What camcorder is best for YOU? camcorder Reviews camcorder guide, camcorder reviews
In the last few years, the camcorder industry has consolidated and now there are only a few manufacturers making great camcorders and video cameras for the consumer, prosumer and professional market. You can't go wrong with any of the leading brands.
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Canon camcorders, Hitachi camcorders, JVC camcorders, Panasonic camcorders, Sharp camcorders, Samsung camcorders, and Sony camcorders.
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Camcorder Comparison Charts - How to help pick out the best camcorder - a review of camcorder features and spec
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CAMCORDER REVIEWS & BUYING GUIDES - The top camcorder brands include:
Canon camcorders, Hitachi camcorders, JVC camcorders, Panasonic camcorders, Sharp camcorders, Samsung camcorders, and Sony camcorders,
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What kind of camcorder will work best for you?
It depends on what you need and how you shoot. The good news is that almost any new name brand camcorder will work great. However, there are a few options. You have to decide what kind of recording format is best and most affordable.
Your options include the "old-fashioned" analog camcorders such as VHS, 8m, S-VHS and Hi8, industry standard Digital Video (DV), Digital8 (D8), the new DVD camcorders, as well as the emerging generation of camcorders that can record directly to a hard drive or flash memory.
Most digital video (DV) camcorders capture good high quality audio and video that can easily by inputted into your computer for editing and conversion to digital and streaming formats. Many computers (most Apple and Sony models) now ship with 1394/Firewire connections. 1394/Firewire add-in cards are inexpensive and simple to install.
But you don't absolutely "need" Digital Video, If you use a analog video capture card in your computer, your older Hi8mm and S-VHS machines can be used to create good looking, first generation video. You can get very good analog camcorders for extremely reasonable prices. If you are lucky, maybe someone you know is considering upgrading to DV and will give you their working analog camcorder.
However, there are many advantage of buying a digital camcorder. You get the best quality recording, and in many instances, your new computer has a Firewire. iLink or 1394 connector to enable you to plug your camcorder right in. Using your computer to edit DV right out the camcorder is very simple and easy.
Another advantage of using DV is that most DV video editing software systems allow you to control your camcorder from the computer screen. Instead of manually hitting play, rewind, fast forward, etc., you can do all that by using your mouse and keyboard. You can get special video editing keyboards that have a built-in jog shuttle to make moving the video extremely easy.
The better (more expensive) software programs give you even more control - enabling you to slow down or jog the video back and forth to find the right spots. Many DV software packages
Newer camcorders also feature better and easier to use special features and "bells and whistles." When using an analog camcorder (VHS, S-VHS, 8mm or Hi8mm), you will need to convert the analog signal to a digital signal to do any computer editing or to burn it the video clips to a DVD, CD or Video CD. Any time you convert formats, you lose quality. Sometimes it is imperceptible - sometimes it is very obvious.
First generation VHS video is fine for most Internet use. Higher quality recording formats like Hi8mm and S-VHS will even provide better looking first generation video to work with. The secret is to only use first generation video when transferring to your computer and to use the best possible analog conversion card you can afford. The better the card, the better the transfer.
For most streaming video movies, any standard DV, Hi8 or S-VHS camcorder "should" suffice. The only gotcha is the audio.
What About the Audio?
Unfortunately, not only do most camcorder mikes provide poor quality audio, many times they are located in bad spots on the camcorder body. This is especially true of the tiny compact DV camcorders with the mike placed on top of the camcorder, facing up, perfect for catching the sound of your breathing. For more on audio - click here
If audio is important, look for a camcorder where the mike is facing forward and is far as possible from the physical body of the camcorder. Many times, vibrations from zooming or even from the tape moving, create a vibration that is picked up by the mike as a low buzz that can irritating, especially when recording low volume events and activities.
If audio is very important, make sure you get a camcorder with an audio in jack that enables you to plug in an external microphone. The better camcorders will include an earphone jack so you can monitor the sound as well as shoe that enables you to physically mount the mike assembly onto. Some camcorders come with shotgun mike accessories that mount on the shoe and then transfer the audio through the shoe without needing to connect a mini-plug for audio. That works well.
More expensive, prosumer camcorder often offer volume controls for controlling levels while recording, as well as XL jacks for use with professional microphones and audio gear.
How to Buy and Test a Camcorder
Unfortunately, quality can vary when buying a camcorder. Even though most camcorders work very well, occasionally you might get a lemon. If possible, try out the camcorder in the store before buying it. This might not be easy. The typical camcorder video display in most stores is meaningless. What you want to test is how well the camcorder records and plays back, not how well the video signal looks through the viewfinder, LCD viewscreen, or attached monitor.
You actually want to be able to pick it up and videotape some different scenes and then play them back. That is the real test. Are the buttons easy to reach and seem logical? Do the recorded colors look good and realistic? How does it sound? Try playing back the recording in a quiet spot in the store and listen if there is an annoying buzz or vibration.
Make sure the unit is returnable. Take it home and play with it. If you are not satisfied, bring it back and get another one.
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