Still dusting yourself off from the Great Recession? These camcorders will deliver a nice set of features without breaking the bank. Of course, you can't have it all: many budget-friendly models will entail some trade-off. One of the bigger trade-offs is the zoom lens - if there's an optical zoom, it tends to be in the 10x range. Another is internal memory: most budget camcorders offer only a memory card slot for storing your footage with not built-in memory out of the box.
Best budget camcorder: Kodak PlaySport. Image courtesy Kodak.
This model also topped our list of Best Pocket Camcordersand for good reason: it takes 1920 x 1080p video, is lightweight and ultra-portable and waterproof to boot! You won't get the kind of optical zoom lenses you'll find in more traditional camcorders, but the PlaySport Zx5is a nice low-cost option for video takers on a budget. Keep in mind that its $179 price does not include a memory card, which you'll need to store your footage.
Best budget camcorders: DXG A80V. Photo courtesy Sony.
Left-handed camcorder owners have usually been left out in the cold by manufacturers who optimize their designs for right-handed shooters. Samsung's Q10 ends this exclusionary trend with a unique "SwitchGrip" design that lets both right and left-handed users get a comfortable grip. This HD camcorder has a nice 10x optical zoom with optical image stabilization
and a straightforward design. It retails for $300.
Best Budget Camcorder: Sony Bloggie Touch. Image courtesy Sony.
Sony's Bloggie Touch (MHS-TS20) is unique among pocket camcorders - it's held horizontally, like a digital camera. This unique grip delivers a big benefit - you can use the entire 3-inch touchscreen LCD to preview your videos. Alongside excellent video quality and a decent feature set, the Bloggie is well worth consideration. It's sold in an 8GB (four hour) version for $199 or a 4GB (two hour) version for $179. Since there's no memory card slot for adding additional recording capacity, we'd suggest springing for the 8GB version.
If you're willing to sacrifice high definition resolution for a longer zoom lens (i.e. greater magnification) the low-cost FS400 is the camcorder for you. It delivers a 37x optical zoom lens in a nice, compact package. It is a standard definition model, however, so you're sacrificing video quality to get that magnification, but there is a nice feature set to accompany the lens, including compatibility with high capacity SDXC cards, and several scene modes. There's no optical stabilization so you're relying on Canon's digital stabilization system - you may notice shake as you push the lens out to its maximum focus area if you're not using a tripod.
The DXG-A85V is a high definition camcorder that records 1920 x 1080p video to SDHC memory cards. It features a 12x optical zoom lens, 3-inch touchscreen display and manual focusing. It is, in short, an over-achiever, trying to pack a fair number of high-end features into its $320 price point. For the most part it succeeds at delivering a good value for the price, but you'll have to put up with occasional sluggish performance.