My first year in California, I dreamed of making my own Endless Summer. And so, hauling around a beastly video camera, I shot my buddies catching wave after wave, then tried to edit hours of footage using two VCRs. But the challenges of assembling and sharing were too much, and like many in that era, I ended up with a pile of dusty tapes in the closet. Fast-forward to today. Video is now an indispensable part of our lives, a pervasive means of communication that’s cheap, easy, and instantly sharable. YouTube ignited the trend in 2005, but it really took off two years ago, when Pure Digital Technologies introduced the Flip, the camcorder turned cultural phenomenon that is now a staple on any adventure.
PDT has since become the most popular manufacturer of low-cost video cameras in the U.S., with 35 percent of the market, and the old guard is countering with cheap-and-easy camcorders of its own. The latest offerings, some half dozen in all, are more advanced—with features like high-def recording, multiple shooting modes, and still capabilities—but haven’t lost their core values of simplicity and effortless uploading. These three are the best of a blissfully lowbrow bunch.