Serious video maker - Canon HV30
Canon's HV20 was 2007's best camcorder for serious video makers. The HV30 is a fairly modest evolution. But there wasn't much room for improvement anyway. With the same CMOS sensor as the HV20, the HV30 has the same excellent image quality and low light abilities. It also has a comprehensive selection of enthusiast features. Aside from the manual configuration options, minijacks are available for microphone and headphone - and the accessory shoe is standard sized. Canon's new HF10 is as good if not better in image quality terms, but its proprietary accessory shoe reduces add-on options. So although the writing is on the wall for the tape-based HDV format used by the HV30, it's still an ideal choice for budding filmmakers and semi-professionals.
Pocket perfection - Panasonic SDR-S7EB
We're now used to digital cameras you can slip into a jacket pocket, yet are capable of print-worthy photo quality. So why can't camcorders be the same? Well, they are getting there. Panasonic's SDR-S7EB is about the same size as a slightly portly pocket digital camera. Yet this is a true camcorder, with a host of manual features, a healthy 10x optical zoom and decent, if not outstanding image quality. It only records standard definition video (720 x 576), but for capturing moments destined for YouTube it's ideal - and a £50 SDHC card with 16GB capacity will store over three hours of video. Best of all, the S7 can be had for just a tad over £200.
Pocket HD - Panasonic HDC-SD9
Panasonic is clearly trying to make ‘small' its domain. The HDC-SD9 may not be as unfeasibly tiny as the SDR-S7EB - but then this is a three-CCD HD model. It records AVCHD to SDHC cards at up to 17Mbits/sec, and has a host of features to simplify usage for the novice, including an Intelligent Shooting Guide and face recognition-based exposure control. Weighing just 337g fully loaded, and with dimensions similar to a fat pocket torch, the HDC-SD9 is the closest to jacket-friendly HD we've yet seen. However, Sony's HDR-TG3 is even smaller. We'll let you know if it's also better when we get one for review in the next few weeks.