From David Allison: "Finding the right camcorder is getting ridiculously difficult. A year ago, Pete Fraser advised sticking with DV, but that's not possible anymore. The four major camcorder manufacturers (Canon, Sony, Panasonic and JVC) have stopped making DV cameras for the consumer market - it's all SD cards and HDD drives now. Canon still lists 5 standard-def DV models on its website, but they're no longer available to purchase.
"Secondly, there's no longer any way to get quality sound from a cheap camcorder - even an HD one - as NONE of the manufacturers include mic jacks in 2010 models below about £700"
"In other words, it can no longer be said that cheap cameras give perfectly good results - it used to be true, but the market has sadly changed for the worse. Given the current economic climate especially, the board should expect to see a decline in sound quality in student videos from all but the private schools and media colleges - there's no way to afford pricey cameras like that at the moment. I trust our students won't be penalised for this?"
David is right- the manufacturers have once again changed the technology and phased out an older format. However, I don't think this is necessarily making things any more difficult as far as sound is concerned. We used bottom of the range camcorders with built in mics for ten years for all our student projects; if shooting dialogue, students needed to plan for it in advance. Most sound was added afterwards, so there's no reason to think this will lead to a decline in their videos. With all technology, it's about students making the best possible use of what is at their disposal.
From Tom Barrance: "I always suggest that students make films without recording live sound and put the soundtrack together on the computer. This means you can get high-quality sound without the pitfalls of live recording.
An option for live sound is to record it separately using a digital audio recorder and sync sound and picture up at the editing stage (you need a clapperboard and timeline-based editing software). This gives you a lot more flexibility with your sound design as mic position isn't limited by having to be connected to the camera. The new Zoom H1 digital audio recorder is around £100 - plug a £30 tieclip mic into this and you can give actors or presenters as much freedom of movement as if you were using radio mics. (You might think this too fiddly for your students.)"