How to Choose the Right Digital Video Camcorder For You

by Emily on September 14, 2010

in Articles, Photography

Kodak Zi6

Are you going to buy a digital video camcorder, but you have no idea how to choose the right one for you? There are many people who have bought a digital video camcorder for many reasons such as capturing their child’s milestones, their pets, funny moments, vacation trips, and just about everything and anything under the sun. However, if you happen to ask them if they are satisfied with the type of digital video camcorder they have right now, chances are that they will say a thing or two regarding what they don’t really like about it (and sometimes they might wish that they have bought a different model or brand).

In my opinion, the simplest way on how to choose which digital video camcorder is the right one (and probably the best one) for you is to first figure out what events are you going to shoot using the camcorder, and the next is what you want to do with the footage when you are done.

Pocket Video Camcorders or Pocket Cams

Let’s start with the most basic models called pocket video camcorders or pocket cams. Pocket cams are best for those people who love to post videos on websites such as YouTube, MegaVideo or other websites and of course, they would most likely want a portable and light pocket cam that they can take anywhere with them.

There are some pocket cams that have features such as being waterproof and extra rugged, which are perfect for outdoor adventurers. This kind of camcorder is best for teenagers (or younger) who would want to shoot videos other than their camera phones.  This kind of camcorder usually has no manual controls and may not have a lot of zoom, but their simple buttons make it very easy and simple enough to upload videos from the cams to websites. There are some pocket cams which can now shoot video in high definition (HD). However, the pocket camcorder’s lenses are very basic and its sensors are small, so the video taken may not look great when blown up on a large HDTV.

A Flip videocamera as the one pictured below is a very popular pocket camera and also often used by video bloggers.

Flip videocamera

Full HD Camcorders

If you plan to shoot memorable family events or other special occasions that can still be viewable after many years, then you may want to consider looking into full HD camcorders. HD camcorders are just like pocket cams, only bigger with a lot more zoom, with swiveling LCD screens as well as extra added features and options.

Below are some useful pointers on how to choose a full HD camcorder depending on your needs:

Get closer with plenty of zoom power
There will always be an event wherein you cannot get a front row seat, so you need to have a camcorder with plenty of zoom to get close-up views of your son’s basketball game or your daughter’s ballet presentation.  The significant numbers you should look for are listed as optical zoom.  There are some camcorders that come with high digital zoom numbers, but you may be disappointed with the results because the picture can get blocky and pixellated. Just look at a high number for optical zoom to get close enough to capture small details without losing the quality of the picture.

Shaky hands but still want to capture close-ups
If you will be shooting videos with a lot of close-ups, then you might want to get a camcorder with a feature called optical image stabilization. Image stabilization utilizes mechanical elements in the lens to help compensate for the shakiness of the hands. Even if you do not have a tripod to mount your camera, this feature will help you keep your video steady as you zoom in. Digital image stabilization utilizes software and an image processor to reduce camera shake. However, it is not as effective as that of optical image stabilization, and it can sometimes make your picture appear grainy.

Store your most cherished memories
Camcorders with built-in memory use either a hard drive or flash memory card.  These camcorders also have a memory card slot, typically for SD (secure digital) or SDHC (secure digital high capacity) cards, to let you increase your camcorder’s storage capacity. Due to the fact that high-definition videos need lots of storage space, you would want to have lots of memory available when you start shooting. Built-in memory can be very convenient for you (even if you are recording videos to memory cards). In addition, built-in memory can be a great back up, and you’ll always know that you have that extra space to store your videos.

However, there are some camcorders that have no internal storage space, so you will need memory cards. Nowadays, memory cards come in all sizes. The higher the capacity (indicated in gigabytes), the more hours of footage you can store on a single memory card. A good example of such a camcorder that utilizes memory cards is the Samsung SMX-F30 (pictured below).

Scroll easily through options with your LCD
Some camcorders nowadays offer a touchscreen LCD. Advantages of having a touchscreen LCD are: you can quickly scroll and select options on the menu and even do a little editing without pressing any buttons. In some camcorders, you can also select your subject on the screen to focus on them or assign them preference in a shot. In other models, you can use the touchscreen to capture a motionless photo of your subject.

Geo-tagging
One of the latest camcorder features worth looking out for is the built-in geo-tagging feature. Camcorders having this feature utilize a built-in GPS to tag your videos not only with the usual date and local time of your recording, but also the location where you shot it. For example, when you get home from your holiday vacation around China, you don’t have to spend hours sorting through your videos just to find a 3-minute video clip that you took at the Forbidden City.

Samsung SMX-F30

Pro-Style Camcorders

Panasonic Pro AG-HVX200A

If you are one of those people who are serious enough about shooting videos and would want to get your hands on a digital video camcorder with the highest quality, then you ought to check out the top-of-the-line or pro-style camcorders. Pro-style camcorders have better video quality, more manual controls such as manual focus as well as the capability to connect external microphones.

These camcorders are perfect for budding videographers or filmmakers. If you are searching for this kind of camcorder, you must look for high-quality sensors. A three-chip sensor will record, red, green and blue separately to deliver a vibrant, color-accurate image. They also give you an outstanding picture even if you are shooting under low-light conditions.

Comments & Leave a Comment

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul/ Entertainment tonight September 15, 2010 at 15:56

Right now, I don’t have any plans on buying camcorder since I am saving for a new video card.

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Luis September 20, 2010 at 08:24

This are great options if you shopping for a video camera.

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david September 20, 2010 at 15:16

You’re absolutely right to mention shaky hands as a drawback of pocket video cameras. A pocket-sized solution is the readySTEADY, which will stabilize the Flip and other pocket video cameras in all situations.

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Jatin April 7, 2011 at 17:43

wow…….thts gr8 guyzz…!!
Jatin recently posted… Nokia DROP Its not dropping ur nokia phone

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Jenny Lyons May 30, 2011 at 20:14

Nice review, i just love my flip HD camera. Before buying it i was cautious because they are so cheap but i definitely did not regret it.

I have a good tip, if your producing videos for the web, goto youtube and type in the cameras name. Usually there are a bunch of videos where people have done tests, this allows you to check out the output quality.
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