£700 or less - Canon HF10
This is certainly shaping up to be a very interesting year for camcorders, and one of the most exciting releases of all so far in 2008 has been Canon's HF10. Where Sony and Panasonic are on their second or third Flash memory-based camcorder generations, Canon is only launching its first few models. Leading the fray is the HF10, which records Full HD in AVCHD format at 17Mbits/sec. Adopting Canon's characteristically enthusiast-oriented strategy, the HF10 has a high level of control over settings, including shutter and aperture priority modes, and even manual audio levels. It has minijacks for an external microphone and headphones, too, although the accessory shoe is a new Canon proprietary format. Uniquely, the HF10 also comes with 16GB of Flash built in, so a memory card isn't even required to get shooting. For the serious video maker looking to escape tape at last, the Canon HF10 is the first AVCHD model worth considering. And all for under £700.
£500 or less - Panasonic HDC-SD5
Although it has already been superseded by the HDC-SD9 (see page 4), the HDC-SD5 is still on sale - and was the best selling high definition camcorder over the Christmas 2007 period. With some vendors now offering it for as little as £400, this little gem is now a bargain. The HDC-SD5 shoots AVCHD to SDHC card. Its top data rate is lower than the HDC-SD9's - 13Mbits/sec versus 17Mbits/sec - but it does offer Full HD at 1,920 x 1,080, albeit without the progressive shooting option. So if your budget doesn't quite stretch to Panasonic's latest and greatest HDC-SD9, the HDC-SD5 is still a great compromise, and a steal at its current price.