Jun 13, Camcorder Features: What They Are and How You Can Use Them?

Camcorder features are an important consideration when
you’re choosing the perfect camera for your needs! They give you control of the video making process and ensure that you can handle any situation that you run into that would prevent you from getting that “perfect shot”!

Here’s a rundown of some of the common features that you will find on most video cameras…!

Depending on the type of camcorder or digital video camera that you have there may be a lot of buttons and knobs that look very interesting and very complicated… And of course… Depending on the digital camera or camcorder… 

Camcorder features compensate for non-optimum conditionsWith most digital cameras or camcorders you have a plethora of special camera settings that will help you compensate for non-optimum conditions!

It may not have a whole lot of buttons and knobs at all but… Look at the View Finder screen and you’ll see the word “Menu“… and when you open that up… Oh boy… There they are! What a plethora of choices!  So… What are all these things anyway…? The features found on digital video cameras are continually evolving so that you can shoot better video with less attention on your camera.

But… If you want to shoot clear crisp video… with vibrant
color and good sound reproduction… you must have a good working knowledge of how
you can adjust your camcorder to compensate for less-than-ideal conditions. 

Knowing what features are found on your video camera
and how to use them will give you a tremendous amount of control over how successfully you shoot your scenes.

Shooting video in non-optimum conditionsWhen you’re shooting video you don’t always have ideal conditions! As a matter of fact… You almost never do..!

What are just some of the things that you can run into…

  • Too much or not enough light to get a great shot…
  • A lot of extraneous noise when you’re trying to pick up a
  • Your subject is too far away to get a good detailed shot…
  • Lots of fast  action –-> point and shoot –-> no time to set exposure
    or focus the shot…

And that’s just to name a few!  These are all things that can be compensated for if you
know how the features on your video camera work and can use them. 
Knowing what your camcorder features are and how to use
them may make all the difference in the world between shooting excellent video
or maybe not getting any video at all!

Some Common Camcorder Features…

take a look at a few of the common features that you will find on digital video cameras
ranging from point-and-shoot cameras to high-end professional setups…

Camera feature – camera video game control

Camera Video Gain Control…

Camcorder features – gain controlThere’s quite a difference in exposure when the camera’s automatic gain control is on!

This camera feature is circuitry that manually (or automatically) adjusts video amplification to keep it within preset limits. It alters overall picture brightness and contrast by increasing or decreasing the amount of signal to the camcorder’s image sensor.

You can reduce the image signal during bright (too much light) shots and increase it under dimmer conditions. You have to be careful with it however, as it can make your image grainy if turned up too high…but… It is very handy to have, especially if you are shooting in low light conditions.

More on camera video gain control

Camera feature – Camera Auto-focus Setting (AF mode)

Camera Auto-focus Setting (AF mode)…

Camera feature – auto-focusThis mechanism automatically adjusts the lens focus for maximum sharpness on the nearest subject in a selected zone of the frame!

Of course … When you’re using AF mode… Whether this is the subject that you really want  the sharpest might be another matter entirely (smile)…

But… it is a great feature to use when…

  • You’re shooting through foreground objects…
  • You are focusing selectively on a particular subject…
  • When something is likely to move between the camcorder and your subject…

If you’re working creatively with the depth of field of the shot… the camcorder should be switched to manual focusing. This option is more and more available on consumer digital cameras, and is usually part of any high-end professional camcorder.

Camera feature – Camera Auto-Iris Switch

Camera Auto-Iris Switch…

Camcorder feature – Camera Auto-Iris SwitchIn difficult lighting conditions you have to make sure that you control how your camera interprets the light in the scene that you’re shooting!

This camcorder feature is a handy control that automatically adjusts the lens aperture (f-stop) to suit the prevailing light levels. By doing so, it prevents the image from being overexposed (washed-out) or underexposed (murky-looking).  However…This adjustment should be used very carefully as… There are times when the auto-iris “misunderstands” and changes the lens aperture when it should remain constant… such as… during panning, zooming or when a lighter area comes into the shot.

On the higher-end video cameras… When shooting these types of shots it maybe necessary to switch the lens aperture control to manual aperture  and operate it by hand so that you’ll have better control of the exposure.

Camera feature – Camera White Balance or Auto-White Control

Camera White Balance or Auto-White Control…

Camcorder features – white balance controlYou have to make sure that you adjust your camera so that it “sees” the colors in the scene as you do!

This is one of the most important camcorder features of all… Setting the camcorder white balance is vital if you want the colors in the video you are shooting to be rendered correctly.

This camcorder feature adjusts the camera’s color-balance circuitry to suit the color quality of the prevailing light and ensure that white surfaces are accurately reproduced as neutral. Otherwise… The camera doesn’t know how to interpret the colors accurately and all colors would be slightly warmer (red-orange) or colder (bluish) than normal, depending on the light source.

To set the camcorder white balance the operator normally pushes the white balance button while aiming the camcorder at a white surface until the camera indicates that recalibration of the camera has occurred.  The camcorder now knows what “white” is (in that environment) and can balance the other colors accordingly.

Camera feature – Camera Backlight Control Setting

Camera Backlight Control Setting…

Camera features – camera backlit control settingYou always want to make sure that the actual subject or subjects of your shot don’t come up to dark!

This control opens the lens aperture an arbitrary f-stop or so above that selected by the auto-iris system. It does this to  avoid underexposure resulting from ambiguous readings by the camera image sensor.

Just one more handy little camcorder feature that will help you get the proper exposure on your shot in difficult lighting conditions.

Camera features – Camera Preset Exposure Mode Setting

Camera Preset Exposure Mode Setting…

Camera features – preset modeYou can customize the way your camera shoots different types of scenes with the preset exposure mode setting!

This is part of the package of camera features found on most digital video cameras from point-and-shoot to professional.

This camera feature is a series of preset savable exposure settings such as Indoor/Outdoor, that will automatically set the camcorder image sensor for the average proper exposure in a particular shooting environment or situation.

It comes in very handy if you’re shooting video in a fast-paced environment where you just need to catch the action and you are not worry so much about exposure.

Camcorder features – Camera Macro Setting

Camera Macro Setting…

Camera features – macro settingThe macro setting lets you get right on top of your subject and still stay in focus!

Most video cameras these days have a macro  position. Macro  in this case meaning being able to move in very close and still be in focus.

This camcorder feature allows the lens to focus on very close objects… Much closer than the lens’ normal minimum in-focus distance.

Camera features – Camera Image Stabilization

Camera Image Stabilization…

Camera features – image stabilizationYou never want a blurry picture or video footage due to camera shake or motion!

This is one of the more important camcorder features to look for when you’re buying a camera… This system compensates for accidental irregular camera movements such as camera shake.

There are normally two types of camera image stabilization…

Camera stabilization – digital stabilization definition

Digital Stabilization

(Which stabilizes by electronic  means by providing a pixel buffer within the video frame)


Camera stabilization – optical stabilization definition

Optical Stabilization

(Which stabilizes by mechanical  means inside of the camera)

And of the two…

Camera stabilization – digital stabilization is best

Optical Stabilization (mechanical)…

Is always your best bet!

Camera features – Camera Preset Situations Feature

Camera Preset Situations Feature…

Camera features – presetsThis feature comes in handy when you need to just “point and shoot”!

A lot of consumer camcorders offer prearranged adjustments selected for typical occasions such as sports action or snowy conditions, etc.

They are mainly concerned with light sensitivity settings and automatic white balancing of the camera. These camera features are general exposure selections and are not recommended for the camera person who wants total control over exposure.

They do come in handy however if you’re in a situation where you need to just “point and shoot”.

Camera features – Camera Time-Code Setting

Camera Time-Code Setting…

Camera features – timecodeThis feature comes in very handy when your video editing your material!

This is one of the camcorder features that is very important for post-production work… This series of frame-accurate numbers is assigned to a specific video frame.  The number includes hours, minutes, seconds, and elapsed frames.

This is very useful information when you’re in the video editing stage of your post-production work and believe me… it can speed up your editing time immensely!

Using These Features Can Help You to Shoot Better Video…

Videographer – camera featuresThe controls and adjustments built into your camera will help you shoot better video in any kind of environment!

It’s a good idea to explore the features on your camcorder so that
you get a good understanding of what they are and how to use them.

Becoming an expert in the use of the features built-in
to your camcorder will mean that you will have control  over your shooting

And not the other way around!

And… that’s what your camcorder’s features were built
to do…!

Give you control of the video making process so that you always get that “perfect shot” every time…!

Have fun…!  Dan (Editor)

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