Digital Video Cameras
The range of digital camcorders available on the market is quite phenomenal. In fact, it's hard to know where to start looking, never mind which camera to choose. Do you need a wind noise reduction feature? What about quad-density pixel distribution technology? Here is a brief look at what kind of features you might be looking for, and what you can expect from a few of the manufacturers.
You will probably want to know how much zoom the lens has. In other words, will you be able to capture your child's winning goal from the safety of the sidelines, or will you need to run up closer to get the footage of the future Beckham?
How much filming can you get done before the battery runs out? Anything under five hours these days seems a bit paltry, but in the first days of the camcorder the batteries ran out every 20 minutes!
Size is also a consideration. Are you planning to slip the camera into your top pocket and take it to parties? Or will it get its own seat in the car?
Finally, how are you planning to display your footage once you've got it recorded? Whether you will be plugging the camera straight into your TV, or emailing mini-clips to friends across the globe, compatibility is another thing to consider when choosing your digital video camera.
So, what are the big names offering us for our hard-earned cash?
Canon produces a range of digital camcorders, beginning with the entry-level MV600 series, which includes four models aimed at beginners, frequent travellers and families. These Canon digital cameras combine performance, simple functioning and improved connectivity in a stylish design. There are pre-set exposure modes, for example snow, sports and portrait mode, on-camera editing functions and manual focus. And the batteries last for at least nine hours, so you have plenty of time to perfect your Hitchcock impression. The MV700 series adds to this a huge zoom range. Prices start around £350.
Panasonic digital cameras can be DVD or VHS compatible, mid-size, compact, ultra compact, and even as small as a credit card. Most of them function as both camcorders and stills cameras, and some also do teleconferencing. 10x optical zoom is quite standard and digital zoom can be as much as 700x. Other features include remote controls with microphones for easy narration; on-camera editing and digital effects with scene selection for playback; thumbnail display for editing and viewing; easy transferral of images to PC, TV or direct to printer. Prices vary from under $200 to over $1000.
Sony digital cameras, such as the DCR-TRV22, priced at around $750. For this you get a camcorder and stills camera in one compact and stylish metal case, 10x optical zoom, 120x digital zoom, and computer software to help with editing your feature film.