DXG A80V Camcorder Review

DXG A80V Camcorder Review

DXG’s A80V is a low cost high definition camcorder capable of recording 1920 x 1080p video to SDHC memory cards. The $299 model features: a 10-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 5x optical zoom lens, and a 3-inch touch-screen LCD.

DXG A80V at a Glance:

The Good: Inexpensive, decent HD video quality, lightweight, touch-screen.

The Bad: Bulkly, limited optics

1080P Video Recording on a Budget

The DXG A80V is one of the least expensive traditionally-styled camcorders to offer 1920 x 1080p HD video resolution. And unlike the even cheaper pocket camcorders that boast 1080p recording, the A80V has more features (although far less than comparably priced standard definition camcorders – more on that later).

The A80V’s video quality at 1080p is definitely on par with some more expensive HD camcorders (like the $499 Sanyo FH1) but you shouldn’t expect it to perform as well as the higher bit-rate AVCHD models from Sony, Panasonic and others. That said, colors reproduced accurately and crisply. The camera was a solid performer indoors as well, with less digital noise marring the video in lower light than you’d find in either FH1 and lower-cost pocket models like Pure Digital’s Flip UltraHD. Another nice bonus: it offers a built-in video light.

The A80V has several other recording modes beyond 1080p/30 frames per second (fps). You’ll also find a 1080i/60fps for shooting fast-moving subjects. (See a comparison between 1080p/30fps and 1080i/60fps – it’s modest, but nonetheless the motion is crisper at the faster frame rate). You can also bump the resolution down to 720p at either 30fps or 60fps.

There’s also a dual-record option, which records two versions of the same video: one in high definition (1080P) and the other in WVGA.

The thinking here, I guess, is that you can create a lower-resolution video file for easier uploading to the Web. Personally I found it extraneous – why clog up your memory card with an extra file when YouTube and other sites support HD uploads?

High Resolution Stills

The A80V can snap 10-megapixel still photos with a flash to aid in low-light photography. The camera itself isn’t super-responsive. You’ll have to wait a second or often two from when you press the shutter, but the photos it produced were serviceable.

Limited Zoom

The A80V offers a 5x optical zoom lens. That’s not a lot of optical punch in a $300 camcorder and a far cry from the 70x lens you can find on, say, a standard definition Panasonic. On top of that, it uses electronic image stabilization, which isn’t as effective as optical stabilization in curbing camera shake.

The camcorder does offer a manual focusing option (which you operate using the zoom lever). Another useful feature is the ability to set a focus point using the touch-screen LCD. While the overall performance of the touch-screen display was good (see below) I found it somewhat sluggish when it came to this touch-focus feature. It would take the camcorder a few seconds to relocate the focus box and lock-on to its target.

Modest Feature Set

To pack a 1080p camcorder into a $299 price you have to expect some trade-offs. Other than the lens, the other trade off you’ll make is with the feature-set. You’ll get more options than you would with a pocket camcorder, but you won’t enjoy the same breadth of features on similarly priced standard definition camcorders (for instance, no scene modes or shutter and aperture controls).

That said, it’s not totally bare-bones: you can adjust white balance and exposure, as well as choose to film in sepia or black and white.

Responsive Touch Screen

DXG packed the A80V with a 3-inch touch-screen LCD. That’s a larger screen than you’ll find on more expensive models (with or without touch-screen operation) and aside from the sluggish spot focusing, the overall touch-screen performance is very responsive. All the features you’ll need to access are represented as nice large icons on the screen.

When it comes to external, physical controls, you’ll find a small mode dial at the back of the camcorder for switching between video and photo mode. There’s also a small toggle joystick at the back for adjusting white balance and exposure. A small shutter button and zoom lever sit atop the camcorder while behind the LCD screen sit nicely-sized controls for the flash, video light, power and display buttons. All in all, the controls are well positioned, making the A80V quite easy to operate.

Since it’s a flash camcorder, the A80V is light weight at 10 ounces (without battery). It springs to life fairly quickly and can be powered up and down by opening the LCD or via a button behind the display. It is a tad bulkier than other flash camcorder at a little over 5-inches long, but it’s not very obtrusive.

The Bottom Line: The DXG A80V is a Good Budget Buy

At $299, the DXG A80V has very few competitors that can offer the same video resolution of 1920 x 1080p. You can spend about $70 less for a 1080p pocket camcorder, but you’ll lose out on a lot of the features the A80V has to offer. You could spend the same amount for a fuller-featured camcorder with a better zoom, but it would only offer standard definition resolution. So there’s your trade-off.

Toshiba Camileo S30 Review

Toshiba Camileo S30 Review

Toshiba’s Camileo S30 camcorder records 1080p HD video in the H.264 format to SDHC/SDXC memory cards. The $179 camcorder features a 3-inch touch screen display and 8-megapixel still photo capture. Full specs for the Camileo S30 can be found here.

Toshiba Camileo S30 at a Glance

The Good: Slim design, good features for the price

The Bad: Touch screen can be unresponsive

Video Quality

The Toshiba Camileo S30 records 1920 x 1080p video in the H.264 format via an 8-megapixel CMOS sensor. It has additional options to record at 720p at 30 frames per second (fps) or at 60fps for capturing fast-moving subjects.

The video quality is definitely passable for a budget camcorder. You’ll notice a bit of over-exposure in bright sun and high contrast areas, but otherwise the S30 holds its own with other low-cost models on the market.

The S30 does offer a video light, which isn’t typically found on models at this price point. It’s useful for closeups but doesn’t have much power beyond that. Plus, it’s placed almost directly where your finger wraps around the camcorder, so you’ll have to be careful to nudge your finger down before activating the light.

In addition to movies, the Toshiba S30 can snap 8-megapixel still photos. However, most of the shots I snapped suffered from a good deal of blur, even when holding the camcorder steady.

Toshiba S30 Optics

The S30 does not offer an optical zoom but there is a 16x digital zoom. However, like all digital zooms, the quality degrades as you use it, so it’s better to avoid it all together. There’s also digital image stabilization, although it’s ineffective for the stills and only marginally useful on the video.


The S30 is one of the few upright camcorders left in the market. At .75 inches, it’s slimmer than a pocket camcorder and has a larger, swing-out LCD display (3-inches) not found on pocket models.

However, it’s a bit larger than some of the smaller models on the market – at 2.3 x 4.3 x .75 -inches. Nevertheless, it’s quite portable.

The controls of the S30 are clustered on the slender body of the camcorder, although they are responsive. At the top is a large shutter button, followed by a lever for the zoom and controls for menu and the video light. Flip open the display and you’ll find large buttons for power (opening and closing the LCD also powers on and off the camcorder), switching between photo and video mode and web button for uploading videos from the camcorder to the Internet when it’s connected to a computer.

Feature Set

The Toshiba S30 has a nice set of features for a camcorder at the price. There’s a motion detect mode, which will begin recording when the camcorder sees motion. There’s also a slow motion option, which will record lower quality video at slower speeds (good for capturing baseball swings to view on the computer but not great for viewing on the big screen). A pre-record function will start recording a few seconds of video before you actually press the shutter, to help you catch all of the action. Finally, a time-lapse feature will capture short bursts of video over pre-set intervals so you can capture change over time.

Menu & Display

The nice thing about the Camileo S30 is its large, 3-inch display. It’s a touch-screen so most of the camera’s features are accessibly through there. Unfortunately, while the menu icons are large enough, the display isn’t all that responsive, nor well executed. Each icon needs a double tap to enter a specific function and sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether you’ve turned something on or off. There are enough features on the S30 that you’ll need to scroll down on the screen with a flick of your finger, but it often takes several flicks to get there.

On the plus side, once you press an icon once a text description of what it is will pop up on the display, but the process of navigating around the menu is more clumsy and time-consuming than it should be.


The S30 records to SDHC and SDXC memory cards (up to 64GB) which provides ample storage for your video-taking needs. It contains 128MB of internal memory, which is enough for about a minute of HD footage, so a card is a must.

Toshiba Camileo S30: Bottom Line

If you’re in the market for a good budget camcorder, the Toshiba Camileo S30 is a nice choice. Unlike some of its pocket camcorder competitors, it has a larger, swing-out display, which makes it easier to frame your videos. The menu interface needs improvement, and you shouldn’t be expecting ultra-high quality high def recording, but the S30 makes up for it with a nice feature set and a slender, portable design.

Kodak Playsport Zx5 Review

Kodak Playsport Zx5 Review

The Kodak Playsport Zx5 is a high definition pocket camcorder capable of recording 1920 x 1080p in the H.264 format. It is waterproof to a depth of 10 feet, can survive a drop of up to five feet and is sealed against dust and dirt.

It retails for $179.

Kodak Playsport Zx5 at a Glance

The Good: Slim, rugged design, good video quality.

The Bad:

Sticky center control, no built-in USB plug, mono mic.

Kodak Playsport Zx5 Video Quality

The Playsport Zx5 records 1920 x 1080 HD video at 30 frames per second (fps) in the H.264 video format via a 5-megapixel CMOS sensor. You also have the option to record 1280 x 720 video at 60fps for capturing faster moving action or at 720/30fps.

As with the previous Playsport, the video is quite appealing for a pocket camcorder. Occasionally, the colors would drift a bit but the effect is hard to notice unless you’re really parsing your footage. Compared with last year’s Zx3, the video appeared less noisy indoors, which is a plus.

In addition to video, the Playsport can also snap 5-megapixel still images. Unless you’re working with plenty of natural light and a very steady hand, the photo function mostly produces blurry pics.


The Playsport offers a fixed focal length lens with a 4x digital zoom. The zoom isn’t much help – it tends to simply ramp up the digital noise in your video, so it’s probably

best to avoid it all together. The Playsport offers digital image stabilization to help keep videos smooth during recordings. The video I shoot wasn’t particularly shake-prone, but it’s hard to tell if that’s the stabilization kicking in or the fact that the Playsport is so small that you can get a real nice grip on it.

One thing you’re likely to notice (and it’s reared its head on other pocket cams) is trouble with the auto-focus. Sometimes it’s slow to lock on, leaving you with a second or two of blurred video. It’s not unusual for a pocket camcorder lens, but it’s something to bear in mind.

Playsport Design

The Playsport isn’t the slimmest and trimmest pocket camcorder on the market, mostly because it’s designed to take a beating. Still, at 2.3 x 4.4 x .7-inches and 125g it’s still light and compact enough to slip into a pocket with hardly a notice. The corners of the Playsport are rounded off with a rubberized bumper which not only protects it from bumps but gives it a sturdier grip. While the camcorder seals away its memory card and connector ports to protect them from the elements, both click open easily so they’re quick to access.

The Playsport has seven external buttons – an on/off switch that sits rather flush on the top of the camcorder and is a bit difficult to engage. It’s backlit though, so you can notice when the Playsport is turned on (in case the live preview on the LCD display didn’t tip you off). On the back of the camcorder, you’ll find controls for switching between still and video, playback, trash, settings and a share button – which lets you tag videos for automatic emailing or uploading once the Playsport is connected to a PC. These controls are quite responsive. The record button sits at the center of a four-way controller, which is a bit less responsive than the other controls.

The Playsport comes in three color choices: red, blue and black. Aesthetically, it’s pretty sharp.

Playsport Zx5 Features

In addition to its rugged, waterproof design, the Playsport Zx5 has several video effects that can be applied to videos including vivid color, sepia, black and white, high saturation and “1970s film look” if you want a retro feel to your videos. There’s an underwater setting as well to optimize your exposure if you take the Playsport beneath the waves. You’ll also find face detection, and the aforementioned share button, which lets upload videos automatically to Facebook, Flickr, Kodak Gallery , Twitter, YouTube and several other sharing sites. The share function is definitely a plus, but the Playsport doesn’t have a built-in USB plug, so you’ll have to fish around for a cable when you’re ready to connect.

Menu & Display

Kodak has updated – and improved- the menu system from the Zx3 on the new Playsport Zx5. Good thing too, as the older menu was difficult to understand. The new menu trades vague icons for simple text. It’s not the most dynamic thing in the world, but it certainly gets the job done.

The Playsport’s 2-inch display features a glare-shield, which you can activate in the menu to compensate for bright sunlight. The display itself is bright but doesn’t have a great viewing angle, so you need to be holding it straight-on to get the sharpest preview of the video you’re recording.

Playsport Memory

The Kodak Playsport Zx5 comes with 128MB of internal memory so you’ll need to opt for an optional SD/SDHC card to record video of any length. The camcorder supports SDHC cards up to 32GB in capacity – enough to store about six hours of HD footage.

Kodak Playsport Zx5 Bottom Line

The Playsport Zx5 is a very versatile pocket camcorder – it not only takes sharp video but is designed to go underwater and take the odd fall off a table. Despite its sturdy build, the Playsport is sharply styled and not at all cumbersome to carry with you. The lack of a built-in USB plug and a lapse in autofocus top the very short list of quibbles with the Playsport Zx5, which continues Kodak’s tradition of leading pocket camcorders.

Samsung HMX-Q10 Camcorder Review

Samsung HMX-Q10 Camcorder Review

The Samsung HMX-Q10 is a high definition camcorder that captures 1920 x 1080 video in the H.264 to SDHC memory cards. It offers a 2.7-inch LCD display, 10x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization and a unique grip which lets you flip the camcorder to film with both the right and left hands.

The Samsung Q10 retails for $299. Full specifications can be found here.

Samsung Q10 at a Glance

The Good: Strong video quality, responsive touch-screen, nice design

The Bad: Awkward zoom lever, no automatic lens cover

Samsung HMX Q10 Video Quality

Samsung’s HMX Q10 records 1920 x 1080 video in the H.264 format. It’s also capable of recording at 720/60 frames per second for capturing fast-moving subjects and at VGA resolution.

Given its lower price tag, the Q10 is competing more with pocket camcorders and it clearly exceeds them in the quality department. While there were instances of over-exposure, with bright sunlight washing out highlights, the Q10 captured mostly crisp, color-accurate video. It did well indoors as well. I took it into a dimly lit aquarium and after a second or two of blur as it sought to establish focus, the Q10 was able to resolve the scene quite well considering the challenging environment.

You can also snap 4.9-megapixel still photos with the Q10, although you should steer clear of taking stills with the Q10 as the results were unimpressive.


The Q10 packs a 10x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization – a nice plus not usually found on lower-cost camcorders. There’s also a digital zoom, which, fortunately, can be deactivated. All-in-all, a nice optical package. The only draw back is that there’s no automatic lens cover. However, there is a built-in cover that flips open and closed using a switch on top of the lens barrel – that’s a far better option than a lens cap, but not as good as an automatic cover.

Samsung HMX Q10 Design

The design of the Q10 is pretty spartan, with few external controls outside of a zoom lever/shutter button on the back of the camcorder. Flip open the 2.7-inch display and you’ll see only a home button, which brings you into the camcorder’s internal memory.

With the Q10, Samsung introduced a design innovation called the “Swithgrip” – which essentially lets you film using either your right or left hand. When you switch from right to left, the menu items on the display will automatically orient themselves correctly. Since there are no external controls on the top of the camcorder to operate, the transition from right-handed to left-handed filming is seamless. Left-handed users, rejoice!

Thanks to the use of flash memory, the Q10 is quite light and compact, weighing in at .4lbs and sized at 4.7 x 2.1 x 1.7 inches. It certainly won’t be a drag to carry the Q10 around with you on long trips. Aesthetically it won’t turn many heads but is available in your choice of black and blue. The only real knock on the design is that wrist strap, which is kind of flimsy.

Q10 Features

You’ll find a nice selection of shooting options on the Q10, despite its budget price tag. You’ll have time lapse recording and a selection of digital effects to apply various filters to your video including black and white, sepia, negative, art, noir, western, dazzle, and ghost. You can switch between automatic and manual recording, where you’ll have the ability to focus manually, set white balance, adjust exposure, night mode, and backlit compensation. All in all a very strong feature set for a camcorder at this price.

The Q10 is loaded with Samsung’s Intelli-Studio software, which installs automatically whenever you connect the camcorder to a computer via USB.

Menu and Display

The Q10 offers a 2.7-inch touch screen LCD display. It’s quite responsive and it’s helped along with an icon-driven menu interface. Pop open the display and you’ll see a row of icons indicating your scene mode and then controls for switching between still and video capture, zoom and playback. It’s always better to have more real-estate on a display when working with a touch-screen, but Samsung keeps the number of icons on the display to a minimum so it’s easy to hit the ones you need with your finger. At any point you can hit the “home” key on the exterior of the display and get back into the main menu.

Samsung HMX-Q10 Memory

The Q10 records directly to SDHC memory cards, so you’ll need to factor in the cost of a memory card into your equation. The Q10 cannot record to newer, higher-capacity SDXC cards so you’re memory capacity is limited to 32GB (or eight hours of HD recording).

Bottom Line

If you’re in the market for a low-cost HD camcorder but are leery about the quality and limited feature-set of a pocket camcorder, the HMX-Q10 is definitely a solid choice. It’s slightly more expensive than most pocket models on the market at $300, but delivers a better zoom, better video quality and a more robust feature set. It’s unique “SwitchGrip” design gives both left and right-handed users the ability to hold the Q10 naturally and comfortably. All-in-all a good choice in the budget-end of the HD camcorder market.

Vivitar DVR 690HD Waterproof Camcorder Review

Vivitar DVR 690HD Waterproof Camcorder Review

The Vivitar DVR 690HD is a high definition pocket camcorder capable of recording 1280 x 720p video in the AVI format to SD cards. It is waterproof to a depth of 10 feet and has a rugged housing to secure it against minor bumps and scrapes.

Vivitar DVR 690HD at a Glance

The Good: Low cost, large controls, easy to use.

The Bad: Mediocre video quality.

Vivitar DVR 690HD Video Quality

The Vivitar DVR 690HD records HD video in the AVI format at 1280 x 720p/30 frames per second. It’s not quite the 1080p video recording available on competitive models – but then again, those models don’t cost $60. Video recorded at 720p will serve in a pinch, but you shouldn’t consider the DVR 690HD a real memory keeper – the quality just isn’t there. As a second camcorder to toss in a backpack before you go white-water rafting, however, it should be serviceable. Just don’t bother with the DVR 690HD indoors as they’ll be ample noise in your video if you do.

Recording quality can be dropped to VGA or 320 x 240 – but really shouldn’t be. You can also snap 5-megapixel still photos. The quality here is lousy – but that’s no real knock on the Vivitar as very few pocket camcorders take decent stills.


The DVR 690HD has no optical zoom lens, but instead uses a 4x digital zoom. Best to avoid the digital zoom, however, as all it will do is ramp up some unsightly digital noise.

Vivitar DVR 690HD Design

The DVR 690HD is pretty bulky, even by the standards of rugged pocket camcorders. It’s a bit longer than a compact camera but as thin, if not thinner, than most point-and-shoots in the market. Keep in mind that it’s designed to go underwater (up to 1o feet) so the added bulk is for defensive purposes. That said, it’s aesthetically sharp with a 10 color choices and silver/metallic trim.

The controls on the back of the DVR690 are large and responsive. You’ll see buttons for power, mode, menu and trash surrounding a four-way controller with a shutter button sandwiched in the middle. The four-way controller feels a bit flimsy when you use it, but the rest of the controls are sturdier and easy to operate.The SD card and USB plug (no built-in USB arm here) are accessed via a latched compartment at the bottom of the camcorder. This compartment is very stubborn to open up, but it does keep the water out.


When you spend $60 for a camcorder, you can’t expect to get a feature-packed model. That said, the DVR 690HD does offer face detection and digital image stabilization. You’ll also find several scene modes for optimizing exposure based on your shooting condition. There’s also an LED video light for low light shooting. Not a bad assortment, considering.

Menu and Display

You’ll frame your video via 2-inch LCD display. It’s not the crispest display on the market but served well enough underwater. The DVR 690HD’s menu is pretty basic but is straightforward enough that it’s easy to find what you need.

Vivitar DVR 690HD Memory

The 690HD has a scant 8MB of internal memory, so an SDHC card is a must. The camcorder supports cards up to 32GB in size so you’ll get a max of 3.2-hours of recording on a 32GB card.

Bottom Line

We’ll stipulate again that the Vivitar DVR 690HD should not be your camcorder of choice for preserving important family memories. Instead, think of it as a second camcorder that you don’t mind exposing to the elements to record your rugged thrills or day at the beach. It has competition on this front too – products like Kodak’s Playsport Zx5 offer superior video quality and feature set, but cost nearly two to three times what the DVR 690HD does. If budget and durability are top of mind, give the DVR 690HD a look.