Camcorder Buying Guide

Capturing your memories can be easier than ever with a camcorder. Buying one is quite easy today with all the options available online. Educating yourself on the features and newest technology can, however, be a challenge, as formats, size and new technology is introduced. Below are some tips to help you pick out the right model with the features you need to capture those truly special events, moments and experiences.

There is a wide variety of manufacturers and prices on the market today to fit any budget. Prices start for a camcorder at around $300 or less, and range to $800 and up. The less expensive models are analog recordings while the middle to upper range are digital recordings.

The digital recordings provide a better picture and offer you the possibility to do video edits on your computer with various software programs, or to add music from your computer. Also, you can easily make copies of a digital recording without losing any picture or sound quality. That being said, you can get good value from an analog recording camcorder if you are not interested in video editing and just want to record your memories; picture and sound quality are good.

Many of the newer camcorder can record on 8-centimeter DVDs, that is a DVD-RAM disk that has the capability to be erased and reused (cost around $25), or a DVD-R disk that can be used only one time (cost around $3.50). If you plan to keep all of your recordings, the DVD-R disk is probably preferable.

With the advent of new technologies, models have gotten smaller, more powerful and have a lot more features than ever before. The ability to capture natural color and enhance low light images are among of few of the new features out on the market today. The latest camcorders offer high quality video as well as photo capabilities in a camcorder weighing less than a pound.

There are many models to choose from including Canon, JVC, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp and Sony to name a few of the more recognized names. There are many more that are manufactured by less well-known names that may be as good.

If you will be recording an event for a specific amount of time, you may need to review the amount of recording time available for the tapes or disks required by the model you are interested in purchasing. Recording times vary from 20 minutes, 40 minutes 60 minutes, 120 minutes etc. So if this is important for you, check it out in advance.

Another feature that you may want to consider when selecting your camcorder is the capability of the viewfinder. The viewfinder allows you to see what you are recording. In the past, the LCD displays used were difficult to see with the sun glaring on them. Today, many feature CG Silicon displays. CG Silicon is found in cell phone displays and car navigation screens. The new technology allows the sunlight to pass through the top layer and reflect off the bottom layer, thus giving a brighter screen and more resolution. CG Silicon also takes less energy than the LCD displays, thus giving you more recording time per battery. One more consideration for you is the size of the viewfinder, as some may be quite small.

Zoom capability is another consideration when choosing a camcorder. There are two types, optical and digital. Optical zoom comes from within the lens of the camcorder while the digital zoom is from the inside of the camcorder. Optical zoom seems to produce a much higher quality picture than the digital zoom.

Camcorders have different playback features, which may be something to look at when buying a new model. Some of the newer models have playback features that allow for your recording to be played directly from a TV, VCR or DVD player.

Image stabilization is another feature that can really improve the quality of your recordings. This feature helps correct for camera shake. This means that if you record while moving around or using a powerful zoom, or recording a really fast moving subject, the image stabilizer feature can steady the picture.

Some of the camcorders in the market today offer the option of motion or sound detection to initiate recording. This technology can provide an excellent security measure if that is your need. This can be extremely useful and can save tremendously on the time and costs of recording everything as it only records when it detects motion or sound.

New technologies have made camcorders “smart.” Many automatically sense the right exposure needed for a recording and include special options to record in specific settings such as glare, low lighting, dusk, and night. This feature can make a professional out of even the most novice user.

There are also a great many special effects available today. There are fading effects that until now have only been available to professionals. You can also record in various different video modes such as sepia, black and white, negative and solarized. Solarized is an effect that makes your subject look like an oil painting. You can even shoot in strobe mode, which gives you a slow-motion effect.

So start capturing your memories – graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, weddings, what ever your wish. Don’t let the memories fade or be static as with a standard camera. Buy a camcorder that will keep your memories alive. With today’s new technology, the price, size and features are all variable. There is one that is sure to fit all of your specifications

Article By Karla Soule, May 2004.