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Discussion Starter #1
I'm really tired of not being able to capture the full spectrum of Halloween special effect tests. Can anyone recommend an inexpensive, currently-available-in-Big-Box-Stores digital camera or digital camcorder (budget = $200 or less). I have a Best Buy, Walmart, and Target all in close proximity. Don't have time to order online or off eBay--although please also recommend any older models too.

But boy, I'm Jonesin' to grab something from a brick-and-mortar store today. Even if I have to return it later if it's out of budget. Hate doing that, but that's how frustrated I am at the moment.

And by digital camera, I mean a point and shoot that can shoot *video* very well in low light conditions. Not talking SLR or still photography.

Having an Infrared mode might also be helpful. Would have been useful on my visit to Diagon Alley--none of my homegrown test wands worked incidentally--ended up buying my wife a Hermoine Interactive Wand--but it may have captured the IR beams. I saw what looked to be arrays of IR diodes in rectangular configurations of four--maybe those were motion detectors. Anyway, the rumor, haven't checked recently, is that the interactive window displays work off modified Xbox Kinnect cameras...

I'm in the Raleigh, NC area; may have left out other potential camera-purchase stores whose names have escaped me. There's still at least a KMart or two left open; scored me two UV battery-operated strobes--exactly like the gray-cased ones Target sells--for half off; normally $8 each; got two for $4 each.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
I know we're all busy post-haunt, but has anyone had issues--hopefully now solved--capturing details of their haunt in low light conditions? If so, what was your solution?
 

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Mike, look over here:


The relevant part starts at about 11:00 in.

I'm going to have to fire up my haunt again tonight, because I'm not happy with a lot of the footage that I took.
Going to take another stab at it.
 

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I like my Sony Handycam, CX-330. It does a great job in low light.
 

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It's the same for me every year..... from November 1st through usually sometime in mid September I keep telling myself I need to go buy a decent video camera so I can have a good video of my haunt. Of course every year I put it off and by the time I really need it I can afford to pay for it because I'm spending my money on Halloween props and materials to build props and then of course pumpkins and candy. Buying a video camera should be my New Year's Resolution this year.
 

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If you are thinking of maybe going a used video camera route, here's what I'd suggest. We have but haven't used in some time a very low-lux digital Sony Handicam, DCR-TVR11, can't recall but bought probably close to 10 years or maybe more ago now. It was their Super NightShot Zero (0) Lux handicam model. It has DV In/Out connection and a S-Video out. Can't recall all the specifics of it. Hubby thinks he paid over $1000 for it and the accessories he added. Old technology now, but I have to agree Sony handicams were really good video cameras. This particular model stored video on mini-DV cassettes, and used a Sony memory card for digital still images. Has a viewfinder and a 3.5-inch color LCD to see what you were shooting. Carl Zeiss lens, Super SteadyShot Image stablization. Has 3 choices of Program Auto Exposure modes to select. Has a remote. Had zoom too (10X optical, 120X digital), various battery packs but could runoff AC too. Remember it being very comfortable holding while filming. We bought a tripod to use with it. Don't know if they still make batteries and/or mini-video cassettes for some of these older handicams so that would be a concern but they could make a nice find used. Saw 2 listed for about $125 online used (but not certain which version they were selling--see below*). It had a number of accessories available like a mic (forgot what kind), light, case, different Memory Stick capacities, various battery capacities. It does have some IR capabilities, a laser link but don't think we used that.

Sony included a Firewire card, software and cables for PCs and there's still some support info on their site. Nothing was needed for Mac users as the Mac already supported Firewire and I just run everything in thru iMovie or FinalCut Pro. Was super easy.

*There were two versions of the TRV11. The first one has a manual dated 1996 (CCD-TRV11). That camera was a Video 8, a bit bulky, and came with a 2.5 inch LCD view screen with 12x optical zoom only, no digital. It was listed as 0.8 Lux for low light. The battery for this model sat to the right side of the viewfinder. Here's a link to Sony's support area for the handicam in general. You can check out the manual there, it's the older model. Sony updated the TRV11 around 2000 (DCR-TRV11). Here is the link to Sony's support area for the newer TRV11, including its manual. You'll see that the LCD panel is listed as 3.5 inches in this manual, it's a slimmed down model using mini-DV tapes, and a number of other items in the manual are different as well (TRV6/TRV11/TRV20). The battery for this model fits under the viewfinder. The optical zoom is 10X with digital zoom up to 120x. The zoom mode is very smooth on it. This is the model version I would recommend considering. It has the SuperNightShot option that has rays that are infrared. It will make subjects 16 times brighter than just NightShot mode (see page 22-23). You can also record 16:9 wide with this model. It's not HD however. It has a self-timer mode. Wish I had seen your thread earlier Mike cause I might have dug it out of the closet and see if the battery would still charge and used it for halloween filming this year. With all the new and smaller equipment out there stuff like this somehow gets shoved to the back and forgotten. LOL.

Although before I would invest in a used old camcorder, I'd check out what's out there new. Things have come a long way in the meantime and prices have come down too. You need to get stuff off of it and to your computer so don't forget that aspect when you are investigating older equipment.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks to all for the Sony Handicam suggestions; and thanks also to Abunai for posting the Dead with Dave episode. Will have to check it out soon. And thanks Spookie for the detailed response. Got some homework to do.
 

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Mike if you want to film in total darkness (using IR--like night vision goggles--for seeing racoons in the dark, zombies creeping up on you) look for 0 lux capability. That will be found on high end models like the old DCR TRV11 line and on the current pro series. If you don't need that level of shooting then the 3 lux will probably be fine for holiday lights.
 

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I use a Kodak Zi8. It's a small handheld that is actually quite good. But it's pricey now, whereas when I bought it a a few years ago I paid around 100 for it. Maybe you can find one on the cheap. Look at my 2013 vid in my signature for what it does. All I really want is good color reproduction and it does that well. It also does up to 1080p.
 

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Also for use to document charity haunt build / project from start to finish?

Thanks for all the help and great suggestions. I want to add something more into the mix. I've actively seeking a local host Civic org in the Raleigh, NC / Wake County area, and beneficiary charity, to establish a charitable Haunted Attraction. I've wanted to do volunteer work for years and never get around to it. So this is the perfect volunteer opportunity for me; since it could take a year or more to get the first one established.

And, I'm a huge fan of documentaries (some faves are American Movie, My Best Fiend (sic), Burden of Dreams, and Best Worst Movie). Have always wanted to create my own documentary. And thought this may be another perfect opportunity.

That being said, does anyone want to suggest / modify "inexpensive" camcorder suggestions that could also handle this sort of application. May need local volunteers for this--multiple camera operators, etc. I think Duke University has a Documentary Film degree program--so perhaps that's a good source of info / talent. May need multiple cameras, or may be able to get camera-folk to volunteer their own.

It would be neat, I think, as one long, but hopefully entertaining, How To, to how one goes from zero to semi-pro Charity Haunt.

Anyway, since my yard haunt comes and goes so quickly, I thought this would be a fun and fulfilling way to enjoy Halloween year round--getting donated interior space for a charity haunt and serving a good cause.

What other elements do I need to consider? e.g. ability to use certain types of microphones (phantom power for condenser mics?), etc. And what minimum quality do I need, resolution wise, for something that could actually turn into a real documentary vs. just a YouTube vid?
 

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Any new, small sub-$200 SD-card based camcorders for low light (preferably Lux 0)

Heading off to Europe in a few weeks and like to travel light. Never got around to purchasing anything suggested here. So I'm wondering if there are any new model suggestions people would recommend--or ones where the prices have really dropped.

My wife and I will be heading back to Rome for several days where there was a very cool and spooky tomb on-site at the Forum. Neither of my cameras picked it up very well. May also be exploring other dark corners, catacombs, and tombs along Rome's Appian Way. Potentially the Cappuchin Monastery. And maybe the Paris Catacombs.

Don't want to spend a lot of $$$; and I've got a bad back so I travel as light as possible--learned that years ago from Rick Steves, and it helps now more than ever.

Another use for it would be to take a Lux 0 or Lux 1 rear-view video of Disney's Haunted Mansion--having the thing raised up and pointed behind the Doom Buggy; as I suspect there may be cool special effects details I've not seen before. Tried this with my wife's iPhone 6 semi-recently and it was very dark. Didn't see anything useful.

Would help if there was a model currently for sale at Best Buy since I have a $10 reward certificate that expires soon. Any ideas?
 

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Any last thoughts? I head out to Rome this Friday. Any non-SLR point-and-shoots good in low light that I can pick up locally at a Best Buy, Target, or Walmart before I leave? Was hoping to buy something today or tomorrow to be done with it. Hopefully something I can return to the store without any hassle if it isn't the ideal choice of camera for me.
 

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I agree with the Sony recommendations....I have an old one that is firewire and takes the digital tape that has night vision and it picks up very nicely......I'm not impressed with the gopro hero 3+ black edition I have for low light....Doesn't pick anything up unless something has substantial light....I'm really impressed with my Nikon d3200 for low light but it doesn't work well on anything that moves because I have to slow the shutter speed way down and use a tripod so it doesn't move....It gives me the best colored shots out of the 3 if the limitations are met....The night vision picks up detail the most but it isn't in color....More like a mostly green type of color.......Hope that helps....ZR
 

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I agree with the Sony recommendations....I have an old one that is firewire and takes the digital tape that has night vision and it picks up very nicely......I'm not impressed with the gopro hero 3+ black edition I have for low light....Doesn't pick anything up unless something has substantial light....I'm really impressed with my Nikon d3200 for low light but it doesn't work well on anything that moves because I have to slow the shutter speed way down and use a tripod so it doesn't move....It gives me the best colored shots out of the 3 if the limitations are met....The night vision picks up detail the most but it isn't in color....More like a mostly green type of color.......Hope that helps....ZR
Thanks ZombieRaider. Will have to look at stuff over the summer. Old used Sony handicam off eBay seems to be the winner here for capturing night time haunts! :)

Today's my last day before I fly to Europe for vacation. I do, however, need to purchase a small fit in your pocket point-and-shoot today--something hovering around $100. My old trusty point-and-shoot died. Best Buy seems to have a Sony 20MP model for $100. As far as features, really too late for that. Though wondering if anyone's bought a cheap point-and-shoot recently at a Best Buy, Walmart, or Target store and how you liked it.
 

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Thanks ZombieRaider. Will have to look at stuff over the summer. Old used Sony handicam off eBay seems to be the winner here for capturing night time haunts! :)

Today's my last day before I fly to Europe for vacation. I do, however, need to purchase a small fit in your pocket point-and-shoot today--something hovering around $100. My old trusty point-and-shoot died. Best Buy seems to have a Sony 20MP model for $100. As far as features, really too late for that. Though wondering if anyone's bought a cheap point-and-shoot recently at a Best Buy, Walmart, or Target store and how you liked it.
At the $100 mark, you're pretty limited, and the point and shoots will be about the quality of a smart phone. If you're ok with that, I'd suggest one of the Canon Powershots. Not sure what the new models are, but they traditionally have one around that price point and I own two older powershots that have been fantastic little cameras, but tend to just use the phone in that capacity these days as quality is really close. If I want a nicer pic, I use my DSLR.


Don't worry so much about MP count. Past about 5 MP, quality comes from the processor and the glass more than the MP count unless you're going to blow something up huge. Better off buying a 10MP camera with better features than a 20 MP camera that's lacking. So look for the best optical zoom range before it goes into "digital zoom" (digital zoom = cropping = less quality), best ISO settings (for everyday shooting you'll want to keep it down around 100-200, for low light you want a high iso), and any camera shooting modes that might be interesting to you.
 

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He was asking about a cheap one to take on a europe vacation that last post, specifically. As a travel camera, it excels. In low light, I'd say it was serviceable.

That said, I was often too lazy to pull out Bertha (my dslr at the time) in the past and would use it in low light. You COULD get less noise by entering manual mode, turning down the ISO settings, using a tripod and living with a slower shutter speed. If I'm going to do that, I'll pull out my DSLR, these were just quick snaps of whatever I had at the time or where the DSLR was inconvenient:

The 8MP powershot in low light, sans flash or tripod:








Videos are not it's strong suit though. (though was decent for 2006 when it come out):




Edit: For those curious, I own the Powershot SD800 and SD1000. The former was dropped and "broke", so I bought the latter used off ebay, but managed to get the former back together (though held together by a rubber band or string). I like them both, the 1000 is a little better at macro stuff, the 800 a little better at panoramic stuff. The 1000 stays in my shaving kit for trips, the 800 is my boy's scout camping camera.


At some point my wife owned an upgraded version, but it broke on a ski trip after only a year or so. But, you fall on it, you can't really blame the camera. I recall being impressed with it's pictures as well, and it had more manual modes available.
 
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