Camcorders FAQ

  • What Is A Camcorder?

    Camcorders are portable cameras for the capture of moving images and sound. The term 'camcorder' derives from both 'camera' and 'video recorder'. Initially camcorders were analogue systems and the oldest versions used separate cameras and recording units. A camcorder today combines both camera and recording unit in one system and is normally digital.

  • What Types of Camcorders Are There?

    Digital camcorders include DV, Digital8, miniDV, DVD, Hard Drive and flash memory models. VHS, Betamax and Video8 are older analogue formats using videotape.

    Nearly every camcorder sold today records in digital. Digital camcorders offer better picture quality than analogue models and in most cases data is more easily transferable to PCs for editing purposes. The main types of digital camcorders recommended today are DVD and MiniDV although the market is prone to changes. Flash based camcorders recording on hard drives are a rising trend.

  • Digital Camcorder Formats Explained


    Mini DV is the most popular digital camcorder format. Although a high quality consumer standard increasingly MiniDV is used to make low budget movies. Easily transferable to PCs, MiniDV offers the best compatibility with video editing programs and other equipment. MiniDV camcorders are extremely compact. Most digital camcorders use inexpensive Mini DV tapes.


    Increasingly popular multi make standard which offers recording straight on to DVD discs via DVD-RAM / DVD R. This provides better compatibility with DVD players than tape formats. DVD-R can be played on DVD players but cannot be added to or recorded over. DVD-RAM can be added to and recorded over. DVD-RW allows re-recording. DVD camcorders often connect to computers for editing purposes. DVD discs can also be vulnerable to scratches.


    Older and cheaper version recording in the same DV format as MiniDV but using a larger cassette and machine. Digital8 are compatible with older analogue recorders and are becoming obsolete. Digi8 provides less quality than DV and is rarely seen in professional contexts although it is still a good standard system with good reproduction quality compared to older systems. Recommended for use with Hi8 tape although they do use 8mm tapes.


    A high definition version of the MiniDV format found on high end and high definition camcorders. HDV uses standard MiniDV cassettes but produces either a super quality 720p or 1080i resolution. Dolby Digital surround sound enables HDV to offer near broadcast quality on a standard MiniDV cassette.


    Hard Disk Drive camcorders record video in MPEG2 directly to a built-in hard disk drive similar to the one found on your PC. They offer either a high-quality setting, with about 4GB required for one hour of video, or an economy setting needing less than 1GB for each hour of recording. 4GB to 30GB models are available. The big plus is the easy transfer to PC and editing in faster than real time.

    Flash Memory

    These camcorders record directly to a Compact Flash, SD/MMC or memory stick/flash memory device in MPEG-2 format. Because of the small size of the storage card, these are typically very compact camcorders and are becoming more common. The ease of file transfer and size are a great advantage.

  • Explain The Difference Between DV and DVD?


    Stands for Digital Video, a videotape format based on the capturing and editing of video in a digital context. DV records data on a cassette tape and was introduced in 1995 for camcorders. DV is regarded as a very high quality medium. Because a cassette tape can hold more information than a DVD DV is used widely both in consumer and professional contexts and produces excellent results. A disk cannot hold as much information as a cassette tape, which is why DVD uses a much heavier compression scheme which affects the quality of still image. DV also records data on small cassette tapes - a standard size holding three hours of video - or MiniDV cassettes - one hour duration. As a result hand held MiniDV camcorders are very small and portable.


    Records on a disk. A disk cannot hold as much information as a DV cassette which is why DVD uses a heavier data compression than DV which means final picture quality is not quite as good. On top of that, tape is more superior for time-shifting, eg you can watch the beginning of a programme while you are still recording the end on the same disc. Because DVD uses disk technology like a music CD it offers superior random access to information stored anywhere on the disk. This means DVDs are highly suited for recording and playback. Picture quality is very still high with DVD. Overall they are an excellent choice for home use.

  • Digital or Analogue Technology?


    Video Cassette Recorders are becoming outdated having pretty much been replaced by DVD based digital systems. Having said that VCRs are unlikely to become totally obsolete for some time. The problem with analogue recordings is they collect data as electrical waves and are often compromised by background noise and hiss, noise issues related to connectors, the use of cables and moving parts. Analogue's advantage though is that recordings remain reusable and can be restored even after suffering significant degradation. Some people still like them.


    Digital recorders are the recommended option. Analogue recorders will eventually be obsolete and problems of clarity are almost zero in digital recording with sharper images, sound and better colour. There is almost zero generation loss in either recording, dubbing or editing. Compatibility with PCs also means low cost and easy editing plus a spectacular range of effects from professional standard editing suites. Digital recordings can suffer from all or nothing failure though unlike analogue tapes. While digital recordings can be stored indefinitely with zero deterioration on a hard drive other media such as DVD recordings can suffer from what is known as DVD rot.

  • Can I Transfer My Video Recording To DVD?

    You should be able to. If you have analogue tapes you want to transfer to DVD then an analogue machine is required. VHS and VHS-C are easily transferred from VHS VCR to DVD. Hi-8 and 8mm tapes need a Hi-8 camcorder to transfer DVD. Make sure you plug the camcorder directly into the DVD recorder and switch your DVD recorder from its tuner to its AV inputs in order get the correct signal.

  • Can I Play Back Digital Camcorder Tapes On My VCR?

    Transfer your MiniDV tapes into VHS. Simply play them to your TV and record to video. You should find the picture quality is excellent and the copy might be useful as a backup or to save digital storage.

  • Can I Connect And Edit Digital Recordings To My PC?

    Editing is one of the great plus points of digital camcorders but your camcorder must have a PC connector. Check with your retailer. Most digital camcorders machines link to Microsoft Windows and Mac Operating Systems. Many systems support only Windows. Check PC compatibility and speed and type of PC connection with your camcorder before buying. For transferring still images, Digital Camcorders come with a serial PC port or USB port. USB is a faster interface for transferring still photos. For transferring full motion video i.Link/FireWire is required. This is a standard for high-speed transfer of digital recordings. All modern digital camcorders have iLink ports. You will need the same port on your computer.

  • What Do I Need To Do To Look After My Camcorder?

    • Use on a regular basis.
    • Keep cool and dry.
    • Keep in a protective bag.
    • Use a soft brush and cloth to clean and ensure it is dust free.
    • Have it professionally cleaned and serviced every few years.
    • Do not use damaged tapes or DVDs.
    • Use recommended, good quality tapes, DVDs.
    • Keep hold of it. Do not rely on tripods.
    • Never force it open or try to dismantle it.
  • What Factors Should I Consider When Buying A Camcorder?

    Due to digital technology the good news is that even low priced MiniDV camcorders capture great pictures. If you spend money you will get a more compact camera, more quality and more features to play with. Here's a checklist of points to consider when buying a camcorder.

    • Ease of use - Is it easy to hold and operate?
    • Size - Is size important for you?
    • Lens Quality - Try before you buy.
    • Quality of playback and copying - Picture quality is crucial.
    • Your budget - Spend within your budget. There are good quality budget camcorders available.
    • Is it compatible with your PC? - Check connections before you buy.
    • Specification - Has it got all features that you need?
    • Try before you buy.
  • What Features Should I Look For When Buying A Camcorder?

    The following are useful, quality features:

    1. The size of your zoom lens.
    2. Night vision shooting.
    3. Image stabilization - To keep your pictures steady in shaky circumstances.
    4. Choice of automatic exposure modes - Scene modes help a lot.
    5. Built-in editing - Such as dubbing, audio and fade in/out.
    6. Bright light suitability - Does it perform well in bright sunlight? Lots of camcorders do not.
    7. Wide Angle Shooting - A sign of quality. You will appreciate those wide angle pictures.
    8. Zoom quality - Its ability to magnify pixels and maintain picture quality.
  • Should I Buy A Camera/Camcorder?

    If you want a camcorder/camera hybrid buying a quality camera with a video function is usually considered the best option rather than camcorder with still camera as extra. The best still digital cameras tend to offer the best camcorder quality as back up and offer the greatest value for money. Compare zoom, lens quality and the like between the two before you buy.

  • What Kind Of Batteries Do I Need For My Digital Camcorder?

    Batteries need to be assessed for their capacity and how long they take to recharge. The most common types for digital camcorder batteries are lithiumion and NiCd (nickel cadmium). Lithiumion are quicker to charge and last longer.