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Buyer’s Guide 2009: HD Camcorders

Though the nationwide transition from analog to pure digital TV has again been delayed (sigh!), analog is dead, and not even an act of Congress can resuscitate it. If you’ve been waiting for prices to come down to go high-def with your home movies, we’re pleased to tell you that you easily can get started with full HD video recording for well under $1,000. Even a step up to more sophisticated models with hefty built-in storage won’t break the bank.

As with digital photography, there’s a lot of jargon that you’ll want to decipher before you make a buying decision. Here’s a look at the most important terms with which to be familiar, and a sampling of some of the latest, hottest cameras for home videographers.

Recording Media

The trend in digital camcorders today is toward removable flash media—SDHC, specifically—as the primary recording medium. In many cameras, this is augmented with built-in storage in the form of either a hard drive or flash memory. The advantage to using removable SDHC cards is that you can carry several with you and expand your recording time as needed. They’re small, and relatively inexpensive, with the price-per-gigabyte dropping. All of the models we’ll look at here incorporate removable media as a recording option.

Other models feature recording directly to discs such as DVD and Blu-ray. Others still use digital MiniDV tape, an older technology that remains in the marketplace for consumers who are comfortable with tape and want to keep copies of the raw footage on a shelf rather than on their computer’s hard drive.

Canon Vixia HF20/Vixia HF200


Video Resolution: 1920×1080
Frame Rate(s): 60i, 24p, 30p
Video Format: MPEG4/H.264
Still Image Resolution: 2304×1296
Lens (35mm equiv.): 15x (39.5-592.5mm)
Recording Media: SDHC, 32 GB internal (HF20 only)
Digital Output: USB, HDMI
Dimensions: 2.8×2.4×4.9 inches
Weight: 14.1 ounces
List Price: $999 (HF20); $849 (HF200)

Hitachi DZ-BD10HA

Video Resolution: 1920×1080
Frame Rate(s): N/A
Video Format: MPEG4/H.264
Still Image Resolution: 2400×1800
Lens (35mm equiv.): 10x (47-470mm)
Recording Media: SDHC, 30 GB internal, Blu-ray Disc
Digital Output: USB, HDMI
Dimensions: 3.4×3.2×6.5 inches
Weight: 22.3 ounces
List Price: $1,099

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