Camcorder Research

November 27, 2016 3 min read

I am in need of a decent camera, camcorder, video camera or whatever you want call it. Something that can take good video shots on the side of a mountain and easy enough for another rider to use with minimal instruction.

After some research and Facebook I mainly just got pointed towards brands and models. Just like with sled gear nobody was talking the details on why the item worked better. I wanted to cut through the marketing and compare some details. I am not an expert by any means, but this is what I found in my research.

A portable sports camera (GoPro, Contour, AS100 like stuff) is a great value. These cameras are rugged and good quality. They lack features like the ability to zoom, mess with focus and such, so you cannot do the artsy stuff. Just about everybody has one, so forgetting your charger, mounts and instruction is very easy. You can also just slide your GoPro on somebody’s sled because most already have mounts on their helmet or sled. I use a braided fishing line for tether on my sport cameras. I would be sure to buy a GoPro style mount conversion for non-GoPro cameras.

DSLR type cameras take great video, but they are not stable and will look like an earthquake constantly. DSLR video quality is actually better than most camcorders because of the image sensor size. The cameras are cameras and lack the image stabilization features, audio quality and can be big. This would be the ticket if you would be using a tri-pod, with an outside audio source and not filming on the side of the mountain.

In reality, I already own a GoPro and Sony AS100 sport cameras and a Nikon DSLR. I am on the search for a decent camcorder. Time to cut out some marketing stuff and get details.

4k, 1080p and 720p are standard definitions on quality. Camera marketing goes by megapixel. They are the same thing. 720p has a resolution of 1280x720. 1080p has a resolution 1920x1080. 4k has a resolution of 3840x2160. You can quickly do the math and find the megapixels:

1280x720= 921,000 or 1 megapixel

1920x1080= 2,073,600 or 2 megapixel

3840x2160= 8,294,400 or 8 megapixel

People will say nothing is delivered in 4k and that is mostly true, BUT the new Samsung and Apple products all display video above 1080p. Recording in 4k also allows you to do zooms, cropping and pans in your software on your computer—just like your still pictures. Megapixels do matter and they differ from picture and video mode. 4k is very expensive and will most likely require an upgraded computer to edit, but there are tricks around that with trickery.

Image sensors are very important in both size and quality. If a manufacturer does not mention the size on their image sensor, you can probably guess it is too small. Bigger the better—especially in low light conditions. If you want to understand why a bigger sensor is better, you can google pixel density. This will explain why your 7 megapixel phone is not as good as your 6 megapixel DSLR. Side note, DSLR’s have bigger sensors, but are limited in video time. If you have a low light situation, a DLSR on a tripod is going to be great option. A larger sensor will also help prevent that grainy noise you can see in low light conditions or when zoomed. Crop Factor is another item you may want to google and understand more. I don’t see it as a big deal right now for me, but lower is better and means you can be closer. CCD are said to have better quality and use more power compared to CMOS, but I honestly think at that  point your being pretty picky. CMOS quality is now being compared to CCD as much the same.

One very important thing for us snowmobilers is image stabilization. You have two choices—optical and digital. Cameras that use optical are better and include actual sensors in the camera while digital is all done by software. After that, it is really dependent on brand. You can watch image stabilization videos on YouTube to help also!

Hope this helps others cut through the mud of numbers! I will update this post as I learn more!