Guide to Buying Camcorders
How to get the right
camcorder and the right accessories without any Buyers
Dec 15, 2011
by Robin Marella Rasmussen
that time of year again when Santa and his
associates and representatives are busy
scouring the gift catalogs, magazines and
the Internet to figure out what would make
their kids and family happy, as well as what
might delight their personal funny bones. You
might be brave enough to wander the aisles
at your local electronic's emporium or you
might prefer to do your shopping online,
searching and clicking on what you need and
High on the list this year is video
equipment. Maybe your family needs a new
camcorder to document the family adventures, celebrations and
parties, to document little Horatio and Sybil
as they open up their holiday season
presents and gifts. Maybe you also need some accessories;
or even a new computer to edit and post
videos at YouTube or other online web
you first open up a magazine like Camcorder
& Computer Video or VideoMaker, it can
be bewildering. There are so many different
types of camcorders to select from –
ranging from entry level gear under $300, up
to deluxe three chip models for $3,000 or
more that professional moviemakers would
salivate for. It can be an awesome chore to
choose among them. How much to pay? What
features and controls do you really need?
What accessories do I really need to have?
Should I get a tape based camcorder or
should we spring for one of those cool flash
memory, hard drive or DVD camcorders.
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
is the purpose of this article - to try and
make this gift-giving season a little easier
on your mind, as well as on your brain.
good news is that there are now fewer
makers of camcorder gear. Most of the
smaller and less reliable manufacturers have
gone out of business or have been folded
into the giants. Nowadays your choice is
mostly limited to the big seven – Hitachi,
Sony, Sharp, Samsung, Canon, JVC and
Panasonic. All of these companies make good
equipment and offer excellent warranties. If
your camcorder works well for the first
months that you have it, it will probably
work great for another three years or so –
assuming you don’t drop it off a cliff or dunk it in
every DV camcorder on the market, regardless
of its specific flavor, offers many of the
same basic features and capabilities. In
general, you can expect to find a 10x to 30x
optical zoom, analog video out, and a fold
out LCD panel to make it easy to compose
your shots and watch them back.
brand to brand, the video image quality of
DV tape camcorders is about the same – almost
all camcorders provide between 400 to 500
lines of resolution, sharp, detailed images,
and realistic looking color. Many of the
latest generation camcorders also offer the
option of recording in high definition.
However, their definition of HD differs and
what it actually looks like might not be as
good as you may expect in the entry level
are audio differences however. Some smaller
DV camcorders mount the microphone on top of
the camcorder point up. Perfect for
capturing your voice and breath – not so
good for capturing the sounds of what the
camcorder is aimed at.
Save Money -
Buy a Used Camcorder!
You can save a LOT!
flavors of DV
biggest and hardest decision is to decide
what flavor of Digital Video do you want?
There are a lot of choices. Digital Tape,
Hard Drives, Flash Memory, DVD
camcorders..... Read this article to help
How to Buy a Camcorder -
It is a lot
more complicated than ever before
There are a
plethora of differing technologies to pick
from as well as a bewildering assortment of
features and capabilities that need to be
examined. It is not easy.
Here is a guide to
what you need to know in order to buy the
right kind of camcorder for you, your
business and your
No more tape?
DVD Camcorders and Hard Drive Camcorders
digital video recording is a a new and
rapidly emerging DV technology. Recently,
there have been several introductions of
camcorders that record a DV on
built-in hard drives, solid state media like
Flash memory, and even DVD RAM Disks. In
addition to being very cool, have certain technical
advantages, and are definitely the future,
they might not be ready for
primetime for family and home use.
For the best video, I’d still recommend staying
with standard DV tape or a high end flash
memory device. The big negative on some of the
non-tape camcorders is that many of them record in some
flavor of MPEG4 or MPEG2 and that digital file format is
often not very conducive to doing accurate editing. Both of these formats
save video as big chunks so its hard to get down to the
frame level for tight editing. This is especially true of
camcorders that record onto a DVD.
See DV vs
Digital8 vs DVD vs Hard Drive
features do you really need?
am sort of a Luddite when it comes to
features and capabilities. From my personal
experience, and from talking to numerous
camcorder owners and their families, most of
them never use the cool bells &
whistles that are available with their fancy
camcorders. And if they did decide that they
indeed wanted use
them, they misplaced the instruction manual
and have forgotten how to work it anyhow.
what features do you really need?
You need a good optical zoom. Most
camcorders now offer zooms ranging from
about 10 times magnification to about 25
times or more. Don’t get confused about
electronic or digital magnification claims
– they are meaningless. All this means is
that your camcorder can electronically
magnify the image. Yes it can make your
image bigger and look closer, but at the same
time, it greatly reduces the quality of the image
and increases the noise. Optical zoom
what you should be comparing.
thing to check is how the battery gets
charged. Avoid camcorders that don’t
include a separate battery charger and
instead require you to charge the battery
while it is inside the camcorder. Aside from
being dangerous to your camcorder’s
health, this makes it very difficult to use
your camcorder while charging up your
sure the camcorder has a nice big color
foldout LCD screen, a battery that lasts for
a least an hour, electronic or optical image
stabilization, and a manual focus
capability. Manual focus is the just about
the only manual control that most people
will ever use. Look for a focus ring at the end
of the lens or a dial that can be turned. If
possible, avoid camcorders that require you
to push one button to focus in and then
another to focus out.
manual overrides and controls that are nice
to have is a backlight button for quickly
and easily improving an image when a bright
light behind it silhouettes it. Many
camcorders also offer pre-set auto exposure
modes for shooting in various environments
like sand & snow, landscape, portraits,
sunrise and sunset, as well as sports mode.
If you remember how and when to use them,
these pre-sets can be useful.
compromise 99% of all the features that most
family and home camcorder users will ever
last thing and most important to check is how does the
camcorder feel in your hand. Pick it up.
Does it fit your hand – not too big or too
Does it seem awkward and are the
controls and buttons logically placed? What
fits my big guy hands might be totally
unacceptable for smaller and dainty fingers.
Or, even more likely, what is perfect for
small nimble fingers, might be unworkable in
my big mitts. Play with the camcorder a bit.
by the way, those displays in most
electronics and departments stores are very
misleading. They have the video running
straight from the camera lens directly to
the monitor, avoiding the recording
electronics. All camcorders look great when
the signal comes straight out the lens. The
difference is how good the video looks when
it is being played back and after being
recorded. If possible, when shopping, check
out the quality and playback of recorded
Here is something interesting
- there can be a bit of quality variance between camcorders
of the same brand and model number. As soon as you can, take
out your camcorder and test it by recording several scenes
and then watching it back. Make sure it looks as good as you
thought it would. If it looks funky or there are some dead
pixels, return it right away for another one.
should be able to easily find a wide range
of good digital video camcorders for under
$600. If Santa looks really hard, he
might even find something great for under
$500 or even $400. If you look, you are sure
to find some great loss leaders on top name
accessories should be in the stockings?
when Santa himself goes shopping, he finds
himself under pressure to buy accessories.
For most retail outlets, selling camcorder
is where the lion’s share of profit is
made. What do you really need? There is
nothing you can’t live without. Almost
every camcorder package comes with all
needed video cables, battery, battery
charger, lens cap, etc. You might want to
buy an extra battery. If your camcorder is
the type that charges the battery while it
is inside the machine, you might want to buy
a separate battery charger.
A tripod is
always useful – the biggest difference
between an amateur moviemaker and a pro is
using a tripod. It is almost impossible to
handhold your camcorder steady while taping a performance or
concert, especially if you are using a zoom ratio of 10x or
just a few bucks, under $10, buy a UV
filter that attaches to the front of your
This cheap piece of glass doesn’t
do much – except protect your lens. If
paint splatters, or if grit goes flying, it
will damage the UV filter, not the front of
your camcorder’s delicate lens.
the cheapest bag or case you can get.
Remember, for most of your camcorder’s
life it is going to sit in your closet,
waiting for use.
Personally, I love using a diaper bag with
lots of pockets and padding inside.
Nobody steals a diaper bag!
final accessories are computer related.
What are you going to do with your
video after it is recorded? If you plan on
transferring it to a computer for editing,
for posting on the Internet, or for burning
to DVD, you will need extra gear. Many
computers, especially those from Apple and
Sony, already ship with DV connections. If
your computer doesn’t have it, DV adapter
boards and cards are inexpensive and very
easy to install. By the way, the terms
iLink, Firewire and 1394 all refer to the
same thing - they are all DV
Should you get an extended warranty?
many camcorder salespeople, selling
warranties is the biggest profit generator
of all. In my experience, using video and
camcorders for over 25 years, I have never
bought an extended warranty.
carefully read the standard warranty that comes with
new camcorder, you will find it usually is
quite comprehensive and covers most possible
problems for a year or more. I have found
that, unless you truly mistreat your
camcorder, if it works fine for the first
month or so, it will work fine for the next
tow or three years. By that time, you’ll
probably want a new and fancier camcorder
If Santa is truly paranoid and
concerned, make sure you get a warranty that
begins its coverage after the initial
manufacturer’s warranty ends. There is no
reason to duplicate coverage. (By the way,
many credit cards do offer warranties on
should you buy? In a store or online?
off we must confess that many of this
publications sponsors and advertisers are
online merchandisers. With that out of the
way, how and where you your gear is
really a personal matter.
of the biggest advantages of buying in a
local retail establishment is that there is
no need to wait. Santa can pick out the
right camcorder and accessories, and walk
out of the store with them. There's a lot to
be said for immediate satisfaction. Also, if
there is a problem, it can be handled
locally. They might even wrap it for you so
that the elves don’t have to do it.
Another advantage of buying camcorder gear
in a store is being able to try out and play
with the camcorder before you buy it. How
does it work, does it fit your hands, can
you figure out where all the important
buttons and controls are? How is the sound?
Can you hear a buzz from the motors or zoom?
In addition, if you are lucky, there might
be an experienced video sales person who can
give you guidance about what to buy.
is a different story. The trade off is a
better pricing for less personal service and
slightly delayed delivery. Because of their
discounted prices gear to mass
merchandising, most online stores don’t
have the time to get one on one with you, to
help you decide what kind of camcorder will
best suit your personal and family needs.
order to stay competitive, most online
camcorder and video merchants offer prices
similar to what you can find elsewhere.
Depending on where you located, you also may
be able to avoid sales tax. Many online
merchants offer special discounts on
it might take a while for the camcorder and
accessories to get delivered to Santa's
warehouse. Unless you opt for “special”
(expensive) shipping, you might have to wait
weeks or more for the merchandise to show
up. Always ask….
a plug for our advertisers – in the years
prior to running Internet Video Magazine, I
had purchased consumer and professional
video gear from various different mail order
and online merchandisers. In those years, I
had grown to favor B&H
PhotoVideo as the
best. Their prices were usually very
competitive to the other online/mail order
stores, and their attitude was positive.
Most importantly, I never had any problems.
Whatever I ordered showed up on time and per
my request. That is why they were chosen as
this site’s prime retail partner.
more info about camcorders check out some of these
articles and links.
Special Deals and Rebates on Camcorders
Years Resolutions for Home Movie Makers
to the Best Consumer Camcorders
- Compare the different brands
for Buying an Underwater Camcorder
Camcorder Should You Buy?
to Buy A Camcorder. What Features do you
Video Creation & Editing Software
Places to Host Your Movies
and Professional Camcorders
to shoot videos of your kids
Sanyo VPC-E2 Xacti E2 Waterproof Camcorder
Sanyo boasts that its VPC-E2 Xacti E2 Waterproof
Camcorder (White) is four cameras in one because you
can record both stills and video on land and
underwater (at a depth of 5' for up to 30 minutes).
The E2 is perfect for snorkeling, snowboarding, use
in the pool, at the beach and just about anywhere
there's water or snow. Don't forget about use on dry
land though, either. This ergonomically designed
camera fits nicely in the palm of your hand,
allowing all functions to be easily performed with
your thumb, leaving your other hand free to grip the
board or adjust equipment when need be. With an 8GB
card you can capture up to 8 hours of video and over
2,000 8Mp still images.
Price: $ 169.99 + Free Shipping (USA)