Best Value in Flash Camcorders (Flip UltraHD, Canon FS300, Sanyo VPC FH1A, Panasonic HDCTM15) – Comparative Review

From various manufacturer models to competing technological choices, options galore for a Camcorder. Canon is the biggest manufacturer with a large number of models followed by Panasonic and Sanyo.

Tape based Camcorders (VHS-C, 8mm, Hi8, Digital8, etc.) have paved way for an array of smart, compact choices, although some of these legacy technologies are still available.

Below is a listing of current recording media and format choices available:



Technology
MediaCompression FormatComments
Digital MiniDVMiniDV TapeDV or HDVMiniDV Tapes are the latest incarnation of tape-based technologies that dominated the industry in the 90s and early 2000s. MiniDV Camcorders use this older technology but still offers very good quality video.
Flash MemorySDHC Memory StickMPEG-2, MPEG-4 - AVCHDSolid-state storage media limited by size that currently doesn’t exceed 32GB. Flash Camcorders have low form-factor and robustness making it state-of-the-art.
Digital DVDDVD-R/-RW/+RW/ +R DL, etcMPEG-2Size is a big limitation, although this was a popular option until recently.
Hard Disk DriveHard DriveMPEG-2, MPEG-4 – AVCHD.With mobile parts chances of failure are high for hard disk drives especially when used in devices such as camcorders, which by its very nature is prone to “abuse”. On the other hand, they can record several hours of high-quality video.


Flash camcorders have several advantages:
  1. Solid-state media fare better when compared to hard-drive based camcorders that have movable parts,
  2. Very small form-factor allows for minute light-weight designs,
  3. Ideal for video sharing on the Internet and a reasonable choice for recording and playing back on a media player.
  4. MPEG video editing software allows for editing of recorded videos. The editing is a little better with MiniDV’s as MPEG editing is CPU-intensive.
Overall, flash camcorders are an excellent choice for most consumers. Below is a comparison spreadsheet of the best-selling flash camcorders:



Product
Flip UltraHD (3rd Gen - 120 mins)
Canon FS300
Sanyo VPC-FH1A
Panasonic HDCTM15
Canon VIXIA HF M300
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List Price$199.99$299.99$499.99$429.99679
Best Price$179$169

$279$257.99$379
Date of Release09/201005/201002/200604/200901/2010
Storage Media4GB Internal Flash Memory – 120 minutesSHDC Memory Card.SHDC Memory Card.SHDC Memory Card.SD/SDHC Memory Card.
Video Recording FormatMPEG-4MPEG-2MPEG-4MPEG-4MPEG4


Lens & FocusF/2.4 Fixed FocusF/2.0-5.2 AutomaticF/2.0-2.8 AutomaticF/1.8-2.8 AutomaticF/1.8-3.0 Automatic
Optical ZoomNone37 x10 x optical (photos), 16 x advanced (video)16 x15 x
Digital Zoom2 x - smooth41 x Advanced minimal loss in image quality, 2000 xNANA300 x
Image StabilizerYesElectronicElectronicElectronicOptical SuperRange OIS
Resolution1080p, 60fps0.68MP8MP (1080p)1.47MP

3.89MP
Battery TypeIncluded Rechargeable AAA battery pack, 3 x AAALithium-Ion (Intelligent - Progressive)Lithium-IonLithium-IonIntelligent Lithium-Ion
Size & Weight4.3 x 2.2 x 1.2 inches, 4.0 ounces2.3 x 2.2 x 4.3, 8 ounces2.2 x 4.1 x 2.1, 10.5 ounces2.5 x 1.9 x 4.5, 8 ounces2.4 x 2.7, 4.9, 13.4 ounces
Screen Size2.0”2.7” 3.0” 2.7” 2.7”


Summary & Recommendation:

The Flip Video (Cisco) UltraHD rule the low-end digital camcorder market - low cost, diminutive form-factor (fits easily in your pocket), and ease of use (just 3 buttons for Record, Play, and Delete along with Zoom) make for a great combination. The standout feature is Pure Digital’s excellent low-light performance. Our 8-year old Canon ES300 was replaced by Flip Video Ultra in 2008 and we are impressed by the video quality. It outperformed its predecessor in quality under low-light conditions – the Canon produced especially grainy videos under low-light conditions. The only feature going for Canon is the zoom - the 2x digital zooming with the Flip is an apology. We might miss the absence of the SD card expansion slot in the long run. Pure Digital, a small private company out of San Francisco got acquired by Cisco Systems for upwards of a half-a-billion dollars, validating the Flip Video technology further. Please see our review for a detailed comparison of the Flip camcorder models.

The Canon FS300 flash camcorder has both a good optical zoom as well as 200x digital zooming along with image stabilization. The SD card slot as opposed to internal flash memory is a welcome feature. It is more than twice as expensive as the Flip Video Ultra and carries a higher form-factor. However, as a replacement for outdated Canon camcorders that use tape-based technology, Canon FS300 is decent choice - it provides a relatively low-cost upgrade path with features intact.

The Sanyo VPC-FH1A is an older model and it shows - the product is bulky and despite the pricing, the feature set is sub par compared to competitive models.

The Panasonic HDCTM15 is a worthy competition to the plethora of Canon models. We are big fans of Pansonic Lumix Digital Cameras and we feel the same way about this product. Low light performance is suboptimal, but a fast lens with decent optical zooming along with Full HD sensor makes this a great choice, if your budget allows the $300 pricing.

The Canon VIXIA HF M300 uses an 3.89-megapixel Full HD CMOS Image Sensor coupled with a DIGIC DV III Image Processor to achieve a bit rate up to 24 MBPS and comparable performance. The battery life is good helped by the Intelligent Lithium-ion battery technology that shows the remaining battery time. The low-light performance is sub-optimal but the mini-video light that can be turned ON can compensate for this.




Last Updated: 07/2016.


Related Posts:

1. Best Values in Shoot & Share HD Camcorders - A Comparative Review.
2. Best Values in Flip Camcorders - Comparative Review.
3. Best Values in Flash Camcorders - Comparative Review.

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