What to Look for in a Pocket Camcorder

Pocket CamcorderPocket camcorders can be incredibly useful. They’re portable enough to carry around wherever you go, and often simple enough to take out and start shooting with minimal delay. Just point and shoot.

So, what should you look for in a good pocket camcorder? Are there any advantages to using one over a smartphone?

For many users, the point of having a small camcorder is simply to catch those events you don’t want to let slip by without documenting. For that reason, simplicity is a major component in gauging the value of one. Likewise, low-light capability and overall image quality are also very important as not every shot will be taken in optimal conditions.

Here’s a look at some of the things you should consider when researching a pocket camcorder.

Water Resistance

Kodak makes an excellent pocket camcorder that is waterproof up to ten meters. This feature is shared by some pocket camcorders, and could very well be a major factor in your decision to purchase.

Water resistance isn’t just for people that dive or swim with their equipment. A rainy day can ruin a camcorder faster than you can duck for cover. Likewise, particularly humid environments have a way of affecting the delicate components of a camcorder.

Lens Position

Lens position shouldn’t be ruled out as an important factor in a pocket camcorder purchase. A lens that sits flush with the rest of the camcorder has a higher chance of being scratched in your pocket or on objects you might come in contact with while shooting. Look for a camcorder with a raised protective casing around the lens. It will provide additional protection and increase the camera’s longevity.

Low-Light Performance and Picture Quality

Pocket camcorders have tiny little sensors. This means less light sensitivity, especially when coupled with the tiny lenses these things are equipped with. How well a camera responds in low-light situations says a lot about the quality of an image in optimal conditions. Take time to view low-light tests on YouTube and never (ever) buy a pocket camcorder on the moth it is released to the public.

A lot of shooting issues aren’t apparent in early test units, and inconsistencies in fabrication may only present themselves after a device has been out for some time.

Pay close attention to reports of hot pixels or bright spots in reviews. This is a big problem with many pocket camcorders out there, especially ones that tend to cost less.

Audio Quality

Most pocket camcorders don’t have external microphone capabilities, which leaves the user to just the on-board microphone. Is it stereo or mono? Do users report it as being too tinny or muffled? Take a look at test footage on YouTube and pay close attention to the audio quality in various environments.

Before buying any video-capable gadget, it’s more important to see how things work for yourself before you take a reviewer’s word for it.

One problem I came across with the Sony Bloggie is a constant clicking noise made by some of the internal mechanics that you could hear with your own ears during recording, but even more so after the fact. It isn’t an issue on every model, but it does present itself enough to warrant many online reviewers pointing it out. This is another reason research is so critical.

Specs

I’m not a big believer in using the specs sheet to determine the value of a gadget, but it can help you make sure that your bases are covered in terms of needs. Not every pocket camcorder is capable of 1080p video at 30 frames per second. Some skimp on resolution or frame rate in order to cut costs. Others might replace the progressive scan video with an interlaced video in hopes the user won’t know the difference.

Having the ability to customize exposure compensation, ISO, and autofocus is also important. You don’t want a camera that doesn’t adjust focus during recording, but you also don’t want one that constantly does so despite the camera and the subject being in a stationary position.

Final Thoughts

No matter which pocket camcorder you decide to buy, you should always consider that these devices are not going to be anywhere close to the more expensive full-sized camcorders in terms of quality. Even 1080p video at 30 frames per second can vary widely in quality between camcorders. Forget the specs and take a look at test footage for yourself.

Good product research will help keep money in your pocket and help you make the most out of your purchases.

Photo: ETC

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.