A Helpful Guide To Camcorders

Whether you’re out on vacation, or you want to record your team during their games, everyone needs a camcorder. As a matter of fact, camcorders are reliable recording instruments that let us capture memories and store them forever.

But there are a few things you have to know before getting one. There's a lot of information about best camcorders, and it can be difficult discerning which will suit you the best. That's why we created this guide! Scroll on down so you can see why these devices are loved by film aficionados and professional videographers alike.

What Is A Camcorder?

A camcorder is an electronic recording device that can record audio and live-motion video to be viewed later. Camcorders have three important components:

  • Lens - Gathers and focuses light
  • Imager - Turns the light into an electric signal
  • Recorder - Converts the signal into a video and places into storage.

Camcorders gained popularity in the 1980s. Alternatively, they are known as video cameras or video recorders. Professional filmmakers and videographers use camcorders to create films and video segments for commercial sale.

The first camcorders came in two formats, Betamax and VHS formats. After the recording session was completed, the recording was stored in video cassette tapes and is replayed by a VCR, that’s usually mounted onto a TV.

As technology progressed, there have been improved variations of video recording. For instance, additional formats such as Hi-8, S-VHS, and Hi-8, digital video (DV) and high definition (HDV) became available. They provide better storage, better color, and a sharper picture.

Today, camcorders can record a myriad of formats such as MP4. You can connect most camcorders to a computer via USB port so you can edit the video. On some occasions, you'll find camcorders that have editing software inside of the camera.

Difference Between Camcorders And Action Cameras

Even though both are used to record, they are vastly different. Here are some of the main differences between camcorders and action cameras.

Lens

Since action cameras are used for sports, almost all of them have a fisheye camera lens. Fisheye lens has a short focal length angle which is about 16mm or less. In order to get the most photographic view, action lens have a parabolic diameter in the front convex which is similar to fish eyes.

Purpose

Camcorders are used for general purposes and can be used for events, celebrations, and just for casual recording. On the other hand, action cameras are used for tasks that are done in the moment. It's used for biking, surfing, skiing, and other extreme sports.

While you could use a camcorder for such sports, chances are it will fall off. Action cameras are smaller and can be attached to your clothing so that you can receive footage when you’re partaking in such activity.

Performance

Action cameras are resistant to water, drops, and heat. This is because they were made to be durable and for sports purposes. While they are resistant to certain issues, it differs greatly in performance when compared to the camcorder.

Camcorders are used for video editing purposes. This is why they might be larger than most action camera. Both are good at capturing moments, but a camcorder is designed to show the images in higher quality and can use different lighting effects when recording.

How Camcorders Store Video?

Camcorders store video by doing the following steps

  • Transfer the video to a computer hard drive.
  • Make a backup DVD or transfer the file to an external hard drive.
  • Track the camcorder memory formats and see how they change over time. Migrate the videos once their formats become obsolete.
  • Track the camcorder’s codecs as they evolve. Make sure your devices and software can replay the video codec.

Step 1: Transferring Video

No matter how much memory the camcorder has, you have to transfer it to your hard drive. If you have enough room on the disk. The easiest way to transfer video to your computer is by using a USB port.

Your computer should not be the last place where you store your video files. Instead, placing them on your computer will allow you to make edits and transfer it to another storage format. Thus, making it easy for you to save your video and use it to edit or share with someone weeks after the recording.

Step 2: Blank DVD Or External Hard Drives

Additionally, you can store your video data via a blank DVD. You can buy them from almost anywhere, and they are inexpensive. Most manufacturers sell DVD burners that allow users to place their video data on the DVD without the need of a computer.

When your video information is burned on a DVD disk, make sure to place it somewhere safe and have information as to what the disk contains. Don’t write on the disk, but place it in a dry, cool, dark spot - like a fireproof safe along with other important documents.

Using External Hard Drives

External Hard Drives cost more than blank DVDs, but they have more memory to store hours of video footage. Transfer the data to an external hard drive requires you to connect it to your computer via USB. After that, you can drag and drop the files and folders you want inside the hard drive.

If possible, buy the largest storage capacity that's within your budget. It's better to have a lot of storage than just a few MB. No matter how large your camcorder hard drive is, you'll eventually fill it up, especially if you're using an HD camcorder.

To secure your videos, place it on an external hard drive and burn it via DVD disks.

Step 3: Format Tracking

Anyone who has used 8.5 inch floppy disks, older digital memory formats, has become extinct. Eventually, DVD disks will in due time as hard drives have a lot more memory and last longer.

You'll have to transfer your old video formats into a newer one. This will require you to bring those videos on your computer and placing them into modern storage media. If this seems too complicated for you, there are third-party services that can do this task for you.

Step 4: Understanding Codecs

Besides physical storage, you also need to keep track on how video codecs change over time. All digital video files are stored in a special format such as MPEG-2 or AVCHD. Think of them as a language format for the video. When you view your footage through computer or TV, the video codec is translated to the system and displays the data.

This means that the translators either the viewing devices and media software (Windows Media Player, iTunes, etc.). Fortunately, it will take years before a codec, and its translation methods, are deleted completely. Make sure that you track your video codecs and ensure that they are supported by any new device or software you purchase.

Camcorder Battery Life

Battery Type

Explanation

Nickel Metal Hydride

Also known as NiMH batteries, Nickel Metal Hydride batteries were made in response to NiCds. NiMH batteries are environmentally friendly and don’t have poisonous cadmium like most NiCd batteries.

NiMH batteries are 10-25% larger in capacity than NiCds. You can find them in electronic stores and find them in general sizes like AA and AAA. They are rechargeable so that they can be used on almost any device. NiMH batteries shouldn’t be charged right after use. Allow them to discharge instead of topping them off once you’re done using them. Keep them safe, cool, and dry, and while they don’t have cadmium, you should recycle them.

Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium-Ion batteries have a long battery life, quick charging speeds, small sizes, low weight, and steady discharge characteristics. Their charge capacity is 40% larger than NiCd batteries and can be charged in half the time. And, they are the most expensive battery option available. Unlike other batteries, you can keep the Li-ion batteries fully charged. This means that you can charge your batteries from 90% to 100% if you want.

Lead Acid Battery

This is the first known camcorder battery and is considered obsolete to some. Lead acid batteries are inexpensive and reliable but do have issues pertaining their size and weight. The voltage of these batteries instantly falls off once discharged. This means that they will still be able to record after the camcorder gives a low battery warning.

How To Connect A Camcorder To Your PC/Mac Or TV

Connecting your camcorder to any media device (TV, PC/Mac) requires you to have the right wires and ports. Start by locating the equipment (audio/video cable, television, and a DV tape) and placing them in the right inputs on your TV.

Most TVs have three inputs that allow you to plug in your camcorder. They have a red-yellow-white connector that's placed on the front, side or back of the TV. If your television doesn't have this, then buy an RF modulator to convert it to your TV.

Also, if your TV has an HDMI port, then you simply just have to plug it in. HDMI cords are inexpensive and make it easier for you to watch your footage instantly.

Make sure your camcorder has the right equipment so that you can view it on the big screen!

Why Should You Buy A Camcorder Today With All These Advanced Smartphone Cameras

Sure, you can buy a smartphone camera, but you're limiting yourself in regards to video editing. Smartphone cameras have advanced features but don't have the required space needed to save your files.

For instance, most smartphones have a memory storage of 32 to 64GB. While this is good, you won't have enough space to store multiple videos. Camcorders can easily transfer the video data onto your computer, and some of the high-end models have over 200 GB of storage.

Lens / Optical Zoom

Manufacturers make it easier for new users who are shopping for their first camcorder by highlighting the features of the model. For instance, they'll show the large LCD screen sizes and megapixel amounts.

But, these numbers don't always tell the full potential behind the camcorder. Manufacturers measure the zooming capabilities of each camcorder in two configurations: digital zoom vs. optical zoom.

It's important for new users to know about the zoom lens because both types are vastly different from one another. In the digital zoom vs. optical zoom debate, photographers use optical zoom as their standard form of viewing.

When in use, the zoom lens extends from the camcorder to the body. Some camcorders make zoom by adjusting the lens inside the camcorder body. Find out what lens you need to use so that you get the best footage possible!

Optical Lens​​​​

Optical zoom displays the increase of focal length inside of the lens. The focal length is the distance between the image sensor and the lens center. By placing the lens further away from the image sensor that’s inside the camcorder body, the zoom increases due to the smaller part of the scene goes inside the image sensor, which results in magnification.

When using the optical zoom feature, some models have a smooth zoom, meaning that you can create a partial zoom so that you can view the object clearer. Some models have a distinctive stop along the zoom length, allowing you to have a range of four to several zoom positions.

Digital Zoom

While digital zoom is less favored than its optical zoom counterpart, it still has its uses. Digital zoom occurs when the camcorder takes a shot of the subject and crops and magnifies it to make close up photo. This requires removing or magnifying the pixels that can cause image quality degradation.

Usually, there is digital zoom editing software on your computer that you can use after the footage has been captured. If you’re unable to access or have time to use this software, we suggest that you use digital zoom at a higher resolution and then cropping the footage to the required size.

Audio Quality

Besides the video resolution, the quality of the audio must also be of high quality.  The table below shows the different types of camcorder mics that can be used to improve your sound quality.

Microphone Type

Explanation

Omnidirectional

Obtains sound from every direction. This is used for most camcorders as it captures sounds from a large group of people within your area.

Lapel (Attached)

This microphone is attached to clothing and is used by sports figures, news reporters, and other interview situations. It isolates external sound so we can hear the interviewer speak.

Shotgun (Directional)

Shotgun microphones are directional and will record sound in the targeted direction. Use this microphone when you want to hear only the subject and reduce outside interference. This is great for football games and school plays.

Wireless

Wireless microphones allow the user to walk without the need of a mic and you can use either a lavalier or a clip on mic, or a handheld microphone. This allows you to take shots up to 50-100 feet away from the subject.

Parabolic

Parabolic microphones allow the user to hear sounds from further distances. Commonly used to hear nature and football players during their games.

Image Stabilization

Many camcorders have an image stabilization technology that reduces the amount of blur in the video. As a result, people with shaky hands can still make good videos without a loss in quality. Image stabilization is important for camcorders with long zoom lenses and slow shutter speeds.

Optical Image Stabilization

OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) is the most efficient form of image stabilization. Camcorders with this feature have small gyro-sensors that shifts places inside the lens before the image turns to digital form.

Some manufacturers allow you to toggle the optical image stabilization on and off. Or it will have a few modes to assist you with different forms of camera movement (vertical or horizontal).

Digital Image Stabilization

Digital Image Stabilization uses advanced software technology to reduce the shakiness (due to unsteady hands) on the video. Depending on the camcorder model, this effect can occur within a few ways.

Some models will calculate your body movement and create data based on that knowledge. Then, it uses pixels to smooth the transition and create a clearer image.

There are also software programs that create a stabilization filter on the video even after the footage has been taken. It does this by adjusting the frame and tracking the pixel movements. But, this results in extrapolation or a cropped image because of the reduced frame.

Image Quality And Why Megapixel Count Or Resolution Isn’t The Main Factor      

Image quality is a very important factor you have to consider when using a camcorder. However, most people think that resolution and the megapixel count is the main factor. While they do play a major part, they don’t dictate how the footage will look.

For instance, let’s say you create a video with a 1080p high resolution. While this will look good after you’ve recorded it, some sites will compress this resolution when you upload the video. Facebook compresses the quality of each photo and video to prevent it from taking up their bandwidth.

Even with megapixel count, it doesn't always determine the quality of your footage. You can have a 10 megapixel smartphone, but it will still show low-quality corners on the side of the video. Because of that, you can't rely on megapixel count to make a good video shoot.

If you're going to simplify the camcorder's performance, it's better to look at the image sensor size, even though it can be just as misleading. In most cases, a larger sensor picks up larger pixels which are better than small pixels - they are less prone to artifacts and let more light reach them.

To summarize, here are the three reasons why Megapixel count and resolution isn't a good measurement of your video's quality:

  • The services that we use to upload and share our videos will downsize and compress the images significantly.
  • Most of us waste data and internal storage without reason.
  • Unless you're viewing the images on a high-quality display, the quality drop is impossible to notice.

Camcorder Brands

Sure you're interested in camcorders, but do you know what brands are the best? Here are three of the top camcorder brands who take pride in providing the best devices available.

Sony

Sony is one of the leading camcorders manufacturers. In fact, they are known for creating the first digital camera in history. The Sony Mavica was created in 1981, and since then, there has been a multitude of iterations and technological advancements to their products.

You'll like Sony if you want a reliable manufacturer brand that produces top of the line camcorders. Each of their camcorders can be used for a myriad of purposes (sports, news, movies, etc.) and they're sold at an inexpensive price.

Canon

Like Sony, Canon is a Japanese owned company that mass produces camcorders. The only difference between the two is based on the features Canon provides. For example, most Canon camcorders allow users to put geo-stickers and print out their photos after taking a shot.

Try Canon if you want a simple to use camcorder with a lot of additional features behind it. While they are better suited for casual purposes, you'll get a lot of utility from using their products.

Panasonic

Last but not least, Panasonic manufacturers not only camcorders but a wide range of electronic products as well. For users wanting a long lasting camcorder, they should give this company a chance.

Why? Because Panasonic camcorders are designed to provide videos without a reduction in quality. Also, they have additional accessories that help users keep their grip when getting footage. Basically, Panasonic is great because it helps users take their videos to the next level.

Conclusion

Why should you get a camcorder? Because it gives you the ability to hold onto your videos and store them decades after the footage was taken. Their versatility helps users get a creative spark and use them for a multitude of film projects.

But there’s still one thing you’ll need to learn. You need to find what camcorders in the market are useful to your personal needs. We invite you to read our buying guide so you can find the best camcorders at a reasonable price.

Leave a Comment