jamie goode's wine blog: Buying a camcorder and the death of shopkeeping

Friday, October 19, 2007

Buying a camcorder and the death of shopkeeping

I mentioned a while back that I was looking for a video camera so I could post video blog entries. Well, after much digging around on the web, and with some useful input by wineanorak readers, Iíve purchased one. I didnít want to spend a fortune: I set my budget at a relatively miserly £300 or thereabouts. The newest cameras are high-definition and start at around £500 and arenít an option, so Iím just considering standard-definition camcorders. For this money what you get largely depends on the format you choose.

HDD is the most expensive, and you get least for your money. These are cameras that record compressed video (usually MPEG2 format) onto a hard disk. Theyíre convenient, and will probably be the future of video cameras, but for £300 you can only get an entry level one, with say 30 Gb of disk space. The sensors are usually a bit small and the resulting video quality suffers. DVD camcorders are the next most expensive: they record compressed video (MPEG2) directly onto DVDs, which is convenient for most users who shoot their footage and then can play it back through their DVD players. £300 gets you a bit more spec with a DVD camera than youíd get with an HDD model, but not a whole lot more.

The third format is mini DV, which involves recording uncompressed video to small tapes. This is a bit more fiddly, but you get much better quality at the equivalent price points to the other two formats. It also means you have more editing options. The geeky choice. The model I chose was the Panasonic NV-GS320, which has three CCD sensors and a good lens. Iíve tried it out and have been impressed with the results. It was quite a bit less than £300 from ebuyer.com, but you could have spent quite a bit more if you had gone elsewhere.

I guess this is the modern way we purchase many items: by doing our own research on the internet and then hunting around for the best price. But is it the most satisfying or the most effective? I donít think so. It leads to the death of shopkeeping. In these days of price comparison, we hunt around to save £5, £10 or £15 on a £200 item, and are delighted when we get the best deal. But that £5, £10 or £15 was the margin that allowed good shops to employ competent, friendly staff who knew their stuff and could help you make the right decision. Wouldnít it be more satisfying and a better use of my time if I could have gone along to a retailer, chatted with someone about my requirements and then have chosen one of a range of options suggested to me? How much time have I spent digging for information, much of which I donít have the context to process properly.

Look at wine. Wine-searcher is a great tool, but use it for locating hard-to-find wines. Donít use it at the expense of your local, knowledgeable merchant (if you have one) who can hand sell you interesting wines that youíll find rewarding. And if you see someone selling a particular wine for £5 less than your merchant has it on the shelves, donít assume that your merchant is ripping you off. Bricks-and-mortar wine shops have their place, just as internet-only merchants do. You often pay a premium at a wine store where you can wander in, have a chat, get some advice and forge some sort of relationship because they are adding value to the wine buying experience. When you see wines being offered more cheaply by internet or mail-order merchants, bear this in mind.


At 2:11 PM, Anonymous Keith Prothero said...

Agree Jamie. I also would really love it if wine correspondents did not encourage wine sales in supermarkets by endorsing wines with positive,sometimes gushing tasting notes !!
But of course we live in a world of convenience shopping,and I would guess 80% of wine consumers,have not got a clue about wine,and hence take the same time about buying a bottle, as they would a pint of milk.

At 9:39 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

That's a decent choice, Jamie. I'm a big fan of Panasonic AV equipment having had great results from the old MX500B. I just splashed out £500 on a Panasonic SD1 (including a 2 yr warranty). Very pleased with the results so far, although getting the footage onto my Mac mini looks a little problematic. I'm hoping to get a Mac Pro in November when the new Penryn ones come out and, with that I can get iMovie 8 to import AVCHD files.

I suspect I'm guilty of shopping around, but I do try to reward wine retailers who make to effort to host tastings etc.

At 12:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point Keith. Perhaps the public could choose from the wider selection available to them on the internet. Oh...

At 5:20 PM, Anonymous Robert said...

to be honest i'm much more likely to trust the crowd with purchases like these - the combined wisdom of people writing reviews on amazon, epinions, cnet and endless other venues is more valuable to me than some mediated source like a shopkeeper. i want an expert to tell me what trade-offs i am likely to need to make and the public to tell me their experiences in making them.


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