You’re going to get a digital camcorder.
Now to make a harder choice. What camcorder do you purchase? Oh the choices you can make: pocket sized but inflexible? Bulky but fully featured? Something in between? When is the porridge going to be just right?
Bear in mind these questions when looking at camcorders online, and you’ll find the decision becomes much easier.
- What are you recording?
More than any other question, your answer here will determine your main focus.
If you think you’ll mostly be recording things you can’t (or shouldn’t) get in close to, a more traditional handheld camcorder that can fit a larger lens structure is what you’ll want.
If you’re just recording quick moments, smaller palm-style cameras (such as the Flip camcorders) will be more your speed.
If you’re doing professional-style recording, and absolutely have to get great sound, then you’ll want to look for something with an accessory shoe and a mic jack that has an exceptional lens.
- Where are you recording?
On the go, you want a small camcorder. Pay attention especially to the height and width of the camcorder if it has a long body, this will give you a good idea of how it will fit in your hand. With rectangular camcorders, width and depth will be your best indicator of practical size.
When your shooting locations are mostly stationary and pre-planned, take a look at whether it can be used with a tripod – holding a camcorder for any significant filming time is painful, so having the ability to keep your camcorder steady without killing yourself is a huge boon.
- How are you viewing recordings?
This is actually a trick question (how mean of me). With almost every current video venue offering an HD option, an HD camcorder is the only real option. Yes, they still make and market SD camcorders, and while they are cheaper, it’s worth it to look a little bit lower on the HD lineup and spend that little extra to get the recording quality.
One area this question is relevant, though, is if you’re uploading the majority of your video to social networks or video sharing sites. If so, look for a camcorder with easy export features. An HD one.
- How does it look?
This question actually goes both ways — for the recorder (you) and the recordee(s)(them). If you hate the look of your camcorder, you’re not going to use it, and it will slowly gather dust inside the box until it disappears one day to the island of misfit consumer electronics.
If the people you record can’t stand the sight of your camcorder, and run in fear of its very approach, then you’re probably not going to get very much recording done. Make sure to take into account how your subjects will respond to your camcorder as well.