Rugged Video Camcorders

  • Check how solid the camcorder's shell, lens, and protruding switches are—the more rugged, the better.
  • Avoid cameras that only have flipout LCD screens; choose models that also have viewfinders.
  • Choose simple features whenever possible.
  • Buy camcorders using the MiniDV/DV recording format.

Best Buy

At $1,595, the Panasonic AG-DVC20 is the least expensive of the four camcorders we compared.

However, had this camcorder not been up to the job, we would not have picked it as our Best Buy.

Strickly speaking, all four prosumer models are really much more than schools require, while less expensive consumer models lack the ruggedness that educators need. The AG-DVC20 offers a good compromise between these two extremes.

As well, the AG-DVC20's shouldermounted design is easier to use for students, making it more likely they will capture steady images.

James Careless is a freelance journalist based in Ottawa, Canada.

If you have only the budget for consumer cameras, try to buy models that do not have flip-out LCD screens. These can be hard to find—you may have to look for older models, in fact—but worth it when it comes to survivability. Flip-out screens are easy to snap off; embedded screens and viewfinders tend to stand up a little better. Remember, ruggedness is paramount in student video camcorders!

Company Name/URL










Recording Format


metal DV



Recording Medium

MiniDV videotape, multimedia card/SD memory-card capability (limited storage)

MiniDV videotape

MiniDV videotape

MiniDV tape, also Memory Stick media, Memory Stick duo (limited storage)

Aspect Ratios

4:3 regular

4:3 regular

16:9 widescreen and 4:3 regular

4:3 regular

CCDs (for capturing light)

three 1/4-inch CCD, 410,000 pixels

three 1/6-inch CCDs, 460,000 pixels

three 1/3-inch CCDs, 410,000 pixels total

three 1/3-inch CCDs, 380,000 pixels total

Low-Light Sensitivity (minimum lux)

6 lux

1 lux

3 lux (F 1.6, 18 dB gain, 50 IRE video output)

1 lux

On-Camera Viewing System





LCD Screen

color viewfinder and color 2.5-inch flip-out LCD screen

color viewfinder and color 2.5-inch flip-out LCD screen

BW/color viewfinder and color 3.5-inch flip-out LCD screen

Color viewfinder and color 2.5-inch flip-out LCD screen

List Price