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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.