Video Camcorder Buying Guide

There are hundreds of makes and models of camcorders available, with prices ranging from under £60 to several thousands of pounds. With so many specifications itís hard to decide which camcorder is right for you.

Starting with the cheapest, Pocket Camcorders come with a price tag of around £50 to £200 and are perfect for anyone looking for a reasonably priced, portable camcorder. Theyíll easily fit in your handbag and are easy to use to shoot and upload your videos. The MPEG-4 codec the majority use mean they suffer slightly in video and audio quality although this is offset largely by their portability and ease of use. Other drawbacks include the lack of manual controls and a relatively small amount of memory, unless they come with the ability to use removable memory cards to store your footage. Think 8GB equates to around 2 hours of 720p HD video.

For buyers who are looking for slightly better quality video without the price tag, look towards a Standard Definition Camcorder. Whilst these are fast becoming out of date, plenty of good quality SD camcorders can be found for around £120 to £200. Advantages include the fact that the video will use much less storage space than HD video and the camcorders themselves are usually smaller and easier to use. That said, HD is fast becoming the norm and a HD camcorder is likely to be a worthy investment for the future, especially if you have or are planning on purchasing a HDTV.

The HD Consumer Camcorders offer a much better quality video in HD for a reasonable price. Expect to pay between at least £250 for a HD Consumer Camcorder, with top of the range models costing around £750. Whilst they are larger than their pocket counterparts, itís not by much and one could easily fit inside a handbag. The majority use AVCHD codec that is pretty heavy going on a standard PC although preserves all the crispness of the original video. Memory, lenses and sensors are all scaled up from the Pocket Camcorder and LCD screens are the norm, often with touch screen facilities. Despite this, battery life is often short with LCD screens and HD capture using a lot of power.

In any case 1080i or 720p high definition is likely to be suitable for your video format, with a 10x or greater zoom enough for the majority of users. A 1/6 or 1/4 inch CCD sensor with a minimum of 2 megapixel effective resolution for HD and 2 megapixel effective still image resolution will be fine for shooting anything from holiday footage to semi professional music videos. In regards to ports and connectors look for USB 2.0, a microphone terminal, FireWire and S-Video to be able to upload everything to your PC.

If youíre paying anything upwards of £800 youíre venturing into the realms of professional video capture and producer camcorders.

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