GearTools & Tech
Q:

What camcorder do I need to film my own ski porn?

I'm a snowboarder interested in recording video footage of skiing and 'boarding. The mind boggles, though, with all the available formats, options, models, etc. I've also been told I should get a camera with a wide-angle lens, but all the salespeople I've asked didn't even realize wide-angle lenses were either interchangeable or available. Help! Stu Yakima, Washington

A: There are certainly lots of choices out there, Stu, but I don't see anything particularly exotic in your request. What you need is simply a compact camcorder with a zoom lens. It'll ultimately come down to price and a few technical details about how the image is recorded.

JVC MiniDV Camcorder


The biggest thing to wrap your head around are the three primary ways camcorders record a moving image. Today all modern camcorders are "digital" but use different formats: Mini DV, Digital 8, or DVD.

Mini DV results in the most compact camera, as the tapes are tiny. Because the image is recorded digitally, editing is easy, and a tape can be copied many, many times without degradation. Digital 8 cameras use a larger tape, so tend to be bulkier (although still not that large). But the tapes cost less than Mini DVs. Digital 8 cameras are also more reasonably priced than the higher-end Mini DV cameras. DVD cameras are just that—they use a recordable DVD, which means you can pop out a disk and stick it in your DVD player. DVDs are also the most stable recording medium.

Keep in mind that most of these cameras also record still images on a flash memory card. But, they're not as good at this as even a lower-end digital camera.

So, what would be some good choices? In the Mini DV category, JVC's GR-D72US is surprisingly affordable ($550; www.jvc.com) yet has goodies such as a 16x zoom lens (good for wide views as well as telephoto) and an image stabilizer to give your vids a steadier look. Easily hand-holdable, too, so it'll fit in a ski fanny pack or something similar. Canon's Elura 60 has similar features, plus marginally better image quality, for $500 (www.usa.canon.com). In a Digital 8 camera, Sony's DCR-TRV460 gives you a 20x zoom lens and a big viewfinder screen for just $400 (www.sony.com). For all these cameras, look around online at places like Best Buy, Circuit City, or Wal-Mart for the best knock-down prices.

DVD technology is awfully intriguing, but pricey for the time being. Sony's DCR-DVD101, for instance, goes for $750.

What I would do is take this shortlist into a camera dealer with a good selection, find someone who seems to know his/her business, and have a chat. Test several cameras to see what feels right in your hands, paying particular attention to what it would be like to use one wearing gloves. Then, start taping!

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.
Contribute to Outside
Filed To: CamerasSnow Sports
Lead Photo: courtesy, JVC
More Gear