Are you considering the purchase of an HD camcorder? So am I. My trusty Panasonic DVC 30 is now over 4 years old and by today’s standards, almost obsolete. I’ve been doing some research on a possible replacement. Next week I’ll tell you the three camcorders that meet my criteria.
Expect to pay $1,000 or more. Before you rush off to spend your hard earned money, take some time to do your homework. Check websites and video forums to get the latest reviews. After narrowing your selection down to 2 or 3 models, drop in to a reputable dealer and ask to test the cameras.
Here are some tips to point you in the right direction.
- Avoid Mini DVD camcorders. The disadvantages are numerous. The biggest for professionals is the inability to edit the disks on your PC. In addition, the disks are expensive and the recording time on high-quality is low.
- Choose flash drive. Flash drives provide convenience and the ability to download instantly to your PCs hard drive. SD cards come in three formats: SD, SDHC, and SDXC. Cards that use the original SD format provide up to 2GB of storage, which isn’t adequate for prosumer video needs. Choose either SDHC cards (4GB to 32GB) or SDXC cards (64GB or more).
- LCD screen. The larger and brighter the screen and the higher the resolution the better. It makes it easier to see what you’re shooting. Be warned though, a bright screen will shorten your battery life. It’s wise to test the screen indoors and out before making a purchase.
- Viewfinder. Choose a camcorder that has a viewfinder. In addition to conserving power it’s particularly useful in bright light situations where the LCD screen may be hard to see.
- XLR audio input connectors. Make certain your camcorder is equipped with these connectors which are essential for professional sound recording.
- AVCHD format. Most new prosumer camcorders use AVCHD introduced in 2006. More on AVCHD can be found here. You’ll need a powerful computer to edit this format. Check your editing software to see what requirements they recommend. Your PC should have a 2.0GHz or greater multicore CPU and a minimum of 2GB of RAM although 4GB or more would be better. You may also need to upgrade your editing software for full AVCHD compatibility. For more information click here.
- Avoid fully automatic controls. You want a camcorder with both manual and automatic options. With manual, you have more control over exposure, speed, focus and audio levels.
- Low light sensitivity. This is the amount of light required to produce an adequate image. Look for camcorders that perform well in low light. Anything between 5 and 10 lux is good.
- Image stabilization. Camcorders come with either optical or electronic stabilization. Optical provides better results.
- Menus. This is where you need to spend some time with the camcorder before making a purchase. You’ll quickly determine whether the menu options are easy or difficult to access. Believe me this can be a deal breaker.
What are some other tips you’d suggest? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.
And remember, next week I’ll be highlighting my top 3 picks for prosumer HD camcorders.
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