Thursday, January 12, 2012

Best Entry-Level Filmmaker Camera for $80

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.


Anonymous said...

I love this camera (I have 2) however there is no manual exposure mode like on the CG10. However there is an AC input socket (it has a cover over it.) I got an AC adapter that works on EBay for $8 shipped.

Scott Eggleston said...

Thanks for the clarification! Does the CG20 still have exposure lock like the CG10? If so, you can still use a gray card to get the right video level.

Terrormaster said...

I couldn't find it at any of the Radio Shacks here in my area of CT. It shows in the online inventory for their Buckland Pavilion location in Manchester, CT. Sadly brick-n-mortar stores never maintain an accurate inventory with their websites. They had a shell on display in the store when I went in but they couldn't find any at all in the stock room.

Looking for something in the sub $200 price range that has some manual controls over exposure and gain so I can shoot at night and low-light without the crappy night vision effect. I shoot a lot of Halloween video but its always too dark. Any recommendations?

Chris Emmerson said...


Picked up one of these on eBay in the UK as looked really interesting from your comments. Very pleased with it so far - especially ability to manually set WB and exposure. Thanks very much for recommendation. Love the site - just trying to get 1/2 inch PVC tubing when B & Q here only stocks 3/4 inch ! Stabiliser slightly heavier.....

Psymin said...

I am with Terromaster. I spent a good two hours searching both my hometown, and my current city trying to find one and no one had it within two hours of me. :-(

With that in mind, do you have any other options? I was looking at the Canon Rebel T3i, but it is a tad over $700 on Amazon, which is way outside my price range. I might try to just hold off and get that in the future, but do you have any other options in the meantime? Somewhere like Terrormaster said, in the sub $200 range?

Thanks a lot for your wonderful blog and YT vids. You have inspired me to give things a go.

Anonymous said...


As the original "Anonymous" in this post I am responding to your recent video. This camera does 1080x30p! It also does 1080x60i. I think there is a little jumping the gun here. Anyway it is a good camera for the money.

Adam Klaum said...

Just an FYI the VPC-CG20 does have Exposure Lock. It isn't in the main menu but it can be assigned as a Shortcut on the joystick. said...

I'm a little further along than an entry-level camera at this point, but I'm interested in playing with this thing. I'd love to see how well it functions in person.

Great find :)