot on(compared to the VX1000 viewfinder which to me is so poor only Stevie Wonder could like it). The batteries will run the camera for hours, I use PAG 14.4v 5ah superpack LOK-ON batteries which give me about two hours continuos recording (nearly all day in the real world) and can also power up the on board camera light (no messy extra cables), this reduces battery run time by about 50% but makes my working day a lot easier.

Betacam SP cameras come in two versions, the pro models and the broadcast models. The pro version is deliberately under engineered and fails to meet broadcast spec. The cameras offer very little engineering line up which is the key to good pictures. The broadcast models offer engineers access to the whole camera set up. Unfortunately many TV stations buy Betacam cameras and use them straight from the box and the pictures are really a big disappointment. Over here in the UK every station has a broadcast line up spec and each camera is adjusted to meet the spec. The result is the colours, contrast and sharpness are so much better than the "straight out of the box" untouched camera.

When you here comments that the mini DV looked as good, if not better, than Betacam it usually the pro version or misaligned cameras that have been used.

I have done extensive side by side comparisons between my own Beta SP camera and my Sony VX1000. The VX1000 is an impressive piece of equipment and the video recordings can be superb. They are often let down buy poor camerawork and crap sound. If care is taken the results are easily good enough for broadcast. The gap between expensive Betacam and affordable consumer video has closed massively. There are many shots that the VX1000 cannot achieve mainly on account of its cheap optics. The zoom is very limiting and the digital zoom just makes me shudder, but once its limitations are known it easy to work around this. Another bad point is the VX1000 has limited white balance values in its memory. The range of white balances is too limited. On overcast days and towards twilight or in late dawn it often fails to white balance, it has no options available! My Beta SP camera has loads of white balance values and easily copes even in badly fading daylight, low level tungsten lighting, and in many mixed lighting situations. Overcast days, of which there are many in Scotland, present problems for the VX1000. The pictures are soft with low contrast (washed out looking) with pale colours. The Betacam camera pictures on the same days are excellent, they are sharp, contrast is great and colours are good. On sunny days and well-lit locations, the differences are smaller. The results are great on both cameras.

The VX1000 is not easy to operate the focus is difficult due to the poor viewfinder and when the focus ring is turned there is an off putting small delay between the lens response and your turning the ring. The viewfinder also makes it difficult to adjust exposure (despite using zebra stripes) and all the switches are in fiddly locations. The batteries are annoying as they hardly last any time (40 minutes on a good day) so plenty of spares are required for a normal days work (I reckon a minimum of four).

Another major problem that has come to light in Europe is head life on the VX1000. The Beta SP heads are estimated to last for about 1000 hours, but in practice they last for much longer often between two and three thousand hours. The VX 1000 heads appear only to last for about 50 hours!!!! That is not just bad it is appalling. A VX1000 head replacement costs about #800 UK pounds (Nearly $1000 US dollars). Sony in Europe have made a vague admission about this problem, I wonder what the situation is in North America? A new head for the Betacam SP camera is also expensive costing nearly $2000 US Dollars.

On the plus side, the VX1000 scores over Beta SP when it comes to tape dropout and noise. The DV recordings are very clean with hardly any dropout (fortunately digital dropout is rare but horrendous when it happens). Also when camera gain is required to be used the VX1000 is less noisy than my own Beta SP camera. The VX1000 is nice and small and is affordable and certainly very easy to carry around. It can take shots the big Betacam could never achieve due to the physical differences in overall size. Accessories are a lot cheaper (one contributor mentioned the new lightweight steadicams) and I have been using mine in a low cost underwater housing for filming wild salmon in a river - this would have cost a fortune to do on Betacam.

As mentioned by others, the biggest plus is its cost. The VX1000 and mini DV along with new NLE editing systems are now affordable. They offer performance which a few years ago required an investment of over $100,000 US dollars. The whole scene is now very exciting, hopefully new talent will emerge as they can now afford to get into video production and realise their own ideas and business goals.

Betacam is superb, and is more affordable with good used kit now on the market. Unfortunately to playback Betacam you will also have to purchase a separate player. For editing purposes the player will also require to be a version incorparting a TBC (time base corrector) as the signal is quite unstable without one. These players are good value these days but still expensive. The VX1000 can output rock solid stable analogue video from the camera!! Also, it has digital output via firewire requiring no conversion if your NLE edit system has this interface. Betacam SP as a format will be around for a few years but it is in its final stages of life. Digital is developing all the time and in the video world digital is most definitely the future.

Personally I prefer using my Beta SP camera due to the lens/camera combination but I'm seriously impressed with the VX1000 (despite my gripes) and do not regret buying it.

Despite the differences and limitations as well as some of the problems, my own advice to you is buy the VX1000, and a good NLE computer edit system, they results do represent value for money, I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Ged Yeates, TV Cameraman / Editor, Mangersta, Isle of Lewis, Scotland)

-- Ged Yeates (gedtv@globalnet.co.uk), November 09, 1998.

Part of the problem in sorting this out is that there are TWO very different issues that need to be considered: (1) The actual format differences betwen DV and Beta SP (2) The differences in typical camera quality between DV and Beta SP

As far as format difficulties, Beta SP is a more robust format and offers better image quality... the 5:1 compression in DV is impressive, but you're still more likely to run across jagged edges in DV material than Beta SP.

When you look at typical camera quality, there is a huge difference between Beta SP and DV. None of the good mini dv cameras (ie vx1000 and xl1) offer flexibility and features of your typical beta sp camera. The lack of rack-focus ability on both the vx1000 and xl1 is particularly frustrating when doing the types of shots that most people expect in a film. (Note: there are ways to get rack focus abilities with the XL1, the Cannon EOS lens adapter, an EOS lens, and a wide angle adapter.)

So, why go with DV? Well, because Beta SP is still darn expensive, and mini dv gives you some great images at a much lower price point (like a decimal place).

As for work with post houses, that shouldn't sway you. We have a non- linear editing system set up here (Digisuite LE and SpeedRazor) where we read in the DV or DVCAM tapes, edit on the system, then master out to Beta SP. It's not hard to find places that offer this option. Granted, there aren't many post houses that offer firewire transfer, meaning you may end up with an svhs/y-c interface and sacrifice a bit of quality, but more and more houses are getting either firewire ability (remember, firewire and dv are two totally seperate things) or getting dv decks that have good component in/out options.

Good luck! - John

-- John Windmueller (jwind@cais.com), November 14, 1998.

After playing proffessional baseball for many years, I have found that I love video. In fact, I love the XL-1. (who cares what Bake McBride thinks)!

-- Oscar Gamble (balk@hotmail.com), July 21, 1999.

I fully agree with Oscar Gamble. The XL-1 is nice to work with, especially on the field. By the way, does anyone have Oscar Gamble's baseball card from the 70's? He has a big afro, looks neat.

-- Willy Stargel (chilly@hotmail.com), July 21, 1999.

I have been working with Mini dv and dvcpro now for 3 years and my personal opinion is that it a great format.It is good,cheap and very versatile, but I think it lacks when it comes to glitchs.This is a big drawback because it can ruin most if not all of your footage and the worst thing is that they vary from big black stripes to peppery whites squares it can be a complete nightmare.I work in a tv station that relys on this on a day to day basis so you can imagine what its like when go out and do a story and you get back to edit and relise that your footage is ruined fun fun.So what weve done to minimise this is to black your tapes from start to finish with either the camera or the editing using the crash record function.If anyone has any problems regaring glitchs or anything else to do with dv or dvcpro please feel free to email me at Dwarno@yahoo.com.nz

-- Dwayne Carey (Dwarno@yahoo.com), September 15, 1999.

Try making beta look like film in editing and then after you shoot in framed moie mode on an xl1 do the same. WHAT WILL YOU SEE? that the dv footage looks more like film. WHY? because beta uses INTERLACED frames where the frame movie mode on the xl1 uses NON-INTERLACED FRAMES. Make a feature on beta it will always look like video even to the untrained eye.

-- me me and me (dachasm@yahoo.com), March 07, 2002.


-- TKORTE (VMI@CSPRINGS.COM), December 04, 2002.


-- TKORTE (VMI@CSPRINGS.COM), December 04, 2002.

Beta SP hands down. DV is compressed right out of the gate, who wants that... not me. U can find a sweet analog capture setup for cheap nowadays from Aurora or Pinnacle Sys. that will do uncompressed capture. thats 20Mbyts per second.. not shitty 3.6 from miniDV. Also, yes.. beta is an interlaced format... and thank god because software like Magic Bullet utilizes the interlaced information to make an accurate 24p master rather than the choppy "progressive" mode on an XL1.

or better yet.. shoot it on 16mm... ok.. i'm cutting myself off

-- chris r (Chris@rocketfactory.com), September 18, 2003.

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