Before we look at how to buy a digital camcorder, it's useful to first understand what kinds of camcorders are available in the market right now.
First up, there are Mini-DV camcorders, which allow you to record images in mini tapes similar to VHS tapes. Another variation is the Micro MV camcorder which is one of the smallest camcorder types available.
Next up, there are the Mini DVD and DVD-RAM camcorders. These record video straight into DVD discs so that you can pop the DVD into a player and view what you've recorded. There are also flash memory and hard drive based digital camcorders*** which are pretty expensive but easier to use as you can quickly add, edit or delete files from the camcorder's storage.
These days, most people opt for flash memory or hard disk based camcorders. Tape-based camcorders (MiniDV and MicroMV) are fast getting obsolete. I'd even venture to say DVD based camcorders are outdated. Also, many camcorders these days can also record full High Defintion (HD) video, so you might want to check those models out if you're in the market.
2. Camcorder Mechanics
When you buy a digital camcorder, it's also useful to understand how a camcorder works. Knowing how the device works will help you understand what features you need and what features you don't need. I've seen many buyers purchase camcorders that are totally unsuitable for them (e.g. a professional 3-CCD camcorder being used for home videos - that's overkill).
3. How Will You Use The Camcorder?
It's important to decide upfront how you'll use the camcorder. Digital camcorders come in two flavors - consumer and professional. If you're a casual user, or just starting out in video production, I'd suggest you get an entry level consumer camcorder (you can find some good ones here). When I first start out in video editing, I bought a Canon camcorder (which I still use today). These consumer camcorders are good for shooting home videos, vacations and other "fun" videos.
If you're in the video production business and want to shoot high quality videos, you'd probably want to go after a professional camcorder. These include 3-CCD camcorders. In fact, if you're serious about shooting top notch video, you'd probably want to invest some solid accessories too, e.g. a tripod, lenses - the works.
4. Consumer Camcorders
Let's dive into what consumer camcorders are out there. One model I'd definitely recommend is the Sanyo VPC-GH4 Full HD 1080 camcorder. This is a solid camcorder that is very affordable and is a hot seller. It shoots HD video and is extremely compact and easy to carry around.
Another one of my favorites is the Panasonic HDC-TM700K. This is another HD camcorder which comes in a sleek looking black casing and shoots extremely good quality video. You might also want to check out my other consumer camcorder recommendations.
5. Professional Camcorders
Professional camcorders are for serious film makers. Typically, if you're shooting a short feature film or movie, you'll need a solid professional camcorder like the Canon XH-A1S 3-CCD HD camcorder. Another model popular with the pros is the Sony HDR-FX7 3-CCD HD camcorder. Both these models will set you back several thousand dollars but you get very high quality shots.
These professional models make use of 3 CCDs (charge-coupled devices) - one CCD is used for each primary color (red, green, blue). The lenses used in these camcorders are also top-notch and miles ahead of those found in consumer camcorders. Read more about 3-CCD camcorders here.
6. Bundled Accessories
When you buy a digital camcorder, remember to look for accessories that are bundled with the device. Important things to look out for are camcorder cases, extra batteries or bundled video editing software. Some retailers also throw in a tripod or microphone. You can save a lot of money by getting these accessories free.
7. Where To Buy Camcorders
Digital camcorders are available in every major electronics store. I'd recommend you pop into your neighborhood store and check out models you want. Take your time to play around and get comfortable with the camcorder - don't buy on impulse (these babies are not cheap!). If you want to buy camcorders online, Amazon.com is a good bet. Try not to buy camcorders from places like eBay - I can't vouch for the quality of camcorders from there.
8. Camcorder Accessories
Remember, buying a digital camcorder inevitably means you also need to invest in things like video tapes, flash memory cards and camcorder cases. Don't forget to include these items into your budget. An extra high-capacity flash memory card and camcorder case can set you back by a hundred or more dollars. Read more about camcorder accessories here.
I hope the above has given you some great insight into how to buy a digital camcorder. You should first determine what you're using the camcorder for. If it is for fun, home-based usage, then go for a consumer level camcorder. As you progress and get better in your video production adventures, you may then want to upgrade to a professional camcorder.
For more information on buying camcorders, check out my article on buying your first digital camcorder. Until next time, good luck and happy shopping!
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You may also wish to read the following related articles:
How to create a movie with Windows MovieMaker
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