Choosing and buy a camcorder can be puzzling. With so many choices and features you need to understand what is important and what is not. I hope this guide will be helpful for you sort out the facts on camcorders and what models best fit your needs.
Video Recording: DVD, MiniDV Tape, FLASH or Harddrive?
Camcorders today store video in a variety of ways, and each type has its advantages and disadvantages. The most popular camcorders have shifted from MiniDV, to DVD, to FLASH Memory and HDD (Harddrive) camcorders. Each method of storage of video has its advantages and disadvantages as can be seen below:
- FLASH Memory – The most popular camcorders today are Flash and Dual Flash camcorders. These camcorders use flash memory cards (same as digital cameras) to store video, or have built in solid state flash memory. Without a tape mechanism or harddrive, these camcorders are generally smaller in size than other camcorders and have better battery life. Most are high definition, using AVCHD compression technology to store the video. They range from cheap camcorders with mediocre video and features to those with excellent sensors and features (such as the higher end Sony and Canon Flash Camcorders). Flash camcorders usually have no moving parts other than the lens. They hold varying amounts of video per card. The most popular memory cards for these camcorders are the SDHC Memory cards. Currently you can get them cards with up to 16gb at reasonable prices, and larger sizes such as 32gb have been introduced. Some of the smaller flash camcorders are cheap, but will not provide the same quality of video as larger models since their sensors and lenses are smaller. TOP PICK: The new for 2010 Canon Vixia HFS200 (Flash Memory) and the Canon Vixia HFS100 (Flash Memory).
- DUAL FLASH MEMORY – These share all the same features of the above Flash camcorders, but record to not only memory cards, but have built-in memory. This means that you can record without memory cards. As prices have dropped these have become very popular. TOP PICKS: The new for 2010 Canon Vixia HFS20HFS21 (64gb Dual Flash Memory), Sony HDR-CX500V (Dual Flash Memory 32gb), and the Canon Vixia HF11 (Dual Flash Memory 32gb).
- MiniDV Tape – The MiniDV tape has been a very popular format for recording video over the last decade. This year, there are fewer choices as manufacturers have moved to flash memory based camcorders. However, most professional camcorders still use tape. For standard definition camcorders (not HD), the video is transferred with little or no compression to the tape, giving the maximum quality which is important for editing should you want to produce your own productions with the videos you take. Tapes are inexpensive and can give you 60 to 90 minutes depending on selected quality. To view MiniDV camcorders on your TV you can hookup the camcorder using included cables. If you are going to be doing a lot of editing of the video, MiniDV camcorders are a good choice as they have less compression than other models. MiniDV tapes also give you excellent archival storage backup. Even if you transfer your video to a computer and the computer drive crashes, you still have your tape. For consumer camcorders, convenience is leading to HDD camcorders to be more popular than MiniDV. With tape, you have to go through the entire tape to view it (sequentially)TOP PICKS Canon HV40 (MiniDV) and the Sony HDR-HC9 (MiniDV)
- Hard Drive (HDD) – Another recording format is a camcorder with a built in hard drive (HDD) similar to what is in your notebook computer. The advantage of a built in harddrive is that you don’t have to bother with DVDs or Tapes. The built in harddrive many hours of video. This should be more than enough for normal or extended vacations and events. When you get home after shooting the video, you can then download the video to your computer with the included cables to later burn to DVD, edit, or archive. You can view video directly on your TV by hooking up the included cables to your TV set (some have HDMI for HD). With an HDD camcorder you can also view scenes without having to go through all the footage in sequence like tape, and can even edit and delete scenes on the fly. The one disadvantage of HDD is that you must be sure to back up your video to an external harddrive so that should your computer crash, you have an extra copy. For 2010 we are seeing fewer models available as there is a move to flash based camcorders. TOP PICKS: The new for 2010 Sony Handycam HDR-XR550V (240gb HDD Camcorder)
- DVD – Although once the most popular, recording directly to Mini DVDs is no longer the most popular camcorder format. Standard definition DVD camcorders will create DVDs that will play directly in your home DVD player with no modifications. These mini DVDs are inexpensive, and give you between 20 minutes and 60 minutes of recording time per disc depending on the quality setting. You cannot edit DVDs directly, but must transfer the video to a computer and re-edit them. DVD camcorders compress the video more than other methods which can result in lower video quality. If you plan to edit your videos DVD camcorders are not your first choice. There are not many choices in this area as more people are buying Flash memory camcorders.
Most camcorders do a acceptable job in ablaze sunlight outside. However, camcorders that accept beyond video sensors (CCD’s) accomplish bigger than camcorders with abate ones (especially in low light). The video sensor is the breadth that ablaze hits (like the retina in your eye). The beyond it is, the added accomplished detail can be recorded. Beyond sensors about appear with college priced camcorders. So if video quality, colors, and accomplished abstracts are important, a camcorder with a beyond sensor will accomplish abundant bigger than that of one with a abate sensor. The new for 2010 HFS200 (Flash Memory), the Canon Vixia HFS100 (Flash Memory), Canon Vixia HFS20 (32gb Dual Beam Memory), Canon Vixia HFS21 (64gb Dual Beam Memory),HDR-XR550V (240gb HDD Camcorder) and the Sony HDR-CX500V (Dual Beam Memory 32gb) accept the bigger imaging sensors for customer camcorders. Added customer camcorders with beyond CCD’s and aloft angel aloft cover the Canon Vixia HF11 (Dual Beam Memory), and the Canon HV40 (MiniDV).
Low Ablaze Achievement – As with video quality, a camcorder with a beyond sensor will accept bigger ablaze acquisition ability, and low ablaze performance. Those camcorders with beyond lenses will aswell advice in low ablaze situations. The aloft camcorders that accept ample CCDs will do able-bodied in low light, about alone the able camcorder will accord you BOTH a beyond sensor and beyond lenses for accomplished low ablaze ability. Poor low ablaze achievement is the amount one complaint of humans affairs camcorders. If low ablaze achievement is important, get a camcorder with a beyond CCD Sensor. Smart-Review lists sensor admeasurement with anniversary camcorder for bigger comparision. See camcorder allegory list. Some reviewers accept appear that affairs a video ablaze makes a big aberration (which it should) in low ablaze situations.
High Analogue (HD) or Accepted Definition?
Today you accept two choices in camcorders. Accepted Definition, which is up to DVD aloft or worse, or Top Analogue which abundantly exceeds DVD quality. In the future, all camcorders will be top definition, as that is the way the industry is headed. A lot of camcorders awash today are top definition. With a top analogue camcorder, you usually accept the advantage of recording in either accepted or top definition. Even if you almanac in top definition, you can still play it through your accepted (non HD) TV set. To approaching affidavit your videos, you can almanac in top analogue today and eventually be able to able to alteration them to Blueray disc, Playstation 3, HD Tivo or accession device. A lot of HD camcorders acquiesce you to affix your camcorder anon to an HDTV through its HDMI or basic input. If you angle up one of the top rated top analogue camcorders to an HDTV, you will see beauteous aloft abutting to that of the best broadcast/cable HD programming such as the Discovery Channel. These camcorders can aftermath actual top aloft HD video.
Top-Rated customer Top Analogue (HD) camcorders include: The Canon Vixia HFS200 (Flash Memory), Sony Handycam HDR-XR550V (240gb HDD Camcorder), Canon Vixia HFS100 (Flash Memory), Canon Vixia HFS20 (32gb Dual Beam Memory), and the Canon Vixia HFS21 (64gb Dual Beam Memory), Sony HDR-CX500V (Dual Beam Memory 32gb), Canon Vixia Canon HV40 (MiniDV), Canon Vixia HF11 (Dual Beam Memory 32gb), Sony HDR-HC9 (MiniDV).
HD camcorders are now alone hardly added big-ticket than Accepted Analogue camcorders, so Smart-Review recommends affairs an HD camcorder to approaching affidavit your videos.
Professional Video Aloft – If uncompromising video aloft is top on your antecedence list, again a able aloft video camera may be your choice. A able video camera/camcorder will about be abundant beyond than its customer siblings. This helps in several ways. One is that the video sensors will be beyond for bigger quality, and the lenses will be bigger for bigger ablaze acquisition and low ablaze performance. Today, these able camcorders appear in two flavors. Accepted analogue (TV quality) and Top Definition. Several of the able models accept been acclimated to accomplish documentaries and even abounding breadth movies. These are a admired of indie (independant) filmmakers and those that almanac important contest such as weddings. These beyond camcorders aswell accept the advantage of changeable lenses, abstracted microphones, wireless microphones, and abounding added options not accessible on customer camcorders. Almost all able camcorders absorb the 3ccd sensor technology. The camcorders listed beneath are able models.
* Able Accepted Analogue (TV) Camcorders: Panasonic Pro AG-DVX100B, Panasonic Pro AG-DVC20,
* Able Top Analogue Camcorders: Canon Able XH A1S, Sony Able FX7, Sony Able HVR-Z7U, Panasonic Able AG-HMC150 Sony Able HVR-Z1U, and the Sony Able HVR-A1U.
3CCD Imaging Sensor – A 3ccd imaging sensor is a appropriate sensor that is composed of 3 abstracted sensors. One for anniversary blush (red, dejected and green). A lot of able camcorders use the 3ccd sensor array. These blazon of sensors accept about been bigger than a individual sensor. The advantage of a 3CCD sensor is that with the abstracts from anniversary of the three sensors , you can acquisition out the exact hue, brightness, and assimilation of anniversary pixel, you’re no best interpolating (which is estimating). A lot of of the able camcorders (above) accept 3ccd.
Optical Zoom – Optical Zoom refers to how abutting an article can be “zoomed in”. So a camcorder with a 10x zoom can accompany a abroad article about 2 times afterpiece than a camcorder with a 5x zoom. Beyond zoom lenses can accord you added options. If you see a advertence to agenda zoom, this is an cyberbanking representation of optical zoom, and absolutely just crops the account and you lose resolution. With optical zoom, you do not lose resolution. Agenda zoom should not be a application in our assessment to purchasing a camcorder, while optical zoom should be considered. A lot of of our top-rated camcorders appear with a 10x zoom which is acceptable for a lot of applications.
Microphone – All camcorders almanac in stereo sound. All accept congenital in microphones. For bigger aloft you can buy college aloft microphones, and even get a wireless microphone for some models. Several camcorders accept a congenital in beleaguer complete recording arrangement (Dolby 5.1). There are two means to add an added microphone to a camcorder. One is to bung it into a microphone jack (if available), or what is alleged an accent shoe which allows accessories to attach to your camcorder.
LCD Admeasurement and resolution – The LCD is the awning that you use to compose your video, and appearance airheaded for the camcorder. Abounding are touchscreens which makes traveling through the airheaded easier. (You just blow a best on the menu). LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display, the accepted technology acclimated for such displays. A beyond LCD awning is abundant easier to see. In accession to admeasurement its aswell important to attending at the resolution of the awning (i.e. how abounding pixels does it have). The added pixels acclimated for a awning the better. So for both LCD admeasurement and amount of pixels on the screen, college is better. Abounding models aswell accept touchscreen capabilities congenital into the screen.
Camcorders with the bigger LCD screens with the a lot of pixels include: the able top analogue Sony FX7 has a ample 3.5 inch screen. Canon for 2010 has alien a new band of camcorders with a ample 3.5-inch screen, now with a touchscreen, and top resolution (922,000 pixels). The new models are the Canon Vixia HFS200 (Flash Memory), the Canon Vixia HFS20 (32gb Dual Beam Memory), and the Canon Vixia HFS21 (64gb Dual Beam Memory). For 2010 Sony has aswell alien a camcorder with a ample 3.5-inch top resolution (921,000 pixels) Touchscreen. It is the Sony Handycam HDR-XR550V (240gb HDD Camcorder).
Manual Features/Zoom – Automated absorption is accepted on all camcorders. About there are times if you may ambition to manually focus your camcorder. Examples are low light, macro (closeup), cutting through glass, and calm shots area automated absorption is not as effective. All able camcorders can focus manually. A lot of of our top rated camcorders cover the chiral focus option.
Snapshot Affection – Abounding of the newer camcorders action the adeptness of the camcorder to yield pictures (still photos) with your video camera. Abounding account the admeasurement of the pictures they can yield in megapixels. Angel aloft varies from camcorder to camcorder, but you should not apprehend the aforementioned aloft as a committed agenda camera. Use this affection added as a accessibility if you don’t accept your agenda camera with you.
Image Stabilization (IS) – Angel Stabilization is a technology that reduces the bleared video that you could get in low light, application a zoom lens, or benumbed in a car. (Sony camcorders alarm their angel stabilization SteadyShot). This technology compensates for any movement of the camcorder you are captivation to accord you aciculate video, even in low light. This is a actual admired and advantageous feature. Almost all camcorders now accept this feature. This aswell helps if application your zoom out to its abounding magnification. As you zoom in, any afraid of the camcorder is magnified. Optical (as against to digital) stabilization is advised to be best.
Built-in Video Light/Flash – Abounding camcorders accept a congenital in beam (for the snapshot affection – still pictures) and/or a video ablaze for lower ablaze situations. Our camcorder allegory page will agenda if this is included. External beam units and video lights are accessible as accessories for abounding camcorders. (See our accessories page for anniversary top-pick camcorder).