Camcorder Buying Guide
Whether you’re filming the next great indie sensation or saving family memories for the future, there’s a camcorder with everything you need.
Types of Camcorders
Camcorder Buying Tips:
• If you're mainly creating videos for posting on social media sites, an SD camcorder should meet your needs
• If you plan to show your videos on a widescreen TV, consider purchasing a higher-quality HD camcorder
• Tripods are a great accessory if you want to taking stable shots
• If you intend to edit your videos, make sure your camcorder and favourite video editing software use compatible file types so nothing is lost in the conversion process
• A camcorder with night vision will allow you to shoot great photos after the sun goes down
• With a waterproof case, your camcorder can become a waterproof camcorder
Manual Controls +
For the perfectionist, or anyone who wants their videos to look their best, manual controls are essential. Many camcorders have default modes that automatically adjust to changing lighting and environments, but you may want to experiment a little. Manual controls can let you override the default settings, tweaking the shutter speed, exposure, focus and other elements for the specific results.
Optical and Digital Zoom +
To get a shot that's close up and personal, you need to zoom in. Most camcorders have either an optical or digital zoom function, or a combination of both. With an optical zoom, the lenses physically adjust to enlarge the image without sacrificing image quality. A digital zoom uses digital technology to enlarge the image. As a result, the cameras are smaller and lighter, but the image becomes increasingly pixelated as it enlarges. Consider a digital zoom if you’re posting your videos on the Internet, where image quality is not as essential.
Image Stabilization +
Image stabilizers help reduce blurring when you're filming on the go. Just like the zoom function, a camcorder's image stabilizer can be optical or digital. Optical image stabilizers use the lenses and other mechanisms to reduce vibration. The technology makes for a slightly heavier camcorder, but your videos will be sharper. With digital image stabilization, the electronic image is slightly shifted from frame to frame as required to compensate for small movements and vibrations.
Video Formats +
Every digital camcorder stores images as a certain file type so you can play them back, edit and share them with others. Each file type has benefits and advantages. MPEG-2 is a very common file format and compatible with many video editing programs. In fact, it's the same format movie studios use to save their films to DVD. AVCHD is well suited for shooting HD videos and compatible with the high-density Blu-Ray disc format. If your videos are going online, look for mp4 or avi files as most social media sites prefer these file types.
Most camcorders have an internal flash drive for storing your videos. When your flash drive fills up, you need to transfer the footage to a separate memory device such as your computer hard drive. If you plan on filming lots of footage away from your computer, consider a camcorder that accepts removable memory cards. When your flash drive gets full simply pop in a memory card and keep shooting. Memory is a key consideration for all camcorders, but it's especially important for 3D and HD cameras because they use memory at a higher rate.
LCD Screen +
Just like your smartphone and digital camera, many camcorders have an LCD screen, which displays the scene that your camera is viewing. Some models feature touchscreen controls, making it super easy to adjust the camera settings, focus on certain points and playback other videos. Flip camcorders feature a LCD screen that folds closed when you're not using the camera or want to use the viewfinder.
A viewfinder gives you a clearer view, especially in nonconventional situations such as filming in direct sunlight, when glare can make screens difficult to use. Viewfinders also don't drain your camcorder battery, which is a problem with LCD screens. However, the reality is that many manufacturers are eliminating viewfinders in favour of LCD screens to make their products more compact.
Ports and Connectivity +
Additional ports can take your camcorder to the next level, letting you accessorize your camera for better sound, picture quality and overall versatility. Many camcorders feature ports for external microphones and headphones to give you more audio control, while spaces for extra lighting will help illuminate subjects in low light. And, when all you're done filming, HDMI, FireWire and USB ports will let you easily upload your video to your computer or play your movie directly through your HD television.
Wi-Fi connectivity lets you pack away your USB cords and upload your finished videos directly to your computer or the internet, but that’s only the beginning. Other functions made possible through Wi-Fi include remotely controlling your camera settings and lens angle, and live streaming your videos onto smartphones, tablets, computers and social media sites.
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Camcorder Maintenance Tips:
• Use only lens cloths to clean your camcorder’s lenses and micro-fibre cloths for any LCD screens
• Your lens cap should be firmly affixed anytime the camcorder isn’t in use
• A camcorder bag will keep your camcorder protected and give you somewhere to store extra batteries, lenses and memory cards
• Never use solvents to clean your camcorder. Instead, use a damp cloth or a mixture of mild soap and water
• Try to keep your hands clean when using your camera to keep the buttons and screens free of dirt, dust and oil
• Always bring your camera as a carry-on when travelling to protect it from rough handling
• Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for care and cleaning