Best Camcorders - £400 or Less
One area where Sony still leads the camcorder pack is making unfeasibly small HD models. In 2008, it released the pocket-friendly HDR-TG3, and in 2009 we have the HDR-CX105E. This is a more conventional Handycam format, but weighing in at well under 300g it's still ludicrously tiny.
The CX105E relies upon a 1/5in CMOS like the TG3, but uses Sony's latest Exmor technology, which the company claims increases sensitivity. In our experience, the claims are justified, and the CX105E provides surprisingly good low light performance. The image is brighter than the JVC Everio GZ-HD300's, albeit slightly noisy.
Enthusiast features are few and far between, but the touch-screen LCD offers Sony's one-touch focus and exposure setting, or you can configure these with sliders. Face detection is also available. But Sony doesn't offer direct control over shutter speed. Not surprisingly, there's no accessory shoe or mini-jacks for headphones or an external microphone.
The CX105E's 8GB of memory is only enough for an hour of footage at the top quality mode, which records at 16Mbits/sec. Being a Sony camcorder MemoryStick flash media is used for extending storage, in this case it's the Pro Duo variety. But aside from this caveat, the CX105E is a tiny camcorder which is large on video performance and value.
Samsung's camcorders are increasingly capable. The HMX-H104 delivers good-quality footage in decent lighting, and its 1/4.5in CMOS helps provide a surprisingly bright image in poor illumination, although colour washes out more readily than Sony's HDR-CX105E. However, the 16GB of storage is enough for two hours of footage in the top Full HD quality mode, making the HMX-H104 excellent value.
The HDC-SD20 is essentially the SD memory version of the HDC-HS20. So it's a bit cheaper, although you have to supply your own flash media. The SD20 offers the same decent image quality and range of manual settings, making it relatively better value. It also uses Panasonic's touch-screen LCD system, so offers the one-touch AFAE mode.