There are obvious reasons to choose a dedicated camcorder as a gift for Mother’s Day. For starters, it won’t ring in the middle of video recording. Next, the better camcorders contain an optical zoom lens that doesn’t degrade the picture resolution during close-ups, the way digital zoom does. Equally important is the fact that many camcorders have optical image stabilization that helps keep the shot steady, even when recording one-handed from a moving car, skateboard or the like. Additionally, some have innovative features like a built-in projector or the ability to stream live video to a mobile device.
Most consumer camcorders today use solid-state memory, either built in, an SD card or both. Solid-state camcorders have fewer moving parts compared to camcorders that use tape or hard drives, and that means greater reliability and longer battery life. Consider, too, that a good number of camcorders aren’t much bigger than a cell phone.
Since mothers are especially susceptible to taking videos of children, offering them a video camera could be like giving chocolate to someone with a serious sweet tooth. Moms will be pressing the record button in no time—or as soon as the battery charges. The camcorders suggested here are extremely consumer friendly, so your mom won’t have to sweat over a manual.
The Kodak Zi10 PlayTouch Video Camera is a pocket-size camcorder with 3-inch LCD touch screen. You hold the camera vertically to record video. The full 3-inch view is best appreciated by turning the camera to a landscape orientation while reviewing your clips. The Full HD (1920 x 1080p) camera contains a fixed focus lens with 4x digital zoom and digital image stabilization. There is limited (128 Megabytes) internal storage, so you’ll need to pop in an SD or SDHC card. You can trim videos in the camera itself. Though you do need to attach the camera to the USB port on your computer, the camera can be set to share your files with flickr, Facebook or YouTube, among other destinations. Also included is the Arcsoft Media Impression software to help you manage your photo and video files on your Windows PC. By the way, this is one of the few camcorders that actually includes the HDMI cable for connection to your HDTV.
About the size of a cell phone and sporting a 3-inch (7.6 cm) touch screen, the Sony MHS-TS20 8GB Bloggie Touch Camera (Black) records full HD video to 8 Gigabytes of internal flash memory. The pocket MP4-type video camera also takes 12.8-megapixel photographs. Figure 80 minutes of video at Full HD resolution and 240 minutes at 720p quality. At 4.4 ounces (125 grams), the camera uses a fixed focus f/2.8 (maximum aperture) lens to let you get as close as 4 inches (10 cm) from your subject. Digital 4x zoom and Steadyshot image stabilization are incorporated. In addition to touch controls, there is a hard button for recording video and taking a still image. In the age of the touch screen, many still consider real buttons invaluable, especially while trying to see the camera controls outdoors on a bright, sunny day. A flip-out USB arm voids the possibility of being thwarted by a missing cable for charging and uploading content to a computer. Even so, a short USB cable is included so that when you attach the camera to your computer, adjacent USB ports aren't blocked. A mini HDMI port is on the camera for connection to an HDTV, but the HDMI cable isn’t included. However, if you decide to spend a little more by selecting the Sony MHS-TS20 8GB Bloggie Touch Camera with Accessory Kit, not one but two HDMI cables are included, as well as a camera pouch, lens cleaner and 2-year Sagemax replacement plan.
The Camileo BW10 HD Waterproof Camcorder (Yellow) from Toshiba records video in 1080p (Full HD) and is waterproof down to 6.6 feet (2 m), more than sufficient for tub or pool use. It features a 2-inch (5.1 cm) anti-glare LCD screen and the ability to take 5MP still images, too. Featuring 10x digital zoom, image stabilization and USB and HDMI connectors, the BW10 weighs less than 4 ounces (113 grams) and includes an easy-to-remove rechargeable battery. So if you pick one up, you can always carry a spare Toshiba PX1686 lithium-ion battery. The camcorder can record up to 64 Gigabytes using an SDXC card. According to Toshiba, each gigabyte holds almost 10 minutes of Full HD video (MPEG-4) or 604 photos at 5 megapixels each. For greater storage capacity, you can step down to 720p or VGA resolution for video or 2 megapixels for photos. There’s seamless upload ability to YouTube once you plug the camera into a Windows XP/Vista/7 computer via the included USB cable. Incidentally, the same camera in a different color, the BW10 Waterproof Camcorder (Silver), is offered at a slightly higher price just over $100.
Toshiba’s Camileo H30 Camcorder is in a higher class with a 5x optical zoom and foldout 3-inch (7.6 cm) LCD touch screen. It also includes a built-in light and flash to help you take those great 10MP stills and Full HD 1080p videos. The camcorder sports a YouTube hot key that enables you to instantly upload videos to YouTube once you link to your computer via the included USB cable. You can also attach the H30 to your TV through the mini HDMI or video output. HDMI and video cables are supplied with the camcorder, and a remote control is also included. You can record about 5 hours of Full HD 1080 video, or 12 hours at the lowest resolution, with a 32GB SDHC card.
The Samsung HMX-W300 Pocket Camcorder, available in all black or with a red or orange trim, is waterproof down to 16.4 feet (5 m). It’s also shockproof and dust proof. The camera records full HD video and 5.5MP photos. The fixed (29.6mm) wide-angle lens is supplemented by a 3x digital zoom. A 2.3-inch (5.8 cm) LCD is built into the back of the camera. Both the USB connector and Intelli-Studio editing software are built in.
While the higher-priced Samsung HMX-F80 Flash Memory Camcorder in black or silver records at up to 720p resolution, it does feature an impressive 52x optical zoom built around an f/1.8 Schneider lens. The camcorder contains a flash for stills, a foldout 2.7-inch (6.9 cm) LCD, face detection and time-lapse recording. The latter lets you automatically capture frames at intervals ranging from 1-30 seconds. Recording is done to a flash memory card you provide.
Camcorders that record exclusively to blank media you insert (as in a flash memory card) have no internal memory, and therefore represent a return to home video’s roots. After all, tape-based camcorders didn’t have internal memory, either. Maybe that’s why the Canon FS400 Flash Memory Camcorder (Silver) seems so familiar. This standard-definition camcorder features a 1/6-inch CCD sensor, another blast from the past since most home camcorders today incorporate CMOS image sensors. With its 41x advanced zoom lens, the camcorder is adept at closing in on your subject. The FS400 can capture images in low light, but if you’re close enough, you can improve your odds by turning on the built-in light.
While the Canon FS400 and Samsung HMX-F80 are dependent on you providing a memory card, the Panasonic HDC-TM41 High Definition Flash Camcorder has 16GB of built-in flash memory as well as a slot for an SD/SDHC/SDXC card. Using the internal memory alone, the camcorder can store 2 hours of high-def video at the highest quality. Other features that make this camera a recommended one are 16.8x optical zoom, optical image stabilization and a built-in movie light (but no flash). The camcorder has a foldout 2.7-inch (6.9 cm) LCD and is capable of recording 135 minutes of video per battery charge.
For more rugged use, consider the Sony MHS-TS22 Bloggie Sport Camcorder in blue, black or red. The rubberized bumper protects against impact and drops. Shockproof, dust proof and waterproof down to 16 feet, the pocket-size camcorder contains 4GB of internal flash memory and a 2.7-inch (6.9 cm) LCD touch screen. It sports an LED light you can turn on during low-light recording, SteadyShot image stabilization and 4x digital zoom. A flip-out USB arm and mini HDMI port (cable not included) are on the camcorder. In addition to shooting 1080p video, the camera takes 5MP still images.
While the MHS-TS22 contains a Share function that lets you tag content to such sites as Facebook and YouTube, the Sony MHS-TS55 Bloggie Live Camcorder (Silver) features live Wi-Fi streaming from the camera so you can upload content directly to YouTube, Facebook, and PlayMemories Online without hooking up to a computer. The TS55 can even broadcast live. Viewers can post comments back to your camera in real time. You can view your video on the 3-inch (7.6 cm) touch screen or connect the camcorder to your HDTV set via its mini HDMI port (cable not included). The camera can also snap 12.8MP photos.
The Panasonic HC-V10 High Definition Camcorder (Black) features something a pocket-size camcorder doesn’t—depth. So, while the MHS-TS22 is 0.63-inches (1.6 cm) thick, the HC-V10 is 4.31-inches (10.9 cm) deep. One thing the extra girth buys you is a superior lens. In this case it’s a 63x optical zoom that provides ultra-long telephoto shots, the type required when you’re trying to go deep on your kid on the court from a far seat in the bleachers. On the other end, if you need to go wide in tight quarters, the camcorder’s 31.6mm wide-angle lens lets you capture the team from within spitting distance. The camera’s power optical image stabilization helps prevent blurring, especially when shooting in telephoto mode. The camcorder also features a 3-second “pre-record” buffer that saves what you thought you missed just before pressing the record button, assuming the camera was pointed in the intended direction. Capable of recording video up to 720p in resolution, the HC-V10 saves to an SD/SDHC/SDXC card (not included).
The Zoom Q3HD Handy Video Recorder is tailor made for the home-video enthusiast who puts audio capture on equal footing with the picture. The Q3HD records video at up to 1080 but, unlike all the camcorders in this roundup, the built-in microphones stand out. In fact, the dual, studio-quality condenser mics are the same ones found in Zoom’s H4n professional field recorder. The Q3HD displays audio meters, allowing you to easily monitor and set audio levels. The Handy Video Recorder is powered by two AA batteries (included). Zoom also supplies a 2GB SD card and a trio of programs: Apple Quicktime, the HandyShare Editing program and YouTube Uploader.
The Sony HDR-CX160 HD Flash Memory Camcorder, in black or blue, is a 1920 x 1080/60p camcorder with 16GB of internal flash memory and slots for SD and Memory Stick Duo cards. Using the internal memory alone, the camcorder is capable of storing up to 6 hours of high-definition video in HD LP mode. The camera also procures 3.3MP still photos. The Sony G Lens with 37mm filter diameter provides 30x optical zoom. The camcorder defends against blurry video with Sony’s optical Steadyshot Active Mode. The HDR-CX160 sports a 3-inch (7.6 cm) LCD screen that rotates up to 270 degrees. Built into the camera’s software is an innovative Tracking Focus feature that takes Face Detection to the next level. Touch a face on the LCD and the camera will automatically make it the focal point as you shoot. If mom is a golfer, she’ll appreciate the Golf Shot mode that builds on the slow-motion capabilities of the Smooth Slow Record feature as well as the ability to capture a sequence of 22 still images. When selecting scenes and photos to play back, an Event Browse feature lets you group videos and images based on date. You can transfer content from the camcorder directly to an external hard drive (sold separately) without a computer.
Camcorders with built-in Wi-Fi empower users with a range of resources. They not only enable you to dispatch videos and photos directly to Internet-sharing sites through a Wi-Fi hot spot, but also let you monitor what the camcorder sees and hears on a mobile device—and even use your phone or tablet to control the camcorder. Suddenly, the camcorder can be deployed within your home network to spy on young children in one room while parents watch from a mobile screen in another.
Built-in Wi-Fi enables users to wirelessly view their videos and photos through their home network to any DLNA-compliant TV, Blu-ray Disc player or media receiver attached to the TV. That’s the Digital Living Network Alliance standard adopted by many manufacturers. It means you can keep the camcorder on your lap, jump to the good scenes without a remote, and share that birthday party or vacation video with friends or family members on your big screen HDTV. And the camcorder doesn’t even have to be in the same room as the display device.
You’ll also be able to upload video wirelessly to your PC or to a Wi-Fi connected device, such as an iPad or iPod touch. Beyond in-home viewing, you’ll be able to transfer video from the camcorder directly to online sharing sites like YouTube and Facebook. And you should be able to get your videos out to the world within moments of shooting by taking advantage of a public Wi-Fi hot spot or using your iPhone or cellular data-connected tablet or notebook.
The Canon VIXIA HF R30 Full HD Camcorder starts with a 32x optical zoom lens and optical and powered image stabilization, but also boasts 8GB of internal flash memory in addition to an SD/SDHC/SDXC slot. You view the action and control the camcorder from a 3-inch (7.6 cm) widescreen LCD touch panel. This is also one of the few camcorders in this roundup with a microphone input, so you can record audio close-up from an external microphone (not included) attached, for instance, to your subject’s lapel. For more about Canon’s Wi-Fi-enabled family, see the B&H InDepth article, New Canon VIXIA Connected Camcorders.
The JVC GZ-VX700 Full HD Everio Camcorder with WiFi (Black) captures 1080/60p video through an optical 10x zoom lens supported by JVC’s Optical and Advanced Image Stabilizer. The GZ-VX700 can also be used as a 10MP still camera. The recording media is an SD/SDHC/SDXC card (not supplied). The camcorder embeds face recognition algorithms that prioritize focus and exposure on particular faces. And JVC’s K2 Technology helps restore the audio quality on playback after being compressed during recording. Leveraging Wi-Fi, the camcorder enables live monitoring, video email and home-detection monitoring. The camcorder is compatible with both iOS (iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices) and Android phones and tablets. You install a free app on your mobile device, downloadable from the iTunes App Store or Google Play (formerly Android Market).
The Sony HDR-PJ30V Camcorder isn’t Wi-Fi enabled, but it can be used in an entirely different way—it has a built-in projector! As a versatile camcorder, the HDR-PJ30V records 1920 x 1080/60p/24p video. The wide-angle Sony G Lens with 30mm filter diameter enables 12x optical zoom backed by optical Steadyshot with Active Mode. The camcorder contains 32GB of internal flash memory, but you can also use an SD or Memory Stick Duo card. Using just the internal memory, you can store up to 2 hours and 30 minutes of video at the highest quality. The camera also takes 7.1MP still pictures. There’s a built-in video light and a flash, too, as well as a jack for an external microphone. The 3-inch (7.6 cm) LCD touch panel lets you control, monitor and play back the action. The camcorder has built-in GPS for automatically recording the scene and photo location.
The built-in projector is a great convenience feature likely to surprise, delight and embarrass friends and family members upon seeing moments of their lives replayed seconds after they occur. Even if you’re carrying footage of an event recorded weeks or months earlier, the idea of projecting an image up to 60 inches (152.4 cm) in size at night out-of-doors or inside where you don’t have access to a TV will certainly be more dramatic and accommodating than huddling people around the camcorder’s 3-inch screen. The camcorder is equipped with stereo speakers, but it also has a headphone jack that could be used to deliver audio to portable speakers. If the family likes to go on camping trips, this may be the one camcorder to take along to record and entertain.