Camcorders Review - Choice Australia

Uploaded by CHOICEaustralia on 16.08.2009

If you're looking for a new video camera, you'll already know that today's products
use a bewildering variety of formats. So let's clear things up a bit. First off, you need
to decide whether or not you need high-def. There's not much point in shooting in 1080p
if you're only going to be uploading your stuff to Facebook or YouTube, but if you're
looking for something to play back on your new high-definition TV, then HD is clearly
the way to go. Tape is falling out of fashion due to the
introduction of more convenient media like hard-disk or solid-state.
And that's a shame, because there's still a lot to like about this format, not least
of which is that it's cheap, removable storage that provides an archive backup of all your
footage -- unless of course you decide to record over it.
The trouble is, tape is slow. To get to a specific clip, you need to fast forward or
rewind, and getting your footage onto a computer requires patience, and a Firewire connection
- which doesn't always come as standard.
Unlike tape, hard-drive camcorders let you instantly select and play back your clips,
as well as deleting unwanted footage on the fly, and a USB connection means that you can
quickly and easily transfer your video to a PC without the need for any extra hardware.
But their biggest advantage is capacity, with current models offering up to a hundred hours
of continuous recording. Just bear in mind that a hundred hours is a lot to lose if the
camera gets stolen or the hard drive dies, so you'll have to backup your footage on a
regular basis. Hard-drive's biggest competitor right now
is the Flash- or solid-state camcorder. These record onto internal memory, or removable
media like SD cards and memory sticks. While they lack the capacity of hard-drive
based cameras, solid-state camcorders are usually much smaller. And fewer moving parts
makes them less sensitive to shocks and bumps. Assuming you have a suitable reader, transferring
your footage can be as easy taking the card out of your camera and slotting it into your
computer. Memory cards fill up quickly, though, and you'll need to move your video somewhere
else before you can use them again.
If you can't decide between hard-drive and solid-state, then some manufacturers offer
hybrid models that mix both media types in one device. To be blunt, we're not really
sure why you'd want to go down this path, but hey, it's there if you want it.
A lot of people think that video recording formats are complicated, and that's just not
true. For example, the MPEG-2 codec uses both intraframe and interframe compression with
discrete cosine transforms eliminating temporal and spatial redundancy. H.264 adds new techniques
like Hadamard transforms and entropic coding to the mix - as well as variable block-size
motion compensation and exponential golomb coding.
OK, perhaps they are a little complicated, Fortunately, your choice is actually pretty
simple - MPEG-2 or MPEG-4. HDV camcorders all record to MPEG-2, which
is the same as DVD and Bluray movies. It takes up more storage space than MPEG-4, but requires
less processing power to edit, making it a better choice if you like to work on your
videos before showing them to people - and that's why it's still popular in higher-level
Hard-drive and solid-state camcorders often use the newer MPEG-4 format, with high-definition
camcorders usually being branded with the AVCHD label.
MPEG-4 AVC is a very efficient codec, and video shot in this format takes up much less
storage space than comparable video shot in MPEG-2. But it requires much more processing
power if you intend to edit with it, so it's better for those who prefer to connect their
camcorders directly to their TVs rather than messing around with computers and editing
So - to wrap up: Decide whether or not you need high-resolution
video. If all you're doing is shooting for the Web, it's probably overkill.
Choose a storage type that suits the way you shoot. Go with tape if you want to keep backups,
solid state for portability and convenience, or hard-drive if you want capacity.
And finally, pick a recording format. AVCHD requires less space to store, but it can be
painfully slow to edit with, working with MPEG-2 footage is faster, particularly in
high-definition. For more information on digital video, including
constantly updated reviews of the latest camcorders, visit