Buying The Right Video Camera Information
Have you ever wondered what specifications and features are important when buying a video camera? In this article we take a look what really matters and why.
Buying a camcorder can be a tough decision when you take into consideration all the options; price, quality, design, features and specifications, recording format and optional extras are all key factors to compare when deciding which video camera suits your needs best.
First up is the price. This is greatly affected by the specification of the camera and generally, is relative to the video quality captured by the camera. Video cameras can range from a few hundred dollars up to 2000+; the more you pay the better quality you are likely to get.
Specifications that greatly affect video quality are the size of the image sensor (the bigger the CCD or CMOS imager, the better) and the effective video resolution. Other spec’s to note are the optical zoom range and whether or not the camera has image stabilization.
Many video cameras also produce decent digital stills. If you’re planning to use your camcorder for both filming and photography you should probably look for something with a 3-megapixel sensor (with no interpolation) and you’ll also want control over manual settings.
Many camcorders support accessories like an external flash and interchangeable lenses, if you want to be geared for professional filming, these options are a must.
The design of the camcorder is also an important factor for most, and not just for aesthetics. Some camcorders, bulky or small may be easy to use, whilst other designs may simply be too difficult to navigate. Touch screens and small buttons help keep designs minimal but they may not be the most comfortable way to access menus and options. Some models compromise the size of the LCD in favor of more compact camera; others may completely do away the viewfinder. Depending on your preferences these are also things you should consider.
Recording format and connectivity are also important; some video cameras come with a USB port for a direct connection to your PC, some record direct to DVD, others to hard drives, flash memory cards or older formats like MiniDV and Digital 8 tapes. High quality video can be achieved with all of these formats however there are pro’s and con’s for each type.
Probably the most popular recording medium, MiniDV’s are small tapes that measure 2.5 by 1.5 by 0.5 inches. They are relatively inexpensive and produce high quality video. Depending on the quality of the camcorder, the video image can be more than 500 lines of horizontal resolution. It can also support High Definition, consumer and semipro camcorders that capture HD do so using MiniDV cassettes.
Editing MiniDV requires a PC with a Firewire connection (not USB), some editing software and a bit of patience. Despite the time consuming method of re-capturing your footage into the editing software, MiniDV is widely supported by many video-editing and effects software. There is also a whole host of editing decks and other hardware products available to aid you’re editing.
Digital8 and Hi8
Hi8 Digital Tape
Digital8 models record high-quality DV-format video on analog 8mm and Hi8 cassettes as well as dedicated Digital8 tapes. The Hi8 tapes are slightly bigger than MiniDV so they tend to be more bulky.
Digital8 enable digital video to be recorded on an analogue tape, however this cut recording time in half. A 120-minute Hi8 tape captures only 60 minutes of Digital8 video.
Like the MiniDV they can also deliver more than 500 lines of horizontal resolution producing high quality video; however as an obsolescent format there is a small and shrinking selection of camcorders available.
MiniDVD records video direct to DVD and lets you take the disc and instantly view it on your DVD player. This is a great simple way to record and watch your home videos. You get easy searching and random access to video segments, a convenient and stable format for archiving and selectable image-quality levels including high-quality variable-bit-rate recording.
Mini-DVD camcorders record high-quality MPEG-2 footage directly to a mini DVD-R or DVD-RAM and can also deliver more than 500 lines of horizontal resolution. The downside is that the video recorded on DVD-R cannot be edited on a computer. MPEG-2 encoding generally compresses the footage so much that when you try to edit the resulting clips in a video editor, you risk adding artifacts that can degrade your video’s quality.
Recording times can be unpredictable using variable bit rates and also less reliable for live recording; as a single bad bit can render an entire disc of video unrecognizable.
Flash Memory and Hard Drive Camcorders
SD Flash Memory
Flash media cards (most commonly SD) have enabled manufacturers to design ever smaller camcorders. With cards ranging up to 4GB, it is now possible to record longer and better quality video than ever before using flash memory.
Hard Drive video cameras may be slightly bigger than their flash memory brothers but they have the longest record times, 6 hours or more of video.
Like MiniDVD camcorders they both store video using MPEG-2 encoding posing the same editing restrictions. Because of this there is much less support from advanced video-editing and video-effects software.
On the plus side the image-quality is selectable; there is increasing support for recording in High Definition, clips are also easily archived and accessed and both video and still images can be recorded on one card/hard drive (instead of on a cassette and a memory card).
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