Buying a new video camera can be daunting, with all the thousands of different options available to you.  How do you make your choice? Your final pick comes down to what you intend to use your camera for.  While training realtors recently on video marketing, we spent some time discussing what one should look for when buying a video camera.

This checklist will guide you through a few of the most important points to take into consideration when buying a video camera.

#1 – Your Price Range

Spending more money doesn’t always mean you’ll get a camera that’s better suited for your needs.  Sometimes buying a lower end camera that does what you need it to do better will have you better off than paying more.

That said, before you start shopping, get a good sense for what you’re willing to pay.

#2 – What Resolution Do You Need?

Do you need just a low-resolution camera for shooting YouTube videos (like most of us)?  Or do you need a top of the line high-def camera for filming DVDs? 

#3 – Battery Considerations

There are a few things to consider with batteries.

First, consider how long the built-in battery will last.  Naturally, the longer the better, but it’s not the end of the world if the camera has a short battery life.

More importantly, how easy is it to switch out the batteries for a fully charged one?  What’s the cost of buying an additional battery?  Can you use traditional AA batteries, or do you have to purchase another lithium ion battery?

#4 – Optical Zoom

It’s important to realize the difference between optical zoom and digital zoom. Optical zoom is when your camera uses lenses to enlarge light before it’s recorded digitally.  Digital zoom takes the same amount of data and enlarges it digitally.

Any time you use digital zoom, you’ll lose quality.  In fact, digital zoom can be done after filming in just about any video editing software.

In other words, if you want high resolution videos shot from a far distance, you’ll be better off with a camera that has a high optical zoom.

#5 – Memory and Media

There are many different kinds of storage media to choose from.  On one hand, you can go with the strictly built-in memory cameras. These are particularly good for casual users who don’t want the hassle of dealing with memory cards.

On the other hand, for the pros, there’s everything from SDHC / Memory Sticks to MiniDVs to built-in hard discs.  Each has different storage capacities, limitations and price stickers.

#6 – Other Camera Options

Other options to look for include …

  • Light detection.  Some cameras are able to detect what kind of lighting you’re filming and adjust accordingly.
  • Anti-shake.  If you’re moving while filming, some cameras can digitally compensate for it so the video looks as if you were holding it still.
  • Waterproof.  If you ever have the chance to take your camera underwater, you can get some truly spectacular shots.
  • Still picture shots.  Some cameras have a button that allows you to take still pictures while you’re filming.
  • Auxiliary mic.  Some cameras allow you to plug in a third party microphone to get better sound quality.  (I recently upgraded to a camera that has this capability.)
  • Widescreen.  If you’re shooting for DVD or high-quality video, having a widescreen camera can give a very cinematic effect.
  • Something I find particularly handy too is being able to plug the camera directly into my computer via the built in camera’s USB connection.  No cords to deal with, just plug the camera in.

#7 – Return Policy

Believe it or not, the return policy on a video camera is actually quite important.  You never know if you’ll really like the camera until you’ve had a chance to take it home for a test run.

Some stores have a zero-return policy, or a return only if defective policy.  Others have a 30 day policy, while still others have a year-long “no questions asked” policy. Naturally, the more lenient the better.

These are a few of the most important things to take into consideration when you’re buying a digital video camera.  Once you’ve made your decision and made your purchase, remember that you can always return the camera and choose a different option if it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted.

What would you add to this list?