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Kodak PlaySport, Panasonic TA20 top rugged minicamcorder roundup

Your smartphone might capture HD video, but you probably don't want to take it underwater or hand it off to your kids. With these minicamcorders you can do that and more.

It's expensive, but the Panasonic TA20 is one of the best rugged minicamcorders available. Panasonic

There are a lot of minicamcorders on the market, but not all of them can withstand a 5-foot drop or a dunk in a pool. And actually, last year you really couldn't find any that could survive those things. This year, though, you can pick from models from Kodak, Panasonic, Toshiba, JVC, GE, and Samsung.

The leaders here are Kodak's PlaySport Zx5 and Panasonic's HM-TA20. The Panasonic is more expensive than and isn't as full featured as the PlaySport, but it's still less than $200 and does just enough. It also seems better designed for keeping water and dust out. However, it has a large 3-inch touch screen that's destined to be covered in scratches.

Just behind those is Samsung's HMX-W200. Though its bright f2.2 lens and backside-illuminated CMOS sensor didn't do much to improve low-light video, it produced good daylight videos, comes with good editing and sharing software, and it has a pause button, so when you're recording, you can start and stop recording without ending up with a bunch of clips.

Bringing up the rear are the Toshiba Camileo BW10 and GE DV1. The inexpensive waterproof-only BW10 is very basic, barely comes with software or accessories, and produces good video for sharing online if nothing else. The rugged DV1 is cheap, too, but despite having better durability and more shooting features than the Toshiba, its video, sadly, isn't as good.

I haven't reviewed JVC's waterproof WP10, but it definitely looks good. Especially if you're after more features than the Toshiba offers.

One thing to keep in mind with these or any minicamcorder is that regardless of their "full HD" resolution, they cannot compete with a full-fledged HD camcorder costing hundreds of dollars more. These are designed for capturing short clips for sharing online. Some, like the Kodak and Panasonic, can stand up to viewing at larger sizes on an HDTV if you're forgiving of quality, but the results are generally better at smaller sizes.

See the full review roundup.