Things To Look For In A Digital Camcorder

Some Thoughts


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The so-called `digital revolution` has touched the lives of just about everyone, in one form or another, and home movie enthusiasts and amateur film makers are no exception. Older, analogue camcorders a contraction of `camera` and `recorder` are being, or have been, replaced with small, more versatile, digital models. Solid state digital components, and recording media, allow digital camcorders to be a fraction of the size of their analogue predecessors, not to mention the improvements in picture and sound quality afforded by digital recording. Digital images are easier to download to a computer, for editing, manipulation, and distribution for example, by email, or on the Internet with no loss of quality.

Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced?

Digital camcorders can be classified by their level of functionality and sophistication, which is generally in direct proportion to the cost of any given model. 

If, for example, you are a beginner, or someone who wants to shoot occasional footage at weddings, graduations or school sports` days but, nevertheless, wants to produce reasonable results, with a minimum of fuss you`ll probably be quite happy for a camcorder to do most of the work for you. Basic digital camcorders, with automatic controls to remove most of the `guesswork` from setting up your shots, are available from under £200. 

At a slightly higher, intermediate, level you may be interested in getting closer to your subject, so a better optical zoom, say, `20x`, or `25x` may be more appropriate, as may a little more manual control over focussing and exposure. You may also be interested in doing at least some editing, or manipulation of your footage, so look for a model with a USB (`Universal Serial Bus`), or `FireWire` port, for connection to your computer. Digital camcorders of this type are likely to cost in the region of a few hundred pounds.

If you are an experienced home movie maker, you may be looking for an advanced consumer digital camcorder, with full manual control of aperture and shutter settings and focussing, as well as automatic control, if desired. This type of digital camcorder typically includes a colour viewfinder, an LCD (`Liquid Crystal Display`) screen of, at least, 3 inches, measured diagonally perhaps also with touch screen capability `Bluetooth` or other networking features, and optical, as opposed to electronic, image stabilisation. Expect to pay up to £1,000, or perhaps a little more for this type of camera.

Things to Think About

Zoom capability is often quoted as `optical` zoom and digital `zoom`. Concentrate on optical zoom, which involves the physical movement of the camcorder optics that is, the lens assembly to produce a close-up, rather than digital zoom, which is a largely unsatisfactory software effect.

Similar comments apply to optical versus electronic image stabilisation, although electronic stabilisation is obviously better than no stabilisation at all. Once again, optical image stabilisation involves conventional lens movement to counteract `camera shake`. 

Digital cameras & camcorders are obviously designed to be portable devices, and the life of their batteries is therefore important. Lithium ion, or `Li-Ion`, rechargeable batteries are becoming the batteries of choice; these are more expensive, initially, than NiMH, or NiCad, batteries, but hold up to 40% more energy, on a single charge then their competitors.
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