Nowadays, you can shoot short videos with a digital camera or even with a cell phone. However, for longer videos of higher quality, a mini camcorder is still the equipment of choice. The prices for mini camcorders have fallen while the choices have grown. Keeping the tips below in mind will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed.

One important consideration in choosing a mini camcorder is determining how you will use the equipment. If you intend to produce videos that you hope that the public will download through services like YTD, you will want a camera that has good editing features. On the other hand, if you primarily intend to use the camera to record important milestones in your family’s lives, then a rugged camera is a good choice.

Traditional or Pocket Orientation

You have two major choices for mini camcorders: traditional or pocket. Neither style is inherently superior to the other. Instead, try holding cameras of each type in the store to determine whether a traditional or a pocket camera feels better in your hand.

Traditional camcorders have grips at the bottom and controls at the top. Traditional camcorders also use media or cables for playback. By contrast, pocket camcorders are oriented like cell phones. Some pocket camcorders have swing-out USB connectors to facilitate connection to a computer.

Format and Memory

Less expensive mini camcorders include removable flash memory while midrange cameras have a hard drive similar to those found in computers. More advanced camcorders feature solid state hard drives which deliver superior performance but add considerably to the price of the camera.

Older models’ mini camcorders used mini-DV tapes, which work on the same principle as a VHS tape or a DVD, and can be adapted to play in a regular VCR. Secure digital cards are easily stored, mailed to family and friends and uploaded onto your computer. On the other hand, mini camcorders with hard drives typically hold about two hours of video and must be hooked up to upload content onto a computer in order to free the hard drive so that you can continue to film.

Zoom Capability

If you plan to do much recording at a distance, zoom capability is a must. Camcorders usually have either optical or digital zoom lenses. Many cameras have both. Optical lenses generally produce clearer images but also drain the camera battery faster. Optical zoom lenses work much like those of conventional cameras; the lens itself contracts and extends to bring objects into focus depending on their distance from where you are shooting. By contrast, digital zoom lenses expand the size of the image rather than physically manipulating the lens.

Additional Considerations

Image stabilization is a desirable feature to have if you intend to do much shooting of active events where using a tripod is not practical.  If you intend to shoot events that last several hours, such as wedding and receptions, choose a camera with long battery life and removable media. Cameras with wireless network operations allow for the transferring or streaming of video without dealing with the hassle of hooking up the camera to a computer or projection screen.

Remember to respect intellectual property with video downloads.

Lisa Harold is an experienced videographer. She often writes about the tips and tricks to filming great videos.