Best Buys: Digital camcorders

(National) Dec. 6, 2004 - Like many families, the Haymans enjoy looking back at home videos. They bought their old VHS camcorder when their children were babies, but technology has changed a lot since then.

Consumer Reports just tested dozens of digital camcorders now on the market. Some record onto small tapes, while others record onto small DVDs. The newest are pint-size camcorders that record onto memory cards.

Jim Langehennig recorded the same test photos with all the cameras, including shots to check color accuracy and image detail. The pictures were played back on monitors and engineers compared the quality of the images.

Consumer Reports found big drawbacks with the memory-card camcorders. The video quality isn't great, and the cards are expensive. One costs $100 and gives a maximum of only 20 minutes of recording time.

As for the camcorders that record onto mini-DVDs, picture quality tends to be very good and playing back is convenient. You can jump quickly to any scene on the disc. But at $700 to $1000 dollars, mini-DVD camcorders are expensive.

Camcorders that record onto tape cost much less, and many deliver very good pictures. Consumer Reports named the Sony model DCR TRV-260 that records onto D-8 tape a Best Buy. It costs $350.

If you prefer a smaller camcorder that records onto MiniDV tapes, Consumer Reports recommends the Sony model number DCR-HC20. It weighs one pound instead of two, and it costs $500.

posted 6:00pm by Chris Rees

Copyright © 2004 Consumers Union of U.S. , Inc. All Rights Reserved.