There are literally hundreds of digital video cameras on the market right now, and more to come. Their capabilities are amazing, the prices dropping.
So how do you choose the right digital video camera? Read on.
The first step in choosing a digital video camera is really the last. What’s the end goal? What kind of videos do you want to make? If the upcoming family vacation is your first video experience ”“ and maybe the last ”“ that will steer your choice. If you plan to make serious video productions for fun or profit, that will influence your decision in other ways. Know the kind of videos you want to make. That will keep you from choosing a camera you’ll never use.
If you already have any other equipment, like a computer you plan to edit video with or a big screen TV you plan to watch your video on, that can also influence your choice. Choose a digital video camera that is compatible with other gear you might now own ”“ check video format, cable connections, etc. And give a thought to who else might use the camera, if anyone, as that could affect your choice, too.
Setting a budget is important. There’s the camera itself, but don’t forget about record tapes or memory cards or extra batteries. Know how much you want to spend, or a price range you can handle. There are digital video cameras from around a hundred dollars, to well over a hundred thousand, so match your budget to your real video requirements and always keep that end goal in mind.
Do your research. It’s a combination of online fact-finding and in-store information gathering that will help you choose the best digital video camera for you.
Online, use video websites and search engines to help you zero in on a few possible choices or recognized brands. Check out the features and functions most useful to you. Read user reviews and customer reports to see what others are saying about the camera you might choose. You can even start to do some price comparisons, but head to the store before you make any final decisions.
In the store is your chance to actually get your hands on a digital video camera that you might choose and a good idea of how it looks and performs. The physical feel is important, like weight, balance and grip. The main controls should be easy to reach and quick to respond. Point the camera toward a dark corner, and see what it looks like when focused on the ceiling lights. Also look at face color and overall color accuracy.
Beyond the camera features, functions and price, there are a couple of other considerations when choosing a digital video camera, again with your end goal and type of shooting in mind. Think about accessories, like batteries, carrying cases or tripods. Check the recording media you’ll need, like smarts cards, videotape cassettes and hard drives. Service and warranties should be compared.
There are a few tech specs to keep in mind, too.
Charge coupled devices, CCDs or chips are what make digital video cameras tick. Newer CMOS chips are also used. With CCDs, the more and the bigger, the better. Cameras with three CCDs, each 2/3” or more, are professional grade; a single 1/8 chip camera is low quality. CMOS is a bit different, in that one large chip can make a very good camera.
As long as the camera delivers the standard for good home video today, HD (high definition), and that’s best at what’s called 1080p (for progressive). There are higher professional standards, and still some lower quality consumer formats, but HD 1080 is the standard now.
Zoom lenses are great, but one with a 300 X digital zoom will disappoint ”“ because it is too big, and can distort the image. Good lenses with optical zooms and numbers like 18X or 22X are fine.
Saving and storing digital HD video, in the camera or on a computer, takes a lot of space. A typical smart card for digital video cameras of 32 GB gigabytes may only record several minutes of the highest quality video. Dozens if not hundreds of gigabytes can be used in storing large quantities of HD video, so even big hard drives get full very fast.