Get a Sanyo 1080p camcorder for $380 shipped
A pocket camcorder is fine for family vacations, but if you're eyeballing next year's Sundance festival, you'll need a camcorder like this one.
I'm a big fan of camcorders, especially the pocket variety. When they cost less than $100, I'm a big fan.
However, more serious moviemaking requires more serious hardware, and the pocket cams really don't have the right stuff. You need a larger camera, one with a lot of bells, whistles, and pixels.
Abe's of Maine has the Sanyo Xacti VPC-FH1 1080p camcorder for $379.95 with free shipping. You get that price by applying the LOYALTY10 coupon code at checkout.
Bells? Whistles? Pixels? The VPC-FH1's got 'em in spades. For starters, it captures full 1080p video, not 720p like the higher-end pocket camcorders capture, and at a whopping 60 frames per second. You can view the action on its spacious 3-inch LCD.
The camera has a 10x optical zoom for still photos--which it snaps at 8 megapixels, up to 12 per second--and a 16x "advanced" zoom for video. I'm not sure what's advanced about, but I assume it's a digitally enhanced zoom.
It stores photos and videos on SDHC cards in JPEG and MPEG-4 format, respectively. Sanyo estimates you can record about 90 minutes of 1080p recording on a 16GB card, so plan on spending another $34 or so for each card.
The VPC-FH1 doesn't have a microphone input, but it does have an HDMI output for easy viewing of your movies on a TV.
CNET hasn't reviewed this model, but the handful of user reviews on the Abe's of Maine product page are extremely positive. Over at Amazon, it averages four stars out of five.
Obviously, this isn't an impulse buy for most folks; however, keep in mind that similar 1080p camcorders from Canon and Sony usually start about $500. I've seen this exact Xacti selling for upward of $600 elsewhere.
I'm not sure how long the coupon code will stay active, but even at $389.95, the VPC-FH1's a solid deal.
Bonus deal: If you need a cable to connect this camcorder (or anything else) to your HDTV, Meritline has the deal to beat: a 5-foot HDMI cable for $1.79, including shipping. That's with coupon code MLCK192426040755NL1, which is good for the first 500 orders. If that doesn't work, coupon code MLCK192426040725N will get you the cable for $2.99 with free shipping. Either way, they're awesome deals!