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Action Cameras & Camcorders Buying Guide

Camcorders and action cameras have come a long way as they've advanced from heavyweight to lightweight gadgets, to even pocket-camera size! This reduction in size has been accompanied by an increase in the technical capabilities of the camcorder, with more in-built functions and better picture quality than in models from previous years.

What are the different types of Camcorders?

There are many different camcorders on the market, but before buying one, you need to understand the differences that exist between them. There are analog camcorders as well as digital ones. Analog camcorders record on a VHS tape and can be played back on a VHS player. Their picture quality and resolution is sometimes low. Digital camcorders offer the opportunity to record videos that can be played directly onto a television, and they usually have better picture quality and resolution than their analog counterpart. Videos recorded with digital cameras can easily be edited or uploaded to online sites or for sharing on social media etc.

Some camcorders can be small and cheap, but the quality of videos shot using them may be no better than what you'll get on a Smartphone. For covering family or group occasions, there are camcorders that are reasonably priced that can do the job perfectly well. Full-featured camcorders produce better videos, and action camcorders are made for hands-free shooting of sports activities etc. Interestingly, the quality of videos shot using pocket camcorders is improving, and the advantage of using them is their strong build and water-resistant qualities. Some people, however, comment that their view-finding functionality can be low.


Major Features

High Definition (HD)

This feature is found in most camcorders these days, even those at the cheaper end of the market. HD videos are related to resolution and frames per second. These high definition cameras produce higher quality videos, with most of them being widescreen- adapted. HD camcorders can shoot in 1080i or 1080p resolutions.

Recording Format

Camcorders record in different formats. MPEG 2 is a file-type that doesn't compress videos efficiently. MPEG4 are more useful for uploading videos and audio on the web or social media platforms.

Recording Storage

Most camcorders use flash cards, SD cards or internal flash cards (or all three) for storage. There are a few camcorders with in-built storage systems,  but even then the storage capacity may not be big enough. The majority of camcorders will use SD cards to store recorded video, which may come with the camera or can be bought separately. Videos stored on SD cards can be transferred to PCs for editing using the SD slot on the laptop or computer.

There are also some camcorder models that make use of internal hard drives for storage. Such camcorders offer ease of use, and there is usually enough recording space to record for a number of hours. The USB port can be used to transfer recorded video to the computer, with transfer very easy since recorded data is already in a compatible form with that used in computers.

LCD Viewer

This is a common feature in all camcorders and most of them are widescreen. Some camcorders even have touch-LCD screens, but these are usually more expensive. The LCD offers a more convenient way of viewing your videos compared to those on a viewfinder. A disadvantage of having only an LCD display and no viewfinder on some camcorders, is that it can be difficult to view on sunny days and be a pain to use the menu in touch screen systems.

Image Stabiliser

You may not notice, but there's a lot shaking that occurs when the camcorder is held in the hands. Even if you think you have the most stable hands, the image stabiliser feature is necessary to reduce some of this shaking and small movements.  The image stabiliser can be optical or electronic, however, to ensure there is no shaking at all, it's better to use tripods when shooting where possible.

Zoom, Optical Zoom and Digital Zoom

The zoom is usually controlled by pressing a slide-button found on the camcorder with a finger. The optical zoom relies on the lenses in the camera,  and will range between 10x and 50x. Digital zoom has a wider range of up to 400x but sometimes compromises the picture quality. Digital zoom works by enlarging the small pixels in a picture, hence images may become blurred as they are drawn closer. The zoom number you will find in camcorders on sale is actually a multiplication of the optical zoom and the digital zoom. It is often better to choose a camcorder with a higher optical zoom than one with a high digital zoom.

3D Capability

Some camcorders have the ability to shoot 3D videos. This works by the camcorder capturing two images that represents the left and right eyes. These images can also be created using special software.

Other features

Features like a headphone jack can be useful for those who intend to shoot video in noisy situations. The microphone jack will act as an add-on microphone, to give better sound capture when shooting people that are talking. For those who fancy transferring videos as they shoot, there are also some camcorder models with in-built Wi-Fi.

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