This year's hottest product category is arguably digital video, and there are a ton of options available on the market. So which camcorder should you choose?
To aid you in your search for the best gadget for your visual adventures, here's my list of the year's 10 best camcorders, in order of sticker price, low to high.
Flip Video MinoHD Small, but mighty: This slim little wonder can produce solid 720p video and has one-touch video uploading to YouTube, AOL, and MySpace. It's got an integrated lithium ion rechargeable battery, and its FlipShare software is compatible with both Macs and Windows machines. What's not to love?
Price: About $160JVC GR-D850 MiniDV Camcorder A reliable, high-quality, and most of all, affordable, camcorder. It's not the most flashy or able camcorder in this list, but it's the kind of camcorder that gets the job done in standard-definition video (in 16:9 widescreen or 4:3 standard aspect ratio) via MiniDV cassette tapes. For the price, you can't go wrong.
Price: About $175Canon HG10 The HG10 is compact in size and equipped with a 40GB hard drive that allows up to 15 hours of high-definition video. On the front-end is a crisp Canon 10x zoom at 1920 x 1080 resolution on a full HD CMOS sensor. On the back-end, a miniSD card slot allows you to take stills at 3.1MP. Its autofocus is fast and accurate, and the unit's 24p Cinema Mode offers the same look and feel as film. The HG10 packs a 2.7-inch color widescreen LCD, and has an HDMI terminal allowing you to plug the device directly into your HDTV to screen captured footage.
Price: About $550Canon Vixia HV30 The well-designed, high-quality HV30 proves that recording on tape is still one of the best ways to capture high-definition video. With a comfortable design, solid feature set and those quality MiniDV tapes, this Vixia will impress.
Price: About $550Canon Vixia HF10 Canon's first flash-based camcorder takes all the best traits of its tape-based siblings and packs it with an easy-to-use medium. This camcorder is compact, its focus is rapid, its quality is top-notch, and its weight is lighter than its tape-based counterpart.
Price: About $650JVC Everio GZ-HD3 This camcorder looks good in your hand, records high-quality audio, has low noise, low-light capability and keeps all the solid underpinnings of the fancier GZ-HD7. It offers high-definition recording on a 60GB hard drive capable of recording seven hours of HD footage. On the front-end, it has a 10x Konica Minolta-branded lens with low-dispersion glass. In back, it provides features such as focus assist, a built-in video light that automatically illuminates in low light, Digital Image Stabilization and a widescreen 2.8-inch LCD monitor.
Price: About $650Sony Handycam HDR-CX7 This HD camcorder uses Memory Stick PRO Duo memory cards that, at 8GB, each hold three hours of video in LP mode. It uses Sony's ClearVid CMOS sensor technology and features built-in Dolby Digital surround-sound recording, Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar optics and Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization. Out front, it has a 10x optical/20x digital zoom. The best trick in this camera's arsenal is its Easy Handicam button that locks off advanced features to leave only essential buttons for recording -- perfect for practicing video skills.
Price: About $700Sony Handycam HDR-SR11 Expect top-notch audio and video quality from this camcorder, whose performance puts it at the head of its class. Its still photo ability is commendable, it comes with a docking station, and its controls are in all the right places.
Price: About $700Panasonic HDC-DX1 This model has a Leica Dicomar lens with 12x optical zoom that offers excellent optics, and its three CCDs deliver bright, crisp colors. Built-in Optical Image Stabilization helps in capturing sharp images, especially when zooming, and the HDC-DX1's 5.1-channel audio recording is tough to beat.
Price: About $800Canon XH A1 It doesn't get any better than this, digital video fans. For the Ken Burns-inspired, the XH A1 offers professional-quality video, fast focus, customization to your heart's content, a great lens and good image stabilization. And for the price, it won't break your aspiring filmmaker budget, either.
Price: About $3200