For lots of info on camcorders check out http://www.camcorderinfo.com/
I'm not sure about pricing or availability in Belgium, you might be stuck with higher prices than I talk about below just because of where you are. Can you get stuff from Amazon.com
or Ebay without paying import taxes or tons for shipping?
Prices for HD
camcorders have come down dramatically in the last year, while the high end models are still in the $1000+ range, there are plenty that are worth owning at a much lower price. In fact there are some entry level HD
camcorders from name brand companies (Sony
) that can be had for around $500, which is what I would suggest, unless you are on a very tight budget.
Inexpensive pocket cameras
can work and give you ok results but the cameras
come with limitations, such as not having an optical zoom (digital zooms are just short of worthless), not having selectable shutter speeds or preset modes, not having an auto focus lens, using a lot of compression (which causes detail loss), not working well in low light, not having a good dynamic range (bright areas become blown out, dark areas are completely black), etc.
There are a number of camcorders starting at about $250 that solve some of the above limitations. They are DV cameras
) and have real optical zoom lenses, auto focus, lower compression ratios, and while a lot of them don't let you set the shutter manually they at least have preset "scene" modes that you can use to try to get the camcorder to do what you want. Ignoring most other aspects, these will capture a better quality video than pocket cameras
simply because of the lens being of higher quality, able to zoom, and having auto focus. Reliable brands are Sony
Finally as I mentioned above there are some HD
camcorders that are going for around $500 now that are pretty good camcorders. Canon
, and JVC each have HD
camcorders with zoom lenses, auto focus, etc that are between $475 and $525. If you can afford it I highly suggest going with an HD
camcorder (especially from Canon
). One other thing to keep in mind with HD
video is that you will probably need to buy a program for editing. Windows Movie Maker will work with HD
video but is very limited, I think Sony
might include a program with some of their more expensive camcorders but not sure if they include it with all of them, and Canon
doesn't include any editing software. I ended up buying Sony
Vegas Platinum 9 for about $100 which is just short of a professional video editing program (a lot of amateurs use it for making their movies).
I started with a standard DV camcorder that I got for $250 because I didn't want to spend $1000 on the HD
camcorder that I really wanted (this was 2 years ago). For the year I had that camcorder I was never really happy with it, the quality was ok but not great, the resolution itself was lacking because it was a fairly inexpensive DV camcorder (which I didn't know at that time), so the video wasn't really clear or detailed. It also didn't work very well in low light, the camera
would often underexpose (I had no manual shutter controls) or it would turn up the gain which brightened the image but made it grainy (losing detail). I have since purchased a Canon HD
camcorder and wish I had done it from the start. It's still not the best in dark places but is a lot better than the DV camcorder, plus I can control the shutter speed so I can find the best compromise between brightness, blur, and gain (grain). Also since it is full HD
the resolution is a ton better, giving a sharper more detailed video, and the grain caused when in low light isn't as pronounced as it was with the DV camcorder. Another advantage of HD
is that most of them (maybe all of them?) shoot at 60i FPS, which will capture more of the action and deliver better detail that other camcorders only capturing at 30 FPS would miss.
If I had to recommend a single camcorder by name that I think would give the best quality for a good price, I would say look for a used Canon
HV20. It was discontinued awhile ago and is the model that came out just before the camcorder I have and has a lot of the same feature as mine. I'm sure there are others, but when I did my research a couple years ago everything pointed to the HV20.
Edit: My grammar is not as bad as this post makes it seem...the forum is removing the "s" from camera
when it makes it a link.
Edit 2: Ok, now why did it work in my edit note?