Tag Archives: camcorder

Which Type of Camcorder is Best?

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When you’re in the market for a new camcorder, how do you know which camcorder is best? Choosing between HDD camcorders, SD card camcorders, and MiniDV or HDV tape-based cameras can be confusing. The best camcorder for you really boils down to how you intend to use the camcorder.

If you live stream like I do, you need a MiniDV or HDV camcorder with FireWire so you can easily connect your camera to a computer and stream the video. If you want portability – and plan to record video files and upload them – either an HDD hard drive camcorder or SD card camcorder may fit your needs better. This way, you won’t need to capture the video from a tape.

With either HDD or SD camcorders, you simply copy a file just like you would from any other drive storage media.

How to Buy a Digital Camera

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Mark called in the other night with questions about cameras. He’s looking for a digital camera that will record in 720p. I tend to do a lot of reviews on different cameras and camcorders. Mark knows there are several I have recommended in the past, but is still unsure which he should buy.

I jokingly told him to wait for the next iPhone because it will allegedly record in 720p. More than just features, you need to look at output with camera purchases. When you see a beautiful photo, find out what kind of camera was used to take it. You can get anything from a pocket camera to an SLR. It’s the quality of what comes out of the camera that you need to be on the watch for.

Sure, you need to decide what features are important to you. If you consistently shoot in one type of setting more than others, make sure you look for something that works well in those conditions. The camera I use to record the HD videos with was chosen because it has extremely sharp, crisp and clear output. However, it sometimes has problems focusing on a specific item. Every once in awhile, you’ll see it go in and out of focus in the middle of the video. That’s because it just doesn’t like to stay focused.

It all comes down to research – just like I’ve said in the past. Decide what things are the most important to you. Read reviews online that other people have done. Don’t just read marketing hype… all companies will claim their product is the best! It’s the people just like you who are going to tell the truth about the purchases they have made.

It seems as though every six months a whole new set of digital cameras comes out. Don’t fall for megapixels or zoom. At the end of the day, it’s the quality of the lens, processor and everything inside the camera that will mean the most to you.

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Creative Vado HD 3rd Generation Video Camera Review

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Ever since I purchased it, I’ve been pretty happy with my Creative Vado HD first generation. I really like it because it has a wide-angle lens. Now, I have in my possession the Creative Vado 3rd Generation! It definitely looks a lot different than the one I already had, that’s for sure. Let’s see how it works!

They’ve improved things with the 3rd Gen. The file format now records in MP4, which is good for both Mac and Windows users. There’s also an audio jack on the top. That allows you to not only listen, but also to plug in an external microphone, as well. It still has the same wide-angle lens, which is a very good thing.

It can record up to two hours, or longer if you use lower resolution. However, if you use the HD Plus format, you can only record one hour. The additions to the Vado HD are nice. Theoretically, it makes it better than previous versions. However, if you didn’t notice, there’s already fingerprints all over it. Even though I’ve only had it for two weeks, it’s all smudgy and icky. I’m grateful to Creative for sending this to me for review. However, I just don’t like the glossy finish.

Another thing I don’t like about the Vado HD is that the only button on the back is really the record button. Do you know how many times I accidentally brushed the wrong buttons during or before recording? You have to be extremely careful when recording. This is the problem with touch controls.

Yes, it’s nice that they have the audio jack. But at least with the first and second generation versions, I didn’t have to be so careful not to press the wrong button at the wrong time. The color is more true-to-life than in older models, and I am happy with that.

Do you own – or have you used – a Vado recorder? What are your thoughts on them? I’m giving this one a 3.5 out of five stars. I really don’t like the glossy look, and I am not happy with the touch screen.

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Kodak Zx1

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I’ve had the Kodak Zi6 pocket video recorder for awhile, and have even posted a review of it. I like it fairly well, so I was excited to test out the new Zx1 when Kodak sent it to me for review. Not only was I ready for even better quality, I was stoked to find out that it is considered to be “weather-proof”. Since I was heading out to Kayak this weekend, I figured it would be the perfect camera to take along.

The main thing that bothered me about the Zi6 was the fact that it dropped frames quite often. It was a good camera otherwise, but frame dropping is just a big no-no in my book. I wanted to give this Zx1 a fair shake.

The Zx1 records 720p at 60 fps with 16:9 aspect ratio. The rubberized doors protect all ports from rain, snow, sand and more. The view screen is 2 inches, and there are cables included to allow you to watch footage on your HDTV. You can also easily upload recorded footage to YouTube with the built-in USB and software.

We’ll see this weekend how well the Zx1 stands up in an outdoor setting. If you have a Zx1, feel free to leave me a follow-up comment or video. Let me know what you like and don’t like about this particular camera. I’ll be sure to post more at a later date on my experiences.

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What’s The World’s Most Flexible Camera Tripod?

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What am I supposed to do when I need my tripod to be flexible, or to shorten it? Most of them are not flexible in any way. However, the Gorillapod will allow me to wrap it around something if I need to!!

The Gorillapod firmly secures your camera to just about anything — anywhere and everywhere! Unlike traditional tripods, Gorillapods do not require a level or elevated surface for you to take the perfect shot. Each Gorillapod is made up of 30 or more fully articulating ball-and-socket joints. You can bend and twist them into any shape, and they’ll always keep your camera steady! Soft rings and rubberized feet prevent your Gorillapod from slipping in even the toughest environments.

Not only is this thing cool looking, it really works well. I can bend the legs any way I might need to. It will still hold the camera steady. What’s so unique about the Gorillapod is that the legs are completely flexible. They are made of a series of spheres that are tightly interconnected. No matter how many times you rearrange them, they’re still going to be solid and not break. You can make this tripod go into the oddest shapes, and fit into the oddest spaces.

Try doing any of these things with a regular tripod – you can’t! You can have a regular tripod, AND this one. Who says you can’t have more than one? So, if you’re looking for a second tripod (or even a first!), or maybe a travel one – this is definitely for you. It works well, it’s compact, and it’s completely flexible. You can even mount the Gorillapod to your dog’s back and have a doggy cam!

Don’t worry – Wicket got a nice doggy treat at the end of this video.

You can purchase the GorillaPod at ThinkGeek.com and don’t forget to use these ThinkGeek coupons:


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How to Produce a Successful Video Shoot

Geek!This is Keegan Blackshear’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Whether it is a live video stream, or a video that you are going to put on YouTube, there are many things that you have to keep in mind. Through my trial and errors in making videos, I have found many important items that need to be addressed to make an all-around decent video. I have arranged them according to what I think is the most important first, to the tip that affects you the least.

  • Video Quality – Good video quality is a must for almost every type of video that you may plan to shoot. In the case of showing small items, you need to make sure that the audience can see what you are holding or showcasing. If you appear as a blur on the screen, you should adjust the video quality. This can be achieved by adjusting the focus. Good video quality is a goal that you need to work towards each and every time you shoot video. Try finding out what quality your device has, and attempt to use it to its fullest. If you can use a video camera or photography camera that can record video, then try to use that. If possible, stay away from webcams as they can have a lower quality picture than that of a video camera. If you must use a web camera, purchase one that is of higher quality instead of one that is less expensive.
  • Lighting – Lighting, along with video quality, is important. If you do not have good lighting for your video, then your audience will not be able to see what you are trying to show them. Placement of lighting is important so the viewer can see what you are showcasing. For example, if you place a lamp to the side of you with the shade taken off, then the viewer will typically be able to see only half of your face. If you can move the lamp in front of you as much as possible, it should cut down on the shadowing of your face. Another example of this is if you are standing in front of a window that is open. The light coming in from a window can darken the things in front of and around it. A simple solution would be to close it, or put a sheet, towel, or a curtain over it. If it is necessary for the window to remain open, then you can brighten the area in front of the window with some artificial light from a lamp or ceiling lights. If there is a brighter window behind the camera, then you could let light in from that window to combat the light in front of the camera. Remember, too much light can be a bad thing. The video can become washed out, where it is hard to see what is on the screen.
  • Sound – Sound is another key item that you need to take into consideration when you are setting up, recording, or streaming video. The placement and surroundings can effect your decision greatly. If you have a microphone on the device that you are using to record or stream video, then you may want to think about getting another microphone. The most convenient spot to place your microphone may not always be the place that you should put it. If the easiest place to put the microphone is behind you, you should automatically think about a different place. If you can not find another spot for the microphone, then you can attempt to make the best of the original microphone on your video recording or streaming device.
  • Information – The information that you give in the recorded or live video is an important factor, because it will help you express your message to the audience. You have to be able to convey what you’re saying to your audience properly, or they may not be able to understand what you are trying to get across to them. You will want to take some time to plan out what you will say ahead of time to prevent the need to redo the shot. Before you stream live video, take some time to look at the material that you will present… rehearse it, then shoot it.
  • Editing – Editing is important mainly to recorded video, as it is difficult to edit a live feed. However, you can record the live video that you streamed, to edit later. Some people prefer to upload raw footage and do nothing with it. That is understandable, because it can be a hassle to edit video. However, it is a good idea to edit video in the event that you made mistakes. Editing may also come in handy if you are unable to get the same camera angle again, because of the time of day, position, or equipment change.

These are the five tips I find most important for beginners to have a successful video shoot. It is easy to incorporate these tips into your video-making routine. If you have any other suggestions that you find helpful, you can find me on Geeks, or leave a comment here.

My Canon HV30 High Definition Video Camcorder

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I’ve been using a Canon GL2 connected to a Mac Mini to broadcast my live stream. It’s been tapped out at about 23 frames per second. Of course, it taps out even more because of all the extra elements I bring into it. I wasn’t looking to use a different camera. However, I’m using one now. The Canon Vixia HV30 was an excellent deal, so I had to give it a try.

The VIXIA HV30 is the HD camcorder to go along with everything else in your HD world. It captures true 1080 High Definition resolution video in 16:9 format, using MiniDV cassette tapes. High Definition and widescreen are the future. Be sure you invest in that future with Canon’s VIXIA HV30.

The VIXIA HV30 comes with an outstanding High Definition video lens – a 10x HD Genuine Canon Optical zoom. It’s the lens you need to record long shots of your child on the soccer field, wide shots of beautiful landscapes, and everything in-between.

Since it is critical to achieve very sharp focus when shooting in High Definition, the VIXIA HV30 camcorder features Canon’s revolutionary Instant AF focusing system. It offers a dramatic improvement in auto focus speed and accuracy. This system achieves focus instantaneously, reducing focus “hunting.” With Instant AF, it’s possible to get fast, accurate focusing, even when following a moving subject.

The reason I went with this camera, is because it connects via FireWire. This allows me to use it as a webcam. I’m using a wide-angle lens. This way, I’m able to bring not only myself into the video, but also more of my surroundings.

This camera is excellent. The video quality is simply amazing, and does more than what I even need. People are swearing up and down that they can tell the new setup is worse… or better. However, I think it’s much better now. I tweak the settings and lighting quite a lot, so stay tuned to see what happens.

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Flip Video Camcorder Tip: Get One

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If you buy only one new tech gadget this year, you really should look at getting a Flip Video camera. This thing is literally plug-and-play. It doesn’t matter if you have a PC or a Mac. If you have a USB port, you can use this camcorder. Simply point the camera at what you want to video, push the button, and voila! It records. It truly is that simple.

The one that I bought holds about 60 minutes’ worth of video. I actually bought two of these, one for me and one for my Dad. I wanted to see if it really is as simple to use as it claims to be. Within ten minutes, my Dad had opened it, set it up and recorded his first video. That just goes to prove the ease of use for this little device. Just shoot, plug it in, and share your work.

Even for a Techie, this is a great little device. The upload to YouTube feature is very simple, but the audio compression is not great, in my opinion. Keep in mind, when you plug in the camera, the computer will recognize it as a USB device. You can simply browse on your system to find the device, and locate your video files. You don’t have to use the software that comes with it, nor upload directly to YouTube. You can take your .avi files and do what it is you need to do with them.

This little camcorder definitely gets the job done. The price is unbeatable for what you’re getting. There simply isn’t a comparable device on the market right now, when you consider price, ease-of-use, and quality.


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Camcorder Buying Tips

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There are a LOT of choices out there when it comes to buying a new Camcorder. How many MegaPixels do you need… or do they even matter? Here are some excellent tips sent in by a community member, to help you in choosing your next Camcorder.

  • Megapixels do not increase video quality Everywhere you go, you read about Megapixels. However, this is really just marketing from the manufacturers. While the megapixel count has a big impact on the quality of the still photos that your camcorder takes, it has very little impact on the video quality. What impacts the video quality is the size of the chip inside the camcorder (called the CCD). A CCD is simply the chip that recognizes light. It takes the light in as input and breaks it down into the basic Reds, Blues, and Greens. Naturally you want 3 CCD’s to capture anything nice and pretty. Many people rely on the auto features for still video when in reality you want to be able to white balance your picture, as well as set the focus to your face.
  • Figure out where and when you are going to use your camcorder Some camcorders do better indoors, while others do better outdoors. Some camcorders are more compact… while others are easier to handle. Before you start shopping for a camcorder, write down 5 or 10 different situations you see yourself using your camcorder in.
  • Low light performance matters – a lot! You’ll read people talking a lot about the low light performance of a camcorder. Now, when we talk about low light performance, we’re not just talking about a bar or a dark basement. We’re talking about the inside of your typical house! Low light to you and me is much different than low light to a camcorder. Typical room lighting is low light for a camcorder, so you should pay extra careful attention to the low light performance before you buy.
  • There are features, and then there are features that matter A lot of camcorder makers have put features on their models that might seem to be important and helpful, but in reality they are just gimmicks. While we mentioned megapixels, another one to look out for is an on-camera video light. These never have enough power to really improve your video quality. However, the biggest gimmick is digital zooms. Camcorder makers will advertise 500x, 600x or 700x digital zooms. The problem with a digital zoom is that it highly distorts the picture, and you should never use it. When shopping for a camcorder you should totally ignore the digital zoom.
  • Hybrids still and video is not always a good thing While a lot of people like the convenience factor of being able to combine your digital camera and your camcorder in one package, it’s not the most frugal choice. Unless you’re spending upwards of $1,000, you’re not going to get the same still performance out of a camcorder that you would out of a digital camera priced under $200. The best deal is to buy them separately. You will save money and also get better quality.
  • Play before you buy With a camcorder, it is critical that you’re able to hold it steady to shoot good video. While some of you may be thinking, “hey, I have image stabilization so I can shoot while I’m in an earthquake”… image stabilization’s capabilities are limited on all models. It is really important that you’re able to hold the camcorder still and stable and comfortably. Even when buying online, go into a store and play with the models before you click buy.
  • Buy a warranty, bag and tripod Although you might be a bit wary of salespeople’s techniques to up-sell you to buy more, you should always buy a warranty with your new camcorder. Considering that this is a portable device that you’ll be taking outside and on adventures, the likelihood of it breaking is pretty high. As for a bag, it’s important to protect your camcorder from damage and a dedicated bag is the best solution. You might balk at the idea of lugging around a tripod to events you want to shoot, but it’s the best way to ensure that your video isn’t shaky and that people will want to watch it and not get sick!
  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably is When buying online, remember the old adage “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” If you find a price that is drastically lower than most of the competition, it is very likely that you’ll get a camcorder from a country other than the one you are buying in, a camcorder with it’s accessories missing, or not get your camcorder at all. You also should be careful to make sure you’re buying a NEW product, and not a re manufactured one.
  • All camcorders are not made equal While most of the models on the market will suit your needs, there are huge differences in the different camcorders on the market today. Don’t just buy any old camcorder, research and understand the models before you actually make a decision.
  • Use your camcorder! While this isn’t strictly a buying tip, it’s important nonetheless. Don’t just buy your camcorder, put it in a closet and take it out only for a wedding or graduation. Think of new interesting events and things that you can tape. You may capture some amazing memories.


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Digital Camcorder Incompatibilities Insanity!

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One of our community members by the name of James sent a very well thought out email to me the other day. He has a rant about the proprietary software that must be used by each different camcorder manufacturer. He has some excellent points that I wanted to expand on.

Hello Chris. I must rant about something for a few moments.

I am extremely annoyed with the fact that corporations like Sony, Canon, and JVC (amongst others) feel the need to restrict users to a certain video editing application by utilizing a proprietary format. What is the point of forcing us to use a certain video editing software over another? Why make users go through the process of rendering out a video to another format only to edit it in yet another video editing package? Does anyone really benefit from this?

If I want to use Sony Vegas — then let me do that! If I want to use Adobe Premiere, then I should have a right to do that as well.This goes for all other video editing software. It is common sense. It does the consumers no good in my opinion, and it has been a problem that I have seen discussed in forums for years. Why do these companies fail to take notice of this?

Do you believe it is possible in the future to have access to a video format that will allow all amatuer and professional videographers alike to edit with any software of their choosing?

I just became an Uncle recently, and I’m really excited about it. I asked my brother if they’re taking videos constantly of Xander, and he said no… just pictures. I was like “WHAT? Why not video?!?!” He replied that it’s just really difficult to manage their camcorder, etc. That’s very telling, right there.

Most digital cameras today have the ability to take movies. It may not be “amazing” quality, but I find that it’s good enough for my needs. Most cams record in an .AVI or .MP4 format. The first universal audio format was .MP3. No matter how hard other developers try to introduce new formats to compete… MP3 will still be there. Anyone can play them, and use that format. The same holds true for video recorders. In my opinion, if a video recorder doesn’t support .MP4, it’s not worth buying.

I agree with James. This proprietary stuff needs to go. We need to be able to just use the hardware and software of our choosing, and be able to do the same thing. Why do companies do this? They want to lock you into their brand or products. History has shown us that this will fortunately not be the “norm” for long. Consumers demand that products be consumer-friendly.


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