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  • How to Buy a Compact Video Camera
Technology Articles > Photo, Video & Audio > camcorders > How to Buy a Compact Video Camera

A few years ago, analog video cameras ruled store shelves. Today, consumers have a choice between analog and digital video cameras. The majority of cameras on the market are digital cameras, though some analog options can still be found. While you can edit your film while using a digital camera, this is not possible when using an analog device. Aside from choosing between analog and digital, it’s also important to note a camera’s zoom capabilities and video quality. Most cameras cost anywhere from $199 to more than $500.

Digital Zoom Vs. Optical Zoom

The zoom number that is listed on the outside of a camera package means very little. This number is comprised of a camera’s digital zoom combined with the same camera’s optical zoom. Looking for a camera that has a higher optical zoom is far more important than finding a device with a high digital zoom.

Optical zoom refers to actual lens movement. This type of zoom is also known as “authentic zoom.” When a camera has a high optical zoom, the device will be able to get closer to any subject that you are filming. Digital zoom has nothing to do with how close a lens comes to a subject. Instead, digital zoom consists of combining pixels in order to make an image appear larger. Enlarged pixels can result in a blurry picture, and sometimes small squares that appear in an image.

Image Quality

Video cameras include two types of sensors: CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) and CCD (charge coupled device). Generally, a camera with a CMOS sensor will consume less battery power and project a better image than a camera with a CCD sensor. However, the difference between the two types of sensors is miniscule. Another way to determine camera quality is to look at the number of pixels a camera has.

Manufacturers list two types of pixel counts on a camera package: gross and effective. Looking closely at the number of effective pixels a camera has is important. If a camera claims to have a large number of gross pixels and a small number of effective pixels, this camera should be avoided. Otherwise, you will be purchasing a camera that uses interpolation technology. The interpolation process can make photos appear blurry.

Image Stabilization

Most cameras now include image stabilization, though inexpensive cameras may not include this technology. An image stabilizer makes it easier to film without causing the camera to shake. The only other way to achieve a stabilized shot is to use a tripod. When purchasing a camera, make sure to find one that includes image stabilization if you intend to shoot a lot of still videos.

In many instances, cameras that have a high digital zoom count do not have image stabilizers. While the jump between cameras with a lot of digital zoom and a camera with a higher amount of optical zoom may be big price-wise, the extra cost will pay off in the long run. Unless you play to use a tripod every time you use your camera, purchase a camera with image stabilization.

PS: An underwater digital camera should not only be waterproof, it should also be tough. Many underwater cameras that are not tough enough to withstand travel are available for low prices. While fine for a backyard pool party, any camera that will be traveling with you must include a protective shell. Other considerations include added features, waterproof capability, and computer compatibility. On average, a decent underwater camera can be purchased for around $200.