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In the past, I have always had camcorders that record to tape. I fancied getting a hard drive based camcorder because of the longer record times and the easiness of transferring the videos my PC. Knowing nothing much about camcorders, I just bought this one as it was the cheapest one in the shop at the time.
The camcorder is reasonably small. It isn't as tiny as some I have seen, but it is compact enough to carry around without much effort. It is also light enough to hold up in hand for quite a while when recording. It isn't especially stylish, but that doesn't bother me in the slightest. As long as it does it's job, I'm happy. The build quality is good, and there is a built-in lens cover which is good.
It records at standard definition (like TV) resolution, and does so at a wide-screen aspect ratio (16:9 to be precise). The picture quality is good in my opinion, but that probably doesn't mean anything. The x34 zoom is very good for close ups and the quality is the same when zoomed in, although the picture will become increasing shaky as you zoom in. This is a problem for all camcorders though, not just this one.
The 30GB hard drive is advertised as providing 7 to 37 hours of video. How long you can record for depends on the picture you choose - the higher the quality and lower the recording time. I always use the highest quality option, but it is good to know that if I ever need to squeeze in some more video the option is there. There is also an SD card slot which you can use to expand the storage space if you want to.
It is simple to connect the camcorder to a PC using the provided USB cable. You can use the 1-click backup or burn to DVD options or you can can take the videos off yourself as if it were a removable hard drive. One problem is the video files are in an odd format (.MOD) that cannot be read by most video editing software and Windows reads them incorrectly which leads them to be stretched when played. This was a major annoyance for me, but I eventually found a free program called "SDcopy" on the internet will quickly and painlessly fix the format and aspect ratio.
The battery life of the battery to the supplied with the camera is only about 90 minutes. You may wish to buy a second battery as I did so never find yourself with an empty battery just when you want to record something.
The sound quality is also good. And beware that there is no light on this camcorder.
Overall this is a very decent camcorder. There are some annoying problems with the video files, but there is a piece of software called "SDcopy" (search for it on google) which will fix it for you.