Looking to promote your business through video? Whether you want to make a video blog, post on YouTube, or create a promotional marketing clip, a good camcorder can get you there. Here’s what to look for when buying a video camera for your business:
It’s important to consider if the camcorder records in MPEG format so it can be used on Web sites and in e-mail. Video cameras record in a variety of formats, including mini DVD discs, hard disc drives (also known as HDD), flash memory cards, and Blu-ray discs. Some cameras still record using Digital8 (an 8 millimeter tape) and miniDV (a small cassette). These cameras are usually less expensive but are more cumbersome when transferring video from the camcorder to your computer; depending on the length of your footage, you could spend over an hour transferring video. Tapes are also slowly being phased out by manufacturers, so you could have a dinosaur on your hands in the near future.
The type of digital media your camera uses determines how you’ll be able to store and edit video. Flash and HDD camcorders can store hours of video and provide ultra-quick file transfer. Flash camcorders are often more expensive, however, and have a low recording time. Both options allow you to edit and organize your video directly on the camcorder, a feature that mini DVD camcorders lack. Mini DVDs also provide less storage space and poorer video quality compared to other options.
Today’s technology means that most camcorders come equipped with all the resolution you’ll need. The only real decision you need to make is if you want standard resolution or high-definition resolution. HD resolution comes with a hefty price tag, so if you plan on shooting videos for the Web, stick with standard resolution. If you plan on creating more professional videos for distribution, you might consider investing in an HD camcorder. With so many people using HDTV these days, a video shot on standard definition can seem low quality when appearing on an HD screen.
A 10x optical zoom or greater is a good starting point for any camcorder. If you plan on capturing still shots for product snapshots, you’ll want to pay attention to the optical zoom features, not the digital zoom features. Optical zoom actually magnifies the image while digital zoom simply gives the appearance of zoom by making objects bigger to fit within the same space. This results in fuzzy, low-resolution images.
Other Features To Consider
- Audio: Some high-end cameras will let you record in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, which is great if audio quality is high on your list. If you plan on recording interviews, look for a camcorder with a microphone jack that’ll allow you to plug in an external microphone for better sound. A headphone jack is also useful if you want to monitor your audio and correct potential problems while recording.
- Battery life: Typical battery life ranges from 1 to 5 hours, depending on model and media format. Keep in mind that flash camcorders will provide more battery life, while HDD camcorders can quickly drain the battery.
- FireWire port: A FireWire port allows you to connect your camcorder to your computer for video transfer.
- Image stabilization: If you’re not using a tripod, image stabilization will help keep your video from appearing shaky or blurry. The two types of image stabilization are optical and electronic. Just like zoom, optical stabilization is better than electronic, but most consumer camcorders don’t come with optical stabilization.
- Portability: The more bells and whistles you have, the larger your camcorder is going to be. If you don’t want to lug around a professional camera — and don’t need many of the professional features — look for a compact, lightweight camcorder that has all of the basics.