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What kind of camcorder should I buy?
What care must be taken with Flash Memory?
What Is HD, SD & HDMI?
What is Firewire?
What's the diff between USB & Firewire?
I have heard the term 'bad caps', can you explain?
How do I know if my camcorder is worth fixing?

 

 
What kind of camcorder should I buy?  ^ Top


So, you want to buy a new camcorder...

Actually, these days they are all pretty much the same. Gone are the tape based and disc based camcorders - these are only available as used. What's available now is flash memory based cameras.

So, it's not what type of camcorder, but how much do you want to spend, and which is the better brand. Generally speaking, it's always best to buy from the major manufacturers: Sony, Canon, Panasonic, JVC - there are others, but these are the top brands.

It's always been said, and still holds true today: The LENS makes the camera. Having a professional lens on a camcorder or camera will make all the difference in the world. I've personally got a digital camera that has a small CCD imager - it's only has 5 Megapixels, but the professional lens makes the camera, and even today I can take better pictures than that of most pocket cameras, regardless of whether they are 12 or 16 Megapixels.

I used to like Sony branded cameras and camcorder and they were the best in reliability and build quality. Things have changed, and now the parts prices have skyrocketed. I know they are hurting, but raising prices is the last thing they should do. Of course, all they (and other manufacturers) want is for you to keep buying new, because the old parts are either no longer available, or they're too expensive, forcing you to buy new.

These days I think Canon is doing a better job than Sony is. The nice thing about Sony products is that you can buy components on the circuit board - vs Canon products that you have to replace the entire board, or assembly. Individual parts are few and far between. But overall, Canon's pricing of parts is far better than Sony at the moment.

JVC and Panasonic are tied - as Panasonic owns 51% of JVC... their products are always very similar.

So, Sony and Canon are tied for first place in build quality and reliability. Next comes Panasonic and JVC. Unless you're going JVC Pro, these are much higher quality than consumer JVC camcorders. If you are considering a JVC consumer camcorder, you might as well take a look at the minor brands: Samsung, Sanyo, yada yada.

Do remember this one thing: If you can afford it, and it's available, ALWAYS buy Japanese. Made in China is a dead giveaway that it's a piece of junk and will fail in short order. Why do you think there are so many auto recalls? Yep - cheap Chinese parts! Of course, Mexico's assembly techniques don't help either...

 
 
 
What care must be taken with Flash Memory?  ^ Top


Flash memory is fragile and can be damaged by static electricity. Shocks, drops or impacts can also damage them. Care must be used when handling this kind of memory. You can't just toss them around like you could with tapes. (unless you live in Florida - the humidity is so high here that static shock is rare. They've gotten lazy down here in Florida and have taken up bad practices because of the lack of static electricity. Try that up north and you've had it.

The most common pitfall of the average consumer is that they don't download the footage to the computer - or they don't do it very often. Always download to your computer as soon as possible to insure that your precious memory's live on into the future.

STAY AWAY FROM WATER and SAND! I continually receive cameras and camcorders that have been to Sea World, or a Water Park, or a Beach, etc... They've been damaged either by salt water, fresh water, or they've been damaged by sand. When water gets inside your camera you can easily loose all your precious memories. Corrosion happens quickly - even more so with salt water. If there is any chance to recover the data you must act quickly! It is best that you don't power on your camera - and you should immediately remove the battery. Get your camera to us as fast as possible. Time does matter - even a single day...

Many times we've had clients that got their camera wet. However, they've told us that they used a blow dryer and now the camera is working OK. Yes, this is possible - but you will never, ever get rid of all the water. Within a short period of time that camera or camcorder will fail. It's not a question of IF, but When.

If you're going to take a vacation, buy a cheap camera or camcorder. That way, you won't loose your shirt when an accident happens. People never intend on dropping their camera in sand or water- but it happens all the time... If you must take your camera to the beach on or in the canoe - get an all weather enclosure. The least inexpensive ones are made like thick plastic bags that fit your particular mode, and is effective in preventing accidents. Do a search for your particular model. they aren't that expensive and will save you a world of hurt.

 
 
 
What Is HD, SD & HDMI?  ^ Top


HD
is High Definition and SD stands for Standard Definition

HDV stands for High Definition Video

HDMI is a standard that carries both audio and video signals in one nifty cable. Gone are the tangle of wires that use to be behind the TV.

 
 
 
What is Firewire?  ^ Top


Firewire, also known as iLINK, allows sharing and communication of digital information between older taped based camcorders. Most new computers don't come with firewire any longer, but have USB 3.0.. If you've a computer that doesn't have firewire it may be possible to install an expansion card that will allow your computer to communicate directly with a device that supports firewire.

 
 
 
What's the difference between USB & Firewire?  ^ Top


USB - Universal Serial Bus. This transmission standard goes back to the mid 90's, where Windows 95 (with USB support) was first introduced. Back then, about the only thing you could find with USB were joysticks. Soon though, the speed and efficiency was realized and just about everything became USB connected.

USB 2.0 was faster yet.

USB 3.0 is now the standard and screams.

Firewire (Firewire 400, as it's called) was the standard for tape based camcorders to communicate with each other, or to a computer or hard drive to store the data. It's faster than regular USB. The 6 pin connector on the computer side is notorious for destroying many a camcorder. If the cable is inserted at an angle (or even backwards - yes, it does go in backwards with just a little help) then the 12V DC that is supplied at the computer side travels down the wrong pair and instantaneously fries the firewire IC and associated components. There is no smell, no smoke, no sound. Just stops working. Makes for expensive repairs!

Many times we'll repair the camcorder and send it back to the customer, only to have them do the exact same thing again! This has happened countless times, and the manufacturers are very well aware of this. Once a cable is inserted backwards, it's easier to do it again. The best thing to do is to actually look at the back of computer and while watching, plug in the 6 pin end of the firewire cable. Leave it plugged in, and just connect and disconnect the camera side whenever you want.

There is no need to power off the camcorder or the PC to connect the firewire cable, despite what you've been told. I've been at this a long time - I should know!

Firewire 800 - A newer and faster version of firewire that uses a square connector, versus the problematic D connector of old.

Firewire 1600 - Faster version still and competes with USB 3.0. Backwards compatible with Firewire 800. Mac uses this version

Firewire 3200 - While this version does exist, it really didn't get into any production. It's also suppose to be backwards compatible with Firewire 800 and 1600.

HDMI is now used for HD camcorders, HDTV's and BluRay DVD players so that they all play nice together. It's simple really. One cable that carries both audio and video - including Dolby stereo. Now what does make a difference is the cables. Almost all are made in China, but there are the dollar store varieties and gold plated, diamond encrusted versions. No need to buy the later - but spending more than dirt on a cable is a good idea. If you're watching a movie and the sound keeps cutting out, or there's intermittent problems with the video - try a higher quality cable!

 
 
 
I have heard the term 'bad caps', can you explain?  ^ Top


'Bad caps' refers to leaking electrolytic capacitors. Capacitors come in many shapes and sizes, but when one refers to 'bad caps', they are speaking of either electrolytic's, or surface mount electrolytic's.

Electrolytic capacitors and their SMD counterparts (Surface Mounted Device) are heat sensitive and will break down and leak over time. Between the years of 1989 - 1995, and again from 1999 to 2006, there were batches of capacitors that were particularly vulnerable. These caps were used in virtually everything that contains electronic circuits: From toaster ovens to automotive electronics, and all consumer and professional audio/ video products that have ever been made. Some manufacturers even stopped using SMD capacitors completely, thinking their product would be more reliable - but after only a few years they found that the regular electrolytic capacitors went bad as well.. go figure. This is the 'dirty little secret' that the manufacturers don't talk about. Imagine if the car industry was held to account for the bad caps in the 'electronic brains' or electronic dashboards, etc. Or if the camcorder manufacturers were held to account for the products they made that went bad shortly after the warranty was up - all because of a fairly inexpensive part - the electrolytic capacitor.

When a capacitor begins to physically leak, a caustic substance slowly oozes out, and begins to eat away at the circuit board, and anything else it touches in the surrounding area. If the circuit board has multiple layers, this problem is exacerbated and can destroy the circuit board very quickly. IF, and this is a big IF we are able to get to the camcorder in time and IF the circuit board isn't irreparably damaged, we can remove the old capacitors and replace them with new, high quality, longer life capacitors. They aren't cheap and many of them cost a dollar or more each! (that's our cost!) Some camcorders only have about 60 or 70 capacitors. Others far less. Many have a couple hundred of these or more. The older the camcorder, the more capacitors that were used. In 1991 for example - there were easily a couple of hundred SMD capacitors or more in many Sony camcorders.

Now, some shops out there use the bottom of the barrel capacitors - cheap ones that won't last very long - shame on them! (even these cost a bit, just not as expensive as the long life/ high quality ones)

Many times an owner of one of these 'bad cap' camcorders puts his camcorder away for many years - sometimes even a decade - only to then find out that his camcorder no longer works. This defies their logic, as they can find no reason that it should stop working. However, electronics do NOT have to be powered on to fail. The capacitors (for one thing) have all leaked out over the last few years, which simply ruins the camcorder. Now, enter the humble repair shop who informs the customer of these facts. The customer then thinks to himself that he paid over a thousand dollars for the camcorder when he bought it, and what he was just told doesn't make any sense to him - "no ones even used it in all these years - how can it just go bad sitting on the shelf !!". He then calls us as much as a crook and then bad mouths us to anyone he meets. DON'T SHOOT THE MESSANGER! We didn't sneak into your house and break your camcorder, now did we? This exact same scenario repeats itself continually, and shows no sign of every stopping. It's sad to say, but it's almost always older gentleman...

It should be noted that EVERY surface mount electrolytic capacitor should be changed. If not, what happens? You get milked. You take the camcorder back again and again, but each time there's a different (and you think unrelated) problem. Because ALL the caps weren't replaced, the ones that were still working have just failed. As they fail in each individual circuit - the symptoms vary. This is good for the repair guy that just got out of jail - but bad for you! Do it right, or just don't bother. Sad to say, but most shops are guilty of NOT changing them all!

Labor to replace these 'bad caps' begins at $250 and goes up from there. We charge $1.50 for each capacitor that is replaced.

 
 
 
Camcorders that ARE recommended for repair are:  ^ Top


Most models from the year 1998 and up.

If your camcorder is older than this, go shopping for new or used. It's best to avoid the years listed above that have 'bad caps'.

There are exceptions - Simply contact us and we'll let you know!

 
 

Camcorders that are NOT recommended for repair are:   ^ Top


Anything up to and including the year 1997

 
 

 


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