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What are the five basics of exploring a camcorder?


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May 26, 2015 8:02PM

A camcorder, or video camera recorder, is a portable electronic device with the ability to capture and record video. Anyone shopping for a camcorder will quickly realize the market is flooded with hundreds of models from dozens of different manufacturers. Add to that an overwhelming number of feature choices, and purchasing a camcorder can be an even more challenging task. Without a basic knowledge of camcorders, sifting through the differences to find which features are standard on all camcorders and which are worth paying extra for can seem difficult. Read on to discover the five must-have features for all camcorders before investing in a new video camera recorder.

Camcorder Basics

Before deciding on one particular camcorder model, consumers should gain an understanding of camcorder functions and camcorder terminology in order to sort through the options and choose the model that best suits their needs. Knowing the difference between analog and digital recording and learning about the available formats will make the process of elimination much easier.

How Camcorders Work

Camcoders are composed of a camera section and a recorder section. The camera section is made up of the lens and the imager. The sole purpose of the lens is to gather the light and focus it on the imager. The imager is what converts the light to an electrical charge. Most modern camcorders use either CCD or CMOS imagers. Although there are some differences in how the two types of imagers operate, they essentially produce the same results. The electronic video signal is then sent to the recorder, where it is either recorded as a track of magnetic patterns onto tape in an analog camcorder, or translated into binary code in a digital camcorder.

Analog vs. Digital Camcorders

Camcorders are differentiated according to whether they record in analog or digital form. Older, videotape-based camcorders record video in analog format. Analog camcorders use vacuum tube technology to record images, which imprints the image on a videotape. Analog tapes are known for degrading over time, but high-quality analog recordings often show more depth and detail than compressed digital recordings, without the background blur.

Newer camcorders record digital videos onto a hard drive, disk, or flash memory card. The result is improved image quality and higher-resolution videos. Digital video recordings eliminate problems such as color bleeding, jitter, and fading that are often seen in analog recordings. Digital camcorders have the added benefit of being able to record digital still photos onto a memory card.

Available Formats

Both digital and analog camcorders are classified by the type of media they record to. Analog camcorders, now almost obsolete, record onto videotapes such as VHS, S-VHS, VHS-C, 8mm, and Hi8. The benefit of recording onto videotape was easy viewing and copying, but it was nearly impossible for amateur videographers to edit these tapes. Since the introduction of digital camcorders, several different recording formats have been put to the test. Each format has its pros and cons, and none is considered particularly superior to the others. The chart below lists some of the most common digital recording formats available for camcorders, along with the key characteristics of each.