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Portable camcorders for home use have been around now since the release of the Betacam system in 1982 with a large shoulder held camera and a recorder unit that could also be carried with a shoulder strap. In that same year, a VHS system was also made available. In years afterward, the technology has continued to evolve in quality, efficiency, and portability into the systems available today.
There are three basic components to a camcorder system. It begins with the lens. The lens gathers light in accordance with either user or internal specifications and sends the light to the imager. The imager converts the light gathered by the lens into electronic signals. In the case of analog cameras, which are now becoming difficult to find, the images are converted into waveforms of varying voltage and digital cameras convert the light into a digital binary code. The third part of the system is the recorder. The recorder transfers the images onto a medium for storage. Older cameras use magnetic videotape cartridges, while the newer systems use mini-discs or digital RAM.
While it is difficult to find an analog camcorder that records to tape they are still available but do not offer the features and advanced technology of the newer digital models. They are also bulkier and more difficult to carry and control. Full-featured, dedicated camcorders have undergone miniaturization to palm-sized units. They are available smaller, but they lose features and quality after this point and the difference in image quality of a full-featured camcorder and a portable device with video recording capability is easily seen. Many mobile phones and digital still-image cameras have video modes, but they are not suited to professional use or use where details are wanted or required.
The top-of-the-line camcorders available today record video and audio digitally, either on an internal hard drive or with flash memory. Many Several models use flash memory cartridges such as SD cards or Memory Stick for easier transfer to a PC where the video can be stored and further manipulated. HD quality is now being touted as the newest feature of personal camcorders. The correct cables are needed in this case, for quality playback directly from the camera to a high-definition television. Also, these more expensive cameras offer more control over the capturing of the images directly instead of having to manipulate them with software after-the-fact.