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Should I buy my camcorder in the US for less?

Will a camcorder purchased in the US be more trouble than it's worth back in the UK?

'Tis the season to be jolly!

I'm off to Florida just after Christmas and wanted to make the most of the great exchange rate and cheaper prices the US has to offer. I want to know if a camcorder purchased in the US will be more trouble than it's worth back in the UK.

Peace on earth, and good will toward men.


Glad tidings Gary,

There's no easy answer to your question. There are two major differences between US camcorders and those bought in the UK. The first is the power adaptor.

In the US the electricity supply is 110V -- here it is 240V. Many modern power adaptors will happily detect the local voltage and switch over to match, but others may die a swift death.

Your biggest issue with a US camcorder, however, will be the recording format it uses. In the UK and most of Europe we use a television format called PAL, but in the US they use NTSC. Our television system has slightly more resolution; theirs has a slightly faster frame rate. The two formats are basically incompatible without a fair bit of tomfoolery.

Whether it's worth buying a camcorder in the US and smuggling it over will depend on what you intend to do with your finished video footage. If you're going to shoot on MiniDV cassette and then transfer your video to a computer for editing, then it won't matter much that you've shot your video in NTSC. You can re-encode the video in Final Cut Pro, Premiere, or a similar editing program.

Sticklers for quality will nevertheless prefer PAL camcorders for their improved resolution over NTSC at standard definition.

If you are going to edit all your video using a computer, there is an argument for going the NTSC route to save money. However, you should be aware that the different formats can make things like previewing tapes from an NTSC camcorder on a PAL TV a tricky proposition. We recommend that the average user sticks with their native TV format.

Deck the halls!