/ Technology

Do we still need the humble camcorder?

The camcorder used to be the pride of every amateur videographer. But with today’s digital cameras and smartphones, is there still room for the standalone camcorder?

It wasn’t long ago when we’d get out our camcorders to record special family moments, like weddings and birthdays, or to get footage of humorous pratfalls that we could then sell to You’ve Been Framed (for a rather appealing £250).

Now, a lot of us own several devices capable of recording video, such as smartphones, digital cameras and even tablets. Does anyone shoot with a home camcorder any more?

Last year, the makers of the popular Flip camcorder, Cisco, decided to cease production of its pocket-sized camcorder. And in January this year, a US research firm revealed that sales of camcorders in the Christmas period of 2011 dropped by a massive 43%.

It would seem that we’re falling out of love with the camcorder.

Smartphones and digital cameras takeover

Although I own a camcorder myself, I have to admit that it’s been collecting dust on the top of my wardrobe (the resting place for all my electronics before they’re ‘stored’ in the loft) for a couple of years now.

The last few family gatherings have all been documented on my smartphone and digital SLR, which are always to hand, and both capable of recording at the high-definition 1080p. Not only that, but footage taken on my smartphone can be easily uploaded to YouTube or shared by email in an instant, without the need to ever connect it to a PC.

The results aren’t going to have James Cameron fearing for his job, but for what I want, it’s fine. People also seem more at ease with being filmed on a mobile or digital camera; whip out a camcorder, and suddenly everyone’s giving you their best side and casually checking their hair in the mirror.

Relegated to amateur film makers?

That’s not to say we should forget about the camcorder entirely. Over the last few years, the internet has provided a fantastic platform for amateur film makers, many of whom are producing exceptional works with their trusty devices.

But for those of us who just want to capture Auntie Jean blowing out her birthday candles, or the family dog riding a skateboard, do we really need the expense of a dedicated camcorder?

So, are you a die-hard camcorder fan, or do you find yourself reaching for your camera or phone to capture special moments?

Andy Seal says:
2 May 2012

Your Key phrase : “my smartphone and digital SLR, “.
Many, Many camcorders are cheaper than your DSLR and lenses. How often do you reach for your DSLR because of the limitations of smartphone video? Don’t get me wrong, I filmed and edited our last family holiday entirely on the iPhone 4s. Yet not all 1080p is created equal. Lens quality and internal processing are important factors.
So when entry level HD camcorders in the £150 to £300 street price range have zoom, capacity limited only by the sd cards you buy ( don’t you find you run out quickly on the iphone 4s? ), tripod mount, not to mention varying degrees of manual control over white balance, recording format, etc they are still useful.
I have a Canon G12 that shoots beautiful 720p and recently found a bargain at Currys, a Canon HF M406 for £239 ( display model ).

It depends on what you want to record and how often. I suspect a smartphone would be adequate for many people.

However, if you want to produce good quality video footage of a hobby or a sport then a camcorder is preferable. I follow springboard and platform diving, enjoy recording landscapes and railway based scenes. My DSLR will do this quite well but does not give me the range of manual settings or the speed of focus and zoom as my camcorder.

If I could only have one camera I would choose a camcorder that also takes good quality pictures over a DSLR that takes good quality video. But, as I say, it all depends what you want to use it for, and how much you can afford to spend.

Smartphones are ok for little snippets of footage I guess, but for anything more than that I’d rather use my trusty Flip Camcorder. It won’t be interrupted by a phone call or text, and I can screw a tripod into it and leave it running. I guess it all comes down to what you want to do with it.
Same with a Smartphone, I have one, but I don’t make a lot of calls or send a lot of texts, it’s an all round device. If I were a heavy texter and caaller, then I’d want a proper phone with real buttons 🙂

I think smartphones are good (despite many people holding them vertically to take videos! Just no!) but remember the lenses are tiny. All the talk of ’14 megapixel smartphones’ is pointless with their small lenses and small receivers.

All of the apps making smartphone photos and videos retro are a symptom of the fact that the footage needs some post-processing to make it look decent.

However, if a good digital camera can also take great video, I’m struggling to see the need for a dedicated video camera…

We’ve all got used to expecting HD images on big-screen TVs, and movies taken on phones just don’t cut it. They’re fine for upload to websites like youtube, emailing to your mates or similar, and I use my iPhone for just that. For anything more significant, like weddings or the growing family, I use my camcorder or DSLR. There are strong arguments in favour of both. I’m not going into the pros and cons here because there are many authoritative www articles on the subject but, generally, camcorders have much greater zoom ranges and are much easier to use for video work; DSLRs have the potential for higher quality and greater control of things like depth of field, as well as interchangeable lenses.

njb says:
4 May 2012

I view it the other way around, on long holiday’s/cruise’s I prefer my Sony Handycam as the quality is second to none (AVCHD) plus I can take stills @ 10megapixels. I have an integrated hard drive of 120 GB plus a 16gb MS. I accept that whilst the video content is very good the still camera aspect is “point and shoot” but ok for me. I agree with other comments that whilst smart phones have all the bells and whistles they are master of none, which is ok for alot of people. I should add that I do not use Facebook or other social media so perhaps the advantages offered by smartphones would be wasted on me.

Not sure what you mean by ‘other social media’. Photo/video sharing websites are very valuable for showing your creations to distant friends/relatives and are not exclusive to smartphones. Your video editor (I do hope you use one, because 120GB will hold horribly long movies!) will create reduced-size versions and upload them for you.

njb says:
4 May 2012

I did not mean the comment re “other social media” as a negative or criticism just how I use technology. I use PowerDirector 10 64bit and a very powerful laptop as the comments re large files is spot on.