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Selecting a camcorder for private investigators


Have you ever purchased a video camera and then realized it was missing some key functions you need to use in your job?  It can be very frustrating to say the least.   There are so many good handheld video cameras out today, it’s hard to pick just one or two.  Brand wise, I’m a fan of Canon, Panasonic, Sony, but there are many others.  Some things you may want to think about before you shop are:

  • Do you have video editing software and familiar with using it?
  • Does your computer have a large hard drive?  Video camcorders today record in HD and that take a lot of hard disk space
  • Do you want a cam with a hard drive or flash memory?  Hard drives tend to be larger and are able to hold more video than camcorders with flash drives
  • How expensive are extra batteries?  Extra batteries and get very expensive
  • Does it have video stabilization?  This will allow you to shot handheld in low light conditions and still have usable video for your client
  • Does the camera have a “mic” input?  If so, you can put in a dummy plug which prevents you from accidentally recording audio.  If not, you’ll have to delete audio in your movie editing software before you deliver to your client
  • How much “optical zoom” do you need?  The more the better but it makes it more expensive
  • What video format doe your camcorder record in?  Does your video software handle that type of file?
  • How does your client want the video?  DVD?  CD-ROM, USB Key, Uploaded to a website?
Digital SLR

In addition to all the camcorders out there, digital SLRs now shoot video in addition to just being a still picture camera.  It should really be something you consider when you are looking to purchase a camcorder.  An SLR will often have more options allowing you to do more with the camera rather than a camcorder.  One major thing to think about is ISO range.  Many of the SLR cameras have a large image sensor allowing more light to reach it.  This translates to better low light pictures without having to use a flash or other light source.

With many digital SLRs (make sure you check that it can), you can use it both to video and take still images during your surveillances.  If you are considering an SLR for this purpose, look into what type of memory card the camera takes and the largest card you can get.  Digital SLRs take very good quality HD/1080P video and the resulting file is very large.  Also, check to see if the camera package comes with any lenses, a body alone will do you no good.

Here are two links to Google’s shopping/evaluation section that I like to use when shopping online.  The first is for camcorders and the second is for digital SLRs.  You can use the links to sort either item by price, zoom factor, price, sensor type, etc…

Camcorder List

Digital SLR list

I’d really be interested in what your ideas are when selecting a camera or camcorder.  If you’ve got some ideas, list them below in comments.  Your fellow investigators will appreciate it.

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