AEEM Guide Buying a Digital Camcorder
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Long gone are the days of film movie cameras for home use when you had to wait days for the film to be developed and then view it on a projector in a darkened room. Today's compact digital camcorders (camera-recorders) are lightweight, small, capture high quality video and sound, allow for immediate playback, and include electronic features that enhance the "filming" experience.

There are many choices of digital camcorders. Here are some tips to help you in your selection:
  • Choose a camera that is convenient to carry, hold, and use. Consider not only its physical size and weight but also how comfortably it rests in your hand over long periods, how easy it is to use to view your subject while recording, and how easy it is to activate the controls. In general, the smaller and lighter the camera, the higher the cost and/or the fewer the features, so strike a balance between what size and features you want and the price you are willing to pay.
  • "Format" refers to the way the camera stores the video. The three current formats you should consider are MiniDV (most popular), Micro MV (a Sony standard that is smaller but more expensive), and Mini DVD-R and DVD-RAM (unlike the other two, which use a tape, this one writes to a DVD, but there are compatibility issues between these and some DVD players). Decide which is best for you by determining how you will typically use the movies: in their original medium, transferred to a computer, or copied to another format, such as DVD or VHS.
  • Look at the technical aspects of the camcorder. Compare the picture resolution (higher detail or resolution means sharper, larger images, with 3 megapixel being the current upper end), the quality of the lens (a low quality lens precludes sharp pictures), minimum light levels (how dark can it be and still be light enough, a wide-screen option so that you can record in HDTV dimensions, zoom capabilities (both optical and digital, with optical zoom preferred), the viewfinder and/or playback monitor, and the connections for transfer.
  • Compare how long the camera will run between recharges and the availability of battery packs, as you may find it difficult to found an outlet with which to recharge along the Great Wall of China.
  • The tech-crazed will appreciate the myriad special effect features, but the only really important and frequently used one is electronic image stabilization, which dampens motion from a shaking hand or vibrations.

Finally, many video cameras include the ability to take snapshots (just like some still cameras allow you to take video). However, video resolution is much lower than that for still images, so treat this as a convenience feature for the times when you don't want to lug around your still camera.

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