Buying guide - CAMCORDERS
Moments like marriages, family or friends reunions, foreign trips, and even your kids’ shenanigans, or for that matter any such event that is sure to stay in memory forever are precious moments. Its moments like these that we would like to visit time and again if possible. Well, a camcorder does exactly that; it captures such precious moments for you and saves it so that you can later re-live them again and again, whenever you feel like. A camcorder is a small, compact portable electronic device that can record audio and video for you of all such moments. This sleek and compact gadget is designed to easily fit into the palm of your hand, which means that you can carry a camcorder along almost anywhere. Read on to know more about camcorders, how to operate one, and all the important things that you need to know before buying a camcorder.
Essentially, a camcorder is a digital camera and a recorder combined into a single unit. Another stand-out feature of the camcorder is its user-friendly controls, making it easy for even amateurs to film good quality videos. No wonder, several amateur filmmakers have managed to create quite a few award-winning films using camcorders. These days, it is also common to find television news reporters using camcorders for capturing any live event in relatively isolated areas, where carrying a full-sized television camera is unfeasible. A camcorder offers several other advantages like using inexpensive and commonly available storage media as well as removable rechargeable batteries. It all started in the early 1980s with the Betamovie BMC-100P, a Sony camcorder, which became the first released consumer camcorder. Today, a whole bunch of consumer electronics companies manufacture digital camcorders. Apart from Sony, some of the other popular options include JVC camcorders, Canon camcorders, and Panasonic camcorders.
Working of a camcorder
Based on the way a camcorder captures, processes, and stores images, these devices are usually classified into two types – analog and digital. Every camcorder, whether analog or digital, has a video camera section and a recording section. The camera section captures an image of the subject or a scene that is being photographed or filmed, while the recording section saves or ‘records’ this captured image. While the camera mechanism in both types of camcorders — analog and digital — is similar, the recording mechanism is completely different between an analog camera and a digital camera.
The camera section executes the process of capturing images with the use of lens structure and the imager. While the recording mechanism only serves for ‘saving’ all the input data from the CCD onto a storage media. In Analogue camcorders, the audio and video data — composed of varying electrical charges — is stored on to different formats of magnetic tapes such as Video Home System (VHS), Video8, or Betamax tapes. Digital camcorders have special units for converting analogue data into digital data. Digital data which is then ‘written’ or ‘burnt’ onto digital storage media, such as Digital Versatile Discs (DVDs), mini Digital Video (miniDV), and Digital8 discs.
What to keep in mind when purchasing a camcorder
A wide range of camcorders are available in the market today. To buy one, certain level of scrutiny and planning is needed. Listed below are some of few of the main factors you need to review before buying any camcorder:
- Dimensions and weight: The size and the weight are important factors that you will need to take into consideration while comparing different camcorders. Look for camcorders that can easily fit into your palm or fist as it will allow you to use it with ease. A fine example is the Flip Video camera, which is lightweight and features enhanced portability. An ultra-lightweight camcorder lacks some of the features of their heavier counterparts. However, camcorders that are too heavy can have adverse effect on your health by causing strain in your arm, shoulder or neck. Ideally a camcorder with a width of around 50-60mm, approximate height of 90-100mm, and about 130-140mm deep along with weighing in at roughly 400-500 grams can be operated without getting fatigued.
- Memory: A camcorder featuring a slot for inserting a solid-state flash memory card is the de facto practice of camcorder manufacturers. Memory cards with storage capacities ranging from around 64MB and moving upwards in GBs are now easily available. Currently, you can even save data on different storage media. For example, DVD camcorders store data on DVDs while some camcorders use VHS tapes for saving data. Another smarter option is to opt for camcorders sporting built-in hard disk drive that instantly saves whatever is recorded. Such camcorders are ideal for travel use since you need not carry along any external storage media.
- LCD screen/Viewfinder: Nearly all camcorders now include a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) display screen. Recommended minimum size of 3.0 inches allows clearly viewing the subject or object being recorded. Higher the resolution of the LCD, better the visible image quality. A playback function allows instant playback of recorded videos on the camcorder screen itself. An additional glass-based viewfinder further serves to focus on or view the moment being recorded. It is especially useful when the LCD screen is not working due to malfunction or when the camcorder’s internal battery is depleted.
- Zoom: Zoom magnifies the objects or the panoramic scene picked up by the internal lens. In majority of HD camcorders, there are two types of zoom - optical and digital. Optical zoom actually enlarges the image through true lens adjustment, without any decrease in quality of resolution. Whereas, digital zoom enlarges the image by pumping in extra pixels on the edges of the color differences in the image, and then increasing the size of the remaining pixels. This result in a slight decrease in quality and clarity of the final image or video output. Hence, having a high optical zoom support is always preferable.
- Image stabilizer: The image stabilizer in a camcorder is of prime importance since it compensates for ill-effects of shakes, jerks, and other vibrations that may occur while shooting videos. The camcorder is bound to shake even when being handled by steady hands, eventually producing ‘shaky’ and hazy pictures or videos. An Image Stabilizer minimizes all such vibrations or jerks during recording, resulting in a relatively clearer picture. There are two types of Image stabilizers — optical and digital. Optical stabilization is far more effective than digital stabilization, which is understandable as their working is quite similar to optical and digital zoom.
- Microphone: This compulsory module of all camcorders records audio signals during video shooting. The camcorder can feature a microphone as an integrated device or can feature a microphone port that allows a specially designed ultra-sensitive zoom microphone to be inserted in.
- PC connectivity: It is preferable in most cases that your camcorder provides the facility for connecting with a computer so that you can transfer pictures and video recordings to the computer for editing adjustments, emailing, even adding effects, or simply for permanent storage and backup.
- Nightscope: This special feature is ideal for shooting outdoors in dimly lit areas or during the night. It is specifically designed to facilitate shooting video in low light conditions and even in total darkness.
- Battery: The battery life offered on the bundled battery set (the one that comes with the camcorder) should allow you continuous video recording for hours at a stretch without needing to be recharged. Also, it is not a bad idea to go for an additional external rechargeable camcorder battery set. This provides for uninterrupted filming or shooting pictures or videos as you can use one battery set for filming while charging the other with the battery charger.
Summing it up:
- 1. A camcorder helps us capture precious life moments such as marriages, outings, family gatherings, picnics or other special moments for you and saves them so that you can later re-live them again and again, whenever you feel like.
- 2. Every camcorder, whether analogue or digital, has a video camera section and a recording section. The digital camcorder section captures an image of the subject or a scene that is being photographed or filmed, while the recording section saves or ‘records’ this captured image.
- 3. The image stabilizer in a camcorder is of prime importance since it compensates for ill-effects of shakes, jerks, and other vibrations that may occur while shooting videos.
- 4. Look for camcorders that can easily fit into your palm or fist as it will allow you to use it with ease. A fine example is the Flip Video camera, which is lightweight and features enhanced portability.
- 5. Zoom magnifies the objects or the panoramic scene picked up by the internal lens. In majority of HD camcorders, there are two types of zoom - optical and digital. Going for digital camcorders/cameras featuring higher optical zoom capability is preferable.
- 6. Some of the prominent camcorder options include Sony camcorders, JVC camcorders, Canon camcorders, and Panasonic camcorders.
Making the right decision
Buying a camcorder that has to be the best you can avail within your budget is a slightly daunting task, one that needs careful evaluation of all the options available. It is advisable to first list down the features that is a must-have for you in a camcorder even before you start looking for options. Follow it up by reading reviews and cross-checking different camcorder models on features and specifications. Also, do not forget to look into the warranty and after-sales service aspect.
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