Sony Digital 8 vs Panasonic PV-GS120

Jun 15, 2004
Champaign, IL
I've been running a Sony TRV-310 Digital 8 camcorder since 2000 and it's done pretty well. I was looking for something that would do a little better in low light situations, aka chasing here in Illinois. ;) It's 2005 and I figured it was time for an upgrade, at least one I could afford. In doing some research, it appears they (the camcorder folks) have decided to make these camcorders as small as possible. Now my dream camcorder is the Sony 2100, which I'll probably never get close in being able to afford one.

Anywho, I was somewhat drawn to the Panasonic 3ccd camcorders that were amazingly under $1000. I've always been a Sony fan myself, but figured if Panasonic had a decent 3ccd camcorder I'd take a look at it. After researching some more, I decided on the Panasonic PV-GS120. I wanted to save some $$$, so I ordered online.

It arrived yesterday and my first impression was how small it was. However cute it looked, I knew this could cause some problems. I plugged it in and my first fears came true about the small size causing problems. The image was shaking due to the lightweight of it and the build in EIS was absolutely no help. I could ignore that as long as the image quality was good. The only way to really find out was to compare it side by side to my Sony TRV310 digital 8.

I pointed both cameras at the same object in the room and hooked them both up to the TV as to not judge by the LCD screens. I could not believe my eyes and I had to trace the wires several times to make sure which image I was seeing. The Digital 8 was not only brighter/less grainy but had better color than the 3ccd panasonic! Something had to be set wrong, there's no way this could be. I dug through the manual and began adjusting manual settings and despite all my efforts, I could not match the digital 8.

The only logical explanation is the size of the CCD. My D8 has a 1/4" CCD, while the Panasonic CCD sizes are 1/6". I never thought that small increment would make such a difference, but I've seen it for myself. So yeah, the Panasonic will be heading back to the online retailer next week. :(

So I guess my next question is should I keep looking for something better in low light situations to replace my TRV310, or just save up over the next few years and get a VX2100? Is there any models in between that will be better than what I have now? I've seen several of Dave Lewison's chase highlight videos that he shot with his Sony TRV900 and they look very decent. However, they don't make this model anymore and I don't trust used ones out there. Why did Sony stop making these nice camcorders? :) I guess my budget would be like $800-1000. Am I wasting my time / money with this search?

Thanks to all!

Yes, CCD size is one of the most important factors in image quality. 1/6", 1/4", 1/3", 1/2", 3/4", etc... For the most part, the bigger the size, the better the quality. That said, the size of the CCD(s) is strongly tied to the price, so...

If you're going to "save up over the next few years", you won't be getting a VX2100, since that model will probably be replaced by then. That said, the VX2100 is largely regarded as having the best low-light performance of any prosumer grade MiniDV camcorder (<$5000). Additionally, if you're talking about a few years in the future, you'll probably be going for an HDV or (hopefully) a DVCPro camcorder.

In the here-and-now, though, I don't really know what to suggest. In terms of format, most would agree that there is little difference in quality between miniDV and D8 (though many would agree that miniDV has a slight advantage). I'm really hoping to have the money for the VX2100 in a couple of months, but some other committments may preclude me from having the dinero for that. Some other camcorders you can consider: Canon GL2, Sony PDX10, JVC GY-DV300, Panasonic DVC30, Panasonic GS400...
NOt trying to Hi-Jack the thread, but what about some of the older S-VHS and Hi-8 recorders? I'm talking about the pro-level stuff and not small camcorders. It seems that a lot of these were 3 CCD 1/2 inch sensors and are now being replaced by DVCAM equipment. If you look hard enough, some of these cameras (in decent shape) are going for around $500 to $700.

Yeah, it's still analog, but really good analog recordings can be fed into the computer and edited and turn out every bit as good as the higher dollar DVCAM and MiniDV.

Of course you'll still pay upwards of $11,000 for Beta SP, even in beat up condition.

I shoot a lot more than just weather, so I'm looking at the older equipment that a lot of folks are replacing as they upgrade. It doesn't hurt me to be a generation behind. Especially in this part of the woods.
CCD's are directly related to low light capabilty. Not to re-idderate what others have posted here.

The Sony vx2100 in consumerland is probably the least expensive 1/3 ccd you will find for the money. Prosumer version would be the PD170 Sony. I use the Panasonic DVX100A its 1/3 and a little more costly. Canon has out the xl1 and now xl2 that have 1/3 chip in it.

For what we are doing the 1/3 will work just fine for low light. But man them 1/2 chippers are really nice but be prepared to shell out the $$$ if your going digital these days.. John may have something there with his ideas.. But you will need to purchase a VTR with firewire out to convert to digital if your wanting to edit on your computer. i would say that would be the most cost effective way to go than buying a bunch of outdated used editing decks.
Thanks to all for the replies! I'm just going to hold off and stick with the digital 8 for now. Maybe I'll win the lotto one of these days and I can get a few 2100's. ;)