All the tests and procedures described in this article are carried out or overseen by professional testers in specialist camera testing laboratories in Europe. The test method is decided on by representatives of consumer organisations from around the world who have many years' experience and specialised expertise in videocamera testing.
Fortunately, video camera models are becoming more consistent from country to country, which makes an international test possible. However, markets do vary so each country gets to suggest which cameras should be included. Where there is general agreement the selection is easy, but in some cases a camera that is popular in only one market will not make the cut.
Video quality score
All video recordings are made at the maximum resolution setting in auto mode. The devices are mounted on a tripod recording our test scene, with a mix of static and moving objects in the foreground and background for a minute with panning. An expert viewing panel assesses the resolution, sharpness, colour and overall image quality of recordings in daylight and artificial light. They also assess macro recordings, recordings made in low light and (where applicable) at night. Testing for low light is carried out with an ambient light measurement of 8 lux. Our testers also look at low light performance when panning across a scene as well as operating the optical zoom.
Ease of use score
The panel looks at the instructions; ease of various functions; quality and functionality of the viewfinder, LCD monitor and remote control; portability of the camcorder and data transfer to a computer. They also measure the time delay between switching the recorder on and being able to use it.
Sound quality score
A panel assesses quality of speech and music recorded with the inbuilt and external microphone (if applicable). They also look at whether there is any sensitivity to wind noise.
Our testers assess the overall quality and speed of auto-focusing on a number of subjects in close, mid- and long range.
Testers look at the picture stabilisation function, as well as its effect on picture quality.
Photo recording score
For the still-photo score, the panel assesses the quality of photos taken in daylight, shutter delay and the transfer speed of still pictures via USB. All the models support USB version 2.0 for video and still photo transfers.
The panel measures how long the batteries last using a recording and playback test cycle. The camcorder is positioned on a slowly rotating turntable recording a well-lit room, with items at different distances, until the camera stops. During this time the camcorders are switched to full auto-recording mode, with the monitor, autofocus and image stabiliser switched on..
The overall score is made up of ease of use (15%), daylight picture quality (15%), artificial light picture quality (10%), low light picture quality (10%), sound quality (10%), autofocus (15%) image stabilisation (10%), still photo (10%) and LCD monitor (5%).
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Get expert views and reviews in our latest Video cameras test report.