TeamSugar user PeachyKeen19 recently wrote me asking for advice in buying a new gadget — a camcorder.
A video camera is definitely something you don't want to buy without guidelines, and PeachyKeen19 needs one that can take great quality video for short films and have the whole package: great audio and video. It also needs to be up-to-date and simple to use (just how I like my gadgets).
To see my suggestions for great camcorders, just
The first thing you should decide is whether you want a camera that has an internal hard drive, one that uses memory cards, or one that uses tape, (some even have a combination of the three). The simplest option is using mini DV tapes — just pop it in your camera and go (you get about an hour of video with each tape). I also recommend getting a non hard drive camera because it's a pain to get the footage off the camera, and then you have to store that video on your computer.
If you do go with a hard drive camcorder, be prepared with a lot of space to store your footage. However, if you go with a camera that takes tapes, you can archive the tapes and not worry about cluttering up your computer's hard drive.
I wouldn't worry about audio too much, since it's generally good across the board with name-brand cameras; what you should worry about more is video.
My specific choices? Sony has cameras that work great in low light and give consistently good audio and video. I like their Mini DV Handicam ($300), which uses tapes but is not HD.
If you're really looking for the best picture quality, go with an HD camera. Even though you may think HD is too high-end for now, you should consider it; even if you're not watching your footage on an HDTV, the picture quality will still look amazing. Plus, it's a future-proofing option and you won't regret not upgrading later.
For entry-level HD cameras, I recommend Panasonic; check out the HDC-SC9, which uses SD memory cards (which are pretty cheap themselves); at $800, it's much more than my previous rec, but it may be worth it if you want the visual quality.
Good luck and happy shooting, PeachyKeen19!