Are you looking for a good basic camcorder to start your digital video adventures? Well I know how you feel - it can be really tough sorting through the vast array of camcorders out yet to decide on the one that suits you.
But fear not! I've done up the research so you don't have to. Here is a list of cheap and good digital camcorders that you should consider if you're in the market.
The models I'll show here are under $300 which are excellent value given their feature set (e.g. many of them have strong optical zooms, HD video support and are highly portable).
Well. without further ado, let's dive in and take a look!
First up is the Canon Vixia HF. This digital camcorder boasts an optical zoom of 51X - perfect for shooting far away scenes. It comes with a nice, large 3 inch display and stores your videos on SD memory cards. The videos taken are full HD at a resolution of 1920 X 1080.
The Canon Vixia HF R300
After trying the unit out, I found that I really liked its size. This camcorder is designed for easy carrying around. I've no problems whipping it out whenever I need a video taken.
The zoom on the Canon Vixia HF R300 is really good. I could catch a video of a bird on a tree even though I was so far away. The image stabilization is also top-notch - I remember accidentally shaking the camera but the video still turned out well.
And here's what I don't like about the unit - the battery life. To be frank, the battery life in this Canon is shorter then several other camcorders I've seen. If you can load up with an extra battery, you'll get much better results with the Vixia HF R300.
Next up is the Toshiba Camileo H30. This camcorder is good value for money and boasts an optical zoom of 5x, with a 4x digital zoom. Just like any trusty modern camcorder, the Camileo H30 allws you to record full HD video up to 1920 x 1080 resolution.
The Toshiba Camileo H30
I tried out the test unit I procured from my neighborhood electronics store. The battery is quite long lasting - one charge lasted me about 4 hours. There's also a cool surveillance mode to allow you to monitor scenes as if the camcorder were a security camera.
When I tested the Toshiba Camileo H30 under low light, I found that the low light recording was not too good. The still images taken under low light are pretty grainy looking as well.
Toshiba may not be known for its camcorders (I think they're better for their laptops) - but the Camileo H30 does take you by surprise. While it doesn't perform well under low light, that's not too much of a problem if you shoot videos outdoors a lot. It's worth checking out this camera if you're shopping for one.
Sony makes very good digital camcorders. The units they make are nicely designed, compact and boast a slew of excellent features. The DCR-SX45 is no exception. This camcorder provides a 60x optical zoom, accepts SD media for easy video transfer, and also has a large display 3-inch LCD display.
The Sony DCR-SX45
A couple of downsides to the Sony DCR-SX45. This camcorder only takes DVD quality video rather than HD. Also, there's no internal memory in the Sony DCR-SX45. The recording time is only a measly 2 hours (compared to some of the longer lasting models in this list).
However, these are not too much of an issue if you're just looking for a simple, everyday camcorder.
Samsung is doing really well in consumer electronics and it's starting to break into the world of camcorders as well (look out Sony). The Samsung HMX-F80 boasts an optical zoom of 52x, accepts SD media and also shoots in 1280 x 720 HD (that's partial, not full HD).
The Samsung HMX-F80
What I like about the Samsung HMX-F80 is its on-board software which makes transfer of video to my computer a breeze. The controls on the camcorder are also nicely laid out and very intuitive.
I was talking to my friend Richard (he sells camcorders) and he mentioned while Samsung is getting good at camcorders, it may not be fully there yet. For example, the image stabilization features in the HMX-F80 are not very good.
So if you want a top-end camcorder experience, you should look elsewhere. But for a basic camcorder that is under $300 (i.e. value for money), then this Samsung HMX-F80 should certainly be in your shortlist.
Moving right along, we'll take a look at the Panasonic HDC-SD80. It comes with an optical zoom of 34x, accepts SD media and has a decent display size of 2.7 inches. Just like the Samsung HMX-F80, the video is captured as 1280 x 720 HD (not full HD).
The Panasonic HDC-SD80
Looking carefully at the HDC-SD80's body and design, I notice there is a built-in lens shutter - that's a really nice touch (i.e. bye bye lens caps). Taking a few test shots out in the sun, I found that the HDC-SD80 takes really good videos. The video transfer process is also really easy.
But here's the bit that I dislike. The HDC-SD80 is lacking features on the LCD display - I found myself fumbling around the LCD screen when trying to find a manual switch.
This trusty little camcorder from Sony happens to be a really popular model. It provides an optical zoom of 25x, takes SD media and has an ample 2.7 inch display. You can also take 1920 x 1080 video in all its HD glory.
The Sony HDR-CX190
I like the fact that the HDR-CX190 turns on when screen is opened. The unit is also one of the smallest and most lightweight camcorders I'e come across (other than those extremely small pocket camcorders).
My only gripe is that this camcorder has no touch screen! Surprising, as most of Sony's camcorder offerings have a touch screen these days.
The JVC Everio GZE200BUS camcorder has an optical zoom of 40x and is able to take in SD media cards for easy video transfer. You can view your videos on a gorgeous 3-inch display and also shoot full 1920 x 1080 HD video.
The JVC Everio GZE200BUS
The Everio brand is a well-known one and I think the unit takes fantastic videos for its price. It's also very small and lightweight for maximum portability. One of the best home-use camcorders that I know of.
One of the best things to do when buying a piece of tech like a camcorder is to ask a friend. If you know someone who is knowledgable in this area, ask him or her to accompany you to the electronics shop to buy the camcorder.
In addition, I've got some tips on buying a new digital camcorder over here which may be helpful to you.
Until next time, best of luck in searching for your new camcorder and most importantly - have fun shooting and editing your videos!
If you've been looking for a good video editing program, you may want to check out Corel VideoStudio ProThis software allows you to quickly create and share a movie using built-in templates, special effects, titles and transitions. You can apply unique effects such as stop-motion animation, time-lapse and chroma key to create brilliant digital videos.