Camcorder Buying Guide - Choosing What's Best For You

Ok people, this might sound like an off-topic, but lots of readers have emailed me to write about how-to guides if possible, and here's the first step, a Camcorder Buying Guide. Today, a whole slew of camcorders exist with a variety of options available regarding recording media, features, and price. Contemporary lightweight models often fit in the palm of your hand, and that too without leaving a dent in your pocket. However, with the range of features and prices available in today's camcorder market, you may be asking yourself how to know which one is right for you, depending on your needs. Here are some tips and pointers that I cam across while trying to choose a camcorder for myself.

Doing some research before hitting the stores is not only a great idea, but highly recommended. You would be swarmed with the large pool of devices out there and get a headache trying to choose or listening to the rant of the salesman trying to sell you something. So take some time to ask yourself these questions before you are ready to shop!

1. How much are you going to use this camcorder? Are you looking for something professsional, or just a camcorder for recording your vacation trips, grandkids and family events?

2. How much can you afford to spend up front?

3. Am I willing to pay for removable media such as tapes or DVDs?

4. What kind of video-shooting knowledge/skills do you have? Are you taking this up as a serious passion or profession? Then you might have to expand your budget a bit.

5. Are you ready for the additional accessories with your camcorder purchase? And what things would you need? ( like hard drive, more memory upgrade, DVD burner, or HDTV for HD camcorders)

6. Are you interested in a simple VHS tape camcorder (which I think is not a great choice) or the latest Digital MiniDV ones?

7. Is there a specific brand that you've used before and trust more than others? (like Panasonic or Sony)

Analog VHS Camcorders are a thing of the past, and I would strongly recommend spending on the Digital ones as they are small, light, flexible, have better video quality, larger record time and tonnes of other cool features. For novices, I think it's better to stick with deals offered by top brand names like Sony, Panasonic or Canon. The latest in tiny palm-sized devices are the Flip Video Camcorders From what I've seen, there's a wide range of Sony MiniDV camcorders that start from an affordable price tag.

Digital8 camcorders are another digital alternative to more traditional types of camcorders. These digital tapes do not offer as many benefits as the competing MiniDV technology, but they are able to run both 8mm and Hi8 tapes, making them a good choice for people upgrading from an existing 8mm or Hi8 setup. With the affordability of recordable media and portable storage, a few new types of digital camcorders have recently begun to rise in popularity. These include DVD camcorders, flash camcorders, and hard-drive based camcorders.

You'll want to think about how you'll use the camcorder. Do you plan to do a lot of still photography with your camcorder? If so, look for a model with a built-in flash. Like shooting video at night? Then get one with a video light or, even better, a Night mode that makes the CCD hypersensitive to ambient light. Some folks have a large collection of VHS tapes that they hope to someday convert to DVD. If that sounds like you, be sure your camcorder has analog video inputs. And don't be taken in by a fancy zoom. Just like with a digital camera, a camcorder's digital zoom rating isn't very important: You'll rarely need more than 75X or perhaps 100X. After that, the video becomes a pixely mess.

Camcorders range widely in price, depending on the media and level of quality. A decent MiniDV camcorder may be found for under US$300, while a hard-drive based camcorder will cost around US$600, and professional level camcorders cost between US$1500 and US$6000. If you are more of a tech geek, you should definitely take a look at the latest breed of HD and blu-ray camcorders. Also check out camcorder reviews as first-hand experience by users will always be your best guide. Hope this article helps you in your quest for buying the best video camcorder!!

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