Camcorders are great for capturing family events, the kids' soccer games and holidays. However, there are occasions when camcorders are used primarily at night or in low-light scenarios. Filming a newborn in the crib, capturing footage of nocturnal animals and other common uses make the feature a necessity. In addition to primary considerations such as zoom, resolution and image stabilization, those scenarios push quality night vision capabilities to the top of the list when shopping for a new camcorder.
1Common Elements:Any camcorder regardless of night vision capabilities should have common characteristics for shooting high-quality footage. Resolution should be at least 1,280 by 720, or 720p in high-definition video terms. Better camcorders offer 1,920 by 1,080, or 1080p resolution, with some even offering recording audio in Dolby Digital. When connecting the camcorder to a modern flat-panel display, this high resolution will match or be close to the resolution capabilities of the television when connected over HDMI. Image stabilization, especially crucial in low-light situations to prevent blurriness, is a good feature to have shooting at any time. Footage is smoother with less visible shaking, making it easier to watch. Try to find the "lux" rating of the device. Low lux ratings indicate that the device has minimal or non-existent night vision capabilities. Optical zoom is preferable to digital zoom if keeping closeups of objects and people clear and noise free is important to you. Look for high optical zoom ratings such as "10x" and higher.
2Accessories: Most camcorders have an accessory or mounting device used for powering external lights and microphones. To enhance night vision capabilities, the accessory can accommodate an external scope with more low-light features than those offered by the camera. For example, most night vision footage has that characteristic green or white look. Many better scopes offer adjustment of the color balance, making images look more as they do during the day by processing red, blue and green. Additionally, many camcorders shoot low-light conditions at reduced resolution. Better quality night vision scope attachments maintain the image quality you expect.
3Testing: Once the camcorder is home, test the capabilities of the unit. Better, modern cameras use infrared or thermal imaging or some combination of the two for solid low-light shooting. Cheaper devices or those where night vision is an afterthought slow the shutter speed, reducing image quality while increasing perceived image blur. Be sure to enter the menu and turn off any lights that might be set to activate if the camera senses low light levels. Go into a room where you can operate in complete darkness. When shooting, look for excessive graininess or the general inability to easily distinguish between objects. These are signs of poor night vision capabilities.
4Battery Life: If you plan on using the camera extensively in low-light scenarios, remember that cameras do much more image processing in these environments than normal daylight shooting. Prior to leaving the store or placing the order, consider investing in a larger-capacity battery than the basic one usually packaged with the device. You will discover that having a higher-capacity battery installed along with a fully charged spare is a good idea if you shoot at night.