If you’re looking for a digital camcorder, you will be spolit
for choice. There are so many models out there – Canon, Sony,
Panasonic, JVC – just to name a few brands. It is tough to make
a decision because of the variety and the cost. Digital
camcorders are not cheap. and easily run into the $500 to $2000
price range. You wouldn’t want to fork out so much money for a
camera that does not meet your expectations.
Let’s take a look at the various factors to consider when
purchasing your first camcorder.
Analog or Digital Format?
The first decision you have to make is this: do you want to work
with video in an analog format (VHS-C, 8mm and Hi8) or a digital
format (MiniDV, Digital8, MicroMV, Digital Tapeless and DVD).
The digital format is all the rage now, just look at the digital
camcorders flying off the shelves offline and online. Of course,
a digital camcorder is slightly more expensive than an analog
If you simply cannot decide whether to go digital or analog,
just consider the intended usage of your camera. If you intend
to capture video into the computer and do some video editing,
then my advice is to go for a digital camcorder. If you don’t
mind lower quality video, then save your money and get an analog
camera. You can still import video from your analog camera into
your computer using an analog-to-digital conversion device
(albeit with some loss in quality).
What’s Your Budget?
As with all purchases you make, you need to consider your
budget. A low-end digital camera like the Canon ZR200 will set
you back about $400. A super duper high-end model like the Sony
HDR-FX1 will cost a bomb at $3000. Be sure to compare prices and
get the best deals matching the features you want in your
camera. Of course, the more you pay, the better features you’ll
get – that’s a known fact.
The features and attributes to consider when purchasing a
* Firewire/IEEE 1394 support * Lens Quality * LCD Size *
Optical Stabilization System * Digital Still Image Capability
To me, only the first attribute (Firewire support) is absolutely
critical. Never buy a digital camcorder that does not have
Firewire support (a rarity these days anyway). The other
attributes like lens quality, LCD size and optical stabilization
are nice to have but should not matter if you are just an
average home user.
The last attribute – digital still image capability – gives you
the ability to shoot pictures just like a digital still camera.
I personally think there’s no need for this feature, as it jacks
up the price tag way too much. I’d prefer to get a basic
videocam and a proper digital still camera separately if I want
to both shoot videos and take still pictures.
So while it seems you are blinded by the vast array of choices
available for digital camcorders, my advice is to focus on your
budget and intended usage of the camera. I know some
professional wedding videographers who use their digital
camcorders to shoot wedding videos. These guys need the best,
high-end models. If you’re a average home user, start with a
lower-end to mid-range model. You can always upgrade to a better
model later as you get more experienced in digital video.