There are a number of factors to consider when buying a digital camcorder. The recent advances in video technology mean you could easily end up with a model that won’t connect to your TV or PC or that records visibly lower-quality images that you’re used to watching.
The first factor is therefore resolution. Much fuss is made these days of Full HD camcorders, and while recording in the top resolution does usually mean you get a crisp picture, it’s no guarantee — other factors, such as the quality of the optics, also affect the overall image quality. Higher resolutions might also be too high for your TV or PC monitor to display without introducing scaling artifacts, and they’ll also result in larger file sizes. This means your memory card will fill up faster, and that you’ll need to invest more into longer-term storage at home.
In other words, think about the quality of the lens first and the resolution second. If you can afford Full HD, then by all means go for it, but 720p (“HD-ready”) will also do just fine.
Digital camcorders either record onto a memory card or a digital tape. The advantage of recording onto a card is that you can easily slot the card into a PC and download the video. The disadvantage is that cards generally hold less video than a tape.
If you do record onto a tape, you’ll need to be able to get the video off the camera. This means you’ll need some video and audio connections. Check in advance what types of connections your TV and PC have. Many camcorders will have simple video connections such as YUV or composite video, which make it easy to play back the video on your TV screen. If you want to edit or store the video digitally, however, you’ll need to use a USB or FireWire connection, so make sure that the camera and your PC have one of these in common.