You may just want a simple, point-and-shoot video camera, but there are some consumer camcorder features that will greatly increase the quality of your video footage. Look for these features on any consumer camcorder you consider buying.
1. Image Stabilization
Automatic image stabilization greatly increases the quality of your video by eliminating the shakiness that comes from handheld camcorder work. This feature is available on most consumer camcorders.
2. Optical Zoom
Check out the zooming ability of any consumer camcorder you consider buying. Unfortunately, you can't always get as close to the action as you want and a powerful zoom can help in those situations. And while digital zoom only blows up the image, optical zoom retains true quality while it increases the size.
A video camera that can take still photos is very handy, and it means you only need to carry around one piece of equipment. Look at the resolution and quality of the still photos. If the camcorder has a built in photo flash, that's an added bonus.
4. Video Resolution
Most likely, you'll be buying a high-definition camcorder. 1080P is currently the maximum level of HD available, and most new camcorders record at this resolution. Other HD formats, like 1080i and 720P are also available.
In my opinion, it's hard to see a quality difference between the different types of HD. So if you can get an older model camcorder that shoots only 720P, you'll probably be perfectly happy.
If you want a standard definition camcorder, then most likely you'll be buying a mini-DV camcorder. These use digital tapes, which makes storage easy and record high quality SD footage.
5. Video Format
Video cameras can record footage in a variety of formats, including MP4, MOV, AVI and AVCHD. Before buying a video camera make sure that the video format is compatible with your video editing software.
6. Camcorder Inputs
Unfortunately, most consumer camcorders don't come with many inputs. In fact, you're lucky if you can plug anything in to the camcorder!
Ideally, though, your new camcorder will have a headphone jack so that you can monitor the audio that you're recording. And a microphone jack is another feature that many people consider essential.
7. Camcorder-Computer Connections
You'll need some way to get the footage from your camcorder to your computer. Generally, it's either going to be through Firewire or USB. Before you buy make sure that the camera's output will work with your computer.
8. A Touch of Professionalism
You may not need them now, but after developing your videography hobby you might desire some professional video camera features. Some professional features like manual focus and manual iris are available on consumer camcorders. You may not use them right away, but if you decide you want them later on it's nice to have them available.