Every few days someone asks me what video camera to buy. Unless I happen to be “in the market” I don’t track closely. But I do trust Consumer Reports, and just received an issue ranking the top camcorders.
What Format: Mini DV, DVD, Hard Drive, Combination?
The Consumer Reports “best buy” is a Panasonic SDR-H18 but it’s $430 and is a hard-drive model. I prefer the MiniDV for two reasons — first you’re always near a store that sells those little digital 8 mm tapes if you run out of space. Second, if my computer and camera blows up, at least I have the tapes. That said, most equipment malfunctions are related to moving parts. I suppose a tape recorder has more than a hard drive. Still, I’ve been burned too many times by crashed hard drives and few tapes have let me down.
Sorry. Not sold on these models that burn DVDs. I suppose it’s easier, but some models (the Hitachi DZ-GX5020A) gets 18 minutes of the best quality. 18 minutes per DVD? Puleez.
I like Canon. I use the Digital Rebel for still photos and the Canon HV20 for my videos. No problems with either of them. The Canon HV20 takes longer than I’d like to “boot up” and the audio is poor. But the images are quite nice for its $1,000 price. For most amateurs, however, a prosumer $1000 camera is total overkill (unless you want high definition and have plenty of money). Buttefly.
So I’d go with the Canon ZR800. It’s listed at Amazon.com for $209 even though Consumer Reports lists it as $255. I get a lot of my impulse buys from BestBuy, but they’re listing it at $254 (but watch the circulars if you don’t want to wait for shipping).
It’s not perfect. Read the C-Net report so you know of some limitations, and the Amazon user reviews are mixed. It got a mediocre review, but so did the Panasonic. I also use PCMag to compare cameras, but the Canon ZR800 wasn’t listed.