Before purchasing a camcorder, take some time to compare the differences in video quality and the options available in different models. The prices for camcorders range from a few thousand dollars for professional videographers all the way down to $20 for a SpongeBob SquarePants camcorder. Most consumer-grade camcorders are priced in the $100 to $400 range. Even within this category, you have choices in sizes. Lower-priced models are usually compact and can fit in your pocket. The more expensive models have more features but aren't nearly as portable.
Look at the resolution available with each camcorder. Anything with 720p resolution will give you high-definition video. Higher 1080p resolution gives you even more definition in your videos, but the differences may be subtle or not even noticeable unless you're watching them on a large screen.
Examine the camera's LCD screen. Smaller screens are less of a drain on battery life. If you dislike hunting for buttons, a touchscreen may be the right choice for you, as the controls are directly on the screen itself. Not all touchscreens work the same way. Try using the camera's controls at your local electronics store or look for a demo video online before buying a camcorder with a touchscreen.
Compare the weight for each camera. A large LCD screen and lots of built-in features add to the camcorder's weight, making it more cumbersome to carry around and more likely you will leave it behind when you go out.
Look for low-light options on the camcorders, as well as the light sources used. LED lights on some models conserve battery life but may not give you the quality you expect. Some models adjust for low-light conditions with an infrared light or a long shutter mode.
Examine the microphone placement on the camcorder. A front-mounted microphone gives you better overall sound than a microphone on the top of the camcorder. Audio-zoom can deliver better sound quality. If the camera has a microphone jack, you can connect external microphones to it for even more sound options.
Look for optical zoom options on higher-end camcorders. Digital zoom is a standard feature on most models today, but it degrades video quality. Optical zoom uses the lens to get in close to a subject, while digital zoom crops and enlarges the video as it's being shot. If you use a 2x digital zoom, you reduce the quality by half.
Take a look at the still-shot capabilities of each model if you plan to use your camcorder to take pictures. Photo quality is independent of the camcorder's video resolution. Look for the camera's megapixel size for still photos, which can vary anywhere from 10 MP to less than 1 MP -- the larger the number, the higher the quality.
Compare the connectivity options for each camera with what you have at home. HDMI ports, which are just about standard on HD cameras today, can connect directly to an HDTV for playback of video and audio. FireWire or USB ports are used to transfer videos to your computer for storage. If you don't want to bother with cables, choose a camcorder with built-in Wi-Fi.
Take a look at other features you may need. Features such as image stabilization and the ability to support storage cards are standard in many camcorders, but if you're looking at a lower-end camera, confirm these are included before making a purchase.
Look for geo-tagging options on the camcorders if you want your videos to include not just the date they were shot, but where they were shot. These camcorders use GPS to determine location.
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