Sunday, 3 January 2010

Buying a camcorder? – here are my top choices… Canon Legria FS200 is still top of my list at the moment

I’m in the (South African) market for a (budget) digital video camera (ie: <R3,000) and I am busy doing comparisons and evaluations of a few models available in Cape Town online and in real brick and mortar shops. 

If you have any inputs or suggestions that will assist me (and others) in this exercise, then please add your comments or email me directly (handytechtipper at gmail dot com).

One of my main problems is comparing quality of video and photos, and of course ease of use – these cannot be done in-store – so this type of purchase is either hit-and-miss or word-or-mouth or Internet-reviews-assisted.

To manufacturers: feel free to provide me with samples to try out and I’ll include your products in my review.

Updated on Mon 4Jan2010 after visiting a few shops in Century City today (thanks to Joseph from Game for his advice to get the Canon FS200).

My criteria for this exercise are (in order of priority):







Image stabiliser


Battery life


Video quality


Internal memory


Optical Zoom




Charge from USB


Powers up without battery






Front mic


DV control


Size, Weight






A/V output






Built-in flash


Built-in Light


So far, my shortlist is made of the following products (in no particular order):
A) Sanyo VPC-CG10 HD Flash Memory Camcorder with 5x Optical with 10MB photos: 

Click for full specs
High Definition 720p MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 videos, high resolution 10 Mega pixel photos, face chaser function for photos and videos, 5x optical zoom, image stabiliser function, stereo recording, (40MB internal memory).
Great review here:
My main concerns are: the low 5x zoom (lacks true variable speed control), long time to focus; No viewfinder; You cannot charge the battery and use it at the same time (the camcorder simply doesn't have a DC power input on the body, so you have to remove the battery and charge it separately); low light performance; Minor internal editing to trim and join video clips; Imprecise, cheap joystick is the only way to operate manual controls or navigate menus; no audio input; no headphone output;
My main attractions are the HD (High Definition), Stills/Photos: “Colour accuracy and clarity are practically unrivalled among camcorders”, “Surprisingly, the Sanyo VPC-CG10 may be the best still performer we've reviewed this year, even beating out the thousand-dollar flagship models of the competition”; Nice to have: voice memo record audio only feature;
See here for’s “conclusion
Best price obtained so far: online: R2,291+delivery R99-R50 = R2,340 (free delivery if order 3 or more items; R50 voucher for new clients – only valid for 7 days :( ) BUT still need to purchase the 16GB memory card @R569 ==> R2,810 plus need a spare battery @ R337 ==> R3,147
Brick ‘n mortar store: Game: R2,999 incl. 4GB memory card

B) Sony SX40 Memory Stick Video Camera:
Click for full specs [pdf]
Bundle includes: Sony SX40 video camera and 4GB MS Pro Duo, 4GB internal memory, 60x optical zoom, 2,7" wide LCD
My main concerns are it’s not HD, the recording quality (from Internet reviews), past experience with Sony video camera failure, proprietary memory sticks (and more expensive)
My main attractions are the 60x optical zoom, fader, price, 4GB internal memory
Best price obtained so far: R2,499 (incl. 4GB card) ==> plus 8GB memory card @ R380 ==> R2,879

C) Canon Legria FS200 Camcorder:

image SD/SDHC, 1/6" CCD, 37x optical, f2.0 - f5.2, DIGIC DV II, 2.7" LCD, USB 2.0 Hi Speed
Click for full specs
Great review here:

Bundle includes: 16GB memory card, 41x optical zoom, 2,7" wide LCD
My main concerns are it’s not HD, the video light has terrible range; Limited still features; sharpness and noise levels weren't good, photo 1.23 MP (cell phone will probably take better photos), headphone terminal outputs a mono signal, charges only when camera is off; downloads files only when power cable is plugged in.
My main attractions are the 41x optical zoom, excellent battery life, 20 min charge for 1 hour recording; included 16GB memory (up to 4h recording time), Pre Record feature (but: using it can quickly drain your camcorder's battery life), has ‘fader’ and ‘wipe’ functions, night mode, remaining battery is displayed in minutes remaining, not just an icon (same for remaining memory), auto lens cover, works without the battery and LCD closed (to save power)

I have seen various articles complaining of the .mod files (MPEG-2) on the SDHC memory card.  Don’t worry: you can plug the SDHC into your PC’s card reader and then rename the \SD_VIDEO\PRG001\MOVnn.mod file to .mpg OR you can plug the camera into your PC’s USB port (and power) and use the provided software (PIXELA\ImageMixer 3 SE Ver.4\Transfer Utility\IMx3Launcher.exe) – the latter (Pixela software) will rename the file to yyyymmddhhmmss.mpg (renaming the file manually means renaming from MOVnn.mod to AnythingYouLike.mpg ie: you need to transcribe the yyyymmddhhmmss from the file’s properties)

Update on Sun10Jan2010: Didn’t realise how painful this .mod file issue was – especially for Mac users.  I have been reading some articles and forums and there’s a great, free utility called SDcopy which converts and renames the files for you.  Written by Sektionschef, it’s available on the Zyvid forum for download here [424.78Kb]: {keep checking the forum for updates – or use}

Best price obtained so far: R2,999 (incl. 16GB memory card)
Also available for collection in Cape Town here: for R2,895 BUT doesn’t include the 16GB memory card)
Canon FS200 Owners Interactive Resource Community:
Here are some more useful reviews:

Another thing to consider/ponder about: 16GB memory card costs about R570 incl. VAT (from WantItAll) – that’s about R36 per GB… if you buy a camera with say 30GB HDD (Hard Disc Drive) for about R1,000 more (that’s R33 per GB) [and the HDD cameras are ?probably? of higher quality]
Update: I don't like the thought of a hard drive falling apart in a camcorder and decided the removable media option was better.  Also, memory card is big plus because I can just pull the card and stick it in my laptop to transfer data... no cables needed! 

Q: Another question that I needed answered: “IF I get a HD camcorder (so I don't have to upgrade later), will I be able to watch videos on my regular TV or computer without buying a lot of stuff to make it work?? {I don't do a lot of editing}”
A: “You can shoot in HD, then convert to SD when burning your disc.  That will allow you to watch with a standard DVD player.  To watch in HD you either need to watch it on your computer, watch the video directly from your camcorder, or upgrade to a Blu-Ray player.
It is worth getting HD. Video shot in HD, then converted to SD, looks better than shooting the video in SD from the start.  Also, Blu-Ray players are getting cheaper ($99 range).  After you see the video in HD, you'll want to burn HD discs, because it is a big quality difference between HD and SD.”
{See here for the full discussion thread}

HTT comment: for most South Africans (definitely for me), I think the cost of an HD CamCorder and the editing speed and convenience of an SD will be the overriding factors driving the purchase decision.  Also, HD files are about 13GB per hour; SD files are 4.5GB per hour.

I’d also like to include a Panasonic camera – any suggestions?
I might extend this options list to include HDD camcorders… nope – see reason above

HTT’s current (not final) feeling/verdict: HD isn’t for me (yet) – I don’t have the large HDDs nor computer power to process those large files (and the Sanyo VPC-CG10 con’s list seems too numerous at this stage).  I guess the Canon Legria FS200 Camcorder is about to pull my purse strings open soon….

I’m still waiting for any manufacturers to come to the party before making the final decision

Good review sites:
Amazon’s most popular CamCorders (updated hourly)

imageThanks to for the excellent reviews referenced above :)


  1. Thanks for this info. I agree, from my own research, that the Canon FS200 is probably the 'corder that meets most of the criteria for a reasonable price.

    My local camera dealer offered another solution which *was* HD, but as that was around AUD$1600 (compared to the FS200 at $500) I didn't bother writing it down :-)

  2. I see that SDCopy is no longer available from :(
    Anyone know why?

    So, I've posted the latest version that I have here:


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