Need good toploading camcorder under $350

A friend of mine just bought a JVC camcorder (G270, I believe). It is exactly what he is looking for, but there is one problem. When the camera is on the tripod, he cannot change out the tape without taking it off the tripod. He is looking for a toploading camera, so that a tape can be easily exchanged while still on the tripod. Any dopers have some suggestions?


Odd, I haven’t shopped recently but I don’t recall seeing any Sony or Panasonic mini-DV or 8mm camcorders that couldn’t be loaded while on a tripod.

Also a less expensive solution may be a tripod head with a quick release plate. You can detach the camcorder with a single lever and once you’ve loaded it with fresh tape you can lock it back to the head in the exact same position you had it before. These are often found on the crappy plastic Velbon tripods in consumer electronics stores but look at better brands like Bogen/Manfrotto. Nearly all of my camera mounting devices - tripod, monopod, window pod, etc. - use a Bogen 3157 QR plate which is compact enough for small video cams. My stuff is mainly for still cameras but they make a range of fluid damped video heads and the even the lost cost junior dual purpose head is better quality than anything you’ll find at Circuit City.
The links are just for the tripod heads but you can get packages with legs and head from the same dealer. Note that the Bogen heads mount on a 3/8" thread which isn’t universal.

Thanks a lot for your replies! I’m not camcorder-savvy myself, so I will pass this thread on to my buddy.