Are you overwhelmed trying to buy a new digital camcorder? Buying your first digital camcorder can be perplexing - there's such a vast array of options out there, you don't know where to begin! Well, fret not ... help is here!
I'll show you some of the most important factors to consider when selecting a camcorder, so that you'll be able to find one that best meets your needs.
In my mind, there are 7 factors you need to look at before buying your a digital camcorder.
How will you use the camcorder? Will you use it for home video? For your business? Or perhaps you're looking to shoot your own film? Whichever purpose you have, it's important to take it into consideration when choosing a camcorder.
Consider how you will use your camcorder
For example, if you're making home videos, I'd suggest you go with basic handheld camcorders from the likes of Canon or Sony. If you do a lot of outdoor videos (e.g. skateboarding, adventure, underwater videos) - you can look at pocket camcorders.
Home videos and its ilk tend to require less complex manual controls so go with basic models. Get comfortable with them before you decide to upgrade.
If you use your video for business, e.g. wedding videography, I'd suggest you go with a professional level camcorder. Canon and Sony produce ranges of 3-CCD camcorders which can give you broadcast quality video. That being said, I've seen wedding videographers use very high-end digital SLRs to shoot video.
Whatever your choice, I'd suggest that you invest in a camcorder that allows sufficent manual control and can accept different arrays of lenses, lighting add-ons and microphones.
If you're creating your own film, I'd go one step further. Besides getting a professional grade camcorder, I'd also deck it out with lenses, tripods and even film-making equipment like lighting kits.
Camcorders store video in different formats. The older formats - MiniDV, DVD are fast getting replaced by flash memory SD cards (which have become much cheaper nowadays). I'd suggest to you that you go with SD cards for video media. They're great and very easy to use to transfer video to your computer. Simply pop them into the media card reader slot on your computer and you're good to go.
A typical camcorder SD card
Always also consider the battery life of the camcorder you intend to purchase. I've bought camcorders that take very good video, but last less than 2 hours of shooting time due to poor battery quality.
Sure, you could buy an extra battery as a backup, but I'd advise you to find a camcorder model with solid battery performance as a pre-requisite. The technology behind camcorder batteries has also improved nowadays, so they tend to last much longer than in the past.
One critical consideration is whether your new camcorder has manual controls. Does it have manual white balance controls, aperture and shutter priority controls? Manual controls become important if you're shooting very precise video that require fine grained tuning of light.
Some of the manual controls you'll see on a camcorder
For example, in a studio setting or in certain kinds of low light videography, it's important to have manual controls on the video camcorder so you can do fine tuning. If you're just out in the sun and taking home videos, then precise manual controls are less important.
A camcorder will have auto modes and usually set aside some scene modes (e.g. night, landscapes, city, sunset) that automatically adjust aperture and shutter settings. These tend to be important for the casual movie maker.
If you intend to make a lot of home movies, for example, I'd encourage you to try out some of these scene modes at the electronics store to see if they make sense to you.
These days, camcorders can output their video in a vast array of output ports. Traditionally, there were the A/V ports or S-Video ports for output video. Later came the FireWire ports and USB connectors.
These days, I'd look for HDMI port connectivity in camcorders that I buy. This is especially important for streaming HD video from the camcorder out to a HD TV.
Here's a good tip when selecting a camcorder to buy. Camcorder manufacturing usually release a whole slew of camcorder models, each with slight variations in features and sell them at different prices.
Check the different camcorder models available
For you, as a consumer, I'd strongly encourage you to compare the camcorder model you're looking at with the model above it and below it in terms of price. Look for small variants in features and benefits. Then decide if you really need those features. If not, consider saving some money by buying the lower-end model.
I trust the above has helped you understand some of the key considerations to think about when buying a digital camcorder. Camcorders these days come in so many shapes and models, it can be hard to decide which one to buy.
I suggest you apply the tips above the next time you're in the electronics store considering a camcorder purchase. Hopefully, these tips will help you make a better decision and find a model to really suit your needs.