Modern smartphones can capture pretty amazing video. Just two problems: They lack optical zoom (and, for that matter, optical stabilization) and rapidly consume your phone's already limited storage. Oh, and if you want to shoot anything longer than a couple minutes, better be sure to have a mobile charger on hand. So that's three problems.
Solution? A proper camcorder. Like this one: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Focus Camera has the Sony Handycam HDR-CX405 1080p camcorder bundle for $158, shipped. It includes not only the camcorder, but also a 32GB microSD card and a nice collection of software.
When you click through, you may notice that the product image shows a Focus Camera gift card. This bundle is supposed to include a $25 card, but when I added it to my cart, I got message indicating it was not "in the stock." But a Focus Camera rep assured me it would be added, and recommended calling customer service at 888-920-3332, ext. 8202, upon placing your order. Kind of a hassle, I know, but better safe than sorry -- and worth the effort for an extra $25 to spend on camera goodies.
The HDR-CX405 captures 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second. It features a 30x optical zoom, along with optical image stabilization that will help dramatically when you don't have a tripod.
Other noteworthy specs: a built-in USB cable (only USB 2.0, alas) for file transfers and charging, a 2.7-inch 16:9-ratio LCD, a built-in movie maker that will create an instant "highlight reel," loads of scene modes for shooting in various settings and manual controls for things like exposure and focus.
CNET hasn't reviewed this particular Sony, but it scored two five-star reviews from Focus Camera customers. Over at Amazon, where Focus sells a different bundle (priced at $198), it scored 4.4 stars from some 40 buyers.
I remember when camcorders like this were priced around $800 to $900. Obviously smartphones are sufficient for some videographers, but when your kid is halfway across the soccer field and you want to capture the action up-close, you can't beat a real-deal camcorder.
Bonus deal: Still using the earbuds that came with your phone? Time for an upgrade: A4C has the Samsung Level In wired headset for $49.97, shipped, when you apply coupon code TECH50 at checkout. Regular price: $99.95. Best price elsewhere: at least $65. Available in black or white (you have to choose a color before you can check out), the headset features a carrying case, an airplane adapter, and various ear and memory-foam tips.
Bonus deal No. 2: Are you an Amazon Prime subscriber? Here's yet another benefit: You can get a three-month Audible.com trial subscription for free. Each month nets you a free audiobook (yours to keep even after the trial ends) and discounts on books you want to buy. Best of all, this doesn't appear to be limited to "new customers only" -- I just grabbed the free trial, and I've been on and off with Audible for years.
Bonus deal No. 3: I've said it before, I'll say it again: Free antivirus software is sufficient for many users, but why not go pro if you can do so for free? Today only, Shareware On Sale has Avast Pro Antivirus 2015 for exactly that price: free. You get a one-year license (for one PC) that includes updates, though tech support is not included. Its features include not only antivirus, but also antimalware, secure DNS and sandboxing.