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Gadgets

Get a JVC MiniDV camcorder for $119.99

eCost has a refurbished JVC GR-DA30 on sale for $119.99 plus shipping. It's an entry-level model, but with some impressive features.

eCost

Time was, a MiniDV camcorder would set you back $300 minimum. Now you can scoop up a JVC GR-DA30 for a measly $119.99 (plus 10 bucks or so for shipping). It's a manufacturer-recertified unit with a less-than-stellar warranty, but it's also a pretty impressive camcorder for the money.

The GR-DA30 features a 30x optical zoom (!), a sliding 2.4-inch LCD on the rear of the body (!), and a battery JVC says will give you 115 minutes of shooting time (again, !). It also promises video-noise reduction in low-light environments, though I'm skeptical about that: I've yet to see a single-CCD camcorder that didn't produce considerable noise when the lighting is dim.

As with virtually all MiniDV camcorders, you'll need a FireWire port on your PC if you want to import and edit video. CNET hasn't reviewed this model, but it does have all the specs. Meanwhile, you can watch this goofy but informative video review.

The only thing that gives me pause here is the warranty, which covers parts for 90 days and labor for just 30. But assuming JVC's, um, refurbishers did their job, the camcorder should be good as new. It's definitely a deal worth considering if you're a weekend videographer on a tight budget.