Top Camcorders in 2007

The camcorder industry had a great run in 2007, coming out with the first full HD’s and some of the most compact models ever made. While niftier cameras are sure to come out this year, last year’s models are still worth looking at. Here are some of the best buys.

If you’re thinking of buying a new camcorder, now’s a good time—the first few months where last year’s gadgets step aside for the new ones. With companies churning out newer, cooler gadgets, previous models tend to get a lot cheaper, even if they’ve only been on the market a few months. In fact, you can save up to $500 on a good camcorder if you know what to look for. So don’t sweat over the breakthrough (read: overpriced) camcorders of 2008—go back a season and get a much better deal. To help you get started, here are seven of the best-selling camcorders in 2007.

Canon HV20

Sleek and stylish, the HV20 packs as much power as you can get for under $1000. Designed for the prosumer to professional user, it’s fitted with Canon’s new Digic DV II processor and a full HD CMOS sensor, ensuring maximum image quality in any condition. The 10x video zoom lens gives you excellent shooting flexibility. And if you’re switching from an SD model, no worries—the SD and HD shooting modes allow you to use your old equipment with the HV20. As per Canon’s tradition, it remains surprisingly simple and user-friendly despite its full range of features.

Sony DCR-HC96

HD may be in, but many people still swear by the MiniDV format for video quality and economy. And if you want top value for your dollar, you can’t get much better than the Sony DCR-HC96. For under $600, you get such features as a touch-screen LCD, long exposures and record times, and excellent connectivity with FireWire, USB, DC-in, and in and out AV terminals. Ease of use is practically a given with Sony’s proven record of user-friendliness, but the Easy mode makes it particularly suitable for beginners.

Panasonic HDC-SD1

One of the smaller high-definition models around, the HDC-SD1 ditches tapes, discs, and other traditional media for a more convenient SD memory card. This makes file transfers a breeze and allows a more compact, stylish form factor. What’s more, it also records 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound, so you know there’s no tradeoff in terms of quality—in fact, it passes as a full-feature HD camcorder. The only drawback is the price; this sleek little toy will cost you a cool $3,000.

Sony HDR-UX7

Dubbed by as the most powerful DVD camcorder on the market, the UX7 is designed for the point-and-shoot user who wants a bit more than decent video and playback. While simple enough for home videos, it also offers excellent manual control for those who like to experiment. It also includes mike and headphone jacks, an accessory shoe, and 5.1 Surround Sound recording. One drawback is that at the highest quality setting, it records only 15 minutes max per disc, although double-sided DVDs now offer a bit more storage.

Canon DC50

If speed and ease of use are on top of your list, you might like this new prosumer DVD camcorder from Canon. Recording directly to DVD, the DC50 does away with cable transfers, cassette adapters, and all those extra steps involved in handling your files. The built-in DVD drive makes it a tad bulkier than its peers, but it’s a small price to pay for convenience—especially considering its friendly $600 price tag. With the DC50, all you have to do is record, take the DVD, and pop it into your player to enjoy your favorite moments.

Panasonic PV-GS80

Not ready to jump to HD? Keep up with the trend with the Panasonic PV-GS80, a standard-definition camcorder able to take on MiniDV and the popular 16:9 widescreen format. You can’t expect professional quality video for $250, but the GS80 takes sharp, decent images comparable to Canon’s entry-level models. The zoom microphone has a noise-reducing feature to enhance video quality. While an avid videographer should invest in something more advanced, the GS80 is perfect for casual shooters who just want a no-frills, high-performance camcorder.

Sony SR5

Sony shrinks the frame and packs in the features in this ultra-compact camcorder, the smallest HD model currently on the shelves. At 3 x 3.25 x 5 inches, the SR5 belies powerful features such as 5.1 Surround Sound, 10x optical zoom, a digital image stabilizer, and a whopping 40GB of hard disk space. You’ll never have to worry about writing over those precious clips—when the disk is full, you’ll be prompted to transfer your files or burn them onto a DVD for backup. Expect to shell out around $750 for this model.