When it comes to ghost hunting, the most fundamental piece of technology is that of IR camcorders. Regardless of whether a team utilizes CTS cameras or just relies on a multitude of camcorders on tripods, if you're shooting under low lighting conditions you need an infrared camcorder.
Over the years we've encountered a number of very ambitious people that have created their own gear out of components, and modifying readily available equipment. Now, some of these people are pretty outstanding and create some very intriguing pieces of ghost hunting equipment like the 'Tri-Field Audio-Visual Recorder" but the fact of the matter is that if you want to shoot at night you will need an actual camcorder.
The advantage of selecting a genuine camcorder with nightshot or IR capabilities means it does not have to be restricted to just ghost hunting work or night time shooting. You can actually take the camera to your daughter's play and have a good video to show for it. (Providing you choose wisely).
Interestingly enough, it may seem like IR camcorders are hard to find but this is not the case. There are a multitude of options available but between the various confusing model numbers and rather random camcorders that appear after an amazon or Google shopping search for 'IR Camera' it may seem like there are only a few. So rather than roughly telling a brand and saying what you might find, we've assembled a complete list of the top camcorders ranging from the amateur price level to the professional camcorders used on Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters, Destination Truth and Haunted Collector.
Budget Camcorders with IR
These cameras are commonly sold by ghost hunting outfitters and are often cheap, flimsy and are poor quality recording. Prices range from $39.99 - 159.99
Vivitar DVR 510n - 5.1 MP - supported memory: SD, SDHC - flash card -[Review...]
Vivitar DVR 560 - 5.1 MP - supported memory: SD, SDHC - flash card
Bell & Howell DNV 900HD - 1080p Full HD Camcorder that can capture 20 hours of video (based on card).
Older Budget Camcorders with IR
These camcorders are becoming harder to find but are some of the best camcorders to use for any low-light work and can still be found on Amazon or eBay. These are former high-end consumer camcorders. Prices range from $100.00 - 500.00
Sony DCR SR 40 - 30GB hard disk drive, high-quality stills and videos.
Sony DCR SR 42 - 30GB hard disk drive, high-quality stills and videos.
Sony DCR SR 60 - 30GB hard disk drive, high-quality stills and videos. [Review...]
Sony DCR SR 82 - 60 GB hard disk drive, 40 hours of video and stills.
Best Consumer IR Camcorders
These night vision camcorders are the best available consumer camcorders with infrared capabilities, often nightshot or 'twilight' shooting modes. Prices range from $299.00 - 799.00
Sony HDR - CX 190 - 1920x1080 Full HD video and 5.3 MP pictures with back-illuminated Exmor CMOS sensor. This is one of the confirmed camcorders used by Ghost Adventures as a 'Static X Camera.'
Sony HDR - XR 260V - 1920 x 1080 Full HD and 8.9 MP pictures, 60p recording and playback - This is the new model used by Ghost Adventures for the 2012 season.
Canon VIXIA HFR 300 - 1920 x 1080 Full HD, 24p and 30p record modes, flash memory
Canon VIXIA HFR 32 - 1920 x 1080 Full HD, 24p and 30p record modes, flash memory
Panasonic HDC TM80 - 1920 x 1080 Full HD, OIS, and IRT Tech
Canon - LEGRIA HF G10 - 1920 x 1080 Full HD, HD and Flash Memory, High optical resolution, 1.5lux
Best Prosumer & Professional IR Camcorders
These night vision camcorders are very high-end producing the best results and are frequently used in video production by the larger televised ghost hunters including Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters international, Haunted Collector and Ghost Adventures. While these cameras are outstanding they also reflect the prosumer price level and are not typically within a normal person's budget. These range in price from $2500 and up.
Canon XF 100 - Professional Camcorder with all professional features, records to flash memory
Canon XA10 - The XA10 Professional Camcorder allows users to record up to 24 hours of clear high definition video to a 64GB internal flash drive or to two SDXC-compatible memory slots. With Relay Recording, the camcorder automatically switches video recording from the internal drive to the SD memory cards when the memory becomes full.
This Camcorder is currently used on "Haunted Collector" to film the night vision segments.
Panasonic AG DVC 30 - 3CCD MiniDV Camcorder with 60i and 30p modes, this camera was used to record the first two seasons of 'Ghost Hunters' before the switch to the HMC40 and subsequent switch to modified camcorders in recent seasons. [Review...]
Pansonic AVCCAM HMC40 - 3CMOS Camcorder with AVCHD recording. The upgrade of the DVC30, the HMC40 was used to record several seasons of Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters Academy and Ghost Hunters International before being replaced by modified variants.
Ghost Adventures Camcorders
Sony HVR A1U - CMOS MiniDV Camcorder with 1080i and integrated audio mixer with XLR inputs. This camcorder was used several times in the first three seasons of Ghost Adventures.
Sony HDR FX7 - CMOS MiniDV Camcorder with 1080i, optional flash memory recording and integraged audio mixer with XLR inputs. This camcorder was used several times in the first three seasons of Ghost Adventures.
Sony HDR FX1000 - This CMOS MiniDV Camcorder with 1080i, flash memory and 24p record mode has been a staple of the Ghost Adventures arsenal throughout the series for it's versatile nature.
Ghost Adventures Non-IR -
Sony HXR NX5U - First of the Sony NXCAM generation, AVCHD format, dual memory hybrid recording.
Sony PMW EX3 XDCAM EX HD -Flash-memory based high definition camcorder capable of a variety of frame rates and resolutions using Sony's new XDCAM-EX intraframe codec. A "big-brother" to the PMW-EX1, the PMW-EX3 ups the ante by providing an interchangeable lens mount. The Ghost Adventures team began using this camera in late 2011 for the documentary section of the show and is typically wielded only by Aaron Goodwin.
If You're wondering what Destination Truth, Fact or Faked or Ghost Hunters are using now, their Night Vision Camcorders are nothing but production camcorders with an adapter that allows them to attach a night vision monocle. In the shot below you can see the Sony PMW-EX3 on the left and Sony HXR on the right. This means that they only need one set of cameras and just replace the lenses with the IR scopes when they switch to night time shooting. They also use a wide array of low-light helmet cameras cabled to these camcorders to save the footage (watch the backpack shots at night).
When selecting a camcorder for IR purposes it is very important to remember that you'll probably want to use your camcorder for more than just it's IR capabilities. This means you don't just want a dedicated camcorder for Ghost Hunting or IR shooting, unless you're feeling frivilous with expenses. This is where the prosumer camcorders like the Canon XA10 or Panasonic AGs would fit the bill (if you can find one cheap enough on eBay). Another option is to use an interchangable lense camcorder like the Destination Truth crew, although more cost efficient models like the Sony Nex VG10 or VG20H ($1,100.00-2,300.00). Saving money is a good thing when it comes to equipment but consider what that equipment may be used for when you're not poking around out at night. Sometimes it's better to spend well than be cheap in the long run.
A quick update to this list. Many have been asking what the POV cameras are that are used by Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters, Destination Truth, Fact or Faked and the newest show to hit the roster Haunted Highway on Syfy.
Ghost Adventures use the 'Drift HD' Helmet Camera series as their "POV" cameras cliped on their shoulder. The GAC Crew used the Drift X170 as their first POV camera and have subsequently updated to the Drift Innovation HD170.
The Syfy Channel crews use the GoPro HD Hero2 Outdoor Ed helmet cameras. These are frequenly seen mounted in the cars as the 'conversation camera' and used with slight modifications mounted to a swing support arm on the Destination Truth team in the field. Due to the narrow field of view at night these are always used as the personal camera aimed at the team member's face.
The new Syfy channel show Haunted Highway use the Sony HVR-A1U with a GoPro Camera facing the user so that the two cameras in use can also serve to record the investigator asking questions and reactions. This makes the HVR-A1U quite a bit heavier by mounting a camera on a camera but also does well to replace the need for additional hands to shoot video from different angles.