ONCE upon a time, buying a digital video camera used to be easy: Just pick a model that recorded at standard definition (SD) - basically, regular TV quality - and you were good to shoot.
Now, more choice brings more purchase dilemma. Do you go for SD or HD (high-definition) resolution?
And what should you record the footage on? MiniDV, tape, hard drive, DVD or flash memory?
Digital Life breaks it down for you.
SD video cameras (with a resolution of 720 x 576 pixels) are cheaper and easier to edit using your computer. That's because there is plenty of software available, including free ones like Windows Movie Maker.
MiniDV camcorders are among the cheapest SD camcorders around, with the Sony DCR-HC52E falling within a budget of $500.
But HD camcorders that shoot with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels offer super sharp details and richer colours that positively glow if you watch the footage on your brand new HDTV.
The only bugbear is that editing HD footage needs a powerful computer with at least a dual-core processor. You'll also need as much RAM as possible and more advanced software like Adobe Premiere (For Mac users, the iMovie08 comes pre-loaded).
Expect to pay anything between $1,600 and $2,900 for a consumer HD camcorder.
|APART from resolution and storage media, you can stretch the dollar with add-ons.
Like an optical image stabiliser, which reduces the likelihood of shaky hands and nausea-inducing footage. Or, pick a HD video camera with a high megapixel count - say, 4 megapixels and above - just in case you intend to use your camcorder to shoot decent photographs too.
For hardcore video-editing buffs, Canon and Sony produce camcorders in the HDV format. These record full HD video onto MiniDVs with the best quality possible for consumer camcorders.
Note: All other HD camcorders that use hard drives, DVDs or flash memory are based on a format called AVCHD, which is more highly compressed. (Read, slightly lower quality than HDV).
Those who want to shoot and share instantly should go for camcorders that record on rewritable DVDs and can be played back on a DVD player.
The catch is that these DVDs usually store just half an hour of footage - be it at SD or HD resolution - at the best quality settings.
So expect to end up with stacks of DVDs if you are a prolific shooter.
Hard drives are a more viable option for those who shoot events that run for hours at a time. These come in capacities ranging from 40GB to 120GB, translating to over 40 hours of HD footage.
But those with butterfingers should be aware that once the hard drive is severely damaged, all the footage is gone.
The latest trend is the use of flash memory in camcorders, in the form of built-in memory (up to 16GB in the case of the Canon HF10), and also memory cards like the SD Card or the Memory Stick Pro Duo.
There are also some models that can record two types of media, such as DVDs and SD Memory cards like the Panasonic HDC-SX5.
In the end though, it all depends on your personal preference and budget.
This article was first published in Digital Life, The Straits Times on Jun 10, 2008.