Camcorders / Video Cameras: Buying Guide

Guide to Buying Camcorders & Video Cameras – Reviews & Ratings

Find out what factors/features to look for while choosing the best digital video camera. Read reviews of various Digital Camcorder and Video Camera brands.


Digital Camcorders & Video Cameras

In today’s market, value is king. Consumers are not particularly hesitant to make purchases. However, they want to be assured that they are getting excellent value for their money. Features differentiate from one model to another. For example, when shopping for a car, options that shoppers may consider include Anti-lock brakes, Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) navigation system, and roadside assistance.

Likewise, when shopping for a digital video camera, several types of features can and should be considered.

One must first determine which general type of digital video camera one wishes to purchase. Each type of digital camcorder includes pros and cons, so first consider your personal needs.

Read here for more on what to look for in your first digital camcorder

How Does a Camcorder Work

You really don’t have to know the mechanics of how camcorders work, but it can really help you to understand the lingo, which is good to know in case you’re talking to a salesman or an expert in this area.

It will also help you to look at the details of some of the key features. If you intend to buy a camcorder for serious work, then it makes sense to spend more and probably buy a professional video camera, the likes of 3-CCD camcorders, rather than buy some entry level stuff.

Camcorders vs Cameras

Most cameras nowadays have the ability to take videos, so why is it that somebody should consider a camcorder?

To sum it all, if you want to shoot excellent pics as well as videos then you need both, a camcorder as well as a camera. However, if you are happy with the occasional video and not so concerned about its quality then your existing digital camera should suffice.

However, here are some more details of why a camcorder should be chosen.

  • Video Quality
    Most digital cameras are capable of shooting HD (720p) video with some of the advanced ones even offering FullHD (1080p) video recording. However, most compact point-and-shoot cameras cannot match the high-quality videos that one can get using camcorders. In fact, if you watch the video on a HDTV, the difference in output, in terms of better color depth and sharpness, is almost always apparent.

  • Audio
    Most compact point-and-shoot cameras record audio in mono, which when played back sounds a bit tinny. Camcorders, on the other hand, have much better built-in mics and some of the better ones are even capable of delivering multi-channel surround sound. So if you want videos of your little one giggling with joy, you may want to do that with a camcorder.

  • Lens
    This is where camcorders are far better than compact point-and-shoot cameras. Most digital cameras used for still-photography come with optical zooms in the range of 3x to 5x, while camcorders boast of 25x to as high as 60x lenses. Besides, the lens mechanism on digital cameras is not as silent or smooth, resulting in an audible sound when zooming in or out during shooting.

  • Image Stabilization
    Few things can be more annoying than shaky videos. To counter this problem, camcorders are equipped with a improved image stabilization that ensure you get jerk-free videos even when you are travelling in a vehicle. So, using a camcorder, you can easily zoom out and shoot those landscapes when travelling in a train. With a digital camera, you won’t get good results.


    Camcorders Video Cameras

  • Ergonomics
    Camcorders are designed specifically for shooting videos, whereas photo cameras are designed for taking pictures. So it is much more comfortable to hold a camcorder and shoot for hours. Besides, the buttons and zoom are ergonomically designed so that it can be operated only with one hand. Even the LCD display on a camcorder can be rotated, which means you can hold the device above your head and till view what the lens is capturing. You can even rotate the LCD screen 180 degrees and shoot yourself when on a roller-coaster ride.

  • Still or Moving Pictures
    One feature that is often included on a digital video camera is the ability to take a still picture, which can be transferred to one of two media: a removable memory card or a tape. While this feature does not warrant throwing away your digital camera, it is ideal if you intend to do much filming in a short period of time.

  • Media Matters
    Next, the FireWire or i.Link feature is significant due to the fact that some DVD digital video cameras lack it. The FireWire allows you to transmit video to a personal computer. After filming video, the digital camcorder must then be connected to your computer’s FireWire connection. Then data is transferred to the hard drive. Then you can perform several editing tasks, such as adding titles and altering clips. Afterwards, you can transfer the video back to a tape, or burn it on a DVD.

Secondary But Not Insignificant

Lastly, several secondary features should be considered when you shop for a digital video camera:

Choose the digital camcorder with a control layout and shape that you are comfortable using.

People rarely use the digital zoom on a digital camcorder, so the digital zoom rating is relatively insignificant. Consider how you will use your digital video camera.

Filming at night would require a video light. Also, if you intend to transfer your VHS films to DVD, you will need analog video inputs. Next, a built-in flash is ideal if you will be creating numerous still photos.

You probably will be unable to find a fluorescent green or orange digital video camera. However, they are sold in a variety of dimensions and shapes. They can be vertical or horizontal; full-size or compact; and even look like a super-sized digital camera!

Types of Digital Camcorders

Flash Memory, Hard Disk Drive (HDD), Mini DV and DVD are the popular categories of digital camcorders that are widely sought after by the consumers. Each of these type differs from others in the way they store video.

Flash Memory Camcorders

flash memory camcorderFlash memory or flash memory card is used by almost all cameras (including those that capture Hd video). These have flash memory cards or built in solid state flash memory (no tapes or hard drives) which makes the camcorders compact in size, although some models may not have the viewfinder found on most other models.

These are the more popular types, thanks to their reasonable pricing and their lightweight nature.

Most first-time buyers go in for this type of video camera, the photos and videos are stored on a built-in flash memory, which is built right in so you don’t have to buy a new one for it.

These can take still-images as well. However, if you want to capture exceptional quality still images, these are not built for that. However, the images are suitable for outdoors snapshots.

HD Camcorders

HD Camcorder
Are you one of those guys who want the best when it comes to technology? Do you always look into the future, and don’t mind spending more to get the best that is available? If you have invested in a high definition TV and a Blu-ray player to get the best possible movie experience, don’t you wish that even your home movies look similar?

If really serious about video, and want to experience the finest resolution that is available in digital video, go for a HDV camcorder! You can record and capture all your movies in the stunning clarity of high definition!

Most HD camera manufactures however have stopped making cameras with DVD storage (though you may still find such camcorders on the market).

Why Should You Buy a High Definition Camcorder?
Looking at the digital video and the consumer electronics scene, High definition seems to be the way things are headed towards. Here are some of the reasons for you to consider a HDV Digital Camcorder.

  • High definition video is the future
  • HD camcorder records at more than twice the resolution of standard digital camcorder
  • Blu-ray has officially won the high def media war
  • You can get HDV camcorders that will use mini DV tapes, internal memory or hard drive
  • With every passing year, the cost gets more affordable. You should easily find one for less than 1000 USD
  • What Should You Look for in HDV camcorders?
    Here are some of the features you should look at to get the maximum benefit out of your High Definition camcorder.

    • Battery Life: Longer life batteries are desirable – lithium ion or lithium polymer batteries. Besides, long battery run times ensures you have enough battery power to record all your special events.
    • LCD Screen Size: The larger and brighter the LCD screens, the easier it gets to record while looking at the LCD screen , though it adds to the cost.
    • Resolution: Look for a large CCD with high resolution. Besides, three CCDs will produce a better image than one using a single CCD.
    • Image Stabilizer: With this feature, your video quality does not suffer due to shaky camera movements. Optical stabilizers are better than digital ones!
    • Low LUX rating: There may be times when you may have to shoot in low sunlight. Your video camera should be able to capture video/pictures in low light situations as well. Look for a camcorder with a low LUX rating; lower is better.
    • Zoom: Always consider Optical zoom over Digital zoom. Digital zoom distorts the videos at higher resolutions.

    High definition video is the future, and with every passing year it is getting affordable to record and capture videos in high definition. Though you buy an HDV digital camcorder mostly for its resolution capabilities, there are other factors as well which you need to consider while buying. If really serious about video, and want to experience the finest resolution that is available in digital video, go for a HDV camcorder!

    Hard Drive HDD Camcorder

    HDD camcorderTechnology changes fast! And that can be seen by the way even camcorders have evolved. Nowadays you have camcorders that can store videos on a hard drive. Yes…a hard drive, similar to the one that you find on a computer.

    Now you can record and store hours of video, without having to worry about space.

    A Hdd camcorder is a video camera combined with a recorder that lets you save all the footage on a hard drive. These are popular for their hard drive space that lets you record several hours of HD footage. Camcorders with built-in DVD drives were a big hit back in the 90’s but today the DVD has made way to the hard drive. HDD camcorders also let you easily transfer the video to your PC, for editing. These are equipped with features like HDMI output, external audio input, bluetooth, manual exposure control and have the best lenses possible.

    Why Should You Buy a Hard Drive Camcorder?
    Hard Drive Camcorders are much more convenient to use than conventional camcorders that use a tape or discs.

    Here are some of the reasons why you should buy a Hard Drive Digital Camcorder.

  • Hard drive camcorders don’t use tapes or discs
  • Smaller in size than their other camcorder counterparts, since no tapes or discs
  • You don’t have to buy tapes or discs anymore
  • You don’t have to worry if you are going to record over an existing recording or if the tape is in the correct spot. Whenever you are ready, start recording!
  • You don’t have to keep a track of where you have kept the removable media. One less hassle for you before you record any special event!
  • Hard drive camcorders can record hours of video; handy when you want to record more than one hour without a pause.
  • Usually, the video camera will create a new clip every time you hit the record button. It is very easy to rearrange and manage the video clips.
  • What Should You Look for in Hard Drive Camcorders?
    Here are some of the features you should look at to get the maximum benefit out of your Hard Drive Digital Camcorder.

    • Hard drive capacity: Depending on the storage capacity of the hard drive, the more record time you will get.
    • Battery Life: Longer life batteries are desirable; good camcorders have a longer battery life. Besides, long battery run times ensures you have enough battery power to record all your special events.
    • Resolution: The higher the resolution, the better your videos/pictures will look.
    • Image Stabilizer: With this feature, your video/picture quality does not suffer due to shaky camera movements. The best camcorders will use an optical system.
    • Low LUX rating: There may be times when you may have to shoot in low sunlight. Your video camera should be able to capture video/pictures in low light situations as well. Look for a video camera with a low LUX rating; lower is better.
    • Optical zoom: Zoom into the action without any picture quality loss. The better ones will have a good optical zoom range. Optical Zoom is different from Digital Zoom; you should always look at Optical Zoom.
    • Anti-shock mechanism: The better ones have an anti-shock mechanism; protects your camcorder and hard drive from accidental drops.

    Hard Drive Camcorders cost a bit on the higher side, they do offer you tons of advantages. You also save on the costs for tapes and disks which you would otherwise have to bear frequently. Experience videographers may find it more useful since you can record videos for a longer duration, without having to pause.

    DVD Camcorders

    DVD camcorderDVD Digital Camcorders: These tapeless camcorders are gaining popularity by the day, and are now available at reasonable prices. See how they work.

    A DVD camcorder is basically different from a regular digital video camera in the way it saves the recorded video. Besides, they are easy to use and offer you instant access to the recorded clips via a menu system.

    DVD camcorders seem to be gaining popularity by the day and will continue to be attractive to many first time users. Almost all the major manufacturers of digital camcorders have noticed this trend and now produce DVD camcorders.

    Why use a DVD Digital Camcorder?
    Owning a DVD digital camcorder has its own advantages. Here are some of the benefits of owning one.

    • Records to DVD Discs: A DVD camcorder records video onto three-inch size DVD discs, rather than DV tape. If you are a beginner, you are likely to relate more to a DVD than to a Tape. Besides, DVD discs are easier to handle than tapes, unlikely to get chewed up in the camera.
    • Easy to Use: You have easy access to the recorded video clips via a menu system, just like a digital stills camera. You can use the various menu functions to process the video clips. In some of the DVD camcorders, you can even perform basic editing functions on the camcorder itself. You can also set up a playlist to view sequences on TV in your preferred order.
    • Random Access – No Rewind and Fast Forward: On a tape you need to rewind or fast forward to find the video clip you are looking for, which can be a pain. A DVD disc on the other hand is random access; just select the clip from the menu.
    • DVD Digital Camcorder – Data Storage: Here are a few things to note around the way recorded video is stored on a DVD camcorder. There are two main types of recordable DVD disk – DVD-R disk & DVD-RW.
      A DVD-R disk will let you record just once; you cannot erase the recording and reuse the disk.
      A DVD-RW disk, on the other hand, is re-writable. You can delete the recording and use it again.
      Obviously, RW disks are more expensive to buy. But if you are just starting out in video production, it will save you money in the long term, since you can do a lot of reusing.

    • Video Compression: A DVD disk can hold considerable amount of DVD-quality video. To be able to do that, the recorded video is compressed using MPEG-2 format to squeeze all the information into a limited space. If you wish, you can get even more recording time by changing the recording mode. The downside being, it will compromise the quality of the recorded video.

    Areas of Concern
    Though there are many advantages of owning a mini DVD camcorder, there are a couple of concerns, both revolving around cost.

    The recorded video on a mini DVD camcorder is encoded as MPEG-2, as opposed to DV format. This means you will need a good video editing software program to properly edit the recorded video. Besides, DVD camcorders are also comparatively expensive than mini DV video cameras of similar specifications.

    As an alternative to recording on digital tape, an increasing number of camcorders now enable recording direct to DVD disks. These DVD digital camcorders continue to be a hit with the first-time buyers, mainly because they are easy to use. Besides, a DVD digital camcorder records to DVD disks that can be played directly using your DVD player – view the contents directly on your TV. All the big players now manufacture DVD digital camcorders so go ahead and make your pick.

    Mini DV Camcorders

    With technology changing so fast, nowadays you have Camcorders that can store video on a variety of media! You will find camcorders that store video on a DVD, Hard Disk, Flash, Micro drive, or DV Tape. But it was not the case until a few years back! Back then, you only had Mini-DV Camcorders; it used "Tapes" to record video.

    Of all the lot, Mini-DV Camcorders have been the longest in the market, and are still being used. Before the advent of DVD camcorders, mini-DV camcorders used to be the standard for home video production. But even today, it continues to be used by numerous semi-professionals.

    Almost all the video editing software can capture video from minidv camcorders. They can even do it the reverse way, i.e. record back on MiniDV cassettes.

    Mini DV camcorders use Tape Cassettes to record video and gives better visual Quality than Tapeless Camcorders.

    Why Should You Buy a Mini DV Camcorder?
    A Mini DV Camcorder basically uses “Tape” to record video. Here are some of the reasons you should buy a Mini DV Camcorder.

  • Visual Quality is comparatively better than that available on Tapeless Camcorders, since the video is not compressed in a Mini DV Camcorder.
  • Some of the entry-level miniDV camcorders can be cheaper than DVD camcorder.
  • The camcorder is comparatively smaller in size than a DVD camcorder
  • You will find all the camcorder related features
  • Can be captured and edited using any editing software program

    What Should You Look for in Mini DV Camcorders?
    You will usually find Mini DV camcorders that are available from around 300 dollars. Here are some of the features you should look at to get the maximum benefit out of your MiniDV camcorder.

    • CCDs: If you need for professional use, go in for 3 CCDs for better results. It will also cost you more. A larger CCD size is also better than a smaller one.
    • Battery Life: Longer life batteries are desirable. Besides, long battery run times ensures you have enough battery power to record all your special events.
    • LCD Screen Size: The larger and brighter the LCD screens, the more expensive is the camcorder.
    • Image Stabilizer: With this feature, your video quality does not suffer due to shaky camera movements.
    • Low LUX rating: There may be times when you may have to shoot in low sunlight. Your camera should be able to capture video/pictures in low light situations as well. Look for a video camera with a low LUX rating; lower is better.
    • Zoom: Always consider Optical zoom over Digital zoom. Digital zoom distorts the videos at higher resolutions.

    Lots of users still prefer Mini-DV Camcorders because they do not use DVD-like video compression, resulting in better quality video. Besides, some of the entry-level mini-DV camcorders can be cheaper than DVD camcorders, and they can be smaller in size as well. You can definitely have a look at these camcorders if you are okay with using DV tapes.

    Final Thoughts

    Like purchasing other products, you must consider several features when shopping for a digital video camera. However, the most important feature is its being perfect for you!

    If you are really serious about shooting videos, then you will need a good camcorder.

    Back to Home page from Buying Digital Camcorders, Video Cameras

  • Reply