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From the author of Shopping for a Prosumer Video Camera

Shopping for a Prosumer Video Camera

Deciding first whether to shoot in HD or DV and whether to shoot tape or go tapeless will narrow your choices. Many small camcorders will have the features you need, but the layout of controls and the shape of the camera are also important. Smaller isn't always better when it comes to video cameras. Many small cameras don't have enough space for manual buttons to control all the functions they offer. Finding the camera adjustment you need in the moment while shooting—especially if it's buried in a submenu menu—is complicated. It's also virtually impossible to hold a small camera still while shooting handheld without a tripod or brace.

On a personal note, I use the Sony HDR-FX1 tape camera shown in Figure 1. It's a real workhorse.

Start your shopping on the Web, but get into a store as soon as you can to see the real thing. You need to get a feel for the camera's balance and how comfortable a camcorder is to use. Be sure to check out the camera's reviews before making your selection. There are many good review sites that include both customer and professional reviews. Take a look at CNET,, and Large stores and mail order houses like and in New York also list specifications from manufacturers. Many sites include reviews from professionals and consumers.

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