How To Get The Best Prices On Camcorders

Get a good price on a camcorder by knowing about products and features available.

Shopping for a camcorder can be a confusing prospect. But getting the best possible price is possible, by knowing what you intend to use the camcorder for, and knowing what the different features do. Knowledge when purchasing anything electronic in a volatile electronics market is necessary.

Many video cameras today do much more than memorialize your child's first steps. They will do that, but also snap a still picture of the event, capture those same steps in a completely dark setting, or even double as security or surveillance cameras.

Common Features to be considered:

Optic Zoom

Digital Zoom

Still Image Capability

Screen size

Screen Options / Touch screen

Viewfinder

Infrared Shooting

Storage Options including Memory Cards, DVD, mini CD, and Tape Formats

USB terminal / FireWire (IEEE 1394)

Optical vs. Digital Zoom:

Digital zoom and optical zoom are not the same. Many consider optical zoom as the true zoom. Image quality is sustained when optical zoom is in use. Digital zoom is no comparison. Picture quality is highly degraded when digital zoom is in play. If you will be using your camcorder to shoot video that is often at a distance, look for a higher level of optical zoom. Do not pay extra for a camera whose biggest boast is a massive digital zoom level.



Still Image Capability:

When cameras first became available with still image capabilities, the quality of the still images were often not useable for much beyond a quick look, or for posting pictures on a website. As with anything electronic, this feature has improved on many of the newer camcorders. If you will be using this feature for printable pictures, look for one that offers a minimum of three megapixels. If you already have a digital still camera, or feel that this is something you will not use, do not pay more for a camera whose only difference is this feature.

Screen Size and Options:

This is actually a very personal decision factor. If you are looking at two cameras whose features are the same, except for the screen size, balanced against a cost difference, you will need to view both screens and make an informed decision on whether or not saving a few dollars is worth the smaller screen. Some new cameras also come with a touch screen, and some people may find this useful. One advantage of this style of screen is that many people find it easier to navigate through the on screen menu.

Viewfinder:

Finally, many of the newer cameras offer a color viewfinder. Again, as with the screen features, whether a camera offers a color viewfinder or not is a matter of personal preference. If you rarely use the viewfinder and mainly use the screen, the extra dollars that are often attached with this feature may not be worth it.

Infrared Shooting:

One more feature that falls into the personal preference arena is the capability of infrared shooting. This allows the camera to film in total darkness. A useful feature, especially if you plan to use the camcorder for night viewing. Again, if this is not something you would use, do not pay extra for a camera just because it offers this.

Storage:

Camcorders today often use two types of storage media at once. If a camera is capable of taking digital stills, it will use a SD (Secure Digital) memory card or an MMC (Multimedia Card) card. Check if these are included or if that will be an additional expense. Camcorders record video to several mediums. Tapes are still the standard, but are increasingly smaller in size for the newest formats, such as mini DV. Some record directly to mini DVD's. There are pluses to both. Tape cameras are increasingly lower cost, while those that record directly to DVD, offer the convenience of instant playability, compatibility, and longer shelf life, but are costlier.

USB terminal / FireWire (IEEE 1394):

If you will be plugging in your camera to a computer to edit video, make sure your computer has a FireWire port, or you may have the added expense of upgrading your computer. The USB connection is usually reserved for transfer of still images.

Other Cost Considerations:

Does the camcorder come with a case, all necessary cables, memory card, or video storage, i.e., tapes or DVD's? If a starter kit is available, inquire as to exactly what is included and see if it would be cheaper to purchase the items separately.

Remember, an informed decision is a decision that will save you money. Buy the features you will use, and take into consideration those features that you think you will have a personal preference on. Keep in mind that a camera that saves you a few dollars, but lacks features you could use, is not really a bargain.

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