How to buy ... a Digital Camcorder

Although a digital camcorder’s specifications don’t tell the whole story, they can help you narrow your choices.

Although a digital camcorder’s specifications don’t tell the whole story, they can help you narrow your choices. You can use the camcorder’s price, along with specs like LCD screen size, weight and type of microphone, to weed out the ones that won’t work for you.

Keep in mind that while a big LCD screen and lots of extra features justify a higher price, ease of use and overall size are also important considerations. Even the lightest camcorder won’t do you much good if the controls are too small for your hands; always try the camcorder before you buy. Remember that the lightest cameras may sacrifice other features, and will often have a top-mounted microphone simply because there’s nowhere else to put it. But weight may be an important enough consideration to justify these trade-offs.

Digital and optical zoom specs don’t tend to vary much across categories, and thus aren’t represented in this chart. Look for at least 10X optical zoom. Don’t pay too much attention to the digital zoom, which simply enlarges the image the lens captures — the optical zoom is far more important. In the semi-pro range, you can expect to get a lens with higher quality optics.

When shopping, check out the LCD screen in daylight if possible — some screens will wash out in full sunlight.

Other features you may want to take into consideration, depending on what you want to shoot, include time lapse, night vision, light level filters and still image capture.

Plus, consider which supported media types (Secure Digital or Memory Stick, for example) the camera has in case you need to add more storage.

Finally, although camcorders will feature all kinds of internal editing features, it makes sense to do most of your editing on a PC to preserve your original footage.

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PC World Auckland staff

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