A Beginners Guide to Buying a Camcorder

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A Beginner's Guide to Buying a CamcorderThere are a number of great reasons to own a camcorder. Whether enjoying photography as a hobby, recording video blogs or product reviews to share on social networking websites, or simply capturing important moments with family or friends, a camcorder can be immensely useful. But there are so many models available on the market that it can be difficult to make a decision on which one to buy, particularly if approaching the decision from a beginner's point of view with no knowledge of how the equipment works and the various features that can be included.

This article aims to give a beginner's introduction to camcorders and hopes to fully inform the novice user on what to look for when purchasing a new camcorder.

Overview of a Camcorder

The term 'camcorder' is used by most people to refer to a type of camera that is specifically used for capturing motion video as a primary function, though this is becoming a function that is included in almost all regular digital cameras too, save the very low cost entry-level models. Despite this term being popular, many camcorders refer to the full technical name of 'video camera recorder' on the packaging.
Before making a decision of which camcorder to purchase, it is first important to take a number of things into consideration, both in terms of lifestyle and personal expenditure, and the features available in the each prospective model.

Making an Informed Decision

The following table lists a number of important considerations to make before committing to purchase a camcorder.

Personal expenditure
 

The market for camcorders is huge, and so the models on sale vary enormously in price. They can go for as little as a two-figure sum, and up into the thousands depending on functionality. The price of a model purchased will reflect the ability of the camcorder in areas such as resolution, storage capacity, optical zoom and additional features and functionalities.
One important thing to consider is that a purchase should not be made hastily simply to obtain a camcorder for the sake of ownership. It is more advisable to save enough money to purchase a model that will last for some time and be able to satisfy all of the reasons for making the purchase. If price is an issue, a used model could be purchased, though care should be taken in ensuring that it is fully functional and not damaged, as these models are unlikely to have a valid warranty.

Lifestyle and use
 

As aforementioned, different camcorders will be suitable for different lifestyles. Buyers seeking a camcorder to use in a media related course of study, for a full-time media related job or for daily video blogging on a professional level would be better suited with a more expensive and high-end model, along with its associated features and functionalities. Attachments such as a tripod would also be very useful for these types of users.
Consumers looking for a model that can be used to shoot extended periods of video footage, such as recording family weddings and gatherings or creating amateur video for comedy purposes could work well with a mid-range model and reduced functionalities.
For those simply wishing to capture brief moments of video, such as recordings at live music venues or friendly gatherings, a lower range and cheaper camcorder may prove suitable.

Camcorder size
 

The size of a purchased camcorder will relate to some of the aspects of lifestyle discussed above, with different sizes of camcorders suiting different purposes.
Larger models are of course heavier and more cumbersome, so are less suited to quick point and shoot moments or for use at live music events for example. However, for professional videos, these cameras can capture high-quality, stable footage, particularly when attached to a tripod unit.
Pocket-size models are easier to store and transport, can be stored in clothing pockets as generally insinuated by the name, and are generally easier to use in capturing spontaneous moments on video.

Resolution
 

Recording resolution refers to the quality of the recorded footage and generally scales with the price of a unit. Low-resolution videos are much less clear and grainier. This is particularly evident when transferred into a bigger screen such a television for playback, even though the playback may appear to look better on the unit's smaller screen.
Many camcorders offer the function of adjusting the resolution that video is recorded in. Though this will reduce the video's quality, it allows more video to be stored, as higher resolution takes up more storage capacity. However, as subtle differences in resolution don't create a huge impact on video quality, it is often useful to have this feature when memory is growing limited.

Media format
 

The storage capacity built into camcorders is usually quite limited, offering the ability to only record several minutes of video footage before reaching capacity. This is why it is generally considered essential to purchase a flash memory card at the same time as buying a camcorder unit.
Flash memory cards are miniature, plastic cards that slot discreetly into a camera or camcorder. They allow varying amounts of video footage and still images to be saved, with storage capacity including 1GB, 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, 32GB and so forth.
Storage capacity varies between these cards, and the exact number of images or minutes of video that can be stored depends upon factors such as the recording resolution of the camcorder, but they are capable of holding a good deal of footage. The lowest-sized memory card can generally hold several hundred pictures at a very good-quality resolution.

Core Functionalities

The core functionalities of a camcorder vary greatly depending upon brand, model and price. The following is a list of some of the common functionalities found in such units, though there are others to consider.

Optical zoom
 

Optical zoom is the level of magnification that a camera or camcorder can achieve on an object without losing focus. It is depicted as a number followed by the letter 'x', such as 20x, 40x and so forth. Having at least some degree of optical zoom is advised for most cameras in order to adapt to a variety of situations.

Image stabilisation

 

Video recordings can suffer blurring when a camera is moved too quickly during video capture. This can be combated to some degree with image stabilisation, which is a common feature in most good quality cameras and camcorders.
Where image stabilisation is not a feature of a purchased camcorder, the negative blurring effect can be avoided to some extent by panning the unit slowly during a recording, when movement is absolutely necessary.

Attachments
 

One of the most useful attachments to purchase for a camcorder is a tripod. This removes the need for an individual to hold the camcorder, meaning that everybody can be present in a recording or still image. This also resolves the issue of unstable or shaky video recordings that can reduce the quality of a recording or cause motion blur.
Tripods are available as floor-mounted units, or as smaller attachments that are capable of grappling surfaces in order to allow the camera to be mounted on trees, fences and other impromptu objects.

Conclusion

Camcorders are ideal for a range of functions, from media study and professional employment, to hobbies and family gatherings. There are a range of cameras to suit all different types of consumer need.
Many considerations should be made before purchasing a unit, such as lifestyle, budget and core functionalities. Generally speaking, camcorders are better suited to the task of capturing video footage than digital cameras, and the opposite is true for still images. Reviews can help in guiding a purchase.
The eBay marketplace offers a platform for online sellers to either list single units or run a virtual shop as a business, and thus it makes a great place for first-time buyers seeking an affordable model, with the option to easily search by a range of specific functions or brands.

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