Monday, October 8, 2007
Buyer's Guide 2008: Hi-Def Camcorders
Record your life in pro resolution at a comsumer price
One thing to remember when purchasing a camcorder is that if you record on DVDs, it doesn't necessarily mean they will work in your DVD player. There are only a handful of DVD players that support the new HD codec AVCHD. Unless you happen to be one of the lucky few to own one, flash media and hard-drive camcorders are a far more attractive choice.
AVCHD is still new in the consumer video world. Up until recently, no NLE (nonlinear editing) programs had taken it under their wing. Apple is one of the few companies to finally offer support in both Final Cut Pro and iMovie '08. More AVCHD postproduction solutions are slated to arrive on the marketplace soon.
FEATURES TO CONSIDER
Most camcorders offer a small color LCD flip-out screen, allowing you to watch what you're shooting. Some models bypass a viewfinder in favor of the screen, but most include both. The screen is more versatile than the eyepiece and usually pivots to allow vision from many angles. However, keep in mind that the larger the screen on the camcorder, the higher the price.
The weight of camcorders isn't really an issue; those ancient VHS beasts are a long-lost memory. All camcorders pretty much fall into the one-pound range. This equates to easy transportation and no tired arms during recording.
As for image capture, it's beginning to lean toward CMOS sensors in many camcorders. Sensors used to be CCD-based only because CMOS sensors were hampered with so-called "fixed pattern noise." Technology has since corrected this issue, and CMOS is now regarded as the best sensor choice because of its low-noise video reproduction, plus CMOS draws much less power than the average CCD chip and it's cheaper to produce. Either chip design will deliver outstanding results, however.
Sound is another issue. Built-in microphones are great for hard drive camcorders that produce no mechanical sound, but not so great with DVD-based camcorders. You'll find mechanical sounds create a significant amount of background noise. The solution is to attach an external microphone. Something as simple as a lapel microphone is one unobtrusive way of clearly recording someone's voice, but any external microphone will enable you to record good sound from a distance more clearly.
You also can wear headphones to monitor sound. That way, you'll know what noises are distracting. If outdoors, watch the wind. A wind protector cuts down on wind noise, or in a pinch, slide a fuzzy sock over the microphone. It works wonders.
The best advice when choosing a camcorder is to get out there and play. After all, only you know what you really want regardless of specs and numbers.
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