Digital cameras have made remarkable strides in the video recording department. You can now purchase still cameras, even digital SLRs, that boast high definition video recording. So you may be wondering why exactly you should even bother with a camcorder at all?
Aside from keeping me employed, there are several reasons a camcorder is still the superior choice for recording all of life's memories in motion.
While some digital cameras are offering 720p video recording, very few compact can match the higher quality 1080p video recorded by even mid-level camcorders. If you want your child’s first steps to look sharp through the ages (or at least until HDTVs are replaced with something better), you can’t top a dedicated camcorder.
Even in standard definition, the gulf in quality can be significant. Standard definition camcorders will capture video at a higher bit rate than a digital still camera.
To learn about camcorder bit rates, please see The Beginners Guide to Camcorder Bit Rates
A camcorder lens will typically offer a far more robust zoom, giving you greater magnification. While there are a number of long zoom still cameras on the market, they still can’t touch the 30x or 60x lenses available on some camcorders.
In many cases, still camera lenses do not even work will filming video. If they do, they don’t always operate quietly, like the lenses on a camcorder. While filming and zooming with a digital still camera, you can pick up the noise of the zoom during filming.
For more on camcorder zoom lenses, see this Guide to Optical vs. Digital Zoom.
Digital still cameras record video to flash memory cards. Digital camcorders can record to memory cards as well, but they can also store video to internal hard drives that offer much more recording time than even your highest capacity flash memory card. You can also record your video straight to DVD for the convenience of easy playback on DVD players.
For more on camcorder memory formats, see this Guide to Digital Camcorder Memory Formats.
The internal microphones used by camcorders are vastly superior to those found on digital still cameras. You’ll find more sophisticated audio recording options on camcorders too, such as the ability to zoom into the source of a sound automatically. Some camcorders can even capture multi-channel, surround sound audio.
While we live in an age of multi-tasking gadgets, their designs are still driven by core functions. Even though cell phones have cameras, they’re still shaped like phones. The same holds for camcorders and digital cameras. Camcorders are designed to be held aloft and steady for longer periods of time. Still cameras are not. Camcorder LCD displays can be rotated to give you a multitude of angles. Most still cameras have fixed displays that can’t be moved.
Some advanced camcorders will let you adjust the field of view, shutter speed and white balance to tweak your image. But you can’t do the same when shooting video on a digital still camera: it’s just point and shoot.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
While digital cameras have certainly come a long way in the video department, they're still no match for a dedicated camcorder to capture those first steps or hour-long dance recitals.