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May 25th, 2011

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What Are Key Points To Look For When Purchasing A Camcorder?

We Are planning to take a trip to Az to see the Grand Canyon and I would like to purchase a camcorder I was looking at some on the Walmart website and I would like a more expert opinion on what to look for when buying one, because I dont want to end up with a dud for this once in a lifetime experience! Thanks Everyone!

The main points you would want to consider in your particular situation is size, weight, battery life, and storage. All other camcorder features will be unimportant - except for one feature which is discussed at the end of this answer. You will not need any large tripods since you will be on the go; although a mini flexible tripod and a cleaning kit for heavy dust may help on this particular trip.

The most important consideration when purchasing a camcorder for recording a vacation is to purchase a camcorder that will not hinder you from taking it everywhere you go. You will find many things and many reasons to film during your vacation, and you will want your camcorder to be with you. You will also want a camcorder that you can operate relatively easily with one hand, and it needs to be compact enough to fit in a small bag in case you are in an area you can not film or don't want to record.

Once you narrow down the size and weight issues, start checking Battery Life. Most batteries that come with consumer level camcorders usually last only 2 hours. If you check on the web, you can usually order extra batteries that have a larger charge capacity and longer run times, and you can get small, compact, inexpensive travel battery chargers that can charge your batteries in your car as well as in your hotel room. You may also want to consider purchasing a camcorder with a CMOS image chip instead of CCD. CMOS uses less than half the power of CDD; therefore, the same battery in a CCD camcorder will usually last twice as long in a CMOS camcorder.

Finally, you need to consider storage. A camcorder with a hard drive is probably the easiest to use since you normally do not have to carry anything extra to use the camera, and they can often be the lightest and most compact. A camcorder with a large Hard drive - at least 80-100 gigs will probably last one entire day of heavy recording or the entire trip with light use. The problem with hard drive camcorders is that once the drive is filled, you can't record anymore. You have to wait until you can download the files to a computer. If you are planning to bring your laptop with you (and it has enough empty space), this should not be a problem. Some newer camcorders include the ability to use small memory cards for short videos and photos until you have more storage. To view your videos, you must either connect your camcorder to a TV like a VCR; or you will need to copy the video files to a computer, edit them in a video editing program, and then save them to DVD or other media.
- Mini DVD camcorders are another option, but mini DVDs usually last only 30 minutes before you have to change the DVD. Although you can normally put a mini DVD into most DVD players to watch your videos immediately after recording, the video will not be edited, so any mistakes in the video will show up. Also, one major drawback with Mini DVDs is that they are currently the most expensive recording media; however, you can bulk oder mini DVDs online to save money. Several types of DVDs exist. DVD-R (one time use) or DVD-RW (multiuse) are your best options.
- The last option, MiniDV tapes, are the most economical. MiniDV can be as cheap as $1.50 a tape, and they can be stored for a long time. MiniDV tapes commonly record 60 minutes at a time, but you can also get 80 minute tapes as well. The other advantage to miniDV is that if you decide to move to a High Definition camcorder that records in miniDV, you will be able to use the same exact tapes in the newer camcorder - saving a fortune. To view videos on a miniDV tape, you can plug you camcorder into a TV and use it as a VCR; or you can capture your miniDV tapes to a computer, edit the video, and then save them to a normal DVD for viewing or sharing.
* Some hybrid camcorders will have more than one recording format. Hitachi is well known for this manufacturing ability, and we have included some examples later in this answer.

This advice came from 3 articles on our website:
Camcorders and Your Needs - http://motionpicturecentral.com/content/camcorders-and-your-needs
Choosing a Camcorder - http://motionpicturecentral.com/content/choosing-a-camcorder
How to Choose a Camcorder - http://motionpicturecentral.com/content/how-to-choose-a-digital-video-camera

One camcorder feature specific to the Grand Canyon you may wish to consider is the zoom. There is an excellent reasons the Grand Canyon has its name, and you will probably want a camcorder with a good long zoom. Most camcorders have some sort of zoom. Once you narrow your choices in camcorders, choose the one with with the longest optical zoom and optical stabilization - instead of digital zoom and digital stabilization.

Links to camcorders you may wish to consider

- Hard Drive Camcorders:
Sony DCR-SR45 30GB Hard Drive Handycam Camcorder with 40x Optical Zoom - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00123UGXK?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00123UGXK
Canon HG10 AVCHD 40GB High Definition Camcorder with 10x Optical Zoom - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000U8HBRW?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000U8HBRW
JVC - GZ-HD3 HDD HD Hard Drive Camcorder (60GB) - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000YZG47E?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000YZG47E

- MiniDVD Camcorders:
Sony DCR-DVD610 DVD Handycam Camcorder with 40x Optical Zoom - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00123Q8YQ?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00123Q8YQ
Canon DC330 1.07MP DVD Camcorder with 48x Optical Zoom - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00114PN24?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00114PN24
Panasonic HDC-SX5 AVCHD 3CCD High Definition Flash Memory & DVD Camcorder with 10X Optical Image Stabilized Zoom - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000TVSX0E?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000TVSX0E

- MiniDV Tape Camcorders:
Canon VIXIA HV30 MiniDV High Definition Camcorder with 10x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00114PN1U?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00114PN1U
Panasonic PV-GS320 3.1MP 3CCD MiniDV Camcorder with 10x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000M4LXIW?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000M4LXIW
Sony DCR-HC52 1MP MiniDV Handycam Camcorder with 40x Optical Zoom - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00123Q8VY?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00123Q8VY

- Hybrid Camcorders with more than one option:
Hitachi DZHS500A DVD Hybrid Camcorder with 30x Optical Zoom & 30GB Hard Disc Drive - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000LWWFSC?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000LWWFSC
Hitachi DZHS300A DVD Hybrid Camcorder with 25x Optical Zoom & 8GB Hard Disc Drive - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000LWY7A6?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000LWY7A6

Links to media you may wish to consider

-Mini DVDs
Memorex Mini DVD+RW 10 Pack - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BBYH7U?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000BBYH7U
20 Pack 8cm/3" Mini DVD-R for SONY, HITACHI, PANASONIC, CANON AND SAMSUNG DVD CAMCORDERS - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000EG6XPQ?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000EG6XPQ
Ridata Mini DVD-R 4X Media (50 pack) - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BTDH0K?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000BTDH0K

- MiniDVD Tape
* we use and highly recommend these professional grade miniDV tapes - you will find theses particular tapes are half the price and twice the quality of the consumer grade tapes sold at Wal-Mart, Target, BestBuy, and Circuit City *
10 pack of 60 minute Professional Grade MiniDV tape: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000ANCZ50?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000ANCZ50
10 pack of 80 minute Professional Grade MiniDV tape: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BP5RIE?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000BP5RIE
10 pack of 60 minute consumer grade miniDV tape: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002HMRVQ?ie=UTF8&tag=motionpicturecentral-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0002HMRVQ

If you should have any more questions, please contact us by email or through our website at http://motionpicturecentral.com

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