The question of point and shoot usability vs manual controls can make or break your digital camcorder purchase decision.
For the absolute novice in video recording the question, of point and shoot usability or manual control, maybe the most important one to consider when deciding on a digital camcorder to purchase. Many come equipt with automatic adjustments and controls which allows the camcorder to adjust for environmental factors, focus, exposure and shutter speed.
Purchasing a digital camcorder with this type of point and shoot capability allows the camera’s internal computer to set the optimal settings, providing lots of freedom for the novice film makers who will not need to concern themselves with very technical issues and can just shoot film. On most machines equipt with automatic control this function is easily turned on with the push of a button.
Also, there are times when these automatic functions will not produce the quality of video that is desired and for those instances there is another feature that can compensate. Look to see if the camcorder provides presets, or selections based on specific environmental conditions, such as lighting, weather or even shooting occasions, such as concert or sports.
For the Advanced Filmmaker
If you are not a novice, and have some expertise in recording film, or you just want to have complete control over you video recordings, you will want to make your own manual adjustments for optimal exposure, focus and shutter speed.
If you do want to manually control the settings then it is crucial to make sure that you do not sacrifice usability in the process. You want to be able to reach and use the manual controls and buttons with ease while recording and not have to lose focus and move the camcorder at a crucial recording time in order to change a setting.
Some digital camcorders are not very user friendly when it comes to button placement and especially those control buttons that need to be reached while recording.
Imagine that you are filming your daughters first school play, and you need to zoom in on her solo performance, but in order to manually adjust the zoom button, you have to access an internal menu or move the camera off your child in order to reach the right button? By the time you do all that, the solo will be over and a once in a lifetime recording moment is lost forever.
So, when purchasing a digital camcorder with manual control always consider this, if you cannot easily access the control buttons and change settings mid-recording, such as shutter speed or to zoom in on a particular scene and if not changing those settings will not yield the best video you can make, then that camcorder is probably not the one to purchase.