Got a digicam? You've got everything you need to make movies.
In the early days of digicam video, you usually could only shoot clips that lasted less than a minute. These days, many advanced functions will let you record without a break for at least an hour or until your memory card is full.
Video takes up a lot of space, so if you want to make long recordings, you should plan to buy a memory card with a capacity of at least 1GB. Motion JPEG video is especially space-consuming, so consider a more efficient format such as MPEG-4 if lengthy clips are important to you. If you're planning to use your video mainly for web display, consider shooting at resolutions that are lower than VGA. Just by dropping down to QVGA (320x240 pixels per frame), you cut your storage space requirement by 75 percent. You can also conserve space by reducing the frame rate, or, with Motion JPEG, the compression level. Of course, the more you reduce these factors, the more you compromise the quality of your video.
Many cameras with advanced video features must use high-speed memory cards to achieve the best performance. Check the manufacturer's documentation for the memory card requirements.
5 Useful Features
Many digicams can't zoom or adjust focus while capturing video and don't let you use the exposure and effects settings that are available in photo mode. To get the best video capture, check whether your favorite photo settings remain active in video mode, and look for these features:
1. Optical zoom in video capture. Although zooming too much can make viewers dizzy, it's good to have the option to adjust your focal length. Look for one of the few models that can zoom without dropping audio capture and don't record much motor noise in the process.
2. Focus during video capture. Many cameras force you to stop recording video when you adjust focus automatically or manually. Obviously, you're better off with a model that can focus and record simultaneously.
3. Image stabilization. A feature that minimizes the effects of camera shake is standard on camcorders and becoming more common in still cameras: Canon, Kodak, Panasonic, Pentax, and Sony have all added it to some models. Optical stabilization generally produces the best image quality, but a digital system is better than nothing, especially at long focal lengths.
4. Simultaneous photo and video capture. Some of the latest cameras can take stills while recording video. This prevents you from missing a great photo while in video mode and provides context to still images. But, the video freezes momentarily while the photo is shot and sometimes records a shutter-release sound.
5. Video frame printing. Some cameras -- such as newer Canon PowerShots, the Casio Exilim Pro EX-P505, HP Photosmart R967, Kodak EasyShare P712, Pentax Optio A10, and Samsung NV series -- can extract a video frame and send it directly to a printer. The quality of the prints isn't great, but having a series of images to choose from gives you a new way to photograph spontaneous moments.
Our examples of video standouts, whether still cameras or traditional camcorders, aren't exhaustive, by the way. And there are sure to be plenty of new models with strong video features out in time for the holidays.