The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Camcorder

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The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Camcorder
The advent of camcorders allowed people to capture high-quality images of their own for the first time, and they quickly became the benchmark of modern technology. The ability to use a reasonably-priced video camera to capture once-in-a-lifetime moments made camcorders incredibly popular in the 1980s. However, times have changed, and there are now a number of alternatives available; perhaps the most popular of which is the smart phone.


People now have camcorders in their pockets, and the cost, convenience, and mobility of such devices has led to a decrease in the number of camcorders being brought to the market every year. However, there are still many advantages to be gained from owning a device manufactured for the sole purpose of capturing moving images. The latest innovations and technological advances mean the latest camcorders can produce images of professional quality, but finding the right one for the job can be a minefield.

Advantages Camcorders Have Over Smart Phones and Tablets

For many people, their handheld device will record images of sufficient quality for their needs; however, professional work will often need a device capable of a wide range of technical feats that even the most advanced smart phones in the world are not capable of performing yet. While smart phones now usually have some sort of digital zoom function as standard, they do not have optical zooms and stabilisation features. Modern phones are usually performing several different tasks in the background; functions that drain battery power. However, camcorders have battery capabilities four times greater than most handheld devices. Of course, capturing high definition video images can use up an enormous amount of storage space. The biggest storage capacities the leading smart phones can currently offer are around 64 gigabytes at best. However, the latest camcorders have similar storage capacities to those of the latest laptops on the market. However, the clearest advantage a camcorder has over handheld devices is the quality of images it can deliver. With such a wide range of customisable recording and editing options, there simply is no substitute for a high-spec camcorder.

The Different Types of Camcorder

Type

Description

Ultra Compact

Budget, ultra-compact camcorders suffered badly in the wake of smart phone technology, but they can still be found at relatively low prices. Although devices such as Cisco's flip offered nothing most top-of-the-range smart phones couldn't match, they were cheap, and that meant they could be handed to other people or used more robustly.

Standard/Compact Camcorders

This range of camcorders includes flip-style models that make walking and shooting video safe and easy. They became ubiquitous at children's parties, theme parks, and major family events, but similarly-priced smart phones are now delivering video quality of a very similar standard.

Full-Featured Camcorders

These cameras generally have more manual features, and that makes them ideal for professional videos intended for the Internet, videos for marketing purposes and for avid camera enthusiasts. They usually include accessory shoes for peripherals such as microphones and stands.

Action Camcorders

Sometimes referred to as point-of-view(POV) cameras, these models are tiny devices designed for hands-free recording. The latest models include wi-fi and slow-motion capture, and they are the only type of camcorder that is currently increasing in popularity. They are often used on helmets for activities such as sky-diving.

Camcorder Features to Consider

Features

Description

High Definition

The latest camcorders – even at the lower end of the market – include HD recording options. However, not all HD is the same. For instance, 7020p, 1080i and 1080p HD options are currently available, but 1080p delivers the clearest, most defined results. It is always worth checking software capabilities before making a purchase, as 1080p is not always compatible with some editing packages.

Lens Zoom

A zoom lens allows objects to be magnified without moving closer. Basic cameras will have very low capabilities – 5x zooms are not unheard of. However, it is possible for a zoom lens to be too long for the camcorder's capabilities, and that can lead to substandard images. Camcorders either have optical zoom or digital zoom. Optical zoom is far better at maintaining image quality at longer distances, however.

Recording Format

All modern camcorders now record images onto digital storage systems. MPEG-2 camcorders have now generally been replaced with formats that are more efficient at compressing video. MPEG-4 is now the industry standard, and it is the format that is most likely to be compatible with Internet streaming and uploads. The AVCHD format is primarily used for storing images on Blu-ray disks.

Image Stabilisation

The latest camcorders can now reduce unwanted movement to a minimum by making tiny adjustments to the lens. Such systems can remove a lot of the movement generated when shooting video while walking.

Storage

The vast majority of modern camcorders use flash memory storage systems. Most cameras have internal flash memory as well as a slot for the addition of an SD card. Recording video of HD quality requires a class 6 SD card or higher.

Optional Extras to Consider When Buying Camcorders

Extras

Description

Electronic Viewfinder

There may times when viewing a shot via an LCD screen doesn't work; for instance, in bright sunlight. An electronic viewfinder will provide a much better view, and it may also assist in keeping the camera steady.

Headphone Sockets

Where sound is required, connecting headphones can give people an accurate account of the sound that is being recorded – perfect for shooting outdoors in noisy areas.

Mic Jacks

Where a camera's inbuilt mics are not sufficient to pick up speech, it may be necessary to connect additional microphones that can be placed exactly where they are needed.

Accessory Shoes

Accessory shoes are required if peripherals such as stands and mics are to be added.

WiFi

Many of the latest camcorders now come equipped with Wi-Fi, as this allows for the instant of uploading of images to cloud storage devices, social media and remote servers.

Manual Exposure

The majority of camcorders have automated exposure compensation; however, many full-featured models allow the user to manually change the shutter speed and aperture.

Geotagging

Geotagging is handy feature for people travelling with their camcorder. It keeps a record of exactly where shots have been taken.

Conclusion

Video recording technology has moved on incredibly in just ten years; so much so that sales of camcorders have been plummeting in recent years. Tablet computers and smart phones now feature video recording facilities that are sufficient for most domestic purposes. However, for people who want to make use of more advanced options for professional results, camcorders still have a very important place in society. The upside of the increasing popularity of smart phone cameras is, of course, that the cost of buying new and used camcorders is lower than ever.

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