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Pocket Camcorders buying guide

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Pocket Camcorders Guide - An Introduction

Ever since Camcorders were first introduced, the popularity of these devices steadily increased among both professionals and the public. Camcorders have gone through a series of transformations from the professional, bulky, analog camcorders to the sleek, and lightweight Pocket Camcorders that are popular among today's consumers.

Pocket Camcorders are typically rectangular. In some pocket camcorders, the LCD screen is built into the body of the unit such as in the JVC PICSO GCFM1V and the Kodak Zx1. In others the screen is incorporated as a flip-out such as in the  Aiptek AHD100 and the Sony CM5 Bloggie. The device gets its name from its easily pocketable size. However, its size is not the only factor differentiating it from the rest of the camcorders. Listed below are some of the features that set pocket camcorders apart.

Ease of use: Pocket camcorders are the ultimate ergonomic camcorders that promise absolute effortlessness in terms of usage. Designed specifically for non-professionals, the camcorder incorporates simple settings and functionality.

Zooming Options: Pocket Camcorders do not support optical zoom and thus are not the right kind of camcorders for professionals. The sleek design of the pocket camcorder does not allow the lens of the camcorder to physically adjust itself and support optical zoom. Pocket camcorders employ only digital zoom.

Limited Features: A pocket camcorder is designed to proffer simplicity and thus does not include advanced manual controls such as exposure control, shutter speed and focus. With pocket camcorders, you have very little control over the look of the video.

Flash Memory: Pocket camcorders use flash memory as a storage medium, the major factor contributing to the sleek design of the camcorder.

Built-in USB plug and software: Most pocket camcorders have a built in USB cable that allows it to be directly connected to the computer and you don't have to keep track of a separate USB cable e.g, Vado Creative HD.  In addition, a pocket camcorder has the supporting software built in; this automatically loads when connected to a computer.

Affordable Prices: Designed to target the public with its ergonomic design and simple features, pocket camcorders are also highly affordable, ranging from less than £100 to a little over £200, with high definition camcorders priced at the higher end.

Many brands manufacture pocket camcorders extensively due to their gaining popularity. Among the many popular manufacturers of pocket camcorders there is the Sanyo, Sony, Cisco, Vado, Swann and the Creative Labs.

Tips to consider before buying Pocket Camcorders

Pocket Camcorders have become the ultimate gadget to own while enjoying some fun time with family and friends either on a vacation or at a party. You do not want to carry a bulky, advanced camcorder and spend your time fidgeting with its settings when you are trying to enjoy some fun time with your family and friends. Though pocket camcorders do not include many features or specifications, you have to give it some thought when purchasing one, so that it serves your needs.

  • The first step is to identify why you need a pocket camcorder. Remember that pocket camcorders are designed for casual use and they are not the right option for enthusiasts and students.
  • Decide whether you will be using the pocket camcorder mainly indoors or outdoors. This will help you determine the amount of camcorder memory that you need.

    o The memory of the flash card usually ranges between 1GB and 8GB; or in other words, it can record from less than one hour of video up to two hours. Unless you are sure you will have a laptop around when you are shooting outdoors, do not buy a pocket camcorder with less than eight GB of memory.

    o Examples:  Alba 1GB Pocket camcorder red and black and the creative digital Vado pink can record up to 2 hours of video clips.

    o If you cannot carry a laptop with you and you need to use more than 8GB, make sure that the pocket camcorder you buy has the expandability feature. That is, your pocket camcorder supports memory cards, allowing up to 32GB of recording space, e.g., Kodak ZI8 digital and Sony HDRTG7.

  • Depending on your intended uses for your camcorder, take the time to consider the software that comes with the camcorder. A lot of software allows advance-editing options and you can save individual frames as pictures. If you are interested in video blogging or uploading videos to sites such as youtube, and facebook, there are camcorders with software modules specifically designed for that. For example, Flip Pocket Camcorders, Samsung  HMXU10BP  and the JVC GCFM1 .
  • While most of us only use flash memory, a few pocket camcorders use memories such as mini DV. An example is theVado  Creative Compact mini DV.
  • In terms of resolution, pocket camcorders do not allow a wide range of options. While some camcorders are capable of 1080p such as the Panasonic HDCSD10EBK and the Samsung U20. Most pocket camcorders shoot in standard definition and high definition 720p, e.g., the Aiptek DV AHD C100 and the  Alba D31H.
  • Pocket camcorders with a built-in USB plug that can be directly plugged into a USB 2.0 port is handy for those who do not wish to keep track of separate USB cables. An example is the Vado Creative digital pink.
  • Pocket camcorders do not have viewfinders, and include only a small LCD display to view the subjects.
  • Still image capture is not one of the strongest features of pocket camcorders and hence, if still image capture is what you are primarily interested in, other digital cameras are a better option over pocket cameras.
  • Image stabilisation is not usually supported in pocket camcorders. Camcorders that do support image stabilization, only support digital image stabilization, this greatly compromises video quality. One such camcorder is the Sony Bloggie.

Follow this advice when you use a pocket camcorder:

  • Remember that pocket camcorders support only digital zoom. Digital zoom is usually of little or no help when it comes to shooting. Using it too much may also disturb the quality of your video.
  • Since pocket camcorders do not usually support image stabilisation, the only possible way to achieve image stabilisation is to get a tripod or find something to support your pocket camcorder.
  • Make sure that the location is sufficiently lit, because pocket camcorders perform poorly in low light situations.
  • Pocket camcorders are more the point-and-shoot type and do not equip you with much control over the look and feel of the video. You can enhance the look of the video to a certain extent using the editing software, but ultimately it all depends on the lighting in the location of the shots.
  • Once you push the record button, it is recommended that you wait for a second or two before staring to shoot, because some pocket camcorders take a while before actually beginning to record the shots. Also, once the shot is over wait for a few seconds before pushing the record button again.
  • Before setting out to record, make sure that your pocket camcorder is fully charged. Since pocket camcorders do not have a viewfinder, the LCD screen is the only option you can use to focus on your subject and LCD screens will drain your battery faster.
  • During outdoor shooting, always carry a protective case or at least a plastic cover to protect your camcorder in case of rain.
  • Pocket camcorders provide only digital zoom, so it is recommended that you do not zoom in too much. This will distort the image and result in loss of quality.

Pocket Camcorders Best Buy:

The secret to buying a perfect pocket camcorder lies in understanding what you require and the amount of research you put in before buying a camcorder. Even though pocket camcorders have very few features, there are wide variety of pocket camcorders available and many different brands, so you could easily buy a camcorder that frustrates you if you do not take time to do some research.

A lower priced pocket camcorder does not incorporate a superior quality lens and does not offer good video quality like a higher priced pocket camcorder does. However, to record parties, vacations, and footage to upload to the internet, the quality offered in cheap pocket camcorders are more than enough.
Be sure to keep your budget and requirements in mind when searching for a camcorder. This will narrow down your options to a certain extent. Take time to read reviews and get the opinion of experts and users before settling on a model. Without proper research, you might end up spending more than was actually necessary. For instance, many Sony and Kodak pocket camcorders, are more affordable than Alba and they incorporate similar functions.

All manufacturers offer a warranty for pocket camcorders, so make sure that your retailer provides it. Your reseller should be able to explain to you the terms of the warranty. It is highly recommended that you understand those terms, so that you get the maximum advantage of the warrant, in case you ever need to use it. Also, see if the retailer offers after sales service, so that you can get free help in case something goes wrong in the future.

Jargon Explained

LCDLCD stands for the Liquid Crystal Display that is used for electronically displaying the objects under focus of the pocket camcorder.
Optical zoomOptical zoom refers to the magnification of the subject by mechanical realignment of lenses.
Digital ZoomDigital zoom is the magnification of the subject by simply enlarging the image by increasing the size of pixels.
Flash MemoryFlash Memory refers to a form of non-volatile storage in pocket camcorders that can be erased and rewritten.
USBUniversal Serial Bus is the specification used to establish a connection between the pocket camcorder and the computer.
GBThe measurement of a pocket camcorder’s memory in terms of Gigabytes.
Image StabilisationImage stabilisation refers to the group of techniques used in the reduction of blurring and distortion of footage due to motion of the pocket camcorder or the subject. 

Buying Guide to Pocket Camcorders
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