In case you haven't been following the Weekly Recap shows, I wanted to give one last alert about the best kept secret on the internet (too dramatic?). The "secret" is that you can get the now-discontinued Sanyo XACTI VPC-CG20 HD camcorder for $79.97 at Radio Shack. They are only available in stores (which are everywhere) and you can easily detect stock through The Shack's handy CG20 product locator, which is hidden on their website. Enter your zip code and cross your fingers.
Why do I like this camera? Let me give you a few reasons. All manual features (focus, shutter, exposure). Focus and exposure lock. 5x optical zoom lens. 1080p/720p HD video. Records to YouTube-friendly MP4 codec. In-camera video trimming. Macro mode. Web cam mode. Flip out, rotatable monitor. Tripod mount. External battery charger. Records video to an SD card (not included). $80 price tag. Check the online manual for full disclosure.
It does have some cons. There is no mic input or headphone jack. The onboard mics are on the opposite side of the monitor (which is only a problem if you want to see yourself and record sound at the same time). Pick up a Zoom H1 Handy Recorder and snyc in post.
There is no AC adapter. You can only power the camera by battery, which probably last just over an hour. Cheap clones can be found on eBay, however, and you could be shooting while charging another on the external charger (get two for $8.85).
It's small. While the pistol-grip shape does help the small form-factor, it's still a tiny camera that may disappear in large mitts such as my own. Build and use the PVC stabilizer rig or the mini-camera stabilizer which is perfect for the CG10 & CG20 + the Zoom.
This is really a fantastic deal. I hope that any budding film jockeys will be able to nab one of these before they disappear forever. They have so many features and can also come in very handy as a portable "fast cam". I carry one in my backpack all the time now. Oh, and in case you are wondering about video quality, check my last Tip episode or a recent Weekly Recap episode. They were all shot on the CG20's little brother (which tops out at 720p), the XACTI VPC-CG10.