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What to Look for When Shopping for the Best HD Camcorder

written by: Shawn S. Lealos•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 3/28/2011

The best HD camcorder will offer manual options, including shutter speed and aperture settings. The best HD camcorders also produce quality video in any light condition, offer easy to access options and include solid auto alternatives as well. These cameras offer various positives for the HD market.

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    Canon Vixia HF S21

    The Canon Vixia HF S21 remains a solid choice for someone looking for the best HD camcorder. The camcorder contains a great set of manual features including shutter speed and iris, manual focus, exposure compensation, aperture and shutter controls, microphone level and automatic gain control limit. The camcorder offers shutter speeds ranging from 1/8 to 1/2,000 second with aperture options that range from f1.8 to f8, offering more control over than you normally get in a prosumer model.

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    Panasonic HDC-TM700

    The Panasonic HDC-TM700 is a flash HD camcorder with a number of features and the ability to create high quality video. This camcorder offers great low-light video and a 1080/60p recording option. The recording mode, full manual features and viewfinder makes this a nice choice for prosumers tired of the lack of quality and control in similar priced camcorders. There is another Panasonic camcorder (HDC-HS700) that costs more but does not offer the value that this one does.

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    Canon Vixia HF M31Canon Vixia HF R10Panasonic HDC-SD60K
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    Sony Handycam HDR-CX550V

    The Sony Handycam HDR-CX550V is another HD camcorder that offers full manual controls for video as well as a superior autofocus system. There are some minor inconveniences with the camcorder, including a poorly constructed menu system and poor audio controls. The camcorder does not offer a wind filter either. The default setting is not full-HD video, so the camera needs to be changed to shoot HD when it is activated. However, when compared to the more expensive Sony XR550V, with a built in hard drive, this model is a better choice despite being a smaller flash memory device for the price. As an added bonus, the camera comes with the ability for geotagging, which uses GPS to add latitude and longitude info to videos.

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    Canon Vixia HF M31

    The Canon Vixia HF M31 is one of the better options when looking for the best HD camcorder on the market. The camcorder shoots beautiful HD video, comparable to higher priced options. The menu screen is cumbersome, a touch screen that requires patient hands to navigate. The stabilization mode is great and the low light video looks better than average. The camcorder also offers aperture and shutter shooting modes, giving the cameraman more control of what is being shot.

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    Images

    Panasonic HDC-TM700Sony Handycam HDR-CX550VCanon Vixia HF S21
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    Panasonic HDC-SD60K

    The Panasonic HDC-SD60K is a low priced alternative when choosing the best HD camcorder available. The camera shoots in 1080i but indoor and bright light shooting looks spectacular. However, the problems come with low light shooting where the video remains noisy and of lesser quality. Part of the problem is an inconsistent automatic white balance. The camcorder does offer manual iris controls and shutter speed options and has a great autofocus.

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    Canon Vixia HF R10

    The Canon Vixia HF R10 is the lowest priced HD camcorder on this list. For the low price, the camcorder has a mic and headphone jack, which is unusual for the price range. However, the camcorder has some deficiencies that makes the low price not much of a consolation. The camera shoots poor low light footage and has bad color accuracy. The autofocus is also poor. The extremely low price makes this an attractive option but the quality of video makes it a camcorder to avoid.

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    Resources

    All references from Canon Vixia HF S21

    • Canon’s Official Product Page: http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/camcorders/consumer_camcorders/vixia_hf_s21#Overview
    • At Amazon for $1,299.00 as of February 2011: http://www.amazon.com/Canon-HF-S21-Camcorder-Control/dp/B00322OP40/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1298789033&sr=8-2

    All references from Panasonic HDC-TM700

    • Panasonic’s Official Product Page: http://www.panasonic.net/avc/camcorder/hd/hs700_tm700_sd700/
    • At Amazon for $999.95 as of February 2011: http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-HDC-TM700K-Camcorder-Control-Internal/dp/B0035LD0EY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1298789920&sr=8-1

    All references from Sony Handycam HDR-CX550V

    • Sony’s Official Product Page: www.sonystyle.com/product/en/hdrcx550v
    • At Amazon for $1098.00 as of February 2011: http://www.amazon.com/Sony-HDR-CX550V-Definition-Handycam-Camcorder/dp/B0031RGL1G/ref=sr_1_2?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1298790480&sr=1-2

    All references from Canon Vixia HF M31

    • Canon’s Official Product Page: http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/camcorders/consumer_camcorders/vixia_hf_m31
    • At Amazon for $499.95 as of February 2011: http://www.amazon.com/Canon-HF-M31-Camcorder-Memory/dp/B00322OP4K/ref=sr_1_2?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1298792993&sr=1-2

    All references from Panasonic HDC-SD60K

    • Panasonic’s Official Product Page: http://www2.panasonic.com/consumer-electronics/shop/Cameras-Camcorders/Camcorders/1-MOS-High-Def-Camcorders/model.HDC-SD60K_11002_7000000000000005702
    • At Amazon for $449.99 as of February 2011: http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-HDC-SD60K-Hi-Def-Camcorder-Intelligent/dp/B0035LCZSG/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1298793727&sr=1-1

    All references from Canon Vixia HF R10

    • Canon’s Official Product Page: http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/camcorders/consumer_camcorders/vixia_hf_r10
    • At Amazon for $299.00 as of February 2011: http://www.amazon.com/Canon-HF-R10-Camcorder-Black/dp/B00322ON88/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1298794202&sr=1-1