How to Buy Home Video Equipment: 5 Steps - MakeSureHow
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Home video equipment largely falls into three categories: HD video camcorders; DVD players and Internet media boxes; and flat screen televisions. In the field of DVD players and set-top boxes, the hardware has largely become commodity products – the components are identical and only the branding label makes any difference. Camcorders are nearly at that stage now, but there's a lot more differentiation in product types in that field. Most camcorders on the market are well made, reasonably priced and feature rich. Your primary choices boil down to a combination of the features you want and your available budget.


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    Identify Your Usage Pattern: While TVs are used every day, and DVD players and set-top boxes nearly as often, most camcorders end up collecting dust on closet shelves within six months of purchase. Recording video is easy; editing video is time consuming and takes practice to master. If you're just recording the occasional event -- a wedding, a trip on a cruise, a high school or college graduation -- you're probably better off renting a camcorder or using the video-recording capability of your cell phone or still camera. If you know you're going to be recording your kids sporting events every week or plan on doing a video blog, buying your own camera makes sense. If you're primarily recording indoors, it's also worth the extra consideration to buy a camera with a universal camera mount to place on a tripod.
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    Must-Have Features: For late 2012, the most common extra feature for a television set is Internet connectivity or the ability to use Intel's WiDi wireless connection method. For camcorders, SD (Standard Definition) camcorders are a definite minority, and HD (High Definition) will probably be the new normal by mid 2013. Expect to pay between $600 and $1,000 for a camcorder depending on price and features. You'll want a camera with an 8x optical zoom as an absolute minimum. Fortunately, all but the low-end cameras have this capability as a standard feature. Don't confuse optical zoom with digital zoom; digital zoom merely zooms in on the playback on the camcorder. You'll also want to have a camcorder with either a hard drive or flash-based drive for storage. These technologies have quickly replaced the older replaceable media formats of mini-DVD and DV tape cassettes.
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    Other Equipment: While most camcorders have image stabilization via a free-floating optical element in front of the sensor, nothing will improve the quality of your video more than a good tripod rig and using the camcorder in a controlled, well-lit environment – if you're going to be shooting indoors, buying photographers lights and reflectors is well worth the investment. If you haven't bought a new computer since 2008, be aware that the current standard video format recorded by camcorders, AVCHD, takes a lot of processing power and a fair bit of RAM to edit in programs such as Microsoft Movie or Apple's iMovie. Video editing, even when working with small files, is a time-consuming process. It's even worse when you're waiting three minutes for every effect or transition to be applied.
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    Features of Concern: Camcorders and smartphones that record HD video are pushing the limits of how small a camcorder can be and still be effective. While smaller is usually better when it comes to consumer electronics, camcorders need to have controls that can be manipulated by touch, preferably while your eyes are still glued to the viewfinder. When checking out camcorders, hold them up and use them for some test shots before you buy. Make sure that the LED display is large enough to be useful when you're holding the camcorder at a comfortable distance, and confirm that you can manipulate and use the controls with one hand easily. Avoid camcorders with hard-to-access battery packs and awkwardly placed cable ports, if possible. The good news is that, as far as camcorders go, the bar of quality has gotten quite high.
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    Television Purchasing: You'll want something to display your videos. While there's plenty to be said about television purchasing, if you're in the market for a television in early 2013, get an LED TV unless you have a compelling reason to go with a plasma display; plasma displays have better color saturation and deeper blacks, but the gap has closed to the point that it's nearly impossible to tell the difference. Keep in mind that for a 1080p TV that your seating distance should be about 1.5 to 2 times the diagonal dimension of the TV. Much like camcorders, this category has matured enough that there are no bad choices, and prices seem to come down by 10 to 20 percent every nine months.

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