A Guide To Camcorder Features

If you've just picked up your new camcorder, you'll notice several select camcorder features that will be helpful as you make your videos. Some of these features may be the reasons you selected a particular camcorder. This is an overview of what those features do.

Before you will be able to use anything on your camcorder, you will need to turn on the power. This pushbutton is usually located conveniently on the top of the camcorder.

Most camcorders feature a display screen where you can view the same image that will be recorded. Some still offer a viewfinder that will show a parallax view of essentially what the lens will capture. The benefit of this viewfinder is that you can line up your shot without actually using up your power.


This is generally a thumb-trigger that is designed so that there is minimal force exerted, which results in less camera jiggle.

There are two types of zoom lenses you may be looking for, optical and digital. The optical zoom actually adjusts the lenses to change your view. It's a cleaner, more authentic view. A digital zoom actually takes a portion of what is in the screen and optically enlarges it; as you look more closely, you'll notice a 'tiling' effect, because the camcorder is not giving a true focal enlargement, only an enhanced approximation based on partial information.

Most current cameras only have an automatic zoom as opposed to a manual one. With practice, you can adjust your zoom speed on the auto-zoom trigger.

Some camcorders allow manual focusing, but most will set an autofocus. The autofocus allows the camcorder to determine what (usually toward the center or determined zones) is in focus. Manual focus allows you to focus on something that may seem tiny or insignificant, bringing importance to it. Manual focus also allows you to rack focus - that is, you may have two people talking in a shot, and you can shift, or 'rack', the focus from the one in the foreground to the one in the background.

This convenient feature takes the burden off you and allows the camcorder to determine most of the settings (white balance, focus, etc.). This will make it easy to just point, shoot and record.
White Balance

This lets the camcorder know what is truly supposed to be 'white' so that your white elements in the frame don't look yellow or beige, or vice versa.

Effects have become a standard feature on many handycams, as well as many higher end cameras. These often include black-and-white and other color filter effects. Sometimes this will include transitions, such as fade-out's and fade-in's.

Your camcorder will allow you the opportunity to output your video, usually through a USB or firewire port to a computer. Additionally, many camcorders include features that allow you to easily share your videos on the Internet.

Get to know how to use these features before you try to capture that magic moment, and your videos will stand out.