Snapshots: The Camcorder’s Pace

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As a teenager, I had this belief that I had an inner Spielberg just waiting to break out of its shell. I wanted to take videos of anything and everything and turn them into little movies. I started out with simple stuff, like recording my friends’ antics and the events that transpired during our free periods in school. Back then I only had my uncle’s camcorder to use, and it became my trusty weapon of choice for taking candid videos. Nowadays, though, I use point-and-shoot cameras for that purpose. On our trip to Subic, however, I was given a camcorder to use for documentation, and I was reminded of how much I missed using one.

These days, it’s hard to come up with a good reason to use a camcorder and choose it over other types of digital cameras. Point-and-shoot cameras are much more portable and convenient to use, and DSLRs and mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras give you more room for creative control since you can shoot using an array of lenses. Moreover, the number of digital cameras that can shoot in high definition is also increasing. Even smartphones and some mobile devices have Full HD video recording capabilities and can produce sharp, vibrant images and video clips. Using camcorders-even the pocket models like the Sony Bloggie and the Kodak Playsport-just doesn’t seem to make sense today, and the reasons to buy one are diminishing by the minute.

The camcorder is no longer the user’s faithful tool for everyday shooting needs. Rick Broida of CNET couldn’t have said it any better: “The ‘problem’ with any camcorder is that it’s one more thing to buy, one more thing to learn, and one more thing to bring along:’ People today see the camcorder as merely an extra gadget to lug around. Your camera phone is already in your pocket, and it’s much, much easier for to whip out for capturing incidental moments on the go. Also, because we are currently thriving in the culture of sharing via social media, and since smartphones, tablets, and an increasing number of digital cameras have built-in connectivity to Wi-Fi and apps that can provide direct access to Face book or lnstagram, the rusty ol’ camcorder is once again ruled out.

So what edge does a camcorder have over other cameras? Does having one still make sense? Is there still a market for it? Though many may disagree, there are still a handful of advantages that camcorders have over DSLRs, point-and-shoot cameras and everything in between when it comes to video recording, depending on what you want to do with your video while you’re shooting or after you’ve finished recording it.

The point-and-shoot camera is definitely the winner in the portability and ease-of-use categories. However, camcorders usually have greater, more powerful optical zoom than compact and bridge cameras as well, allowing you to capture videos from afar without compromising quality. Camcorders also provide more recording options compared to pointand– shoot cameras. Manual focus and manual exposure controls are examples of this. In contrast to point-and-shoot models, camcorders also have better audio capture and a provision for an external microphone in majority of the models and brands.

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DSLRs have manual focus and manual exposure controls like some midand high-tier camcorders, but the thing with DSLRs is that they have terrible rolling shutter problems. Rolling shutter-for those who haven’t done their Googling yet-is a method of image acquisition in which the entire sensor is not exposed in one go. Rather, rolling shutter exposes different parts of the sensor at different points in time, which means that the top and bottom parts of the sensor are capturing different moments in time. It is the method by which most videos on DSLRs, compact cameras, and mobile devices are captured. Rolling shutter can cause various effects on the video, including wobble; skew: smear and “partial exposure.” Rolling shutter occurs in CMOS sensors-the type of sensor found in most DSLRs. CCD camcorders don’t have rolling shutter, thus eliminating the unwanted effects produced by the said system.

In terms of sensor size, however, most camcorders are at the losing end. Camcorders generally have smaller sensors, which means that they yield very little control over depth offield and they have poorer low-light performance compared to DSLRs.

Nevertheless, with the right amount of light, in most cases, camcorders usually produce sharper, more vivid videos. AF performance and zoom speed is also faster in camcorders compared to other cameras, since they are purposefully made for quick and easy shooting. Camcorders are also built for shooting lengthy videos, which is why they come with longstanding battery life, as well as a nifty hand strap that makes the device well suited for extended use. Most camcorders also have hefty internal memory in addition to a provision for an SD card or a memory stick.

Even as digital imaging technology progresses in other cameras, a handful of features found in the camcorder still give it a semblance of superiority in some areas. Yet, it all comes down to purpose. DSLRs are preferred by professional users since they offer more creative control overall with lens options and a pool of in-camera adjustments. For everyday shooting and sharing on the web, smartphones, tablets, and point-and-shoot cameras are the ultimate portable pals.

The trusty ol’ camcorder has its own market, too-those who use its ability to shoot lengthy videos, its optical zoom capability, and all its other features combined to their advantage. The existence of a market for this particular device is just one reason I can think of as to why they should stick around a little longer, even if every other type of camera is unceasingly moving forward.

First published in Gadgets Magazine, May 2013

Words by Racine Anne Castro