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Buying a Digital Camcorder

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Technology moves so quickly in the consumer electronics world that it is often difficult to know what you should be looking for and what you should be paying.  To make sure you are getting the best deal, you should be well informed before handing over your hard earned money.

There are a number of key aspects you need to be aware of when purchasing a Digital Camcorder.

Cost


This seems to be an obvious consideration for any purchase decision.  One thing to keep in mind is that, unlike other consumer electronics such as LCD TVs and computers, people do not commonly use their camcorders on an everyday basis.  

Therefore, it becomes important to consider whether you are willing to pay a premium for a top of the line camcorder with all the latest and greatest bells and whistles, when it will likely decrease half in price within a year.  A balance between cost and feature quality might be wise to strike for the casual user.

Resolution


The higher the resolution of the video camera, the more detail it is capable of capturing.

Here’s a list of pixel resolutions for popular digital video formats that will give you some idea of what the numbers mean in terms of quality:

Video CD:        350 x 240
Normal DVD        720 x 480
High Definition    1366 x 768
Full High Definition    1920 x 1080

The trend for modern digital camcorders is towards Full High Definition.  As affordable TVs continue to grow in size and picture quality, any camcorder offering less than Full High Definition may become quickly outdated.

Frame rate


The frame rate refers to how many still images are captured within a given period of time. This indicates how fluidly the picture moves from one moment to the next. It will often be expressed in terms of frames captured per second, eg. 20fps.

For normal home and holiday video camcorder usage, a frame rate above 24fps (35mm movie cameras use this as a standard exposure rate) is entirely sufficient.  Higher rates may become more important for faster moving images such as when recording sports events up close.

Sensor Size


In digital camcorders, image sensor sizes are usually reported as fractions of an inch, eg. 1/2.5” is larger than 1/4.5”.    

Generally speaking the larger the sensor, the more light will be able to be captured and this makes for a clearer and more vibrant image.  This affects the low-light performance of the camcorder as well.  

Image Stabilisation


As any camcorder user knows, the steadiest of hands will still require help in recording video.  Modern camcorders should offer optical (shifts the lens) or electronic (shifts a reduced frame within the total captured video) image stabilisation techniques.

Storage Medium


In the latest digital camcorders, the most popular methods for recording and storing your videos are as follows:

1)    On board hard drive
2)    DVD burning
3)    Memory cards

Each of these methods has their own advantages and disadvantages that you should investigate in light of your own needs.  For example, hard drive storage will give you a large capacity so you have less need to worry about “running out of tape” so to speak, but hard drives are also very power hungry so battery life tends to be weak.  The need to change batteries is about as much trouble as “changing tapes”, so maybe nothing is really gained in this way.  Another important flaw is that if the camcorder breaks, there is a fair possibility that your stored videos will be lost.

DVD burning camcorders that create a DVD as you shoot have actually been waning in popularity of late.  Video quality has increased to the point where capacity becomes an issue – only about 70 minutes per standard DVD can be recorded at a full HD resolution.  Also, DVDs cannot be reused.  

Memory cards are fast becoming a very popular and practical medium to record videos. There are now SDHC Memory Cards with up to 64GB of memory at reasonable prices, and this card type is also being used by many other devices like mobile phones, video players and digital cameras.  Given these facts, SDHC digital camcorders do seem to offer an excellent balance between storage capacity, battery life and versatility.

Conclusion


There are several considerations when purchasing a Digital Video Camera. At Kogan Direct , we believe we have the best value for money digital video camera on the market. For $369, you get a digital video camera that is capable of recording Full HD 1920 x1080 video, 30fps/60fps, image stabilisation and an SDHC memory card slot (with an included 8GB SDHC card). We urge you to do some research before making any consumer electronics purchase decision. If you need any help, our staff are always happy to answer questions.



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