11 June 2013 by Nishant Soni
Buying the best digital camcorders of 2013 requires you to look into two important factors- The optics and video storage.
The optics directly impact the video quality that you will be able to capture with your digital camcorder and is broadly characterised by the lens and the image sensor. The lens directs the incoming light to the image sensor which is then stored using the available video storage format.
The rule of thumb is that the bigger the lens and the image sensor the better the video quality you get. Lens sizes vary from around 37 mm diameter for the cheaper consumer camcorders to around 60 mm for the professional camcorders. Sensor size would correspondingly vary from 1/6 inch to around 1/3 inch for the professional camcorder.
Another key point to note about image sensor is the number of pixels used to store each primary color. Standard sensors (CCD/CMOS) use 1 sensor to figure out the ALL the primary colors per pixel. However, professional camcorders often come with 3CCD/3CMOS sensors which use 1 sensor for each of the three primary colors going into each pixel. Consequently, 3CCD based camcorders offer much better video quality albeit at a much higher price point. 3CCD camcorders are also indispensable for low-light photography.
The other big thing to focus upon while looking for the best camcorder is the video storage. Broadly speaking the two popular choices today are the tape based solutions which is primarily Mini-DV and the Hard Disk Drive based offerings.
Mini-DV has been with us for quite some time but is currently being phased out in favor of hard drive based camcorders. However, Mini-DV is still a great video storage option because it offers a pretty affordable solution for high quality video and is good for archiving videos for a longer periods of time. Hard Disk Drive based storage offers a correspondingly lower quality video (due to usage of AVCHD format, as opposed to the HDV format used in Mini-DV) and is still pretty cumbersome to manage for long term video archiving.
One other popular video storage format is Flash technology which is more suitable for pocket camcorders. However flash based storage is limited to small video sizes as SD Card which is the most popular flash based storage solution comes in the maximum size of around 32GB.
The best video camcorders of 2013 can be broadly categorized as below, based on their corresponding use case and price points:
1. Pocket camcorders - Come with flash based storage, comparatively low quality optics, bad low-light performance, good for shooting on the go and vacations and small clips and are cheapest of the lot.
2. Consumer camcorders - Come with Hard disk and Mini-DV based storage options, better optics than pocket camcorders albeit a lot more expensive. Good for home use and casual photography.
3. Professional camcorders - These are camcorders with large sensors and come with great optics with large lens and 3CCD based sensors. Great in low light environments and best for independent filmmaking and videography. Are the costliest of the lot.
We've taken into account expert video camcorder reviews of 2013 to get you a list of the best top rated camcorders that take into account the instrumental factors mentioned in this article.