Digital video cameras continue to be as popular as ever. As they become more technologically sophisticated they're offering better quality and more functions in ever smaller packages. Top-of-the-range, high definition videocams can cost in excess of $3000 to buy. This figure would be even higher if existing mechanisms, which allow HD videos to be recorded on a conventional DV tape, couldn not be used.
It's hardly surprising, then, that digital video camera rental is fast becoming the preferred option for digital videocam users who only need to use the equipment for special occasions. With improvements in the technology moving fast, so fast that chances are a new model will already have been superseded by something better within six months, the trend to rent and not to buy seems set to continue.
As an irregular user, looking to take pictures at weddings or on holiday, constantly upgrading your digital videocam is neither a practical, nor cost-effective solution. Why not, then, get the best of both worlds – the latest models and the lowest prices – by choosing the rental option? Your biggest worry will be to pre-book well in advance at busy times of the year, like Christmas and New Year or Thanksgiving, to avoid disappointment. Look in the Yellow Pages or login to the internet, and you'll find there are some great deals to be had out there.
Great offers are available if you shop around. At Christmas and New Year, especially, extended and weekend rental bargains are to be had provided, as we've said, you book early. Throughout the year, even, many digital video camera rental outlets will offer an extra free rental day, and, at short notice, many shops will pull together a video camera package at very competitive prices.
The basic rental package, usually comprises spare batteries, charger, camcorder case, manufacturer's manual and a “quick-start” guide. Ease of use varies with the model, but the “Get Started” guide you should receive as part of the package will outline use of the main controls of On/Off, record and zoom buttons. A manual should also be supplied should you feel like exploring more options in detail.
Alternatively, as an infrequent user of digital camcorders, you will find that many rental outlets offer a photo printing or video transfer service, copying your film on to CD or DVD. Again, shop around for the best deals if you're interested in a complete service. Even with this service charge added to the hire cost, on any cost-benefit analysis you'll be getting a great deal.
Besides the basic package, optional extras are available. Accessories, such as tripods, external microphones and camcorder lights, though, are not seen as optional extras for many users who want to shoot that perfect picture for the perfect occasion. You will pay an extra hire charge for these items, as you will for video tapes and mini-DVD-Rs. The software to download your photos on to your PC will usually be included in the hire package, though. This software is very popular now and has largely replaced still photos on memory cards. Rent and you'll get the best for less.
Having decided that digital video camera rental is for you, the most important question to ask yourself before you proceed any further is: what do I want from a digital camcorder? Do I want a cheaper, standard format videocam, or would I prefer a high definition video?
Standard models use compact, 60-minute tapes, and can be plugged into the camcorder/playstation inputs on the front of many TVs and video recorders. The playback quality is very good. As a rule of thumb with standard models, the smaller the camera the fewer features it has. You want a larger optical zoom? Then you'll need to hire one of the slightly larger cameras. Even so, none is that big and all are easy to use for the novice.
But are you more technically-minded? If so, then an HD videocam, offering superb playback quality with four times the number of pixels as standard definition, would allow you to shoot a video of a wedding and edit the video on HDV. Be aware, though, that a very powerful PC is required to use video editing packages. The HDV footage can then be recorded on to a high definition DVD player with marvellous results.
Europe lags behind the U.S. where we have been able to enjoy high definition TV, and watch content from most of the major networks, for a number of years. Familiarity with the superb picture quality afforded by HD breeds contempt among aficionados for standard models. Renting a videocam allows the technically-minded to practise more demanding techniques and to produce top-class pictures without the substantial outlay involved in buying a top-notch videocam. And remember: as a perfectionist, you'll need accessories, too, which makes renting an even more attractive option.
So, novice or enthusiast, renting the equipment makes the best sense. The videocam's obsolescence, driven by continual improvements in technology, requires constant and expensive upgrading. The very high cost of buying top-of-the-range videocams, together with the easy availability of great-deal packages, including accessories, all make compelling reasons for renting and not buying.
“A picture is worth a thousand words”, so they say. Well, not quite, but it will have been worth reading a few hundred if you're now sold on the benefits of digital video camera rental.
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© 2006 Maureen P Cook
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