Digital Camcorders for Less

Sales of camcorders peak in December. People like to have them for the big family celebrations. This year most of those for sale are digital.

Consumer Reports just tested three types.

Like many families, the Haymans enjoy looking back at home videos. They bought their old VHS camcorder when their children were babies. Technology has changed a lot since then. Consumer Reports just tested dozens of digital camcorders now on the market. Some record onto small taps... Others record onto small DVDs.

The newest are pint size camcorders that record onto memory cards. Jim Langehenning 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. This 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 inconvenient. You can jump quickly to any scene on the disc. But at $700 to a $1,000, mini DVD camcorders are expensive. Camcorders that record onto tape cost much less and many deliver very good pictures.

Consumer Reports named this camcorder that records onto D8 tape a best buy. It's the Sony model dcr trv 260 for $350. It's a vast improvement over the Haymans' old analog camcorder.

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