The High Definition Difference is Remarkable
Once you see a high def recording on your HDTV you'll never want to go back to standard definition. Sony, Panasonic, Canon, and JVC dominate the field of quality affordable HD camcorders and our analysis of camcorder reviews and camcorder user reviews confirms that some of the best buys are from these manufacturers.
Important HD Camcorder Features
Look for a large LCD screen and optical image stabilization for long optical zooms. Most prosumer camcorders and some consumer models have 3 CCDs. These typically offer better color fidelity and image quality than 1 CCD units. CMOS image sensors also deliver high quality results. An HDMI terminal and cable will make it easy to connect the camcorder directly to an HDTV or Blu-ray recorder.
Tape is on the way out. Flash and Hard drive-based camcorders should be reliable and offer better image quality however, the only problem comes when you try and edit the video. Tape-based units still use the older HDV format that is more widely recognized among common video editing applications. The new AVCHD can be very difficult to deal with on your PC editing platform. This situation should improve as AVCHD becomes more standard.
The Panasonic HDC-SD1 is an affordable high definition camcorder with 3CCDs a 12x optically stabilized zoom, a large 3 inch LCD screen that stores AVCHD video of 4GB flash memory cards. Deals on this camcorder can be found for under $900
The Sony HDR-CX7 is a slightly smaller camcorder with 3CCDs that also sends AVCHD video to flash memory and costs around $1,000.
The Sony HDR-SR7 stores video on a built-in hard drive while the Sony HDR-UX7 gets good reviews and ratings except for one feature. You can only record 15- 20 minutes of high quality video on one mini-DVD disc.
Tape-based Canon HV20 users say it's a rugged camcorder that has a, hard to find external these days, microphone jack. Some users complained about how it doesn't fit well in your hand. Doesn't use the newer AVCHD format which some say is inferior to the older HDV format used on mini dvd tapes. Reviewers say it "delivers great performance at a bargain price." The Canon HG10 is similar to the HV20 but stores video on a 40GB hard drive which can hold 5.5 hours of high quality video.
JVC GZ-HD7 costs around $1500 and has many highend features and stores a more compatible MPEG-2 formatted video on a 60GB hard drive but takes some dings on image quality and ease of working with their MPEG-2 format.
The $3,000 Sony HDR-FX1 is starting to show its age but still some of the highest expert and user ratings.
You can pay as much as $5,000 for the high quality lens and imaging and audio system for the three year old Sony HVR-Z1U which has some of highest user ratings.
You'll pay more than $3,000 for the Canon XH A1 that many reviewers are raving about but most say you get a lot for your money.
High ratings make this $5,000 Panasonic AG-HVX200 popular with indie film makers.
The 2007 crop of HD camcorders get high marks in many areas but the consensus indicates that they are all close but none hit the mark. The AVCHD format continues to frustrate users wanting to edit movies on their PCs. The mini DVD tape-based Canon HV20 although not a perfect 10 appears to be the best bang for the buck. Stay tuned for the 2008 CES show.
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