What To Look For When Buying A Camcorder

By: Victor Epand

Home video cameras used to be something which only a very few people could afford, and then only the super fit could carry around with them for very long at a time, since the cameras themselves were bulky and heavy, and the batteries and other equipment were very nearly like carrying a case full of bricks around with you.

Today it is an entirely different story, with camcorders being no bigger in some cases than a standard 35mm camera, and even some as small as a phone. Not only that, but these cameras now come at a price which is very affordable, and usually include a wide range of extra features, options and accessories.

However, this reduction in price and expansion in range means that today, the average consumer going out to find a camcorder is inundated with options, features and choices which can make the whole process quite bewildering.

Should you go for digital, or analogue? What about the media storage - should that be tape, and if so, which type, or disk, or even flash cards? What's the difference between optical zoom and digital zoom, and do you really need night mode, auto fade and the other range of effects that seem to come as standard?

Before hitting the shops the best thing to do is some preliminary research to find out what options you have, and what suits not only your needs bu also your pocket. The cheapest option is not necessarily the most appropriate one for you, and at the same time, the most expensive cameras will not represent value for money for the average consumer, but are more aimed at the high end market.

The first and most immediate choice will probably be whether to go for analogue or digital. A lot of people aren't even aware that analogue cameras are still made, and just assume that digital cameras will be better. This isn't necessarily true. Many professional photographers still use film based cameras, rather than digital cameras because of the higher quality, and the same is true for video cameras. Digital camcorders compress the image quite significantly, allowing more to be stored. However, this compression results in a considerable loss of quality, and whilst this may be quite acceptable for the average family out on holiday, for a more professional film maker it will not be sufficient.

As far as the media you use to record the footage onto, this will vary depending on whether you're going for digital or analogue. Tape provides a reliable, reusable and affordable media which will provide high quality, whereas media cards, flash cards and disks will be even cheaper, very reusable but may have less space for lengthy recordings depending on the size of the card you use.

There are a range of other features which you will see listed for cameras, such as optical and digital zoom. What's the difference? Basically, optical zoom is achieved using the lenses, a little like a pair of binoculars, meaning that the quality of the image stays the same, it just becomes magnified. Digital zoom on the other hand takes the image and simply enlarges it. This adds no further detail to the image, but simply stretches it to a larger size, which can result in a loss of quality. For this reason, optical zoon is preferable, although digital zoom is cheaper. Again, it depends on what your needs are, and whether quality or price are the overriding factors.

There are also a number of magazine publications available, as well as websites, which offer reviews and recommendations, and before confronting keen sales people in the shops, you would be wise to read through some of these to make sure you are armed with a good understanding of what kind of customer you are, and the sort of camera you intend to buy.

Gadgets
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Gadgets