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Although high definition camcorders started to reach affordable levels in 2008, the credit crunch has pushed prices back up. So you may now consider the 2009 models too pricey again and instead plan to stick with standard definition. There are other reasons to eschew the higher resolution, though, many of which are epitomised by Canon's Legria FS21. The successor to the FS11, it's light and compact, yet promises quality and features beyond its size, with storage and battery life for hours of shooting.
Internally, the FS21 isn't that different from its predecessor. The sensor is still a 1/6in CCD with 1.07-megapixels. The maximum still image resolution remains a modest 1,152 x 864, and 710,000 pixels are employed when shooting video. Since this is about 70 per cent more than is required for standard definition video at 720 x 576, Canon can extend the already enormous 37x optical zoom to 45x with its Advanced Zoom system. This is a digital zoom, but without the loss of detail usually associated with expanding the frame digitally. You can turn on digital zoom as well, with a ludicrous 2,000x factor, but you won't be able to make out anything at full telephoto. Amorphous blotches of colour will be all you can see.
This model also includes 16GB of flash memory and offers the same three quality modes as the FS11, ranging from LP at 3Mbits/sec to XP at 9Mbits/sec. Even in the top mode, the onboard memory will be sufficient for over three and a half hours of footage. There is also an SD memory card slot hidden in the same compartment as the battery. The latter is reassuringly large and provides over three hours of power, which is a good thing as the captive format means that there will be no option for a larger battery.
Where higher-end features are concerned, the FS21 sits in a slightly curious halfway house between pure point-and-shoot and more serious camcorders. It doesn't have a lens ring or accessory shoe, but Canon has blessed it with mini-jacks for an external microphone and headphones. The latter also doubles as an AV output, with the function switchable in the menu.