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What kind of camcorder is best for night-time shooting?

I'm going to Las Vegas soon and am looking for a light camcorder. What would be best for night-time shooting?

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films, TV, Movies, Television, Technology
Richard Trenholm
2 min read

Help! I am going to Las Vegas soon and am looking for a light compact camcorder that will cope with capturing the bright lights of Sin City at night, as well as the standard daytime footage. I can stretch to up to £500 for the right piece of kit.

Karen Bradley

Firstly, be absolutely sure you want to record your adventures -- have you forgotten that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?

You could opt for a camera that includes a built-in light, but that will involve dazzling passers-by, and not with your wit and charm.

In the same way that stills cameras automatically decrease shutter speeds when it gets darker to give more time for light to fall on the image sensor, camcorders will automatically lower the frame rate as available light decreases. The problem with this is that, as with stills cameras, there is also more time for your subject to move, which results in blurred images.

Fortunately, many modern camcorders can cope with low light. 3CCD (charge coupled device) camcorders, like the Panasonic SDR-S150, are generally better in low light as they capture red, green and blue light separately. 3CCD camcorders do cost more -- maybe if you win big, you can invest in one.

Many single-CCD camcorders will be up to the task, and are often smaller. As you're going on holiday, you also want a lightweight, portable camcorder. The problem is that lightweight consumer camcorders often cash in their chips in darker conditions, so you'll need to spend closer to the top end of your budget to get decent night-time performance.

Some Canon camcorders feature a special night mode, which automatically changes settings, including a lower shutter speed, to allow the optimum amount of light to register on the CCD. Unfortunately, we've never been that impressed with the low-light perfomance of these models, with the possible exception of the MV930. It isn't a patch on a 3CCD shooter, but it handles low light reasonably, and is cheap as chips at around £150.

Sony has a strong reputation for low-light performance and camcorders from its Handycam range will have you shooting great quality video during your time in Nevada. Enjoy your camcorder, and we hope you come out a winner!