Camcorders Buying Guide

How to choose a Camcorder

The vitals

Small, light and crisp, camcorders are still the best recording devices out there. With digital camcorders, editing options are endless, recordings can be directly transferred to your computer and all footage and sounds can be edited on the device itself. The image quality far exceeds that of traditional analogue models.

Price

On average, a new camcorder will cost somewhere around £200, but this price all depends on the features included. Advanced models can sell for as much as £3,500, but these are typically intended for professionals.

Budget camcorders cost less than £350 and have very few accessories. Versatile camcorders range from £350 to £650 and usually include numerous features, scene modes and touchscreen LCD. Ultra-compact are small models with auto and manual controls and cost between £550 and £1,400. The next step up is semi-pro, which give you a touchscreen LCD, playback format and superior images – these cost as much as £2,100.

High-end camcorders can cost in excess of £3,500. These camcorders are equipped with every imaginable accessory and the picture quality is crisp, clear and near-perfect.

Types

Mini-Digital Video

The Mini-digital video uses a digital tape to capture videos. These are great camcorders for making home DVDs using editing software on your computer.

Mini DVD

The Mini DVD records all footage directly onto DVD, removing the need to upload your video to a computer. This is a great choice if you want to save time, or if you’re not comfortable using computer editing software.

Hard Disk Drive

Top-of-the-line camcorders record all video output directly on the hard drive, meaning that you don’t need to lug around DVDs or tapes. Most models allow between 7 and 10 hours of filming in high definition. You can either burn a DVD directly from the camcorder, or upload to your computer for further editing.

MPEG4

The MPEG4 is a compact, lightweight, versatile and easy-to-use model – ideal if you’re out and about. Videos are recorded in MPEG-1 or MPEG-4 formats on an SD memory card. The memory card can then be removed and inserted into a computer for uploading, editing and DVD burning.

Features

High Definition

HD camcorders have a far superior image quality. They offer more pixels for a clearer, crisper image – typically producing more than one million pixels, compared to half that of a standard definition camcorder. They also use progressive scan, which is a much clearer way of reproducing an image.

CCDs and Image Quality

CCDs (charge-couple devices) are commonly referred to as chips and detect the primary colours. The larger the chip, the clearer the image. CMOS sensors are usually found on high-end camcorders and offer high-definition and high-resolution pictures.

Lux Rating

This measures how the lens of the camcorder operates in various lighting conditions. When a camcorder has a wide lux rating, it means that it will perform very well in both dark and bright conditions.

Optical and Digital Zoom

The higher the optical zoom, the clearer your videos will be. Digital zoom only replicates the image that’s recorded at the furthest optical zoom distance – so optical zoom is more important. When comparing the zoom on a camcorder, also look at the speed; look for a camcorder that’ll function smoothly when you use the zoom function.

Sound Recording Quality

Most camcorders have an average-quality microphone. Some pick up the mechanisms of the camcorder, meaning you get a ticking sound on playback. If you’re after better quality, choose a camcorder that lets you hook up an external microphone. Some models let you adjust the sound to limit distortion.

Additional Features

Image stabilisers are important for shooting in low-light conditions. A good-size LCD screen is always useful, as are extra slots for memory cards. Whichever camcorder you choose, make sure you investigate each model’s features thoroughly.

Our most popular Camcorders