Digital camcorder or digital SLR?

Dec 25, 2006
Iowa City, Iowa
I've about 600 dollars to spend and I'm not sure which to go for.

For a SLR, I'd almost certainly get the digital rebel XT. Before venturing into storm chasing I had wanted one quite a bit for astronomy and auroral photography. (and finally you can get them for a price under 600)

Not quite as sure on the video camcorder, though. Any experiences with (newer) camcorders under 600? Seems most of my options are mini-dvs, and it sounds like they may soon be obsolete. What do you look for in a good camcorder in this price range? (just resolution, CCD size, and abilities such as shooting in low light?)

FWIW, I have a decent tape camcorder with digital out. (also have an early model point and shoot digital camera)

Would you say that 600 gets you a better digital camera than camcorder? (that's what I'm guessing)

What better captures the excitement of the chase for you? (this is probably a tough one to answer) I'm having a tough time on this question...

FWIW, not looking to make money of any videos/pictures, but if the opportunity came its way, I'd take it. Just want something quality that really captures the moment and experience.

Any thoughts or experiences are appreciated.
Just watch out on the MiniDV camcorders. Seems to be a trend to put the tape loader on the bottom, which means you have to take it OFF the tripod to change the tape, which is a major pain in the rear, especially if you want to change it quick.
I don’t think $600 will get you either. Sure you can pick up a low end SLR for $600-$700 but that doesn’t include any of the accessories (bag, filters, batteries, lenses, etc.) that will be required to shoot the desired pictures of severe storms. While you can pick up a decent home video camera for $400 or so, I would think anyone in the market for a camcorder now would be looking for HD and those start at a little more then $1000. If you can't come up with a little more money I would suggest just purchasing a high end household camcorder for around $500. As long as your not interested in selling or marketing your work, I would think it would do as good of job as any capturing the event for you to enjoy in the future.
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I do agree that $600 is not going to buy you a really good video cam or still cam. $1000-$1500 is about what you would expect to pay for a good "chaser" vid cam or still cam.
From what I understand the 350 XT is a pretty nice camera and can produce some real quality photos. I understand that getting a nice lens to go with it makes the purchase quite a bit more expensive. However, I don't feel as though I'd have to do that right away. (but in purchasing a 350 XT I'd have a platform that could be added on to in order to get some very nice quality photographs, it'd give me that capability, at least)

Curious, what accessories would I need to take photos of severe storms besides an upgrade in the lens department. (and even then -- that'd just be to have *better* photos)

I guess I'm more inclined to make due with the old video camcorder for now if I'm finally able to take the plunge and get a digital SLR.

It seems the world of digital camcorders is in a state of flux right now... (moving away from the DVD and DV models and towards HD technology)

BTW - Does anybody know of any storm videos shot with the cheaper type camcorders I've been speaking of? (miniDV and such) I'd love to take a look at those.

Thanks all.
Derek, I have shot with the Rebel XT for almost a year and a half now. I love it. I just purchased a new lens for it (17-40L) after using the 18-55, and the 50 f/1.8. The 50 1.8 is around 70 bucks on, and is incredibly sharp for its price. From what I understand, Dell, had a deal for the body only for 450 for the XT. I'm not sure what it goes for now.

I also shot video this year with my Panasonic GS150 3ccd camera, which I picked up in January under 600 bucks. If I had to choose, it would be stills, but it's all just a personal preference. I had an issue with the AF earlier this year, but Canon sent me a brand new XT.
I would also go with slr. I have the rebel xt and at the same time I bought a new mini dv camcorder (it was about 450$). I dont even know the brand because I havent used it that much. I dont think I have went a day without taking at least 1 picture on the rebel xt. There is just so much more you can do with a slr than with a similiarly priced camcorder.
I have a sony DCR-HC90 mini dv camcorder with a large 1/3 inch ccd chip. Usually the larger the ccd chip the better for shooting in low light evening conditions. I have campared my video to others that have the low end camcorders with smaller chips and the difference is stunning. Their video is nothing but a grainy mess. Sony has replaced that model and now has the DCR-HC96 which sells for around $600. It still has a 1/3 inch ccd. A review for the camcorder can be found by using this link.

As for a digital still camera, I use a Canon PowerShot A620 and have had some great results. Canon has replaced that model with a Powershot A630 which has the same specs as the A620, but with more megapixels. The Powershot A630 costs about $250. However, if you plan on doing any lightning photography, then a digital dslr camera is a must have. A review for the Canon Powershot can be found here.
If you can afford both the body + lens, battery, CF card, etc., I'd go with the SLR. I've had an XT for a year and a half now and love it. You probably can't improve on your current video quality much with what you have to spend, and since you already have a video solution to capture such things as fellow chasers and unexpected events, as well as clear evidence of things like rotation in cloud structure, I'd wait on the video. The exception might be if your current video cam has very very poor low light response. Hope my two cents is worth every penny (both of them) :)