Digital Video Cameras

They're an ideal way to record footage of your family, friends and those special occasions: but which one is right for you?



Controls and features

The central part of a DV camcorder is the Charge Coupled Device (CCD). This sensor creates a video picture by recording light intensity to recognise an image shape, and levels of red, green and blue (RGB) to reproduce a full-colour picture. A single CCD captures information on RGB colours in one go, while a three-chip CCD (found on more expensive camcorders) devotes a CCD to each of the three colours.

Many tape-based DV camcorders have both colour eyepiece viewfinders and a flip-out TFT LCD screen to view the action as well as preview video footage. However, most tape-less models only offer the TFT screen to preview captured video and to view while recording footage.

When you need to get close to the action, a good zoom lens can be a valuable feature. However, don't be swayed by the digital zoom figure, no matter how large; always base your buying decision on the optical zoom. The optical zoom gives a true indication of the video image, whereas digital zooms interpolate the available pixels to zoom in on an image. Optical zooms generally range around the 10X mark, with digital zooms ranging from 120X and above.

Auto focusing systems are great, although a manual focus option can be very handy in conditions such as low light or when focusing on a subject against a landscape. Available on most camcorders, the manual focus control can be found either as a ring on the lens itself or as a dual-button system on the camcorder's body. Most expensive, high-end models will typically have a large focus ring located near the end of the lens. Cheap models usually only offer rudimentary focus options located via the menu screen.

Program AE (Auto Exposure) allows the camcorder to set all the functions for shooting certain types of footage, leaving you simply to point and shoot. Situations covered include Portrait, Sports, High Speed Action, Twilight, Spotlight, Sand & Snow, and Low Light.

Playback and record controls are much like the ones on a VCR, with all camcorders including the basic functions of Play, Stop, REW, FF and Pause.

Most video camcorders these days provide a titling feature in the camcorder itself; however, this feature is to be avoided at all costs unless you do not intend to edit the footage on a PC. The title effects on many camcorders are quite limited and can't be removed afterwards.

Virtually all new camcorders use a rechargeable Li-ion battery, although a spare battery may be useful as the batteries are unique to each camcorder maker and often each model.

Many of the latest DV camcorders allow you to capture digital still images onto a removable flash memory card. The most popular media choice is SD/SDHC or MMC memory, but Sony and Samsung camcorders capture still images to a Memory Stick. Some of the latest models have broken the megapixel image barrier and a few offer up to 6Mp still image capabilities.

Note: DV camcorders are unlike digital still cameras in this regard. Most camcorders offer no more than 2Mp, with anything above considered to be a distinctive feature.

If your camcorder doesn't have still image capabilities, you can always do a capture of the screen in your editing program. Remember that the image resolution when capturing a still in this manner will always be 640x480, which is less than 1Mp.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

PC World Staff

PC World
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?