Video Camera Shopping on a Budget

Video cameras are expensive, and stores won't reduce their prices just because you are shopping on a budget. However, you can make sure you get the most out of the money you spend by purchasing a device with the features you need and the storage format that fits your intended purposes.

  1. Storage Format

    • When you want the most storage for your dollar, choose a camera with a magnetic internal hard drive. Solid-state flash drives are faster than magnetic hard drives, but magnetic hard drives cost less than flash drives on a per-gigabyte basis. Magnetic hard drives come in models with higher gigabyte capacities than flash drives offer, which lets you store more footage on your camera than on cameras with internal flash drives or flash card readers. If you are searching for the best deal on a device with the most storage capacity, select a video camera with both a magnetic internal hard drive and flash memory card slots for overflow footage.


    • For the most economical combination of portability and storage capacity, consider a camera with an internal flash drive. While flash drives are more expensive than magnetic drives and do not have the same maximum storage capacity, a flash drive is smaller and lighter than a magnetic drive of the equivalent capacity. You can pay even less money for a handheld camera that has no internal memory and instead relies entirely on flash memory cards. You either purchase the memory card size you want or use flash memory cards you already own.

    Optical Vs. Digital Zoom

    • Knowing the difference between optical zoom and digital zoom in video cameras is essential to understanding what you are buying. Optical zoom is image magnification from the video camera's lens, which moves to bring a distant object into focus. Digital zoom simply increases the size of the pixels on the intended part of the picture. Only the camera's optical zoom moves the lens to give you a better shot of your child playing basketball while you sit in the bleachers or while he is swimming in the pool. Video cameras often advertise a zoom capability that multiples the device's digital zoom capabilities by the device's optical zoom capability. For example, a video camera may advertise that it has "9X zoom." This statistic, however, could mean that the camera has only a 3X optical zoom combined with a 3X digital zoom. Look closely at the details of a camera's separate optical and digital zoom capabilities before you pay for a camera that inflates its zoom capabilities.

    Image Stabilization

    • No matter how much money you spend on a camera, if your footage is shaky, it looks like an amateur shot it. To prevent camera movement from overshadowing your camera's capabilities, look for automatic image stabilization in a camera of any size or type. This feature eliminates camera shake due to minor movements, such as those from an unsupported hand holding a camera. It does not eliminate motion from your footage if your hand is seriously shaking or you are running with the camera, but gives you steady footage without the need for a tripod.

    High Definition

    • Before you buy a high-definition video camera, examine the capabilities of the screen on which you will watch the footage you shoot. If you buy a high-definition video camera that films at 1080p but your television or media player only displays resolutions up to 720p, you cannot see the extra detail your video camera recorded in the footage. If the devices that play the images you shoot do not have high-definition capabilities to match your video camera, then you waste any money you spend on a camera's high-definition format.

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