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You Can Shoot Like A Pro With These Budget Camcorders
Lately, users have shied away from using lower priced camcorders in favor of shooting video with their smartphones and this is a bit sad in my opinion. The quality of footage from a phone can never replicate that of even the least expensive of genuine camcorders due to a number of factors, not the least being the lens.
The physical design is also a factor; camcorders are built the way they are for a reason, primarily the ergonomics with everything at your fingertips.
And of course, the camcorder is always the right way up, shooting proper 16:9 high definition footage (PROPER high def) in landscape mode and not portrait as smartphones do.
Arguments for the smartphone's advantages have largely evaporated over time as well. Size is no longer an issue with some camcorders being SMALLER than later smartphones, and even the 'net connectivity factor is now a moot point with many camcorders having built-in wi-fi.
Nor is cost a consideration any more as the days of camcorders of even the most basic kind costing many hundreds of dollars are long gone.
So which are the best low cost camcorders on the market? With a budget of $500, we wondered just what you could get...
At a MSP $229 USD (RRP $279 AUD), the JVC Everio GZ-E100B is the least expensive of the camcorders we looked at. A 40x zoom Konica Minolta lens sends the image to a CMOS sensor that is optimised for low light usage. The image is full 1080 but is interlaced not the better progressive and the image stabilisation is electronic rather than the better optical. Storage is to Flash memory or SD card.
The GZ-E100B is pretty well auto everything and is designed with the casual shooter in mind, allowing you to simply turn it on and start capturing footage with a minimum of fuss. Inbuilt features include Intelligent Auto, Auto display brightness adjustment, Face Detection, YouTube capture mode, time lapse recording and, although we'd never really recommend it, basic in-camera editing.
Data capture to computer is via USB and there are also HDMI and standard A/V ports and while a video cable is supplied, an HDMI cable is not.
The weight of the GZ-E100B nearly 200g and there is a 12 month warranty.
Canon Legria HF R406
At the time of writing, Canon is having a 'sale' for selected products purchased directly from its website. Consequently, the Legria HF R406 which sells normally for $349 AUD has a current price of $285 AUD.
The HF406 has a 12.1 megapixel sensor letting it also take better than average still shots while simultaneously shooting video and it also copes well with low light situations. Intelligent IS 'detects' the environment you are shooting video in and adjusts the optical settings optimally for that situation.
Optical zoom is a respectable 32x and storage is to an SD card.
There is no viewfinder - a non-existent feature on lower priced camcorders in general these days, with the majority of controls being actioned via the 3 inch flip out touch screen LCD. Built in features include a 38 function 'smart auto' system, program AE including portrait, snow, beach, sunset and so on, and 'baby mode' face detection and a magnification manual focus assist.
Available ports on the Legria HF R406 are A/V, USB and HDMI. Being very much a budget camcorder there are no niceties such as video light, hot shoe or even a remote control.
The Legria HF R406 weighs in at 235g and warranty is 12 months.
Sony HDRP J200
The $439 USD ($499 AUD) Sony HDRP J200 as expected is a step up the ladder from the previous two units and has a unique feature in that there is an inbuilt video projector on the exterior of the flip out 2.7 inch LCD.
It supports 5.3 megapixels as well as full 1080 progressive high definition, storing data to either Sony proprietary MemoryStick format or alternatively to SD card.
Optical zoom is 25x and stabilization is the superior optical type.
Face detection, smile detection and intelligent auto are all integral, as is a function called D-Range optimisation, a fancy name for contrast checking and adjustment that is controlled by the processor.
Terminals available are HDMI, A/V and USB, and the HDRP J200 supports Bravia Sync to match it into a Sony home entertainment system. And an HDMI cable IS supplied as are the A/V and USB cables.
The Sony HDRP J200 weighs 210g and has a 12 month warranty.
Panasonic HC V110
The Panasonic V110 is the lowest price camcorder (MSP $199 USD) in their range and similar to the JVC GZ-E100B in that it only supports 1920 * 1080 high definition in an interlaced mode. But for a 'baby' camcorder it does supply quite a bit of oomph in terms of features for the price.
For example, there is a 3 second pre-record system meaning that even before you have pressed the record button, has stored 3 seconds in the internal buffer (memory) of the V110. Intelligent Auto senses the conditions in which you are shooting and adjusts the camera's settings accordingly, including Scene Detection, Contrasty Control and Face Detection that sets the exposure depending upon existing ambient light levels.
A focus assist system outlines items that are in focus in blue in the LCD (there is no viewfinder) and the Scene Mode select s the optimum shutter speed and aperture for the current location and situation.
The optical zoom is a very useful 38x.
Storage is to SD card. Available ports are USB A/V and HDMI and cables are supplied for all three.
The V110 weighs 181g and there is a 12 month warranty.
Sony too has specials on camcorders (they call 'em Handycams) direct from their online store. The HDRCX220 normally retails for $249.99 USD ($349 AUD) but for the moment Sony has it listed for $199.99 USD ($299 AUD).
This camera is SD storage based (or alternatively Sony's MemoryStick) and as well as shooting in full 1080p high definition, also shoots still with a resolution of 8.9 megapixels with a maximum size of 3984 * 2240 pixels in 16:9 mode. The zoom capacity is a modest 27x.
Features include image stabilization (electronic not optical) Face Detection, Smile Shutter, Intelligent Auto and the same Bravia Sync as on the HDRP J200. Backlight compensation is automatic.
Available terminals are a USB port for data transfer and a pair of mini-HDMI ports although only one HDMI cable is supplied as is the USB cable.
There is no viewfinder as expected and the flip out LCD is 2.7" diagonally which is par for the course for this level of camera.
The HDRCX220 weighs 178g and has a 12 month warranty.
Of all the camcorders we looked at, the JVC GZ-EX355B (MSP $349.95 USD) is the only to have built in WiFi. This allows the camcorder to be controlled using an appropriate mobile phone (Android or iOS). It also means you can backup your camcorder to a computer via a wireless network or even use the USTRAM service via the internet as long as you have access to a WiFi hotspot. If you feel so inclined, WiFi also enables to GZ-R355B to act as a home or office detection system (CCTV) and even send video emails.
The lens is a proven Konica Minolta and hi-def shot is of the full 1080p specification. Zoom is 40x optical and the image stabilization is electronic.
Storage is to either the internal 16GB memory and there is a single SD card slot. Available ports are USB, A/V and HDMI.
Features include Face Detection, Sports Scoring, Intelligent Auto Record, Pet Detection, Time Lapse and Smile Detection.
The LCD is a 3 inch touch screen.
The GZ-EX355B weighs 254 grams and has a 12 month warranty.
Panasonic HC V100
Normally you would think in the scheme of things the "larger" the model number the more comprehensive a camcorder would be over a "lesser" number. On this premise then, the HC V100 (MSP 349.99 USD) should be not as credentialed as the previously looked at HC V110, but oddly, for reasons only known to Panasonic, this is not the case.
For starters, the HC V100 has optical stabilization as against electronic and the captured images are full HD.
The available zoom factor is 37x and storage is to SD card. Panasonic claim up to 165 minutes of shooting due to low power consumption technology in the HC V100 as well as exceptional low light capability due to a high sensitivity sensor.
Features include iA (intelligent Auto) which in itself comprises of Intelligent Contrast, Intelligent Scene and Face Detection. Available ports are HDMI, USB and AVI and cables are supplied for all three.
The HC V100 weighs 181g and has a warranty of 12 months.
David is the owner and publisher of Australian Videocamera. He has a background in media dating back to 1979 when he first got involved with photojournalism in motorsport, and went from there into technology via a 5 year stint with Tandy Computers.
Moving back to WA, David wrote scripts for Computer Television for video training for the just released Windows and Office 95 among others, and was then lured to Sydney to create web sites for the newly commercial Internet in 1995, building hundreds of sites under contract to OzEmail including Coates Hire, Hertz Queensland, John Williamson, the NSW Board of Studies and many, many more.
David can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org