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Filming on the move

Whether you want to record memories or star in your own whacky movie, a camcorder is your best option. Here are the features you should consider before buying one.

Namrata Dadwal | Print Edition: September 2009

Whether you want to record memories or star in your own whacky movie, a camcorder is your best option. Here are the features you should consider before buying one.

LENS

A crucial consideration for camcorder users is the zoom range of the optical lens. An optical zoom between 10x and 20x is generally sufficient. Camcorders often promise a very high digital zoom, but don’t be tempted as an increase in digital zoom worsens the image quality.

Image Stabilisation
Your camcorder should be able to compensate for any external movement, otherwise you’ll get blurry images. Optical stabilisation, achieved through shifting of lens pieces, is more effective than an electronic/digital one.

Modes & Sound
Check how the camcorder works in poor light and on the night mode. You can also buy an extra video light, which will cost upwards of Rs 1,500. Besides, a microphone placed at the front of the camcorder will record sounds better than if it is at the top, where it might pick a lot of superficial noise.

Still Photography
If you don’t want to lug around two devices, make sure that your camcorder can also click a picture. But remember, the image quality will not be as good as that from a digital camera.

HIGH DEFINITION

You can now record videos in high resolutions of 720p, 1080i and 1080p, all of which are good options. The 1080i offers an interlaced (alternate lines are recorded) resolution of 1920x1080, while 720p provides a progressive (recording without skipping lines) resolution of 1280x720.

SENSOR

There are two types of image sensors, CCD and CMOS. They’re equally good, so you should concentrate on the size of the sensor. A larger sensor gives better image quality. So, a 1/3-inch CCD scores over a 1/6-inch CCD. In fact, a bigger sensor with fewer pixels is a better buy than a smaller sensor with more pixels.

FORMATS

Mini DV

These camcorders use small cassettes and are among the cheapest in the market. The problem is that you cannot skip the tape and the recording time is short, usually about an hour.

  • Samsung VP D3911: Rs 13,900
  • Sony DCR–HC 54E: Rs 15,990
  • JVC GR D350: Rs 19,950

DVD

These camcorders record on a DVD or mini-DVD. This makes it easy to skip and search. However, recording time is limited to the size of the DVD and you’ll need to keep buying fresh stocks of DVDs.

  • Panasonic D50GCS–S: Rs 18,990
  • Canon DC 420: Rs 25,995
  • Canon HR 10 (hi-def): Rs 79,995

HDD

Some camcorders let you record directly on a sizeable hard disk drive. This helps to keep their size small and you cut down on the cost of buying new DVDs or tapes.

  • JVC GZ–MG155: Rs 24,250
  • Panasonic SDR H60: Rs 34,990
  • Sony HDR–XR 500 E (hi-def): Rs 49,990

MEMORY CARDS

If you want a compact camcorder, go for one that uses a memory card. Even camcorders that use different formats often have a slot for memory cards.

  • Samsung VP-MX20: Rs 15,900
  • Canon FS10: Rs 24,995
  • Sony HDR–TG1E (hi-def): Rs 39,990

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