£400 or less - JVC Everio GZ-MG575EK
Dropping below £400 will preclude a high definition camcorder, but won't stop you enjoying the benefits of one of the new media formats. JVC's Everio GZ-MG575EK comes with a 40GB hard disk and records MPEG-2 video at DVD quality. Even at its top setting, there's enough space for 9.5 hours of video, making it an ideal companion for a long holiday or all-day event. The MOD file format used is now widely supported in editing software, too. For the more serious user, the GZ-MG575EK has a standard accessory shoe and microphone input, but strangely no headphone jack. You can also set aperture and shutter manually, although not at the same time. If your budget doesn't stretch to HD, the JVC Everio GZ-MG575EK will still allow you to leave removable storage behind, and enjoy the benefits of tapeless recording.
£250 or less - Panasonic NV-GS230
The tape-based MiniDV format is on its last legs, but if you have very little to spend on a camcorder, it remains good economic sense. Media is cheap, and you can get a healthy selection of features for very little money. Panasonic's NV-GS230 is a case in point. Available for under £250, it still offers a standard-sized accessory shoe, plus minijacks for an external microphone and headphones. Tapes load from the top, facilitating tripod usage. Shutter speeds and aperture can be adjusted manually - and independently. So there is plenty of control for the more creative camcorder user. On the downside, the NV-GS230 doesn't have FireWire input, and low light performance could be better, despite the trio of CCDs. But at this price the Panasonic NV-GS230 is an ideal budget tool for satisfying your urge to make video.