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What is a VHS-Compact Camcorder?

VHS-Compact refers to smaller camcorders that use a compact VHS cassette. This cassette is about the size of two packs of playing cards. Since it is smaller than a standard VHS cassette VHS-C cassette allows only 40 minutes of recording at standard speed and upto 2 hrs at slow speed. VHS-C camcorders weigh around two pounds without tape and battery.

To play a VHS-C tape in most VHS VCRs, it needs to be placed into an adapter(the size of a regular VHS tape) first of all. Most camcorders include the adapter as a free accessory.

The following features will help you decide the right VHS-C Camcorder for you:

Besides the size of the cassette, VHS-C and standard VHS share the same electronic format for recording, picture quality and horizontal resolution of 250 lines. Most features found on the larger VHS camcorder can also be found on the VHS-C camcorder as well. A better feature is the Digital Electronic Image Stabilizer (DEIS) which takes the shakes out of handheld videos.

Although most camcorders record reasonably well in low light, many models have useful built-in color enhancement lights. All camcorders have a Lux Rating which is the lowest level of light under which the camcorder can operate. Most are rated 3 or less. But video shot under such conditions will not be the best; they recommend you shoot in 100 lux or more (daylight). Be aware.

VHS-C also come with 3 or 4 inch LCD Monitors and smaller eyepieces. Digital special effects such as wipes, fades and solarization can be found on higher-end models. A new series of hybrid VHS-C/digital still cameras can snap digital stills as well as record moving pictures. Program AE on better models will adjust for specific situations such as taping sports or twilight.

Ignore digital-zoom specs. Optical Zoom uses lens optics for close-ups; digital zoom degrades image quality. Digital-zoom numbers such as 180x or 220x are pure marketing hype, useful only for digital effects. Optical zoom is the important spec - and bigger is better. Focus on optical zoom. Optical zoom is true zoom - it provides better images than digital zoom. With optical zoom, you may lose some light- gathering ability as you zero in on your target, but you won't lose any resolution. Digital zoom uses image interpolation (a mathematical fill-in scheme) to approximate detail that isn't really there.

Its important before you buy that you hold any model you're considering in your hands. You must tighten the wrist strap as you would in real life, then toggle the zoom lens. Is it comfortable? Look through the viewfinder(s) and scroll through the on-screen menus. Are they easy to read and understand? Does it feel right? It should. Ask to connect a battery to get a true feel of the weight and balance.

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