A look at how HD camcorders are sold for as cheap as they are.
Chances are you have seen high-definition camcorders in the market for under $50, and wondered if they were worth the money. It all depends on what you have become acoustomed to. The type of camcorders I am referring to, do not have a hard drive, and do not use a mini-DVD; these camcorders use cheap SD cards that you can find for under $50 that are traditionally used for tablets. One thing you have to keep in mind, is that while these devices, and some of the other cheap technology in their class, for example touch screen MP3 players, are sold for $50 or less, an adequate amount of storage can easily cost you the same amount as the device itself. Another consideration, is that HD for the cheapest camcorders is still 720 lines of resolution; that is perfectly okay if you plan on watching the video on a television or monitor 32 inches or less but any larger and you should spend extra money to get a camcorder with 1080 lines of resolution. Not all HD equipment is the same; technically it does not matter but if you really need to blanket your wall in video always opt for the highest amount of quality when possible.
When you recording HD video, realize that the higher your resolution, the more storage you will need. For example, a 2 GB card might only give you 7 minutes of recording time in HD, and that is 720 lines of resolution, not 1080. So if you decide to purchase one of these inexpensive devices, expect to pay the same amount for a decent SD card, so that you can actually receive one or two hours of recording time from the card. Turn off the device completely before removing the card, because these cards need to be mounted, and unmounted, just like any other external drive. The read/write abilities of the card are actually slower than USB, so if you have the USB cable, and sufficient battery life, use USB if you are short on time. Look at the documentation closely to see what the limitations of the device are; some devices can only accept 8 GB SD cards, while others can accept all the way up to 32 GB. If you can only get an 8 GB card in the device, you can only realistically expect to record a half hour of HD video.
The bottom line is that manufacturers cannot put internal drives on these devices that provide customers with an adequate amount of storage while selling them for the low price. So you have to go into this knowing that you might spend as much money on storage, as you do on the device itself. These devices do not allow you to tether storage either; even though you have a USB port, there is no way for you to use a cheap computer, on in this day and age, a tablet, as backup storage for these camcorders.
These $50 HD camcorders are the same inexpensive 480 line standard definition camcorders that existed in the marketplace over the last decade. The only difference, is that the image capturing technology has changed; however the lens is the same, and they are not any better indoors, or at night, than their predecessors. While the HD is great in this day and age, particularly with the explosion in popularity of YouTube; you definitely do not want to post a video in standard definition if you expect to be taken seriously, that is the only differentiation between these camcorders, and camcorders that used to sell for the same amount of money a decade ago. What has occurred, is that the days of standard definition recording equipment is limited. Expect to see standard definition camcorders go the way of video cassette camcorders two decades ago; technology is just so cheap there are no practical reasons to continue to manufacture standard definition camcorders.
On the other hand a standard definition camcorder with a hard drive or mini-DVD will always give you a better picture because those devices have a better lens than these cheap devices do. The amount of storage with mini-DVD is apparent on the label of the mini-DVD, and higher capactity SD cards are more prone to error, whereas hard drives with a similar capacity (64 GB, 128 GB) are more reliable. When you consider that your home computer may have a 500 GB drive, and that hard drive has lasted for several years, and does not have to be mounted or unmounted from the computer itself if it is internal to that computer, the decision is clear.
These camcorders do fill a niche for vloggers that need HD, but cannot truly afford HD. The video is HD, and you can comfortably fill a 17 inch monitor without pixelization, whereas an SD camera can comfortably fill a screen on a 7 inch tablet. What needs to happen, is that this technology is implemented into low end featurephones, so that everyone can get cheap HD recording capability on the fly, whether they explicitly purchase a camcorder or not. I would not expect to see this happen for another year or two; in the interim, get a cheap unlocked smartphone, or find one of these that are small enough to fit in your pocket.