Camcorder Reviews

HD Camcorders – What’s The Big Deal?

Image of a High Definition Camcorder

High definition video is becoming a regular staple in many homes. We’ve come to expect HD quality from professional video, but what about home movies? Why not enjoy your memories in HD? An HD camcorder is a necessity for capturing high definition content to watch on your HDTV. If you use the best HD camcorder to capture your kid’s soccer game, holidays with the families or even David after the dentist, you can enjoy these moments over and over in quality high definition playback on your TV, computer monitor, or even YouTube.

The best HD camcorders are the Canon VIXIA HF R42Panasonic HC V720M and the Sony HDR PJ320. These three products offer high quality resolution as well as a multitude of other features, such as built-in Wi-Fi and touchscreen displays. For more information, take a look at our articles on HD camcorders. These will help make sure the home videos you shoot will look fantastic.

HDV Camcorders: What to Look For

First, a word about resolution. You’ll see cameras that capture video with resolutions of 720p and 1080p, and both are considered HD. Standard definition is approximately 480p, and video is considered high definition when it is more than 480p. The number refers to the number of horizontal lines in the image. The more lines your camera records, the more pixels you’ll see, and the clearer the picture will be. Video shot in 1080p is referred to as full HD. Full HD camcorders offer maximum line resolution and give you slightly clearer pictures than camcorders that record in 720p.

Specs and features separate the best HD camcorders from ordinary standard definition camcorders and smartphone cameras. The HD video recorders we reviewed are feature-rich as well as easy to use.

In finding the best HD camcorder, you’ll want to take into account the camcorder’s video and image quality, including resolution, frame rate and zoom capabilities. In addition, extra features and overall design are worth considering. Below are the criteria we used in evaluating the best HD camcorders.

Video & Image Quality

HD video camcorders will, by definition, have great resolution, but there are other factors to consider in video quality. Most camcorders have two zoom features: an optical zoom, where the lens will physically move closer to the object, and a digital zoom, which crops the image digitally and zooms in on the image. Optical zoom generally does not affect the picture quality, but you’ll want to be aware that if you employ an extreme digital zoom, you will likely experience pixelization and degraded image quality.

Another important factor to consider is the lux rating. The lower the rating, the better the camera does in limited light. If you plan to take still shots as well, look for an HD video recorder that can take high quality still images, as it will limit your need for a separate point-and-shoot digital camera.

Features

All the little extras separate the best HD camcorders of the class from the rest. Battery life can mean the difference between getting the footage you want and going home disappointed. While you’ll want to look for a camera with a long battery life, be aware that the actual battery time will depend on many factors. Using the zoom and other camcorder functions, recording continuously or clipping and recording again all come in to play and affect battery life.

Other features you should take into consideration include a touchscreen display to help you navigate through menus or built-in Wi-Fi that makes it easy to share photos and videos with friends and family. A camera that offers GPS geo-tagging will help you file and find your videos by location and time.

Design

The look and feel of a camcorder is important as well. None of these camcorders are the old-school, over- your-shoulder camcorders, and most will fit comfortably in your palm. That said, if you’re planning on taking a camcorder with you while you’re out at Disneyland all day, a lightweight camcorder that doesn’t take up much room might be better for you. However if you’re planning to record every one of your daughter’s soccer games, a more durable and stable HD video camera might be best. Choose the design that will meet your specific recording needs.

Help & Support

Using a new consumer electronic device can be hard. Having the backup of a manufacturer’s customer service will not only get out of a bind if your HD camcorder is not working, but it will give you peace of mind when making your purchase. The company should provide plenty of ways to contact customer service, including phone, email or live chat, and representatives should be easily accessible and easy to work with. Some companies offer online manuals, a very convenient feature if you lose the hard copy manual that comes with your high definition camcorder.

With the right equipment, you can make good-looking home movies, and the best HD camcorders will help you make quality home videos of your family and friends that you can play on your HDTV. Plus, the extra features make movie making fun and easy.

Pocket Camcorders

image of 3 pocket camcorders

Pocket camcorders, much like other video cameras, are ideal for getting footage of a birthday party or dance recital, or for capturing any event at a moment’s notice, like a flash mob. The main difference between the two is the design. Pocket camcorders are designed to be small and portable. If you’ve ever lugged a large video camera around, you know how cumbersome and inconvenient they are. Even if you love to record all major life events, you probably don’t love carting a video camera around. The compact size makes it convenient to stick these cameras in a pocket or purse so you always have it on hand.

Many people opt to capture video with their smartphone’s camera, but pocket camcorders are just as easy to carry and will generally take better video and pictures. Many of these pocket camcorders record in HD and have a digital zoom of up to 200x. The majority of small video cameras can also take still photos with a resolution of 10MP or higher.

The best camcorders in our lineup, the Sony Waterproof, Panasonic HX and the VistaQuest DV, are basically a standard camcorder in a much smaller package. Read our articles about pocket camcorders to learn more about this fun, handy technology and to get tips on buying pocket camcorders.

Pocket Camcorders: What to Look For

These amazingly small camcorders are designed to point and shoot. The majority of pocket camcorders have a simple, usable interface and are designed to let you record quick videos whether you’re on vacation, watching a high-action sports game or recording your friend’s skateboarding tricks. While mini camcorders are simple, there are a few things to keep in mind before you make a final purchase of one of these gadgets. Below are the criteria we used to evaluate the best options available.

Video & Picture
The finest pocket camcorders have a full 1080p resolution, which is the maximum standard for high definition. Some models shoot in 720p as well. Along with video quality, good pocket camcorders can also take still photographs. Therefore, don’t overlook the need for a high megapixel resolution. The best camcorders will include a good digital or optical zoom for capturing images and action that is far away. Along with these main features, you’ll also want to take into consideration extras such as image stabilization, a built-in flash and the display size of the preview screen.

Memory
One of the most important things to take into account when considering which camcorder is best for you is the amount of integrated and expandable data-storage space available. Most camcorders have integrated memory, but only a few megabytes worth. That means you’ll only have the ability to take about three photos or two minutes of video. On the bright side, the majority of camcorders on our line-up have a slot for Secure Digital (SD), Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) or Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC) cards.

An SD card can hold 1GB-4GB of memory while an SDHC card has space for 4GB-32GB. An SDXC card can hold an incredibly large amount of data, up to 32 terabytes (TB). What does this mean for you? A 2GB SD card will allow you to record 20-45 minutes of video depending on the settings, or take up to 770 photos. An 8GB SDHC card will generally let you store 80-180 minutes of video or up to 3,080 photos. The 32GB on an SDHC card gives you a whopping 320-720 minutes of video or up to 12,320 photos. It only goes up from there.

Additional Features
Before you make a purchase decision, you will want to know some specific information about your mini camcorder. Look for the type of battery it uses and the estimated battery life. The average battery life is about 90 minutes of recording time (longer if you’re recording in low definition).

Along with the battery, pay attention to the included ports, such as HDMI and USB.A USB connection is a benefit of a pocket camcorder over a standard camcorder because it makes it easy to upload video and pictures without using cables. You simply pop the USB connector out and plug your camera directly into a computer. This is also convenient for recharging the battery without an additional battery pack or power cord.

Help & Support
Being able to get help when you need it is essential when you’re buying electronic products. To that end, a good manufacturer’s site will offer phone support, FAQs, live chat and a contact email.

Pocket camcorders offer you the advantage of being able to capture anything at a moment’s notice with a camera that you can store easily in your pocket, purse, briefcase or commuter pack. Every small video camera is different, and our reviews will help you find the one that suits your needs the best. Once you find it, creating and saving your precious memories will be simple and fun.

Hard Drive Camcorders

image of a harddrive camcorder

Hard drive camcorders are much more convenient than conventional camcorders that use a tape or optical discs. There is no need to worry about running out of tape or space on an optical disc, or swapping out a small flash-based SD card in the middle of your daughter’s recital. Thanks to a large capacity hard drive, these camcorders can record dozens of hours of video without worrying about running out of digital storage space.

Hard drive camcorders are typically smaller than their mini DV and HDV counterparts. Since there are no tapes or discs, there is no need for a media transport mechanism, allowing manufacturers to slim down the chassis, making it easy to hold and very lightweight.

Our top three products – the Sony HandyCam HDR-XR160, JVC GZ-HD520BUS andPanasonic HDC-HS80 – shoot videos and digital stills that are stored on the hard disk drive. As a result, it is very easy to manage and organize clips or digital photos without the need for software, though many of the cameras do include a media management application. Typically, every time you hit the record button, the camera will create a new clip, making it easy to quickly go to the video you want to view.

HARD DRIVE CAMCORDERS: WHAT TO LOOK FOR

There are a variety of items, features and functions you should be looking for when deciding which hard drive camcorder is best for you. While many share similar features, not all of these camcorders shoot in high definition, or have a large hard disk drive, for example.

Features
Every hard drive camcorder comes with standard features such as a state-of-the-art image sensor to capture video in high-definition or standard-definition, a quality lens with optical and digital zooms, and an image stabilizer for smoothing shooting. A couple of other important features include how the unit handles shooting in low light situations, and whether it can take digital photos. Plus, is there a touchscreen color LCD monitor, does it feature face detection and so on.

Image Quality
The video resolution of a hard drive camcorder is typically full high definition 1080p, though some of the camcorders on our list are standard definition. The video and audio should look and sound good. It’s also that it has several image quality settings, from highest to lowest, and the best setting can produce better video, but larger file sizes. These camcorders also can take digital stills, so the total number of megapixels is also important when considering the best unit.

Hard Drive Capacity
The larger the hard disk drive, the more footage it will hold. Many hard drive camcorders start at 80GB capacities, and the newest models are hitting 220GB, some of which can hold nearly 100 hours of high definition video, depending on the image quality setting.

Help & Support
It’s important that the hard drive camcorder manufacturer includes help options, such as a user manual, a FAQs page, tutorials and more, plus information about the warranty, such as the length of time for parts and labor. If you need support, a good company will provide a way to contact them, such as by phone, email or live chat.

Summary

Hard drive camcorders have plenty of features to help you create lasting video memories of your loved ones and friends, and using a hard disk drive allows you to shoot for hours without having to change a tape or SD card. They are easy to use and record beautiful video.

MiniDV Camcorders

Image of a minidv camcorder

Mini DV is a digital format that is inexpensive compared to the costs of other camcorder media. A typical Mini DV tape will cost about 3 or 4 dollars and record twice as much footage as a standard DVD at equal cost. You can also record over a mini DVD disk, something you can’t do with a typical DVD-R disc.

Mini DV camcorders have exceptional video quality. Some motion pictures have been shot entirely with Mini DV. Most professional videographers will use Mini DV as their format of choice for shooting anything from your daughter’s wedding to nature safaris in Africa.

Most video editing applications will easily transfer and edit the Mini DV format as well, so you don’t have to worry that your camcorder’s format isn’t compatible with program x or y.

In this site, you’ll find articles related to camcorders, as well as comprehensive reviews and a side–by–side comparison to help you make an informed decision on which camcorder is right for you.

MINI DV CAMCORDERS: WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Since there are so many Mini DV camcorders to choose from, it is important to understand what all the different features are and what they do. Many Mini DV camcorders will allow you to record in full 1080p high definition, while others’ picture quality leaves something to be desired.

Mini DV camcorders are available in price ranges from under $200 to many thousands of dollars. We’ll help you decide which camcorder is the best for you.

Below are the criteria CamcordersInfo used to evaluate Mini DV camcorders:

CCD Resolution
This is perhaps the most important part of the camcorder. The CCD will determine picture quality of not only the video, but also photographs the camera takes. In addition, many cameras will now use 3 CCDs, one for each of the primary colors, to record images. The result is a picture that is much sharper than can be obtained by using only one. Also, a larger CCD is better than a smaller one.

Battery Life
If your battery dies on your brand-new Mini DV camcorder, all those fancy features don’t mean a thing. Be sure to look for a camera that at least has long life batteries available.

Low LUX rating
You won’t always be outside shooting in sunlight. Make sure that your camera works well in low light situations.

LCD Screen Size
The best Mini DV camcorders have larger and brighter LCD screens. This makes it much easier and fun to record special events.

Image Stabilizer
An image stabilizer will help eliminate the shaky camera footage syndrome that is synonymous with many home videos. The best systems use an optical stabilizer.

Zoom
There are two types of zoom in Mini DV camcorders: optical and digital. Optical zoom is better than digital zoom, although most camcorders will have both.

Flash Camcorders

image of a flash camcorder

Micordrive camcorders are the smallest, lightest and most versatile camcorders to date. In the past, Camcorders were too bulky to take just anywhere. They were only used for special occasions like school plays, recitals and birthday parties. Since microdrive camcorders are so small, they can literally be taken anywhere. You will always be ready to capture that special moment where ever you are. Since micordrive camcorders don’t use tapes, you don’t have to worry about queuing up the tape to make sure you’re in the right spot and battery life will generally be a little better. This allows for even more versatility.

Transferring video over to a computer is easy as well. Since the microdrive camcorder creates a new clip every time you press the record button, all your clips will be displayed with thumbnails once you connect the camera to the computer. This makes it easy to select the clips you want and drag them over to your computer for editing or for burning to a DVD.

In this site, you’ll find articles related to camcorders, as well as comprehensive reviews and a side–by–side comparison to help you make an informed decision on which camcorder is right for you.

MICRODRIVE CAMCORDERS: WHAT TO LOOK FOR

There is a wide variety of microdrive camcorders available today ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. The features can vary widely from one model to the next.

Below are the criteria CamcordersInfo used to evaluate microdrive camcorders:

Resolution
Microdrive camcorders are available in a wide variety of resolutions. Many camcorders will even allow you to choose the resolution to increase record time.

Media Type
Many camcorders will use a non-removable flash drive, while others will rely on removable media, such as an SD card. There are also quite a few that will use both, allowing for the most flexibility.

Battery Life
You want to make sure you have enough battery power to record all your special events. Look for a camera with long battery run times.

LCD Screen Size
It is much easier to use your camcorder if you are looking at a large, bright LCD screen.

Image Stabilization
We have all seen Uncle Bob’s old home camcorder footage, where the images are so shaky that it makes you sick. This is why you need image stabilization. This is especially helpful in cameras with longer zoom ranges.

Warranty
A good camcorder should be backed up by a good warranty. Most manufacturers will include a 90 day warranty, while others will be as long as two years.

Action Camcorders

image of an action camcorder

Whether you’re a scuba diver, snow skier, mountain biker, mountain climber or participate in various other sports, action camcorders can help you document your conquests. The cameras are waterproof, often come with protective casings and can take a beating and still keep on ticking. The best action camcorders even allow you to go underwater and snorkel, scuba dive or just go for a swim. The cameras have many of the same features of more traditional cameras. However, because a sports camcorder is most often used during moments of action, there are usually fewer focus and zoom features. Some of the more competitive and useful action camcorders includeGoPro, Sony Action Cam and Drift HD Ghost. For more information, read our articles on action camcorders.

Action Camcorders: What to Look For

Action camcorders are designed to withstand much rougher conditions than traditional cameras can handle. The hard casings and other durable construction elements help you record with confidence even in the most extreme environments. Most action camcorders have a wide-angle view without the ability to zoom or focus. This doesn’t result in the highest quality images and video available, but on-the-go and underwater capabilities make up for the lacking image and video quality.

Image/Video Quality
The best action camcorders can record in high definition and take high quality photos. The video will usually have an auto-focus, but should produce high quality video and photos. The video angle will be wide, but through editing, you should be able to have a clear video that tracks your movements. Still photos can often be taken mid-recording and should be very high resolution. Tracking your photos can often be difficult, however, because usually there are no viewing screens for photo preview.

Design
The construction of the underwater camcorder is paramount. If you’ll be taking your camera on underwater adventures and down mountain slopes, you’ll need a dependable, solidly built camera. Another important factor is size. You’ll want a lightweight action camcorder that is small enough to not get in your way as you perform your stunts, tricks or daredevil feats.

Many waterproof camcorders also come with protective casings. This is perfect for extra protection and can help make the camera waterproof. The casing can also cause other problems with video and image quality and result in a fishbowl effect for videos if it’s not done correctly. The casings should be included with the purchase.

Features
There are various other tools that action camcorders utilize to provide you with the best possible picture and image quality and make it simpler to use the cameras. Some action camcorders have built-in Wi-Fi which means your smartphone can be used as a remote and completely control the camera while in use. This includes screen previewing features and still-image control. There are other various other features, such as applications available for download, different mounts and other tools.

Help & Support
These camcorders are very simple to use and usually have even fewer buttons and controls than other digital cameras. If you do encounter some difficulties with the camcorders, you should have the option to contact a helpful customer support team.

Action camcorders are terrific for capturing video of extreme sports, individual sports or even family activities. You won’t have to worry about missing any of the action because the camcorder will record everything on-the-go.

DVD Camcorders

image of a dvd camcorder

Camcorders that use a hard drive are much more convenient than conventional camcorders that use a tape. There is no need to worry if the tape is in the correct spot. It is always ready to record. Transferring your content to a computer or DVD burner is as simple as plugging in a cable. Hard drive camcorders can record hours of video without ever having to change tapes. This is especially handy for times when you want to record more than one hour without a pause.

Hard drive camcorders are typically smaller than their mini DV counterparts. Since there are no tapes, there is no need for a tape transport mechanism, allowing manufacturers to slim down the chassis and save a little weight as well.

All your footage gets stored to the hard drive. As a result, it is very easy to manage clips, and even rearrange them in different orders. Typically, every time you hit the record button, the camera will create a new clip. This makes it easy to go back and delete the ones you don’t want to keep.

DVD CAMCORDERS: WHAT TO LOOK FOR

DVD camcorders, like CD players, are prone to skipping when shaken or dropped. Therefore, it is important to look for a camera with a good anti-vibration mechanism. Different brands of DVD camcorders use different formats for recording so make sure you select one that will play in your DVD player. Also different formats will offer different recording times.

Some cameras will even use a hard drive to record the information first, then record it to the disc. This allows for some basic video editing functions before you burn it to a disc.

Below are the criteria CamcordersInfo used to evaluate DVD camcorders:

Battery Life
Camcorders are useless if the battery constantly needs to be recharged. The best camcorders will have a longer battery life to ensure you have enough power to record when you need to.

LCD Screen Size
LCD screens are common on modern camcorders; however, the bigger the screen the better you can frame the action and place less strain on your eyes.

Optical Zoom
Optical zoom preserves image quality (unlike digital zoom) and brings the action up close to the viewer. The higher the optical zoom number the farther away you can be and still capture the action.

CCD Resolution
Perhaps one of the most important parts of the camcorder is the CCD (charged coupling device). The CCD captures the image and ultimately determines the picture quality of your videos and pictures. Look for a camera with a large, high CCD resolution.

Image stabilizer
Who carries their tripod with them everywhere they go? This is why manufacturers put image stabilizers in cameras. The best cameras will use an optical stabilizer instead of a digital stabilizer.

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