HD camcorders group test

Introduction

One of the great things about any new technology is that it eventually becomes affordable enough for the rest of us – and so it is with HD camcorders. Seven years ago, you were looking at the thick end of £2,000 for the first consumer HD models; now, as you’ll see, you can pick one up for as little as £237 if you shop around online as we did. How times have changed.

Another great thing about this tech trickle-down effect is that you also get a heck of lot for your money – not only in terms of outright video quality when compared to standard definition camcorders, but also in the range of features on offer. HD camcorders can now shoot stills (saving you the hassle of lugging two cameras around) and boast all kinds of shooting modes that help you record in less-than-perfect conditions.

Nearly all the camcorders here also offer simple point-and-shoot modes – so you don’t need to be a camcorder geek to get good footage, although some also offer ‘pro’ level features if you want to take your movie-making further.

You’ll also notice that our line-up of low-cost HD camcorders offers a range of media to record to. Built-in hard drives, removable flash memory cards, and even solid-state drives have replaced tape, and you’ll see all three types represented here or, indeed, any combination of the three.

That’s largely down to the fact that virtually all the camcorders here record in the AVCHD format. This provides up to 1,920 x 1,080i full HD recording using the same AVC/H.264 video codec favoured by Apple for QuickTime and, to a certain extent, by Blu-ray. The one exception here is the Toshiba Camileo X100, which records video using the AVI codec, but more on that later.

The only issue that remains then is how to get your video footage (or stills) out of your camcorder and onto your Mac. Because it’s compressed, AVCHD video is processor-intensive – which means you’ll need a Mac with an Intel processor and preferably iMovie ’08 or iMovie ’09, as well as a lot of hard drive storage space for archiving and editing.

So let’s give a warm handshake to the Canon Legria HF200 (with an RRP of £749, it’s not technically a sub-£500 product, but we found it online for much less), the JVC Everio GZ-HD300AEK, the Panasonic SDC-HD60, Samsung HMX-H104, Sony HDR-CX105 and Toshiba Camileo X100.