HD camcorders: How we test HD camcorders
Video quality with HD camcorders
Which? tests dozens of camcorders every year, so that we can tell you which ones are worth buying. We'll help you with your purchase, and let you know what features you need, as well as the ones you don't.
Every camcorder goes through exactly the same test, where video, image, sound quality and ease of use are all assessed and rated. We test camcorders with you in mind, recreating the conditions you're likely to use the camcorder in, and we can answer those important questions and give you a verdict you can trust. Read on to find out:
- What's the video quality like?
- What's the sound quality like?
- How easy is it to use?
- What's the battery life like?
- What is the still image quality like?
- Should I buy it?
What's the video quality like?
Our video testing involves many different components, replicating the way you'll be using your camcorder. We film under bright lights, as well as more dimly lit settings, to see how the camcorder copes in low light. We can tell you if the video shows any signs of noise or graininess, or if it replicates the scene well without any trouble.
We also put the camcorder to the test in panning assessments. We can tell you how smoothly the camcorder deals with movement, and if it copes with focusing in on a specific area.
Then there's the image stabilisation feature. Most camcorders have it these days, but will it keep your shots nice and steady? We deliberately take shaky footage with each camcorder to see how it copes.
We also test the colour reproduction for each camcorder. Will the colour of your favourite shirt be the same in video footage as it is in real life? We use colour charts and take video footage of various objects in the studio to put this to the test.
What's the sound quality like?
Great video footage is one thing, but you'll also want to be able to hear what's going on in your home movies.
We test the microphone quality on each camcorder, recreating the effect of wind in our lab, to see how they cope with outdoor elements.
We also listen for any strange anomalies in the recording. We'll tell you if we hear the sound of the buttons being pressed during recording. Does operating the zoom cause an unpleasant whirr? Are there any unusual background noises while the camcorder is in operation? We test for all these issues, and let you know what we find.
How easy is it to use?
We know that you want a camcorder that's a joy to use, and that can be picked up and operated without having to wade through pages of instruction manuals before hand.
We have a myriad of tests that cover the ease of use of a camcorder, that we apply to every camcorder we test. We can tell you how quickly the camcorder turns on, and if you can rely on the camcorder to spring to life straight away, without worrying about missing that that great impromptu moment.
As you're likely to be operating the camcorder with one hand for most of the time, we test how easy it is to use like this. We test how easy it is to reach all the buttons and controls, use the viewfinder or screen, and if it's suitable for the left handed.
What's the battery life like?
Battery life is an important part of a camcorder. You can have the best looking video in the world, but if a set of batteries only lasts you twenty minutes, it's not going to be of much use.
We test battery life for every camcorder we test, and can tell you how many minutes shooting time you can expect with each one. If a camcorder has poor battery life, you can rely on us to let you know.
What's the still image quality like?
If you're looking for a new camcorder, you might consider one that takes good still images too, to save you carrying around a separate camera when one device will do. This is an area that camcorders have struggled with in the past, but in recent years our testing has revealed some very competent models.
As well as testing the capability of camcorders to take still images in bright conditions, we also carry out the same test in dim conditions too, and can tell you which models aren't cut out for photo's, and those that which excel.
Once all the scores are in, we calculate the total test score. This is made up of the following components and weightings.
- Image quality - 40%
- Ease of use - 25%
- Sound quality - 15%
- Features - 10%
- Battery life - 5%
- Still photos - 5%