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How to Choose A Video Camera

Article Index

When shopping for a video camera, you'll see the following choices: VHS, S-VHS, 8MM, Hi8, Digital 8, and DV. There are several flavors of DV (digital video) cameras for professional use, such as DVCAM and DVCPRO50, but we'll focus on more affordable options here.

DV cameras, which start at $800, offer the most bang for your buck. They are capable of incredible quality that was impossible for the same money just a few years ago. VHS and 8MM are the cheapest, about $400, but the picture quality is a bit grainy. Hi8 quality is a step above VHS and 8MM, but it falls short of DV quality.

 

Lines of resolution
The difference in picture quality has to do with lines of resolution. For perspective, consider that NTSC video, the standard that defines the characteristics of a TV signal you would see in the United States, provides about 330 lines of resolution for broadcast programs. Televisions are capable of a much better picture quality then what you normally receive from an NTSC broadcast. That's why, after years of renting VHS movies, DVDs look so spectacular.

Just as when you're buying any other piece of electronic gear, the first question to ask yourself is, "What am I going to use this for'"Do you want to start experimenting with that FireWire port on your new PC' Do you want to start a side business producing wedding videos' Do you want to make a film and submit it to the local film festival'How much money you spend will be determined by two factors: How serious you want to get with your video endeavors, and what you can afford.Maybe you'll have to save a few more dollars to get the camera you really want, but it doesn't hurt to start honing your producer chops with something you can afford today.

Based on resolution, DV is your best option -- if you have the cash. Let's say you have decided on DV based on the resolution of the format. Now you have a plethora of cameras to choose from that range in price from $800 to several thousands of dollars. If DV is DV, what accounts for the difference in price for all these cameras' It's important to understand that DV is just a format for storing data on a tape. The quality of your lens and CCD (charge coupled device) will have the biggest impact on what gets stored in the DV format.

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