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How to Choose a Digital Video Camera

How to Choose a Digital Video Camera

Looking to buy a digital video recorder? When deciding which digital camcorder to buy, a few different factors are important considerations. Often the final choice will be determined by the following key areas: price range, what the camera is to be used for, and any extra features needed. This guide explains the different options available for each specification and the best uses for each option.

–Video Format–

The types of video format can be divided into two broad categories – high definition and standard definition. Within the high definition category there is a further choice between 720p (lower HD resolution) and 1080 i/p (higher HD resolution). Standard definition is a good choice for those on a budget and people who want to record home movies and special occasions.

Casual occasion video can get by with 720p but professional video, and anyone who wants the best and greatest, should go with nothing less than 1080 i/p.

–Lens Type–

Lenses for digital video recorders vary by zoom level. A fixed lens with 10x optical zoom level or greater will suffice for any use. Professional videographers may want to look for a camera with interchangeable lenses but this is often only necessary for filmmakers.


The minimum sensor rating for home video users is 680,000 pixels for standard definition and two megapixels for HD. CCD standard sensors at 4mm are sufficient. Professional standards rise to a 6-8 mm sensor and CMOS chips.

–Minimum Illumination–

The illumination rating helps users understand how well video is recorded by that device in low light. The lower the number, the less light is needed. Standard home video or budget cameras usually have a rating of seven; anything lower than seven is better than average.

Some of the best cameras go as low as two and five is sufficient for most professional work.

–Recording Media–

The type of media you record onto can make all the difference. Many video camera manufacturers no longer make video cameras that record to tape. MiniDV and mini DVD-R+R were once all the rage but these are also slowly falling out of favour. Some cameras have an internal hard drive. These work well for large storage but they can only be transferred with a wired connection to a computer.

If you will be using video for a multitude of uses, the best choice of media are removable memory cards. SDHC is the standard but some brands, such as Sony, use Memory Stick which works just as well. Stay away from formats other than SDHC or Memory Stick, if possible.

These are the standards and anything else may not be around for much longer.


For connection to a computer USB 2.0 is the standard. Some digital video cameras use FireWire but those are becoming less common. For a direct TV connection S-video is used for all purposes on the high end and on the low end, though some cameras offer only standard A/V RCA connectors.


All viewfinders should be in colour and can range in size from 60 – 100 mm. Depending on how you use the camera the size of the viewfinder can be of varying significance. Viewing screen is also important. Most users prefer a larger screen, upwards of two inches, that flips out.

–Other features–

Other notable extras and features to take into consideration are battery life, charging time, and electronic adjustment such as anti-shake. Battery life can be an important consideration if you are using the digital video camera to record an overseas trip or more rugged holiday adventure.

Some Digital Video Cameras to consider:

Canon XH-A1 offers HD video at 1080i resolution. It is for professional use and sells for approximately $5000.

– JVC Everio S GZ-MS130B offers standard resolution at 800k pixels and sells for $400.

– Panasonic HDC-HS20K offers full HD, is compact, and sells for $1500.

– Sanyo VPC-HD1A is a vertically held small camera but records at 720p. It sells for $800.

– Sony DCR-SX60 is a budget camera with excellent quality that sells for around $500.


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