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August 19, 2008
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White Paper-Guidelines for Evaluating Digital Camcorders for Surveillance

Technology improvements in CCD and CMOS image sensors as well as the introduction of new high definition display and recording formats have resulted in the introduction of lots of different digital camcorder models. 

Because of the wide variation in features and price points, it's more difficult than ever to select the optimal digital camcorder. Certainly, some models will be better than others in consideration of the specific application for which the camcorder is intended and the features that are required. Because there are so many factors involved in making a selection and since new models are frequently introduced, it's best to provide guidelines useful when evaluating models intended for a specific application. Then, as new models become available, they can be compared to existing models based on the same guidelines.

The goal of this paper is to provide guidelines that should be considered when evaluating camcorders for use in surveillance applications. These applications are those that would be used by military, law enforcement and special investigative personnel for gathering evidence or performing electronic news gathering and usually include viewing at a distance. While these are useful guidelines for understanding important camcorder specs, prior to making your own camcorder purchase decision, we suggest that you perform your own research of available models and, based on these guidelines, select those models that are expected to deliver the best performance and perform your own tests under real-life situations. You may learn that other factors may be important to your specific application and that your final decision is a compromise of those other factors.

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For surveillance, optical image quality is of highest importance. Camcorder resolution and sensitivity are the primary factors to consider, with a variety of related factors such as image and pixel fields-of-view, the pixel size, as well as the frame rate, image stabilization, alternative lens options and lens interchangeability, integration mode, digital zoom and display resolution, user interface, video formats, recording media, manual gain, infrared mode, video compression, external audio inputs, viewfinder, robustness, and video compression.

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