How to buy a video camera camcorder

What to look for in a camera and a portable recorder

Most video cameras attach by cable to a portable, battery-powered videocassette recorder (VCR) that you carry on a shoulder strap. The VCR can be either Beta or VHS format. The VCR and the camera must be fully compatible. Different brands sometimes work together, but you may lose the use of some on-camera VCR controls.

Units that combine the camera and the recorder are called camcorders. Besides standard Beta, you can get VHS-C and 8mm units- special compact formats for taping home video. Lenses and light sensitivity

A camera’s zoom range is expressed as a ratio, such as 2:1 or 8:1; the greater the ratio, the greater the lens’s wide angle to telephoto capacity. A power zoom and automatic focusing let you do smoother, freer taping. For indoor shooting, look for a low lensf number, such as fl.2, which indicates better light-gathering capacity. Overall, the lower the camera’s lux number, the greater its dim-light sensitivity.

Other important considerations

A typical video camera viewfinder shows the image coming through the lens like an SLR camera. Advanced models have a tiny TV screen inside, letting you judge lighting better and replay a take on the spot.

Note the time a single tape can record and a battery can run without recharging. Look for a viewfinder with signals for camera on, too dim light. and low battery. Consider a unit’s feel. Will you need a shoulder brace to steady it? Is it compact enough for easy vacation shooting? Try out a unit by renting one.