3-Chip Camcorders

What is a 3 CCD chip camcorder and is it worth the extra few hundered of dollars?

In this video tutorial I will talk about:

  • The function of a CCD chip in a camcorder
  • How CCD chip size matters
  • How number of CCD chips matters

For those who want to read more about CCD (optional reading)

CCD is short for charge-coupled-device, and is often referred to as a "chip." The chip converts visible light into an electronic signal, which the camcorder reads and stores to tape.

It may interest most of you to know that while the image you see on your LCD screen is in colour, that's not original how your camera saw it. In fact, when it came into the camera through the CCD, it was in black and white. A specialized filter is used to translate the particular shades of grey into red, green and blue (a.k.a. RGB), and the combinations of these colours make up the entire colour spectrum.

CCD Size Matters
Generally, the bigger the CCD the better; broadcast camcorders often have 1/2-inch to 2/3-inch CCDs, while consumer camcorders usually have them within the window of 1/6-inch to 1/3-inch.

The larger the CCD, the more light is taken in with the image, resulting in brighter pictures with better colors. CCD size becomes quite important in low light situations. CCD sizes in consumer camcorders vary with every model and manufacturer, and always should be considered. The difference between a 1/6-in. and a 1/4-in. CCD may seem small, but when those values are squared to measure the surface area, it has a large effect on video and low-light quality

3 CCD is better than 1 CCD
With one CCD, there's only so much detail the camera can take in and some concessions have to be made so that one colour doesn't wash out another. With a 3-CCD camera however, there is actually one CCD devoted to each of the Red, Green and Blue colour spectrums. A special prism is set up to convert the light entering the camera into the three different colours, they are processed separately, and then combined into a final image.

The colors on professional three-CCD camcorders are much brighter, vivid, lifelike, and accurate than the colors of one-CCD camcorders. A three-CCD camcorder almost always beats out a one-CCD camcorder, and the difference in quality both in normal and low-light shooting is noticeable This is one instance where more is almost always better.

The result is superb detail and accurate color representation. This means more accurate color and more realistic-looking video.

I own a Panasonic PV-GS500 3-chip camcorder and notice a huge improvement in my video quality over my old single-chip camcorder.

Next: Should I pay extra for a High-Definition camcorder?