A camcorder is a video camera with built-in VCR.

The fact that it is a device which consists of two clearly distinguishable components, is also reflected in the term " camcorder". "Camcorder " is a word cross between "camera " and " recorder".

Before the introduction of the camcorder

Before there were camcorders, had the ' videographer ' either connect the video camera via a long cable with a stationary video recorder, or take a separate, portable recorder. The first portable video recorder were very heavy and were therefore carried on the back.

Later umhängbare recorders were used, weighing only a few kilograms; they were used until the 1990s.

Analog Camcorders: 1983 - 1996

The first devices, which can be described as full-fledged camcorder, were the Betamovie devices from the company Sony, which came onto the market in 1983. The devices from Sony were able to record the image of the built-in camera directly to a Betamax tape. The reproduction, as is common in almost every VCR and camcorder today, was not possible with the then Betamovie models from Sony, because a smaller head drum had to be used to keep the device small enough; video tracks could only be read by a normal-sized head drum, as used in home appliances. At the same time presented JVC his own developments, which were based on the VHS -C format. They had the advantage that the filmed material could be played either by the camera's viewfinder or on a connected TV or monitor. In today's camcorders, the data can be viewed while recording or after the camera's viewfinder or on an in-camera LCD.

In 1985, after the failure of Sony Betamax be video - 8 system on the market, the cassette about the size of a Philips Compact Cassette reached, what further miniaturization enabled. Camcorder to the video 8 system were during the 1980s and 1990s until the introduction of digital formats to best-selling segment. Especially Sony offered for Video 8, which was the rival format VHS-C technically superior, stationary devices, but except for ambitious amateur filmmakers and film higher education but hardly found distribution. Nevertheless, there was no new edition of the " format war ".

Were first offered in the consumer sector as on the professional market shoulder camcorder (although a more stable and smoother camera enabled ), the trend in the second half of the 1980s to more compact and lighter models. 1989 finally brought the first Sony camcorder to the "Traveller " series, the CCD TR -55 on the market, which ushered in the size of the " Palmtop" camcorder. In this case, the tether, the cassette holder and the camera head was positioned right next to each other. In the 1990s, these camcorders dominated along with the video -8 system is the largest market segment in the video area. In 1991, the first palmtop camcorders were offered in higher resolution Hi8 area.

Magnetic tape: VHS to DV

The original video equipment recorded on the analog PAL signal ( in the U.S. space NTSC) directly on the magnetic tape of a VHS, S -VHS, Video8, Hi8 or Betacam videotape.

Since the mid- 1990s, the analog technology was superseded by digital recording formats in both professional and amateur level. The currently most common system in amateur and semi-professional range is DV, Digital8 and MicroMV beside still exist, the latter two formats are rarely used. Originally developed for the amateur, DV is used because of its quality and in the professional production and broadcast range.

DV stands out compared to the analog recording by lossless copy, simpler and more precise Schnitt-/Editiermöglichkeiten and significantly higher picture quality.

In the field of television production is a trend towards the use of digital storage media. Were dominant in the analog recording Betacam and Betacam SP, so they have been replaced in recent years increasingly digital Betacam SX and Digital Betacam. All these standards use so-called L- cassettes with the form factor of the Beta cassettes. For simpler productions in the low budget range, the DVCAM recording formats used with the cartridge format DV and DVCPro with slightly larger cartridges.

Magnetic tape: from SD to HDTV

With the proliferation of high-definition television recording systems for HDTV video productions developed by the providers. For several years, therefore, is another transition in the field of television production rather than through the use of HDTV cameras that record using HDCAM special L- cassettes. Competing formats DVCPro HD on memory card (P2 ) Panasonic and D9 HD on cassette from the VHS format, JVC. For smaller productions and amateur filmmakers developed Sony HDV, which records how far to MiniDV tapes, but the images with MPEG -2 compressed to obtain a same playback length as DV. However, the trend is called AVCHD. The format was launched by Sony and Panasonic jointly on the market. In the meantime, Canon has also connected. AVCHD compressed using a slightly modified H.264 codec. However, all three manufacturers currently use slightly different " dialects " of the codec, so that the video data are not interchangeable.

Catchment to the movies

Since 2000, there are camcorders that have been developed for film production; the most important group are the devices according to the HDCAM standard. These camcorders cost five to six figure sums and were used as their availability of numerous directors, producers and camera men for the productions. These digital cinema cameras differ materially from cameras for TV production and home users.

New Digital Media

Since about 2004, a new type of camcorders on the market. This cooperates with the compression format of MPEG2, and records the data in addition to DV tape on tape-free media. Another amateur format shall be additional from 2007 AVCHD which operates with an even stronger compression to MPEG- 4 and thus offers smaller file sizes for the same image quality as MPEG-2. For recording media used are typically rewritable DVDs, removable micro drives, internal hard drives or - no moving parts - memory cards. Also with this type camcorder, the data - as with Digital Video - initially detected by the image sensor and RGB data. With many tapeless camcorders image sequences can be directly cut, reordered via hidden or deleted because a rewinding of the tape is eliminated.

The advantage of these formats is that they support HD what DV can not. The disadvantage of MPEG -2 ( HDV) and MPEG -4 ( AVCHD) compared with DV is that the data is more compressed and therefore greater losses. MPEG-2/MPEG-4 is therefore recommended rather than archiving codec for already completed work, which is also his sole purpose outside the amateur range; with any further processing such as cutting, the material is again compressed with MPEG so that the artifacts increase sharply, while DV quasi lossless new stores. This can be minimized only if a suitably high-quality codec is used when cutting.

Another disadvantage, especially AVCHD: The system compresses as effective (ie reduces the memory requirements of the video) that you need very powerful for the average computer.

In addition to the over tape simpler About playability on PCs, the digital storage media are also characterized by higher reliability and durability. Furthermore, DVDs can be played from DVD camcorders and DVD players or recorders. However, not all DVD formats compatible with all players. A distinction is in particular between " " - and "-" formats. A subsequent editing is possible again only when the re-writable media, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM.

Camcorders with memory cards, mostly SD card (secure digital), require large memory: A one -gigabyte SD card is enough depending on your camcorder for about 20 to 40 minutes of MPEG -2 recording, but only for about five minutes of DV. The AVCHD format is supported by the manufacturers Canon, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony.

Tapeless recording in the field of television production and cinema continues through slowly and is, for example, XDCAM and XDCAM HD (on the Blu -ray version Professional Disc for broadcast and on memory cards, SxS ) Sony DVCPro HD from Panasonic ( on the memory card system Panasonic P2) and Editcam been realized by Ikegami.

Flip Video pocket camcorders were introduced in 2006 by Pure Digital Technologies in the United States.

Frame rate

Videos can be produced with different frame rate. Common are 24, 25, 30, 50 or 60 frames per second. 25 or 50 frames per second are common for historical reasons, in countries with 50 Hz alternating current, for example, anywhere in Europe. 30 or 60 frames per second are common in countries with 60 Hz alternating current, such as in the U.S. or in Japan. Also, 24 frames per second, although the global standard for movies and Blu -ray discs are almost exclusively to be found on models that were produced for 60 Hz regions. Cheap digital cameras can often take up only 30 frames per second. This is no problem as long as the vector to be considered only at the computer. However, if a "PAL " DVD arise, which requires 25 or 50 frames per second, or intended to be edited together from different cameras with different frame rate to video videos, converting can cause loss of quality. For European models, which can record 25 frames per second instead of 24 also natively usually, there are problems again when the records to be dubbed with 1080p resolution on Blu -ray discs. Since the Blu- ray Disc 1080p only supports 24 frames per second, it would here the recording either slowed down or be converted to interlace format.


Camcorders have numerous possible differences in their specific configurations, which are determined by their intended use and price. The following is an attempt to represent the various distinguishing features of the known designs is made.

  • Carrying and attitude design: Here is between shoulder cameras that are out on the shoulder, and hand-held cameras, which are held in front of the body, distinguished. Shoulder cameras have, at the bottom of a molding to rest on the shoulder and a corresponding shoulder located in the center of gravity. The trigger is usually located in a growing front right, with which the camera is also stabilized with the right hand. The viewfinder is mounted sideways. Hand-held cameras are usually lighter and more compact, the viewfinder is usually at the rear of the camera, the shutter at various points, according to the manufacturer's assumptions about how the camera is held.
  • Recorder Cultivation: In the vast number of camcorders provide camera head ( with consumption of electronics and control panel) and the recorder part of an integral unit. For more sophisticated cameras there are, however, models in which the recorder is plugged into the head, and which therefore can be recorded by the recorder exchange on various media.
  • Viewfinder attachment: Numerous variants are known. There are side and rear arranged through the viewfinder view, as well as in many a camcorder attached or attachable control screen. Reviewing viewfinder can ( then from behind phantom) to be pivotally mounted (allows different positions of the camera operator relative to the camera ) or rigid. There are cameras with interchangeable viewfinders (eg for models in black / white and color) and built- seekers.
  • Lens Attachments: There are cameras with interchangeable lenses and those with a fixed lens. As connections are used in the former, the C-mount, CS -mount, Arri PL and B4 lens mount as well as company-specific for use. Camcorder with built-in lens are much cheaper and usually have a zoom lens. Converter lenses can increase the focal length range of such built-in lenses.
  • Carrying and holding devices: Simple models do not have a permanently attached handle. More sophisticated models have side or bottom mounted handles for holding and guiding the camera, and some models also have a carrying handle on the camera, with which they can be worn above.
  • Connections: Many connections may be present, such as: Microphone jacks and XLR, 3.5 mm or 6.3 mm jack
  • DV or Firewire or USB output for transmission to a computer or synchronization of multiple camcorders
  • Accessory shoe for microphones, lights, or other accessories, some with integrated power supply
  • Control -L ( LANC ) input for remote control and timecode generation
  • Power input to operate the camera on AC power
  • IR input for remote control
  • Video outputs, such as RCA jacks (composite and component ), BNC (CVBS ), S- Video, SDI connectors, HDMI

Quality criteria

A number of features determine the quality and the intended use of a camcorder:

  • ( replaceable ) lens filter thread
  • Light intensity at maximum aperture (the larger light intensity and sensor, the better in low light )
  • Size of the optical zoom factor (as opposed to electronic zoom, in which the image quality is worse)
  • Manual settings
  • Possibility of manual focus
  • Size of the CCD sensor used ( avoid cheaper CMOS sensor)
  • Number of pixels, pixel size
  • True 16:9 by sufficient number of pixels versus blow up a detail enlargement
  • Using a 1 - chip or 3-chip camcorder ( 3 chip has better color detection, which may be partly offset by higher pixel count at 1 -chip devices)
  • Optical or electronic image stabilization (optical example is preferable )
  • Display Size
  • Quality of the viewfinder
  • Stability, size and weight of the housing
  • Sound quality, manual record level, dynamic range compression
  • Microphone quality, Connection for external microphones
  • Battery life, important in hard drive Camcorder
  • Built-in Video Light (LED ) as well as built-in flash or IR night mode (if desired)
  • Photo resolution and functionality (if desired)
  • Recording quality of the medium / format (MPEG2 / 4 disadvantageous for later editing )
  • Interfaces ( i.Link FireWire/IEEE-1394, USB, S-Video Aus-/Eingang, AV Aus-/Eingang, DV Aus-/Eingang )
  • Accessory shoe and possibly its functionality (contacts for Microphones / lights )
  • On time
  • Frame rate

In addition, the ergonomics plays an important role. For adjusting the sharpness over keys instead of a ring on the lens to spoil the joy of movies easily. Also, important settings to hide some in the shallows of the menus; a touch-screen can be advantageous. Basically, are functions that are switched via buttons, such ergonomically preferable over menu items.

In the consumer sector, it is observed that more and more models are produced without a viewfinder. This makes the devices less expensive, especially since many users hold the camera anyway in outstretched arms and watch the sides fold out monitor. However, a seeker has the advantage that you can press the camera against the head, which stabilizes its position significantly and reduces the camera shake.