Digital video has seen a huge boost thanks to the success of YouTube and the availability of inexpensive flash storage. Even the high-definition footage you shoot can now be stored on a memory card. PC Advisor tests some modestly priced HD camcorders.

HD camcorders: conclusions

One of the things that became obvious while we were conducting this group test is how far AVCHD camcorders have come in terms of picture quality and features. For a long while the format looked as though it would forever play second fiddle to Mpeg2 HDV, but we're happy to report that this is no longer the case.

The Canon HF100E, Panasonic HDC-HS100E and Sony HDR-CX11E all put forward extremely strong reasons why we should choose AVCHD over its forebear.

It's also good to see that camcorder makers are finally listening to calls from video enthusiasts for more advanced features in AVCHD models. The Panasonic HDC-HS100E stands out most in this respect, thanks to its manual focus/zoom ring and an easily accessible range of tweakable settings that don't force you to venture into sub-menu hell.

It's also great to see features such as face detection and Smile Shutter on AVCHD camcorders, both of which make filming easier and more fun. Stills shooting capability is almost as important as video for many camcorder users.

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The contrast between AVCHD camcorders and their format rivals was particularly striking. Hitachi's Blu-ray-equipped Hitachi DZ-BD70E fares the worst in this respect, partly because disc-based recording of any stripe seems unfashionably clunky compared to flash memory or hard disks.

Blu-ray also seems like a stretch too far. Although AVCHD and Blu-ray recording formats are in essence the same, the Hitachi DZ-BD70E seems almost wilfully different - we can't believe there will be much call for this storage format.

JVC makes a similar blunder: its GZ-HD6EK model is one of the very few to offer TS/Mpeg2 HDV recording and so, like disc-based camcorders, seems like a throwback. Again, the noticeably poorer picture quality and unnecessary bulk are reason enough to discount this camcorder type.

The JVC Everio GZ-HD40 is a curious hybrid of HDV and AVCHD recording and, if you want to cover all bases, this will give you the most format options. It produced some of the best AVCHD pictures, but it's bulky and lacks image stabilisation.

Our three star performers were the Canon, Sony and Panasonic. Face detection and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound made them stand out from the AVCHD crowd, with the Canon surpassing its rivals with its brilliant picture quality and ease of use. The Canon HF100E sets the standard by which all other modern consumer camcorders will be judged.

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