Monday, December 26, 2011

Plug- A-Matic Buying A Point & Share Camcorder

I hope you thought about why you want a camcorder. The next few posts are going to be kind of a template where I’m going to imagine a possible user and conjure up a possible camcorder option.

Point and Share Camcorders

The point and share person wants a camcorder that they can turn on at a moment’s notice. It is there for the baby’s first steps, the car accident up the street, or one of many conflicts between freedom of speech and law enforcement.

Life happens and you want to be ready. My understanding of what these users want is:

  • Low costs – Between $100 and $199
  • Ease of Use – Push a button and recording happens
  • Able to transfer from the device to the computer
  • Able to upload to a video web hosting service
  • Able to create a DVD for non-techno friends and relatives

It is doable at this price point. But there are trade-offs you need to know:

  • At this price point the video quality will be fair to very okay. Not necessarily great.
  • The audio will be either really bad or just acceptable. (There are exceptions with certain models of camcorders)
  • Outdoors the video will be pretty good. Indoors it can be horrible without a lot of supplemental lighting.
  • You will need to learn how to use some form of video software. It might be the stuff provided by the manufacturer. It might be the free software provided by Microsoft or Apple.
  • Hand held camcorders and smartphone videos suffer from the shakes. Humans cannot hold the camcorder absolutely steady. You will need to think about how are you going to have steady video. Does the camcorder have image or optical stabilization?

It is a balance between what you want, what you need, how much can you pay and the time it might take you to get a video you want to share with friends and family.

The Contenders

If I have to pick I’d go with one of the following vendors/camcorders

High Definition Camcorders

Kodak Playtouch or Playsport
Panasonic HX-DC10 or HXDC1
Sony Bloggie line camcorders

Standard Definition Camcorder

Samsung F50 Flash Memory Camcorder – this is a standard definition camcorder but if you are recording a performance or event from a distance you will appreciate the 52x optical zoom. With the use of optical zoom you will need a tripod or some kind of support to stop the shakes.

If you have a digital television and you plan to watch videos from it this might not be a good option. If you are just uploading to a video web hosting service like YouTube it could be a good affordable way to capture video.

Are These Top of The Line, Bleeding Edge Camcorders?

Not necessarily. Some are current. Others camcorders are being closed out. That is why the price is someplace between $100 and $199, depending on when and where you purchase the device.

Retail vendors are going to charge more. On-line vendors will charge less but you have to factor in shipping.

Stick with known quality sellers. There is a whole line of shifty photography retail and on-line stores who will piece out what was sold by the manufacturer in one box. You want no part of those folks.

These are reliable vendors who have clearly stated return policies and shipping options.

  • Amazon
  • Adorama
  • B and H Photo
  • – harder to find good camcorders but they do have them from time to time.
  • TigerDirect

Retail is going to depend on where you live. Those of us near big cities are going to have stores like Costco, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club. Other folks just have Sears.

What I am noticing is the re-instatement of the 15% restocking fee at the retail level.  Or the 14 day only return policy. Or the slip of paper in the device begging you to return it to the vendor and not the nearby store.

Shop careful. Check YouTube for camcorder reviews, visit places like or Videomaker magazine for information.

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