Best Camcorders - £500 or Less
JVC's Everio GZ-MG330 was one of the most popular budget camcorders of 2008, and the company clearly intended to reproduce that success in HD with the GZ-HD300. However, at launch it failed to replicate one important feature - the MG330's extremely reasonable price. Now, however, you can pick the HD300 up for close to half the RRP, and it fills the MG330's shoes very nicely indeed.
This is no HD powerhouse, but it's still a surprisingly good camcorder for the money. The HD300 is based on a reasonably-sized 1/4.1in CMOS with 3.05-megapixels. It sports a 60GB hard disk, and the top quality mode shoots Full HD at 24Mbits/sec, so this is enough for 5.5 hours of footage.
The camcorder's controls use JVC's ‘Laser Touch Operation', which is a little fiddly. So although there are quite a few manual settings available, you probably won't want to use them most of the time. Fortunately, video performance in auto mode is very good, with low light abilities beyond what you would expect at this price. For well under £500, the JVC Everio GZ-HD300 is great value. In fact, some shops are selling the HD300 for under £400, so it could even jump into our next price category down!
The Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000 came very close to winning this category. Like the JVC Everio GZ-HD300, it was considerably more expensive at launch. With a huge 1/2.5in CMOS, the HD2000 shoots great-quality video, and its low light abilities are almost as good as premium HD models. We gave the nod to the JVC because the Sanyo only shoots at 30fps and comes with no memory as standard, so the HD300 is more compatible with European TV standards and better overall value.
Although Panasonic is currently dominant at the high end of the camcorder market, it hasn't managed to take such easy control of the midrange. The HS20 has Panasonic's usual healthy array of manual settings, and its 80GB hard disk is enough for over 10 hours of footage. However, it relies on a 1/6in CMOS so can't compete with other sub-£500 camcorders for image quality, although it does better than expected for its sensor size.