Tuesday, October 21, 2014

High Definition (HD) Camcorder Buying Guide 2014

Camcorder Buying Guide2014 Camcorder Buying Guide – Buying a camcorder can be confusing. With so many choices and features you need to understand what is important and what is not. This camcorder buying guide will help you sort out the facts on camcorders and what models best fit your needs. It will also explain the technical jargon that is important to know when buying a camcorder. The industry is changing again, this time 4K Camcorders which have 4x higher resolution than HD are starting to emerge. This guide only lists camcorders that are top rated by SmartReview.


Top PicksFLASH and DUAL FLASH MEMORY CAMCORDERS
The camcorder industry has quickly gone to Flash and Dual Flash as its most popular format of camcorders. These camcorders record to flash memory SDHC flash memory cards (the same cards used in digital cameras). A Dual Flash camcorder in addition to recording to memory cards, has built in flash memory so you can record video to its internal drive without using memory cards. Flash memory recording requires no moving parts and allows you to have a longer battery life. Almost all camcorders today are of this type. 16GB and 32GB are popular sizes.

The Best of 2014 Flash/Dual Flash Memory Top Picks:

Flash/Dual Flash Memory Top Picks $500 and lower:

**SDHC Flash Memory – This camcorder records video only to SDHC/SDXC type memory cards (no internal memory)

Related Article: Flash Memory Camcorder Roundup and Comparison


Top PicksTop Picks4K Ultra HD Camcorders
The camcorder industry is changing again. First it transitioned from Standard Definition (SD) to Full HD camcorders. Now the manufacturers are starting to come out with consumer 4K camcorders. These have 4 times the resolution of Full HD (8 megapixels versus only 2 megapixels in HD). Movie theaters project at 4K resolution, so you will in a sense have movie theater resolution in your hands. TVs are starting the transition to 4K, so you will future proof your videos if you shoot in 4K. Even if your project is Full HD, 4K will allow you to crop and zoom into the video without loss of resolution. 4K resolution is 3840 x 2160. Currently there is one compact 4K camcorder from Sony that was just introduced at CES 2014, that is our camcorder of the year 2014, listed below.

The Best 2014 4K Ultra HD Camcorders:


Video Quality
Video Quality - Most camcorders do a good job in bright sunlight outside. However, camcorders that have a larger video sensor (Imager) perform better than camcorders with smaller ones (especially in low light). The video imager is the area that light hits (like the retina in your eye) after it travels through the camcorder lens. The larger the imager is, the more fine detail can be recorded. Bigger is better. Larger imagers generally come with higher priced camcorders. So if video quality, colors, and fine details are important, a camcorder with a larger sensor will perform much better than that of one with a smaller sensor. The best imagers on consumer camcorders today are 1/3-inch or larger. Most of our Top-picks have larger imagers. We list imager size in all of our comparison and roundup pages.

Low Light Performance - As with video quality, a camcorder with a larger sensor will have better light gathering ability, and low light performance. Those camcorders with larger (faster) lenses will also help in low light situations. The above camcorders that have large Imagers will do well in low light, however only the professional camcorder will give you BOTH a larger video Imager and larger faster lenses for excellent low light ability. Poor low light performance is the number one complaint of people buying camcorders. If low light performance is important, get a camcorder with a larger Imager. Some reviewers have reported that buying a video light makes a big difference in low light situations.

Best of 2014 Camcorders with Excellent Low Light Capability:

Related Article: Best Low Light Camcorders – Comparison and Reviews


High Definition (HD) or Standard Definition? - Today, almost all camcorders are now high definition, so the choice has been made for you. High definition is the current standard, as most people now have at least one high definition TV. With high definition you can transfer your video to Blu-ray disc, Playstation 3, HD Tivo or another device. Some TVs will even play them directly from their USB port. Most HD camcorders allow you to connect your camcorder directly to an HDTV through its HDMI or component input.

Video Quality
Professional Video Quality - If uncompromising video quality is top on your priority list, then a professional quality video camera may be your choice. A professional video camera/camcorder will generally be much larger than its consumer siblings. This helps in several ways. One is that the video sensors will be larger for better quality, and the lenses will be bigger for better light gathering and low light performance. Several of the professional models have been used to make documentaries and even full length movies. These are a favorite of indie (independent) filmmakers and those that record important events such as weddings. These larger camcorders also have the option of interchangeable lenses, separate microphones, wireless microphones, and many other options not available on consumer camcorders.

Related Article: Professional Camcorder Roundup and Comparison

Pro Camcorder Top Picks:


Image Stabilization (IS) – Image Stabilization is a technology that reduces the blurry video that you could get in low light, using a zoom lens, walking, or riding in a car. (Sony camcorders call their image stabilization SteadyShot). This technology is extremely important, as it compensates for any movement of the camcorder you are holding to give you sharp video, even in low light. Since most camcorder shots are handheld, this is a very valuable and useful feature. Cheaper camcorders have inferior image stabilization or none, making videos very jerky compared to higher quality camcorders. This also helps when using your zoom out to its full magnification. As you zoom in, any shaking of the camcorder is magnified. Optical (as opposed to digital) stabilization is considered to be best. Sony’s new breakthrough Balanced Optical Steadyshot™ is the best in the business (see below).

Image Stabilization On

Image Stabilization Off
Image Stabilization On

Image Stabilization On

Sony Balanced Optical Image Stabilization (click for video)

Balanced Optical Steadyshot™: Sony introduced a new type of image stabilization that isolates the entire lens assembly and claims to be 13x better. It is called balanced optical image stabilization. The sample footage we have seen is extremely impressive. This is a major breakthrough in stabilization technology. A professional steadicam is how most professionals try to smooth out the video. This new type of stabilization may be able to replace the steadicam for some applications. These are some of the best camcorders on the market today. Click here for a sample video of Balanced Optical Steadyshot™ in use. See the comparison footage near the end of this video. Sony has leapfrogged the competition with this feature.

Camcorders with Balanced Optical Steadyshot™ Technology:




3mos camcorder3MOS Imaging Sensor - A 3MOS imaging sensor is a special sensor that is composed of 3 separate sensors. One for each color (red, blue and green). These type of sensors have generally been better than a single sensor. The advantage of a 3MOS sensor is that with the data from each of the three sensors, you can find out the exact hue, brightness, and saturation of each pixel, you’re no longer interpolating (which is estimating). 3MOS has better low-light shooting, lower power consumption, and truer colors than other imaging systems. Panasonic has pioneered this technology, which was an upgrade from the older 3CCD technology.

3MOS Top Picks:


Camcorders with Built-in WiFi - Most of the latest camcorders have built-in WiFi wireless capability (or an accessory) to allow you to transfer pictures and video from your camcorder to your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or other device. You can also upload pics and video to the internet and social media sites like facebook and twitter. Another use of WiFi, which some camcorders allow is the ability to stream video over the internet via UStream. Many camcorders will also allow you to remotely control your camcorder via WiFi from a remote location.

Related Page: Camcorders with built in WiFi


Panasonic HC-W850 Twin Camera Camcorder

Twin Second Camera - The 2014 Panasonic W850K Camcorder is the only camcorder with a Second Twin Camera. This wide angle camera is built-in to the LCD door, and can be used for picture in picture video. So you could be zoomed in on a child playing soccer with the main camera, while the second camera could show the entire field, the crowd, or even yourself reacting to the events that unfold. Panasonic HC-W850K Twin Camera WiFi Camcorder (2014)


3D Lens

3D Lens

3D Camcorders- New for 2011-2013 is the advent of camcorders that record in 3D. The leaders in this field are Panasonic, Sony, and JVC, as they have released several models. All 3D camcorders can also record regular HD, or for Panasonic can record in 3d with an optional 3D conversion lens. These camcorders record in what is called side by side 3D, which splits the picture into two frames. In order for the picture to fit in the bandwidth limit for recording HD video, the picture is split into two frames with lower resolution than the full 1080p HD. In order to playback the 3D, you need a 3D TV, glasses, and the ability to playback the side by side method of 3D (most 3D TVs, including Panasonic and Samsung). **All 3D camcorders can also record in regular 2D Full HD.

3D Camcorder (that can use an optional 3D conversion lens):


EVF Electronic Viewfinder – A viewfinder on a camcorder was common on earlier camcorders. Today, unless you get a professional model, they are hard to find on a consumer model. The advantage of a viewfinder is for use outdoors in the bright sun, where your LCD screen may be washed out and hard to see.

Camcorders with EVF Viewfinders:


Optical Zoom – Optical Zoom refers to how close an object can be “zoomed in”. So a camcorder with a 10x zoom can bring a distant object about 2 times closer than a camcorder with a 5x zoom. Larger zoom lenses can give you more options. If you see a reference to digital zoom, this is an electronic representation of optical zoom, and really just crops the picture and you lose resolution. With optical zoom, you do not lose resolution. Digital zoom should not be a consideration in our opinion to purchasing a camcorder, while optical zoom should be considered. Most of our top-rated camcorders come with a 10x zoom which is good for most applications.

Why do cheaper camcorders have higher zoom? You may wonder why a high end camcorder has a 10x zoom, and a cheaper camcorder a 25x zoom. The answer is the imager size. Two camcorders with the same lens, but one with an imager half the size of the other will have double the zoom. While you may gain in the amount of zoom, you lose in image quality and low light capability with a smaller imager.


Camcorder Microphone Microphone – All camcorders record in stereo sound. All have built in microphones. For better quality you can buy higher quality microphones, and even get a wireless microphone for some models. Several camcorders have a built in surround sound recording system (Dolby 5.1).

There are two ways to add an extra microphone to a camcorder. One is to plug it into a microphone jack (if available), or what is called an accessory shoe which allows accessories to attach to your camcorder.

Related Article: Getting the best sound from your camcorder

Related Article: Camcorders with an external microphone jack


Night Shot/Night Vision - Several high end camcorders give you the ability to video not only in visible light, but invisible to the eye infrared light. One model from Canon, and several from Sony give you this option. You have probably seen video in the infrared if you have seen shows such as “Ghost Hunters”, and nature shows showing wildlife at night. You can video in total darkness.

Camcorders with infrared night vision capabilities:


LCD Size LCD Size and resolution – The LCD is the screen that you use to compose your video, and view menus for the camcorder. Many are touchscreens which makes going through the menus easier. (You just touch a choice on the menu). LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display, the current technology used for such displays. A larger LCD screen is much easier to see. In addition to size its also important to look at the resolution of the screen (i.e. how many pixels does it have). The more pixels used for a screen the better. So for both LCD size and number of pixels on the screen, higher is better.

Camcorders with the highest resolution LCD screens:

Manual Focus – Automatic focusing is standard on all camcorders. However there are times when you may wish to manually focus your camcorder. Examples are low light, macro (closeup), shooting through glass, and indoor shots where automatic focusing is not as effective. All professional camcorders can focus manually. Most of our top rated camcorders include the manual focus option. Some camcorders have a manual focus ring to make this easier.


Sony Projection Camcorder

Sony Projection Camcorder

Projector Camcorders – Sony has introduced the “PJ” line of camcorders that have built-in projectors, on the LCD door, that projects your video onto a wall or screen, up to 100 inches diagonal (Like a 100-inch TV). We previewed this feature at the CES 2013 and 2014 Electronics Show. Sony has doubled the output of the projector from last year’s models, and we were very impressed by the picture that was projected. Its a fun and useful feature, that is not a gimmick.

Related Page: Camcorders with built in Projectors


1080p 720p 60i 60p video – Camcorders can record video at various resolutions. Many can record at several different rates. 1080p is the current highest (blu-ray quality). 720p has about half the resolution of 1080p. Also keep in mind the frame rate of the video. Normal video is shot at 30fps (frames per second). 1080@60i is 60 interlaced frames, which is roughly equivalent to 1080p@30fps. Movie film is shot at 24fps (24p). Some camcorders can shoot at 60fps (60p) which will make the movie silky smooth and can be used for slow motion as well. 60p means 60 progressive frames per second.

snapshotSnapshot Feature - Many of the newer camcorders offer the ability of the camcorder to take pictures (still photos) with your video camera. Many list the size of the pictures they can take in megapixels. Image quality varies from camcorder to camcorder, but you should not expect the same quality as a dedicated digital camera. Use this feature more as a convenience when you don’t have your digital camera with you.

Built-in Video Light/Flash - Many camcorders have a built in flash (for the snapshot feature – still pictures) and/or a video light for lower light situations. External flash units and video lights are available as accessories for many camcorders.


Related Article: Best Low Light Camcorders – Comparison and Reviews

Related Article: Flash Memory Camcorder Roundup and Comparison

Related Article: Best Rated HD Camcorders


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