How do I find a camcorder that shoots good photos?
Everyone wants a camcorder that shoots great stills; after all, nobody wants to carry two devices that essentially perform the same task. Unfortunately, most camcorders use fast but low-resolution, high-noise sensors, which creates video that looks great on a television but pretty bad on a PC monitor or when printed as stills. Here are some clues to finding a happy medium.
These camcorders are becoming more common, though the ones that can capture 8x10-adequate stills generally have a resolution of 3 megapixels or more and are relatively expensive.
It depends on how you plan to display the pictures.
Hint: If you're going to display the pictures at least 50 percent smaller than the original size, resolution doesn't matter much--opt for the camcorder with the best color.
The image on the left was shot with a camcorder (effective photo resolution is 3 megapixels), while the one on the right was shot with an inexpensive digital camera (effective resolution 7 megapixels). Both are displayed at least half size. Though the pictures show differences in white balance, each provides about the same amount of image detail.
Hint: If you want to print photos, you're still better off carrying a cheap digital camera. But for small prints, you'll probably get a sufficient amount of detail from a 2-megapixel camcorder.
Compare these stills from a camcorder (right) and digital camera (left) cropped in to look at the details. You'll see the noise and blurriness in the camcorder images that you won't spot in those from a camera--higher resolution, yes, but still far less expensive.