With so many options out there, picking out the first video camera seems daunting. The camcorder which is best for you may not be suitable for other. So, you need to consider two factors – your budget and the type of video you are going to shoot. You also need to consider the technical specs. Do you need 30x optical zoom? Is HD or 4K quality you need? What bitrate can you get? Picking the video camera shouldn’t be too difficult for you. Here is the complete Camcorder Buying Guide to make the right choice.
Key Features to Look For
When it comes to starting shopping, ask yourself – what kind of video you are going to shoot the most? If you want to record soccer game, you will need a different camera than a professional who has to record a concert. Narrow down your choices to choose the best features. For example, to record multiple concerts, consider audio quality more than anything else.
Budget is another important consideration. In general, you get what you pay for. It means you will get better quality videos from an expensive camera. If you don’t want to share your videos and don’t want to operate your camcorder on the go, you can save more without compromising more on quality by picking a camera which comes without Wi-Fi feature. Don’t buy a 4K camcorder if you don’t have any plan to buy 4K TV. All in all, consider your budget and shooting preference.
You may find different types of camcorders for different shooting preferences. Size and features are two important things. Some camera sizes are best choices for different purposes while some are limited. Here are some of the best types of video cameras –
Pocket-sized camcorders are made to fit in your pocket. These cameras are widely used by bloggers. They may not provide the best video quality, despite being small.
Mainstream cameras are used for different purposes and are very common. For sports, events, and home videos, these are the best choice.
Advanced camcorders come with more features than mainstream ones. Both professionals and enthusiasts use these cameras.
Mountable and wearable camcorders are made to shoot POV videos. These gadgets are attached to surfboards and skateboards, pets, vehicles, helmets, and others to capture things in action.
Camcorders have the sensors to record digital videos. Video quality depends on the size of the sensor. Larger sensors capture higher quality videos. Sensor size varies in cameras with the same resolution. Some have smaller 1/2.3” while some have 1” sensor in 4K camcorders. When it comes to compare two cameras with the same quality of resolution, keep in mind that bigger sensor is better.
Sensors also help in shooting in low light. A larger sensor can add more light so camcorder can produce better images with a large sensor in low light as compared to a camcorder that has a small sensor. So, opt for cameras with a larger sensor to shoot a lot of images in low light, such as in high school gym, a concert etc. On camcorders, sensors are little smaller than on cameras used to capture still images. For a mainstream camera, choose 1/2.3” sensor which is point and shoot.
It indicates a number of pixels in the footage. It means more pixels offer better detail and clarity. Gone are the days when you had to choose between HD and SD. Now you need to choose from HD or 4K. 4K refers to the resolution which is 4 times higher than HD and has around 4000 pixels. Most camcorders come with 1080p HD resolution but only a few cameras still use 720p. However, you can view 4K videos only on 4K TV or monitor to get the most of highest quality. Even YouTube supports 4K resolution these days. But you need to keep in mind that you will get regular HD video on a regular TV.
Bitrate is another important factor to compare two cameras with same resolution and same sensor. Higher bit rates result in better video quality and large files. Usually, bit rates don’t matter more than sensor size or resolution. But they play a vital role to choose between two same cameras. Higher bitrate may fill up your internal memory or SD card a lot quickly. If you go with higher bit rate, look for fast and large SD card or choose camcorder with a lot of internal memory.
When it comes to memory, most modern video camcorders can save recordings in either internal memory or SD card. Convenience is the most common difference between both. You don’t need to buy SD card if you have a lot of internal memory. Camcorders with high resolution and bitrate will fill up memory faster due to large file sizes. So, choose camcorders with a high amount of internal memory because large SD cards are expensive.
There is nothing more devastating than shaky video. You can prevent it with image stabilization. Digital or electronic image stabilization plays a vital role in cutting camera shake. You can achieve the same in different ways but it is not that effective.
It keeps the video steady by moving the parts of the glass. It is a lot better than electronic stabilization. Optical stabilization is best defined by an axis and it shows the types of movement. With 5-axis stabilization, a camera can be stabilized for five motions. Similarly, 3-axis is stabilized well in three different movement types.
It is one of the most important but often overlooked features. Like a video, good audio is also vital for the shots of interviews and musicians. It goes well with great video footage. It also indicates the type of microphone which is being used. Mono microphone is another common type and it is common in budget ranges. They can record only in one channel which adds flat feeling to the audio. Mono is a single speaker.
A stereo microphone can record in two channels and they provide better quality audio as compared to a mono microphone. Stereo mic is a pair of headphones or speakers if a mono microphone is solo-speaker. If stereo is two speakers or mono is 1-speaker, multi-channel results in surround sound. These are less common but you can find them in some advanced models. Placement is also important with a type of microphone. They can pick up a closest sound. So, consider where the mic is placed to pick the best sound.
If you want to shoot in low light conditions a lot, you may want to buy cameras with maximum aperture. It is the size of lens opening which allows light to come in. A larger aperture is better for low light shots. It indicates the aperture in f-stops. For low light, f/1.8 is great.
This feature can make a great change in shooting wildlife or sports. Optical is better than an electronic or digital zoom. Optical zoom adjusts the lens of a camera, while digital zoom just crops image. Smart zoom is another common standard. It’s a kind of digital zoom which captures images without degrading quality. But it still can’t match the quality of optical zoom. The amount of zoom you need is up to your shooting preferences. For close-up of any object in same room, you may want 5x or 10x zoom. To shoot sports, you need up to 25x zoom.
There are other features you may want to have according to your needs before buying a camcorder –
- Battery Life – If you want to shoot multiple clips and record hours of clips, consider the tech specs of the camcorder and see the length of time it can record on one charge.
- Wi-Fi – This feature allows you to connect your camcorder to your tablet or smartphone. This feature is handy when it comes to control your camera with your mobile device. You can also preview footage on your device. It is good for shooting wildlife or selfies.
- Size – Consider the size of the camcorder especially if you travel a lot. It should be light enough to carry along. According to your shooting needs, size is an important consideration.
- Record Time – It indicates your shooting length. In some camcorders, it is not possible to process all data quick enough for a large time period.
All in all, you should consider what is best suited for you to choose the best camcorder. Needs for a new parent are totally different from the needs for shooting sports and for making YouTube videos. Consider features like image stabilization and zoom, and other factors like your budget.