How to buy your first digital camcorder
For all you newbies out there ... thought I'd share some tips on buying that first digital camcorder.
Here are the various factors you MUST consider.
1) Compare Analog Versus Digital Format
The most important consideration besides the cost of a camera, is whether or not you are working with a digital format (Digital-8, miniDV) or an Analog format (Hi-8, VHS, VHS-C, Super VHS-C). The bottom line is that you will get a better experience with the newer digital formats. In most cases, you will get twice the quality by using digital instead of the Analog VHS format. Also video editing on your PC will be made much easier. The drawback is that you will pay a little bit more up front. Still can't decide? In order to make you life easier, I pose the following question to you, "do you want to edit home movies and videos on a computer as some point?" If the answer to your question is maybe or yes, go digital. If the answer is no, and the quality doesn’t matter much, go with an Analog camera and save some bucks. Keep in mind that if you do decide to go with an analog camera, you can always find a way to get the video from the camera into your computer. It may just take some more steps (find out more).
2) Consider Your Budget
The next step forward is considering how much you want to spend on a camcorder. New digital video cameras run anywhere from as little as $450 all the way up to the high-end George Lucas style digital video cameras (my camera, the Sony VX-2000, pictured on the top right, cost me only $1900 online). I am guessing that your budget is not in the millions, but is a more realistic range from about $500 to $1200. There are so many good choices in this range. Once you have a general sense of your budget, start to look around for specials, deals, and discounts at your local electronics super-store. What makes one worth $1200 and why is the other camcorder only $400? That is what we will cover next.
As with most products, as the price rises, you will get more or better features, but not necessarily both.
3) Major Differentiating Features for Digital Video Cameras
a) Firewire/DV Adapter
This adapter is required if you want to connect your video camera to your computer. Sometimes referred to as an "IEEE 1394 port" or a "Firewire port", you need to connect one end to the camera and one end to your computer. In many cases you may have to buy a Firewire card for your computer in order to transfer video from the Firewire adapter though the computer Firewire card, and into the computer. Find out more about Firewire
b)Digital Still capability
With this feature, your camera can perform double duty. Sometimes you use the video camera to capture moving pictures and sometimes you can take still pictures. No more taking two cameras on vacation.
c) Better lens quality
Your lenses are the eyes of the camera, converting images and sounds into digital bits. The more you pay, the more lens quality you are likely to get. Canon's video cameras are known for very good lens quality.
d) LCD size
The Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) is the fold-out monitor on the side of the camera used to see what you are shooting. The more you pay, the larger the LCD size. My top picks will explain which camera's have larger LCD screens.
e) Optical Stabilization System
Higher end cameras include an optical stabilization system which balances shaky images internally to the lens itself. Many lower-end cameras include a digital image stabilization system which is cheaper and lesser in quality.
In summary, you know you are done as soon as you find the camera that has the following qualities:
- Fits Your Budget
- Has Features You Want/Need
- Has No Harsh Reviews From Forums or Review Companies
So go out there and get started; owning a digital video camera is a blast and can be used for so many things like filmmaking, wedding/event taping, insurance claims, law depositions (which are extremely fun), and more. Pick one that you will use and connect to your home computer for editing, otherwise the camera becomes a mantelpiece or an oversized paperweight. So what are you waiting for? :)
Learn how to shoot, capture and edit your own digital videos!