A Camcorder Christmas

Photos by John Wilkes Viewscreen images by Al Griffin The holidays are a time for giving, but they're also very much a time for receiving. And if you ask me, there's no better gift to get than a digital camcorder, especially when it's delivered to your office by a Santa-type figure dressed in a FedEx uniform. Plenty of people have camcorders lying around, but the ones who tend to use them most are new parents and tourists. I'm no stranger to the new-parent camcorder-kook scene - my year-and-a-half-old daughter has been the subject of an ongoing video documentary from the day she was born. But I rarely get a chance to jetset around as a tourist, which means I've still got plenty of unused videocassettes in my drawer waiting to be filled.

To make up for lost time, I decided to pack up a few camcorders and spend an afternoon among the daily influx of visitors roaming the streets of New York City. At first, my plan was ambitious: head out on double-decker bus, hit the key downtown sights, then swing back up for a jaunt along museum row on the Upper East Side. Weighed down by seven cams, however, I decided to limit my escapade to two jewels of the NYC public parks system, Central Park and tiny Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library in Midtown Manhattan. It was a lovely afternoon for camcording, and by day's end I had a good idea of exactly what made these seven models tick. The lineup included the Canon Optura 200MC ($1,700) - which we learned at presstime is being replaced by the Optura 300, a similar, more photo-friendly design with a 2-megapixel image sensor - Samsung's SC-D5000 ($1,400), Sony's DCR-TRV70 ($1,300), the Hitachi DZ-MV380A ($1,100), the Panasonic PV-GS70 ($1,000), Sharp's VL-Z7U ($900), and JVC's GR-D30 ($500).

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