The lowdown on digital video cameras

What is it? A digital video camera, or DV camcorder, is a sophisticated color camera that can capture, store and manipulate video images in digital formats such as MiniDV and Digital 8 tapes, or MiniDVD disks. By using various types of memory cards, a DV camcorder can also capture, store and print still images with almost as much fidelity as a still digital camera.

How much does one cost? Depending on its feature set, the type of storage media used and the main purpose for which it was designed, a DV camcorder can run from $110 to more than $10,000. Most consumer DV camcorders cost less than $2,000, and you can buy a good one for well under $1,000.

What about accessories? Accessories vary widely, but usually include such essentials as batteries and AC chargers. Options usually include a DC (cigarette lighter) charger, extra tapes, extra batteries, carrying cases and specialized lenses.

Must-know info? DVD-based camcorders are rapidly entering the market, but at prices that are still significantly higher than DV tape-based products offering comparable features. Until the market for them develops more fully, MiniDV and Digital8 camcorders are a better buy for most users.

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