If you’re the art-house type, you’ll embrace anything, no matter how stupid — clove cigarettes, turtlenecks, David Eggers novels — as long as it’s outside the mainstream. If this describes you, and you’ve got money to burn, the Canon Optura 500 is your camcorder.

Although small, the Optura 500 is replete with features, including a 10x optical zoom lens, a 16:9 widescreen mode as well as standard 4:3 mode, an SD card slot, and the ability to snap 2-megapixel still images.

Video quality is fairly good. Built-in image-stabilization electronics help keep the picture steady even when you’ve got the shakes, and conveniently, this feature is turned on by default. Canon’s night mode helps capture unlit scenes with a surprisingly bright LED headlight.

Due to the Optura 500’s distinctive square shape, you need to hold it by wrapping your fingers around the front of the unit, while your index finger operates the zoom control. This grip takes some getting used to and seems less stable than the vertical grip you use on most camcorders.

Still, some people may find this grip more comfortable or more chic. For those, the Optura 500 is a good choice. For the rest of us, the Sony DCR-HC40 is smaller, takes better video, and costs half as much. -Dylan Tweney

Best Feature: Plenty of features to satisfy wannabe filmmakers
Worst Feature: Excessively high price

Canon Optura 500
Weight: 1.2 pounds
Size: 4.2 x 4 x 2 inches
Specs: MiniDV recording; 10x optical zoom; SD card slot (8MB card included); USB 2.0; FireWire; AV port; S-video port; external microphone port; night-mode headlight; 2-megapixel still images

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Link: Canon Optura 500

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