The Vivitar DVR 690HD retails for $60. Full specifications can be found here.
Vivitar DVR 690HD at a Glance
The Good: Low cost, large controls, easy to use.
The Bad: Mediocre video quality.
Vivitar DVR 690HD Video Quality
The Vivitar DVR 690HD records HD video in the AVI format at 1280 x 720p/30 frames per second. It's not quite the 1080p video recording available on competitive models - but then again, those models don't cost $60. Video recorded at 720p will serve in a pinch, but you shouldn't consider the DVR 690HD a real memory keeper - the quality just isn't there. As a second camcorder to toss in a backpack before you go white-water rafting, however, it should be serviceable. Just don't bother with the DVR 690HD indoors as they'll be ample noise in your video if you do.
Recording quality can be dropped to VGA or 320 x 240 - but really shouldn't be. You can also snap 5-megapixel still photos. The quality here is lousy - but that's no real knock on the Vivitar as very few pocket camcorders take decent stills.
The DVR 690HD has no optical zoom lens, but instead uses a 4x digital zoom. Best to avoid the digital zoom, however, as all it will do is ramp up some unsightly digital noise.
Vivitar DVR 690HD Design
The DVR 690HD is pretty bulky, even by the standards of rugged pocket camcorders. It's a bit longer than a compact camera but as thin, if not thinner, than most point-and-shoots in the market. Keep in mind that it's designed to go underwater (up to 1o feet) so the added bulk is for defensive purposes. That said, it's aesthetically sharp with a 10 color choices and silver/metallic trim.
The controls on the back of the DVR690 are large and responsive. You'll see buttons for power, mode, menu and trash surrounding a four-way controller with a shutter button sandwiched in the middle. The four-way controller feels a bit flimsy when you use it, but the rest of the controls are sturdier and easy to operate.The SD card and USB plug (no built-in USB arm here) are accessed via a latched compartment at the bottom of the camcorder. This compartment is very stubborn to open up, but it does keep the water out.
When you spend $60 for a camcorder, you can't expect to get a feature-packed model. That said, the DVR 690HD does offer face detection and digital image stabilization. You'll also find several scene modes for optimizing exposure based on your shooting condition. There's also an LED video light for low light shooting. Not a bad assortment, considering.
Menu and Display
You'll frame your video via 2-inch LCD display. It's not the crispest display on the market but served well enough underwater. The DVR 690HD's menu is pretty basic but is straightforward enough that it's easy to find what you need.
Vivitar DVR 690HD Memory
The 690HD has a scant 8MB of internal memory, so an SDHC card is a must. The camcorder supports cards up to 32GB in size so you'll get a max of 3.2-hours of recording on a 32GB card.
We'll stipulate again that the Vivitar DVR 690HD should not be your camcorder of choice for preserving important family memories. Instead, think of it as a second camcorder that you don't mind exposing to the elements to record your rugged thrills or day at the beach. It has competition on this front too - products like Kodak's Playsport Zx5 offer superior video quality and feature set, but cost nearly two to three times what the DVR 690HD does. If budget and durability are top of mind, give the DVR 690HD a look.