Camcorder Buying Guide

By: Eric Baxter

If you want more than just a smartphone for video capabilities, a camcorder is your best choice.
If you want more than just a smartphone for video capabilities, a camcorder is your best choice.
Tom Grill/Photographer's Choice RF

Even those of us with great memories like to capture daily life on video, whether it's something candid and funny from the street, or something special like child's first steps or a relative's wedding. And you've probably noticed that it's getting easier to do so, especially when it's possible to shoot some quick footage with a smartphone and then upload it onto the Internet in a matter of seconds.

Buyers are faced with a shifting landscape of quality, formats, size and capabilities. Even abbreviations, like AVCHD or HDD, can leave the most tech-savvy buyer reeling from information overload.


However, camcorders and the technology behind them are easy to navigate with a little information and some planning. Once you get the basics under your belt and pick the features you want, the trip to the store won't seem as daunting, and you should walk out with the best device for the best price.

So, what kind of camcorder should you get? Even before considering the question, try to make a mental list of what you would like in a camcorder, how it will be used, and whether your current computer and television can handle the serious bells and whistles offered in even basic models.

  • Do you want high definition video or standard definition? If you have an HDTV, high definition is a good route, if it's not out of your price range. If you have a standard definition television, it likely won't have the capability to show HD video.
  • Are you planning on filming simple home videos -- or shooting the next indie breakout movie?
  • Do you want something truly portable, or something with a little more substance?
  • Do you want the ability to shoot in low light, or no light?
  • Do you want the capability to add on external microphones or supplemental lighting, or do you want to do loose editing as you shoot?
  • Is your computer capable of handling new editing software, and does it have enough storage to hold video without crashing?
  • Will you need a special card reader to read the camcorder's format, or an accessory hard drive to store the information?
  • What's your budget like?

Ponder these questions while you read on and find out more about some of the different types of camcorders.