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I’d consider a few key things for your camcorder selection. First topic, CMOS versus CCD technology. Most new HD camcorders available will use CMOS sensors rather than CCDs. Make sure you choose a camcorder with a CMOS sensor–they use less power. There are quite a few small HD camcorders out there that will be easy to pack and hike with. Second topic: the smallest and most energy efficient are HD camcorders that use solid state memory recording (e.g., SDHC cards). A camcorder that uses solid state memory can be smaller and therefore lighter than a camcorder that uses tape. A solid state memory camcorder also uses less mechanical moving parts, which result is less power consumption. The problem with solid state memory camcorders is that you usually have shorter record times and the resulting video might be more difficult to edit on some software applications. Generally, if you’re shooting solid state video on a small HD camcorder, it’s likely to be in the AVCHD video format. If you go that route make sure to check that your software and computer system can handle the extra demands of AVCHD editing.
With that said, the tape-based HDV format provides stunning quality and is generally easy to edit (but always check your software and system specs). Moreover, the HDV format has many more prosumer camcorder options that might provide the best fit for your shooting needs. If that’s the case, remember to get a camcorder with CMOS sensors.
Here’s a list of some very light weight camcorders that come to mind:
Solid state memory
Canon VIXIA HF10; consumer level cam, but has mic input; CMOS sensor; AVCHD format; SDHC compatible memory card; $1099
Panasonic AG-HSC1U; prosumer level cam, CCD sensor (booo!), but it weighs 1.1 lbs; AVCHD format; SDHC compatible; $2099
Canon VIXIA HV30; prosumer level cam; mic input; CMOS sensor; HDV format; $999
Sony HDR-HC9; prosumer level cam; mic input; CMOS sensor; HDV format; $1099
Obviously, this is not a complete list, but it’s what I’ve seen out there that’s super small and has some pro-like features. There’s also small, energy efficient hard drive disk camcorders, but I don’t like that you have to carry all your eggs in one basket with these camcorders. With tape and memory cards you can store your footage on multiple media (tapes or memory cards) and not risk loosing all your footage to a stolen or damaged camcorder.
I hope this helps you hunt. Also, check out the prosumer camcorder category that’s a little bigger (e.g., Sony HDR-FX1, Canon XH-A1, Panasonic AG-HVX200, etc.). Those are good options too, but there much more work to lug around.