Well we are the cusp of a camcorder revolution. In thinking about the next generation to get, the Canon Optura 100MC really did last a long time. It was 480i/60 standard definition that used miniDV tapes. I actually made quite a few videos considering what a pain it was to capture. A fast computer really helped. Last year, I got the Sony SR100 (the new model is the SR200), unlike the tape based, the amount of evolution in hard disk camcorders is just amazing. Sony is doing a new model every year.
The bleeding edge though is HD or high definition. This is 1080i/24p and the technology is just evolving for consumer camcorders. The picture quality promises to be great, but the use of a new codec, the AVCHD, has got lots of teething problems. The best model looks like the Sony HDR-SR1, but its quality isn't as good as the miniDV-based HD camcorders yet because the codec (H.264) is still maturing compared to MPEG-2. So what's a nerd to do. Well, other than wait for the follow-on to the SR100, its too look at the really heavy professional or prosumer camcorders that cost $2-3K rather than $1.5-1K. You get four pound monsters rather than one pound, stuff into your pocket, but the picture quality is amazing. So here's my advice:
# Wait for the SR1 follow-on (SR2?). If you can stick it out, wait for the next generation of hard disk drive AVCHD camcorders. Sony and Canon are neck and neck as usual in producing these. The SR100 is just about done and the Canon folks don't have a hard disk based camcorder yet. Too bad.
# SR1. If you really have to have it right away, you can still get the SR1 for about $1000, but hurry as they seem to be stocking out
# "Canon HV10":http://www.camcorderinfo.com/content/Canon-HV10-Camcorder-Review/Format.htm. If you don't mind the miniDV format and I really do, the HV10 is probably the best of the current ones, even compared to the Sony HC3 that it competes directly with and beats it by a nose because of better color balance. It weighs less than a pound, the miniDV makes it hard for me to recommend it.
# "Canon XL H1": . Turns out that the color quality is actually about as good as the HV10, so you only need this bigger brother if you want manual controls and you care about low or available light shooting where having 3CCDs makes a difference.
# "Sony HVR-V1U":http://www.videomaker.com/article/13184/. OK, if you've got $4,000 to splurge and don't need a new car, the Sony 4 pound professional camera has a great review. It is a 3CCD system so has great color accuracy and also low light capability. It shoots 1080i in 24p, and 30p modes. So, its ready for you to make real movies. The biggest drawback is that it still uses the MiniDV format cassette.
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