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Guide to Web Friendly Camcorders

How to find the best camcorders for recording Web videos

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Guide to Web Friendly Camcorders

Photo courtesy Pure Digital

A funny thing happened to camcorders over the last few years: the Internet. Before the days of YouTube and Vimeo, the only way to view your videos was your TV or, if you were ambitious, your computer. Forget about sharing them - you could burn a disc or lug your camcorder and A/V cables around, but neither were terribly elegant solutions.

No more. Today, broadcasting your home movies, cherished moments, epic fails and more is as simple as hitting "upload."

If you're looking for a camcorder that's well suited to create videos for online uploading, you're in luck. As sites like YouTube have become more popular, camcorder makers have responded by offering a few Internet friendly features. Chances are, no matter what camcorder you buy today, no matter what file format your camcorder records in (AVCHD, MPEG-2, H.264, etc.) it will include software that can upload your videos to YouTube and possibly other video sites as well. If you don't possess such software, you can upload your camcorder footage the old fashion way, directly through the Web site itself.

That said, there are some camcorders that go out of their way to make it easy to move videos from the camcorder's memory into cyberspace. Here are some features to look for in a "Web friendly" camcorder:

Dedicated Upload Button: A camcorder with a dedicated upload button provides a shorter path for video uploads skipping the step of first loading video files to a computer. After you connect your camcorder to your computer via USB, a press of the "upload" button will typically launch a software program that enables you to upload your videos to YouTube (and often other video sites as well) without first downloading those videos from your camcorder to your computer. It's an increasingly popular function on camcorders of every price.

Of course, you should eventually download those videos to your computer as well. YouTube isn't your personal hard drive, and if the footage is valuable, you should be sure to keep a copy of the movie stored on your hard drive (you can learn more about archiving camcorder video here).

Built-in Software: While some camcorders may not build in a specific button to launch a software uploader, some models, especially pocket camcorders, have software loaded into them that launches automatically whenever you connect your camcorder to a computer. This software almost always contains a video upload function that can log you into your online account and let you post videos to the site without using a Web browser.

Built-in USB Plug: A popular feature on the Flip line of pocket camcorders, and some of its imitators, a built-in USB plug doesn't bear directly on a camcorder's Web friendliness per-se, but does make it easier to connect your video camera to a computer. And that, obviously, helps the uploading process.

Web modes: YouTube imposes some limitations on the video you can upload: it can't be longer than 10 minutes and the file size can't exceed 2GB. A camcorder with a Web mode will ensure your videos conform to these limitations by limiting the file size and capping your recording time at ten minutes.

While Web modes serve a purpose, it's best to record your video at the highest resolution your camcorder offers. It may make the video less Web friendly, but you can always shrink the file size of your video file or create a shorter Web edit using basic video editing software if you're desperate to get it online. In other words, you can always make high quality video Web-friendly, but you can't do the reverse, so better to create an archive worthy original.

Eye Fi Cards: If you already own a camcorder with an SD card slot and want to enhance its online capabilities, consider an Eye Fi Video card. It's a wireless SD card that can automatically upload your videos to one of six video-capable Websites whenever it's in range of your home network (or a public hotspot if you buy a card with that functionality). With an Eye Fi card, you don't need to connect your camcorder to anything to get your photos uploaded - just turn your camcorder on. (Read a review of the Eye Fi Video Cards below.)

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