What to Know When Buying a Video Camera

Buying a video camera is a process that can cost anywhere from a couple hundred to a few thousand dollars. Because this can be a big purchase, there are a few things you should know about video and today's camcorders before you walk into the store. This way, you are prepared to get the one that is best for your needs and budget.

Purpose of the Camera

What you plan on using your camera for is going to be the biggest factor in your decision-making process. If you want a camcorder just for shooting home movies, then you should look for a simple one that performs most of it's functions automatically. If you're looking for a camcorder to shoot some video for your business or if you're a student filmmaker, then you should consider getting a prosumer camcorder. These camcorders offer more control to the user so that high quality images can be shot.

Compare the Zoom Lenses

Most camcorders have a fixed zoom lens built into them and you want to get a camera that has a lot of range in it's focal length. You can compare the specs online, but you can also easily compare them in the store too by placing the prospective cameras next to each other. Also, don't fall for the term digital zoom because it is not the same as an optical zoom. All a digital zoom does is just blow up and crop the image.

Compare the Image Stabilizers

A lot of cameras advertise their image stabilizer as a key feature, but you should know that all image stabilizers are not created equal. A great way to test them out is to go to the store and zoom in all the way on your prospective camera. Then, hold it in one arm and extend it all the way out. You can see how good the stabilizer is by looking in the view finder.

Tape vs Tapeless

Video compression technology has improved a lot over the last few years and cameras that record onto tape are becomming less and less common. When buying a video camera, you want to get one that is tapeless for two reasons. The first reason is that the tapeless media utilizes video compression to create superior HD images. The second reason is that as tape based cameras become less common, so do video tapes. Less and less stores are carrying them in stock. While they'll propably never completely disappear thanks to Internet companies, you'll probably have a hard time finding them in an emergency.  

Size Matters in Image Chips

Bigger image chips capture images at higher resolutions than smaller ones. When comparing chip sizes, you should always remember that bigger is better. Also, you want to use a camera that uses a CMOS chip compared to one that has a CCD one. CCD used to be the standard digital camcorder chip, but it has since been dethroned.