Home Video 101: How to Find the Right Video Camera

Sharing is easy: With Verizon, you get a link to a Web site where you can view the video. With the new iPhone 3GS, you can e-mail the video to yourself or use SMS to send it to other phones (There are also apps to upload directly to Facebook and YouTube). With the T-Mobile MyTouch, we could e-mail, message or upload video to the Web directly through the phone.

Prosumer Cameras

Video cameras from the likes of Sony and Canon cost a lot, but they deliver big. I tested a Canon Vixia hard drive-based HFS10 and the Sony HDR-HC9 Mini-DV camera. These types of camcorders are priced at $750 and up, and while they are heftier than the Flip or the Kodak, they are still just a little bigger than a soda can. They have flip-out LCD screens, a microphone input, and they take still pictures. These cameras have a big advantage over the shoot-and-share cameras like the Flip: They have 10X optical zoom.

Prosumer camcorders have very sophisticated lenses that can physically magnify images. If you shoot sports or nature scenes, this is important. The shoot-and-share cameras don't have this kind of zoom.

The image sensors in prosumer cameras also handle motion much better than the shoot-and-share cameras. Prosumer cameras pan smoothly and you don't see motion blur in action shots. While the Kodak Zi8 does have a microphone input, most low-end cameras don't. If you care about recording comments from people at noisy events (weddings, parties, restaurants) or doing serious storytelling with interview subjects, you will want to invest in an external microphone. People underestimate the importance of good sound, but it is one of the most important elements of making your videos meaningful.

The downside of these powerful cameras is their complexity. Only the owner of the camera will feel comfortable picking up the device to record a moment, so less video is captured. Getting videos onto your computer is easier than it used to be with these types of cameras, but it's still much more complicated than if you were just dragging and dropping files from a Flip cam.

I am the mom of two toddlers and I've been in the TV business for 16 years, so I know my way around cameras. I have a $2,000 camera here at the house and I have a few Flip cams. Ninety-five percent of the time, I record the kids with the Flip cam. When I create videos for ABCNews.com or need to capture home video for "GMA," I use my prosumer camera.

When I've wanted to do interviews with family members to preserve our stories and history, the clear choice is the prosumer camera. I'm a jock, and when I've been asked to record games for analysis, I always use the prosumer camera. When I've been out on the road and seen the kids do something cute, I record it with my phone.

Bottom line: Most people only need to invest in a shoot-and-share Flip Cam or Kodak Zi8, and if more sophisticated video needs arise, only then consider the $1,000 plus investment in a prosumer camera.

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