Best Camcorders - £700 or Less
If your budget doesn't quite stretch to Panasonic's awesome HDC-HS300, or you just don't need its comprehensive manual features, a little over £600 will get you the HS200, which is almost as good. It's based on the same array of three 1/4.1in CMOS sensors, and has the same lens, so offers identical image quality in automatic mode.
The main feature the HS200 lacks is the HS300's lens ring, making manual focusing a far more fiddly process involving the touch-sensitive LCD. But it's also missing the latter's accessory shoe and mini-jacks for an external microphone and headphones. It only sports an 80GB hard disk, too, although this is still enough for 10 hours of footage even in the top quality mode.
The same range of manual settings are available, however, including independent control of shutter and iris, plus video gain. The Intelligent Auto system and AFAE mode are also still in evidence, and arguably even more useful in a camcorder of this type. You can shoot 10.6-megapixel stills, as with the HS300, making a separate digital camera unnecessary for general holiday snaps. So not only does Panasonic offer the most fully featured HD camcorder, it has the best premium deal for point-and-shoot users too.
Canon's HF20 uses a single 1/4in CMOS with 2.99-megapixel and comes with 32GB of Flash memory built in, and as a result manages to offer Full HD in a smaller package than the other premium HD camcorders listed here. Sadly, this also means its low-light performance isn't quite so good. It's still better than most cheaper options, though.
The HG20 has been on the market since late 2008, and represents Canon's previous HD generation. But the HF100 was our camcorder of the year in 2008, and the HG20 offers the same features, sensor and optics, but allied with a 60GB hard disk. Now available for under £600, the HG20 provides great image quality and features for the money.