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Some Camcorders Are Worth The Price

Advances in technology are breathtaking. Nowhere is this truer than in video. Fifteen years ago, camcorders were expensive and not very good. Everything was analog, you couldn't easily edit and you played your video on your VCR.

Today, camcorders are digital. You can easily transfer videos to your PC or Mac for editing, and prices of camcorders have plunged, even for high-definition.

I can't begin to cover everything that's available, but if you're in the market for a camcorder, you won't go wrong with these picks.

Creative's Vado will appeal to anyone looking for a compact, easy-to-use camcorder. It is ideal for shooting videos for the Web and, at $100, it is also great for the kids.

The 2-gigabyte internal storage holds two hours of video and the Vado is small enough to slip into your pocket.

Simplicity is at the center of the Vado's design. The camcorder has few buttons and no optical zoom, but minimal features also make it easy and fun to use.

Uploading video to your computer or the Web is a snap. Just connect the built-in USB arm. On-board software helps you work with your videos. The high-definition version of the Vado runs $230.

You might also consider the popular Flip camcorders. The Flip Ultra ($150) rivals the Vado on features. However, instead of a rechargeable battery, you must supply AAs. Also, the Flip Ultra is slightly larger than the Vado.

The high-definition version of the Flip Ultra runs $200. The Flip Mino is a smaller version of the Ultra. It starts at $180.

For casual afternoons at the pool or beach, DXG's U579VS ($150) is your camcorder.

The U579VS offers 720p high-definition video on a budget. Of course, plenty of inexpensive camcorders record in high-def, but the U579VS includes a waterproof case, which is submersible to 15 feet. It's perfect for snorkeling or taking fun videos in the pool!

The U579VS records to SD cards. It also takes 5-megapixel photographs. Unfortunately, it only has digital zoom, which degrades video quality.

Bird watchers and outdoorsy types will love Panasonic's SDR-S26K ($270). With the 70X optical zoom, you can zoom in on animals and distant objects. Optical image stabilization reduces handshake.

The S26K also features face detection. Additionally, a special mode helps you record faces in poor lighting.

The S26K includes a YouTube Uploader. Combined with the Web video mode, this makes uploading videos a breeze. The S26K records in standard definition.

Nikon's D5000 ($730, body only) isn't technically a camcorder. Rather, it is a digital SLR that happens to record 720p video.

Two types of people will love the D5000. First, it is ideal for photo buffs who occasionally shoot video. They'll get the benefits of an SLR, plus video capabilities.

The camera will also appeal to those who want a high level of control. Lenses can be changed, making it easy to go from macro to wide-angle to telephoto shots.

Casual videographers should look elsewhere. Shooting video on the D5000 can be tricky. For example, there's no autofocus. But, once you master the camera, you'll be rewarded with stunning videos.

Of course, the D5000 takes fabulous photos. Like other digital SLRs, its sensor is very large. And, Live View lets you frame photos and video in the swiveling display.

Sony's high-end HDR-XR200V ($1,000) is perfect for frequent travelers. It marries a camcorder and GPS unit. You can view your current location via the LCD. And the clock adjusts automatically when you change time zones. More importantly, you can geotag your photos and videos. Later, view them on a map. You'll never forget where a photo or video was shot!

Other features are equally impressive. There's optical image stabilization, making shaky, nauseating videos a thing of the past.

The 120GB hard drive holds up to 14.5 hours of HD recording. That's 1080i at the highest quality.

There's also face detection and Smile Shutter. So your subjects will always look their best. Additionally, Highlight Playback analyzes your videos and automatically plays the highlights.

The XR200V also features a built-in zoom microphone. This makes it easy to record faraway subjects. It is also capable of recording 5.1-channel surround sound.

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