Which Digital Camcorder Is Best for Sports?

Technology puts a date on movie footage faster than clothing and hairstyles. If you watch a sports-oriented film and see a character carting around a bulky, shoulder-held camcorder, you know you're watching an '80s movie. Sports video equipment today can fit in your pocket or purse, mount on a tripod or helmet, and venture into the thick of the action without protective gear. Choose your camcorder based on whether you're a competitor or an onlooker.

Types of Camcorders

The compact personal camcorders that appeal to people who want to capture footage of the athletic moments in their lives or the events they see in the world around them, fall into two basic categories: palm carried and pocket sized. Beyond these two types, you enter the expensive world of the full-sized equipment carried by broadcasting pros in sports journalism and entertainment. The camcorder form factor you need depends on whether you want to shoot sports action from the sidelines or as a participant. Recording on flash memory cards instead of to a disc, tape or hard drive reduces the number of moving parts and increases the ruggedness of these devices.

Capturing the Action

From the onlooker's point of view, shooting sports footage requires a steady hand. To maintain that stable shooting platform, look for a camcorder with image stabilization, a hardware-based assist that cancels out the bumps and wiggles that can turn great footage into a dizzying, unwatchable mess. Optical stabilization actually moves the lens to counterbalance a sudden change in the position of the camcorder itself. Digital stabilization attempts to compensate for movement after you capture the scene. A zoom lens can bring distant action closer. Like image stabilization, zoom functions separate into optical and digital. Optical zoom relies on a multifocal lens, whereas digital zoom enlarges the image after you shoot your footage.

Surviving the Sport

From within the action itself, a point-of-view or sports camcorder fits its functionality into a small case suitable for attaching to your arm, helmet or gear using an armband or mounting hardware. Some of these compact devices offer dust, water and shock resistance to survive immersion in more than 15 feet of water and falls from close to 7 feet, exposure that a regular camcorder can't withstand. Water-resistant sports camcorders include recording modes that optimize footage shot in the wet. Even these compact, highly portable devices can record high-definition footage. To charge their batteries, plug them in to the USB port on a computer or TV.

Sharing Footage

With a Wi-Fi®–enabled camcorder, you can upload action footage to social media and websites virtually the instant you capture it, and back up your movies to your PC without removing a memory card. Camcorders with Internet access can stream your shots to friends and family while you're still shooting, sharing your son's soccer game or daughter's karate competition with eager grandparents or a motor sports event with fellow enthusiasts. With complete footage in hand, you can use the editing software included with most camcorders to compile your best shots into a movie you can screen on your home theater system and high-definition television set.

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