Mini camcorders have faced increased competition with the advent and improvement of videotaping alternatives such as the cell phone and the digital camera. A benefit of this competition, however, is that the typical price of a camcorder has fallen from more than a thousand dollars a generation ago to a few hundred dollars now. Choosing the right mini camcorder can be challenging. If you consider a few primary differences between them, you can find one that meets your needs.
Mini camcorders come in two primary orientations: traditional and pocket. A traditional camcorder is one in which your hand enters from the bottom and holds the chassis on the side with your fingers controlling the zoom and other functions on top. A pocket camcorder is oriented like a cell phone and is held in a similar way to taking a picture with a phone. A pocket camcorder may also have a swing-out USB connector for easy upload to a computer while a traditional camcorder often uses media or cables to do playback. Hold each style of camcorder and, if possible, film and play back a sample. You might find one or the other easier to hold and keep free from jitter during filming.
Formats vary in the camcorder category. Mini camcorders often utilize either a hard drive or removable flash memory. More advanced models offer a lightning-fast solid state hard drive to increase performance, but at a considerably higher price. Older models used mini-DV tapes, a much smaller format version of a normal VHS tape, or mini-DVDs. Consider playback and storage capacity as well as price of the media when choosing your format. Secure Digital cards in various sub-formats will hold 64GB or more of information on postage-stamp-sized media that can be easily stored, mailed or uploaded. Hard drive mini camcorders will typically hold a couple of hours of video, depending on the user's filming habits, and must be hooked up to upload the content, once it is full, to continue to film. Price your media as it may cost nearly as much to buy a large SD card as it costs to buy your camcorder.
Zoom is an important aspect of your camcorder, especially if you need to film from a significant distance. Camcorders often have optical and digital zooms. An optical zoom works much like a traditional camera physically moving the lens front to back depending on how far away the object is located. Digital zoom expands the size of the image to make the object appear closer. An optical zoom is typically much clearer than a digital zoom, although it uses more battery power in the process. While a camcorder will often feature both types of zoom, the larger the optical zoom the farther away you can zoom and retain the best image quality.
Image stabilization is a must if you do not have a steady hand when filming. Evaluate the battery life of the camcorders you inspect, keeping in mind your typical usage. If you videotape sporting events that last two or more hours, long battery life and removable media may both prove invaluable. If high-quality video is more important than price, consider a camcorder that utilizes AVCHD or MPEG2 compression instead of the standard MPEG4 that most use. Some camcorders offer wireless network options to transfer or stream video.
- Top Ten Reviews: 2013 MiniDV Camcorder Product Comparisons
- B&H: Camcorders: A General Overview
- Good Housekeeping: Best Pocket Camcorders
- Digital Trends: Camcorder Buying Guide
- PC Mag: Digital Camcorders
- PC World: Top-Rated HD Pocket Camcorders
- Digital Trends: Goodbye, Flip: Seven Pocket Camcorder Alternatives
- Camcorder Info: Buying Guides
- Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images