What camcorders were your fellow readers considering in 2009? They run the gamut from expensive HD models to cheap, pocketable minicamcorders. As you'd expect, several of the models that pumped up the popularity numbers in 2009 were older models that have since been discontinued or have ceased to be widely available (or worse, are available in a couple places that charge higher than their original list prices): these include the Sony Handycam HDR-SR11 and the Flip Video 60-minute Ultra.
Canon Vixia HF series (flash HD)
While the Vixia HF200 is the most popular camcorder on CNET, together with its linemate the HF20 and last year's still widely available HF10, HF11, and HF100, the group occupies 4 of the top 10 popularity slots (the HF11 doesn't make the cut). While this year's models have some advantages over its predecessors, the older ones still fare pretty well against newer competitors, and they're less expensive than the newcomers.
Though it's a 2008 model, Canon still hasn't replaced its duo of hard-drive-based HD camcorders, the Vixia HG20 and its much more expensive big brother--equipped with the same video and lens capabilities but with a larger hard drive and eye-level viewfinder--the HG21. That's OK since they still fare well compared with the competition. Price seems to be a significant issue, however; the HG20 is our second most popular model, while the HG21 doesn't make the top 20. That may be because it's not on our list of best HD camcorders--we think that the HG20 is a much better buy.
In aggregate, last year's MinoHD model still rules despite the release of a second generation model. However if you just look at recent months, the newer model has caught up with its older brother. It makes sense, however, that the older model would have some longevity. It's cheaper--and cheapness is one of the main selling points of these single-trick Web video cams--and if you don't need the HDMI connector or increased memory capacity, it's a better buy.
Tape isn't quite dead yet, nor is last year's HDV champ the Canon Vixia HV30. While it still ranks as more popular on our site than its successor, the HV40, that's likely because of a few reasons, including the fact that we haven't reviewed the HV40, so it's not on any of our top lists. But the HV40 only had a few minor changes over the HV30 and the HV30 is a couple of hundred dollars less expensive, making it a more compelling buy.
One of the three mini camcorders on this list, I suspect the big attraction of the Flip UltraHD compared with its more stylish sibling and competitors is the ability to run off AA batteries while providing the same ease of use and relatively decent video quality of the MinoHD. Like the MinoHD it lacks an HDMI connector, but it's also priced better. The standard-definition 60-minute Flip Ultra also shows some lingering popularity--it belongs farther down this list--but it's essentially no longer available at a reasonable price given its age and feature set.
Though we recently downgraded its rating in light of better competitors arriving since this model debuted a year ago, the Creative Vado HD was a popular choice among the mini camcorder set overall in 2009. Oddly, Creative issued a stealth "second generation" version at a lower price, with a glossy finish and an option with less internal memory.
Last year's Canon FS100 looks like our most popular standard definition model for the year, but it's finally disappearing from the channel, and in the latter days of 2009 has been superseded by its replacement, the improved FS200.
Given its high price, it's not surprising that the Canon Vixia HF S100 falls so far down the list (when you take into account the series groupings and excluded older products it ranks closer to 14 than 9), but it's one of our top-rated series of prosumer HD camcorders. The S100 is the cheapest of the lot, thanks to jettisoning the internal memory of the also popular 32GB S10, while the S11, released later, introduced excellent enhancements to the image stabilization system. It's pricey, however.