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Beyond VHS

Digital is the new standard for on-the-go moviemaking. But with so many sizes and features to choose from, which new camcorder is right for you?Here, our picks of the best.

Media Format MiniDV cassettes and SecureDigital memory cards
Size and Weight A little over a pound; typical paperback-book size
Special Features Records movie clips for e-mail; softens skin tones; takes .8-megapixel stills compatible with PictBridge-enabled printers
Clarity/Lens Power Excellent; 20x optical zoom, 400x digital zoom
Low-Light Performance Preserves and brightens images
Power Two-hour battery with option of additional pack
Bottom Line Affordable and portable, but make sure you're tech-savvy
To Buy 800/652-2666 www.canondv.com

Media Format 30-minute and one-hour SecureDigital memory cards
Size and Weight Featherweight at 5.4 ounces; fits the palm
Special Features Takes 3.2-megapixel stills; connects to TV's or PC's; impressive in-camera editing; includes helpful software and docking station to charge battery
Clarity/Lens Power Average; 5.8x optical zoom, 10x digital zoom
Low-Light Performance Fine indoors, but has no specific night mode
Power One-hour battery
Bottom Line Easy to pack and multi-functional, but you'll have to load up on memory cards
To Buy 800/349-4358 www.sears.com

Media Format Three-inch and full-sized DVD-R's, and DVD-RW's
Size and Weight About a pound; average sized
Special Features In-camera editing; snaps one-megapixel stills; reduces camera-shake; creates thumbnail images at the beginning of each scene
Clarity/Lens Power Good; 10x optical zoom, 120x digital zoom
Low-Light Performance Strong color-recording
Power One-hour battery
Bottom Line Records to DVD, so no computer skills required; perfect for Luddites
To Buy 877/865-7669 www.sonystyle.com

Media Format MiniDV cassettes and SecureDigital memory cards
Size and Weight Just under two pounds; slightly larger than most
Special Features Marks overexposure on-screen; doubles as Webcam; takes two-megapixel stills for PictBridge printers; loaded with effects options
Clarity/Lens Power Very good; 11x optical zoom, 220x digital zoom
Low-Light Performance Intensifies hues but blurs images
Power Two-hour battery
Bottom Line Top quality, if you don't mind the extra bulk
To Buy 800/652-2666 www.canondv.com

Media Format MiniDV cassettes
Size and Weight 2.4 pounds; at 4 by 10 inches, the largest of the bunch
Special Features Built-in audio meter; zoom speed options; various cinematic and old-time movie effects like slow-shutter function for motion lag shots
Clarity/Lens Power Best; 16x variable-speed optical zoom, 160x digital zoom
Low-Light Performance Black-and-white night filming with infrared viewing in darkness
Power One-hour battery
Bottom Line Only for professionals and Sundance wannabes
To Buy 866/528-8601 www.panasonic.com/broadcast


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