Depending on how you want to use your camcorder, you need the following connections
Playing back your recordings on most TVs requires the digital video to be translated into analogue signals, which means a loss of quality. However if you have a HD camcorder with a HDMI connection, you will enjoy the best possible digital audio and video with no loss of quality. But you need a HDMI connection on your TV and/or home theatre system to enjoy the benefits.
All the camcorders have a standard audio/video (AV) output and come with an AV cable you can connect to your TV. Some also have a higher-quality S-video output. But to use this you need a TV or VCR with S-video input, and a special S-video cable.
If the camcorder has AV or S-video inputs, you can use it to record TV programs or digitise your analogue VCR recordings (for example, if you want to edit them digitally, or for safer storage).
You can transfer your recordings digitally to your computer without loss of quality. Only the camcorders that use MiniDV tape have a digital video (DV or ‘firewire’) output. You need a fairly powerful computer and special software (provided with almost all the camcorders) to transfer video recordings. MiniDV camcorders are becoming increasingly difficult to find, particularly for an SD videocamera.
On models with a DV input, you can also transfer your edited recordings from the computer back onto tape without loss of quality.
In the past, USB transfers were much slower as the the older USB1.1 standard was used. But most new camcorders now use the much faster USB 2.0 standard which delivers similar performance to Firewire when moviing video data from camcorder to the PC.
Apple Mac owners should confirm that the camcorder is supported before making a purchase.
What is HD?
The HD camcorders CHOICE tested can record video at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, also known as 1080i, which can be shown at full quality on most new and recently purchased plasma and LCD TVs. None of the models we tested can capture video at 1080p resolution, which is considered the highest resolution currently available on a camcorder and not generally available outside a professional broadcast camera.
Statements such as ‘full HD’, ‘1080p’ or ‘1080i’ indicate support for the highest resolution video your camcorder can record and display. All the HD camcorders tested will play both digital video and audio through a High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) which provides the best possible audio and picture quality. However, you need a HDMI connection on your TV and/or home theatre system to enjoy the benefits. Some of the HD camcorders use a mini HDMI connection, so if you don't get the cable with the camera, factor around $50 extra into the overall price.
Saving your memories
In the past, almost all video cameras recorded to tape – even as we we moved into the digital video (DV) age. But these days, most camcorders record video either to removable storage cards or onto an internal hard drive.
However, purchasing extra cards each time you want to record more video can be expensive and in the case of hard drive based camcorders, the video has to be moved off the camcorder once the internal drive is full and onto a computer’s hard drive or disc. While no solution is foolproof, some form of protection, such as backing up your video to an external hard drive or DV disc will free up your camcorder and provide peace of mind.
For more information on external backup drives and keeping your data safe, check out our External hard drives article. If you don’t have a computer, another option could be to record your footage on to a DV disc using a DVD recorder.
If you enjoy editing movies on your PC, why not share them online? That way you can ensure that a copy of your work is kept safe in cyberspace and you can show off your latest productions at the same time. Sites such as Vimeo allow you a certain amount of space to upload a movie, while YouTube is proving to be an extremely popular option for anyone wanting to share movies online either for everyone to see or just for a select few.