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Hard Drive Camcorders buying guide

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Hard Drive Camcorders Guide - An Introduction

A camcorder is an electronic device that combines the functions of both video cameras and video recorders in a single unit. A Hard Drive Camcorder is a type of camcorder that is built with a hard drive and can record over 30GB of footage. On an average, the memory of hard drive camcorders varies from 30GB to 120GB. This enormous storage capacity proffered by hard drive camcorders is the main reason why these types of camcorders are more popular among the many types of camcorders.

Hard drive camcorders make great traveling companions. They combine the best of both versatility and portability in their design. Mini DV and DVD camcorders can store 30-60 minutes of media and thus you have to lug disks, DVDs and a laptop around if you are planning to shoot for a longer time. Hard drive camcorders over come this shortcoming; with a 30GB hard drive camcorder you can record about 7 hours of video with the camcorders top settings and with standard settings you can even record up to 14 hours of video. In the case of mini DV and DVD camcorders, you have to be careful when you rewind to view footage and then start recording again. This is because you run a high risk of overwriting what you just shot. However, in case of hard drive camcorders you do not have to worry about rewinding because the camcorder, by default, saves video footage to free space available on the hard drive.

Even if you run out of room, most Hard Drive Camcorders available today come with an inbuilt memory card slot. You do not have to worry about discarding shots to make room for other shoots, you can simply pop in a memory card and take a few more gigabytes of shots. Secure Digital (SD) Cards and Memory sticks are the most common types of memory cards used in camcorders.

Hard drive camcorders are one of the most functional and popular camcorders; however, they have their limitations too. Since the device has to house a hard drive, the body tends to be slightly bigger and heavier when compared to the other models. In addition, once the memory is full, you are stuck unless you have a memory card or laptop with you. Writing a video to the hard drive consumes a lot of power and thus hard drive camcorders tend to have comparatively poor battery life.

Some of the popular and efficient hard drive camcorders are Raynox, Toshiba, JVC, Duragadget, Powerplus, Durasec and Panasonic.

Tips to consider before buying Hard Drive Camcorders

Purchasing a Hard Drive Camcorder is an important investment and thus, requires a lot of attention. Hard drive camcorders are the most convenient, flexible and functional kinds of camcorders that are preferred by both professionals and consumers alike. However, if you want to reap the benefits of hard drive camcorders to the fullest, you have to take maximum care while buying it and make sure that you buy a camcorder that fits all your needs perfectly.

  • The first step to getting a perfect hard drive camcorder is understanding exactly what you need from your camcorder. If you need a camcorder for recording family events, you need something that is easy to carry around and operate. You do not want to be twiddling around with the advanced controls of your camcorder on a vacation. On the other hand, if you are a student or an enthusiast, you will need a hard drive camcorder designed for professionals with advanced settings and functionality.
  • Hard drive camcorders are available in many different varieties that cover a wide array of functionality. Knowing exactly what features you are looking for will narrow down your options greatly. Also, be sure to study the features of the camcorder and double check if they perfectly meet your requirements.
  • Resolution: The Resolution of a hard drive camcorder must also be considered before purchasing one. Camcorders are available in a wide range of different resolutions, from an 800000 pixels and exceeding 12 Megapixels hard drive camcorder.
  • Zoom and other basic considerations: Zoom is one of the most important features that you have to consider before buying a hard drive camcorder. First, you have to choose between an optical zoom and a digital zoom. If you are buying a hard drive camcorder for personal use, then a camcorder that functions primarily based on digital zoom would be enough, however, for professional use, you need a camcorder with good optical zoom.

    Personal Use: If you are buying a hard drive camcorder to use during parties and vacations, where you will be shooting indoors or in close vicinity to the subject, you do not need much zoom. You should get a camcorder with at least 3x zoom, but you can go up to a 10x zoom or a 12x zoom. The overall design has to be ergonomic and have substantial low light performance. Examples:  Sony HDRXR105E,  Panasonic. SDRS15EBK

    Outdoor Shooting: If you think that you will primarily be shooting outdoors and want to capture details of the subject with acceptable precision, you need to buy a hard drive camcorder between 15x zoom and 20x zoom. Also, ensure that it has superior battery life, a trim yet durable design and is easy for you to carry. Example: The Samsung PL10, Panasonic HDCSD10EBR and the 16x zoom hard drive camcorder.

    Capturing Fast Moving Objects (Professional Shooting): If you wish to capture fast moving subjects, you need at the least a 25x zoom hard drive camcorder. In most cases, you will be far away from the subject and thus you need sufficient zoom to capture the subject. Since the subject is in motion, you need a good optical zoom to capture the details of the shot with precision. Digital zoom would give you blurry results. Hard drive camcorders with manual controls, wide screens and inbuilt editing options are perfect for this type of shooting. Example:  Sony HDRXR155.

    Long Distant Shots: If you will be shooting a lot of long distant shots, you need at least a 35x zoom but you can purchase up to a 60x zoom. If you do not require that much detailing in your resulting output, you can go for hard drive camcorders with digital zooms that go over 800x zoom.

    Auditoriums: If you are going to shoot performances in auditoriums, you need something like a 37x zoom or a 40x zoom. There is the chance that you will be quite far from the stage, thus you require sufficient zoom to capture the performance with enough detail. Make sure the hard drive camcorder has good stability and excellent low light performance.

  • You should also decide whether you need a standard definition hard drive camcorder or a Full HD. If you wish your hard drive camcorder to fit your HDTV, then a HDV is the perfect choice for you. The difference between standard definition and high definition lies in the number of lines that make up the resulting image. A high hard drive camcorder will have up to 1,080 lines. You need to understand the different terms and what they mean before you do your purchase. A Full HD 1080i is very different from a Full HD 1080p on how the signals are transmitted, but the final out images do not display any difference.
  • A major factor that you have to consider while buying a hard drive camcorder is the storage space. It depends on how often and where you will be using the camcorder. If you will be using the camcorder mostly indoors a 10gb is more than enough for you. If you will be using the camcorders outdoors you need hard drive camcorder between minimum 30gb to 60gb, e.g.,  JVC GZMG630, Sony HDRSR5E. If you think you will be using the device excessively and shooting a lot off footage outdoors, then you need camcorders in the range between a 80gb and 120gb, e.g., Panasonic HDCHS200 HD , Sony HDRXR200V.

Advice on Using a Hard Drive Camcorder:

  • Always ensure that your Hard Drive Camcorder is fully charged before being used, especially if you are shooting outdoors.
  • Almost all hard drive camcorders support optical image stabilisation. If it does not, carry a tripod stand with you or find some place to hold the camcorder. Using digital image stabilisation might result in loss of quality.
  • Hard drive camcorders use a lot of power to write the video to the drive, and thus the battery drains more quickly than in any other kind of camcorder. It is recommended that you have some way to charge the camcorder, just in case the power drains.
  • For casual shoots such as, video blogging and uploading to youtube, where you do not require that much detail, shoot in Standard Definition mode instead of in High Definition mode. If you can capture 7 hours of video in HD, you can capture over 14 hours in SD mode.
  • Hard drive camcorders are made of sensitive parts and there are high chances of components failing at some point. In fact, the hard drive itself might fail. So be careful when you handle your camcorder and if something goes wrong, approach an expert to deal with the issue.
  • Hard drive camcorders are also sensitive to harsh environmental conditions and it is recommended that you protect the camcorder with an appropriate protective case specially designed for camcorders.

Hard Drive Camcorder Best Buy:

Buying a Hard Drive Camcorder that perfectly meets your needs is a daunting task. The only easy way to go about it is to know exactly what you need and research the available options. There are many different varieties of camcorders for varied users and if you are not careful when choosing your hard drive camcorder, you run a high risk of picking the wrong camcorder.

If you are not aware of the hard drive camcorder specifications and other details, there is a high chance that the deceiving terms floating around the market will mislead you. For instance, one should note that hard drive camcorders that are said to offer 800x zoom, offer 800x digital zoom and not optical zoom. Also, note that resolution is not a primary factor influencing the performance of the hard drive camcorder, even though it is considered while determining the hard drive camcorder.

Make sure that you are buying hard drive camcorders that only incorporate the functions that you need. Buying a camcorder with features that you will not use is a waste of your money. Also, ensure that you get a warranty for your hard drive camcorder. All camcorder brands come with a warranty. In order to make the most of a warranty, you have to fully understand the terms in case you need to claim it. Your retailer should be able to explain to you the terms of the warranty.

Teaming your hard drive camcorder with accessories is the secret to using it efficiently. There are numerous accessories available in stores that serve different purposes such as enhancing camcorder functionality and protecting camcorder body and components. An example is the DW100 portable DVD burner from Canon

Jargon Explained

Optical ZoomMagnification of the subject by the realignment of the mechanical assembly of the lenses.
Digital ZoomMagnification of the subject by enlarging the pixels that make up the image.
PixelPixels are the tiny dots that make up the entire image.
Mini DVsMini DVs refer to the video cassette used in mini DV camcorders.
DVDDigital Versatile Disk is an optical disk used in DVD camcorders on which the captured image is etched using laser technology.
GBMeasurement of the storage space of the hard drive in terms of Gigabytes.
Hard DriveIn a camcorder, the hard drive is the hardware that holds and spins an optical disk used as the storage device.
Memory CardRemovable storage unit used in camcorders.
ResolutionResolution is the measure of the number of pixels per square inch of the resulting video.
Secure Digital CardsSD card is a non-volatile memory card format developed by Matsushita, SanDisk, and Toshiba for use in portable devices.
Memory SticksThe memory stick is a removable flash memory card format launched by Sony.
Full HDFull HD is a marketing label used in reference to the 1080p hard drive camcorder. 

Buying Guide to Hard Drive Camcorders
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