£1,000 camcorders

Introduction

We’re forever straddling platforms, either leaping to the latest or sticking with what we know. Mac OS X-wise, plenty will adopt Leopard when it makes an appearance, but there are those who haven’t yet even been tempted by Tiger. Consumer-video technology platforms are warping, too, with high-definition (HD) and its enhanced image and audio resolution specs enticing folk currently equipped with standard-definition kit.

Naturally, equipment manufacturers would like us to take up the new, and so HD camcorders are coming to market at less than £1,000 a throw, lining up against higher-end SD camcorders with their inferior resolution. So, when seeking to shoot some serious video, is it best to buy into the budget end of HD, or into the upper echelons of enthusiast-camcorder technology?

With standard-definition capture, you’ll capture video at 720 x 576 pixels, typically at an aspect ratio of 4:3, which is what you’d see on a standard PAL television. For 16:9 widescreen, the vertical (line) resolution remains at 576, and many modern camcorders enable you to switch ratios. HD brings a line resolution of 1080i. That’s an interlaced vertical resolution nearly double that of standard resolution, so you’re looking at a full-image resolution of 3.75 times higher than PAL. This makes a big difference to image quality, although you’ll need to be assured that your videos will be played on equipment that can do them justice. After all, there are still those who haven’t given a thought to digital broadcasting, never mind HD TV.

To help you decide whether or not to be an HD early adopter, we’ve gathered up four quality camcorders. Two sit at the top end of the SD consumer market and tote some excellent on-board features. Most notable is the built-in hard drive in the JVC model, while both the JVC and Panasonic sport triple-CCD imaging-chip arrays.

The competing two are budget 1080i HDV camcorders, both writing to MiniDV cassette. All have auto and manual shooting modes, can take stills, have optical zooms (because we never use digital zoom, now do we?), feature some form of image stabilisation and sport flip-out, 2.7in LCD screens for composition and image review. Each is around the £1,000 mark, hence a serious investment, so let’s roll ‘em and see which platform affords the best view.

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