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.

The video revolution has finally hit the UK, with flat-panel TVs, games consoles and TV broadcasts all offering high-definition (HD).

Laptops and PCs are going HD too, with many manufacturers now offering Blu-ray as an option. Indeed, this led to the emergence of two new chassis sizes in 2008 - the 16in and 18.4in laptops launched first by Acer and then by Samsung, Toshiba, HP and others were specifically designed for HD entertainment, with screen sizes that match its 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio.

Video-editing capabilities on the latest PCs are easily able to cope with HD content too, with inexpensive software from Adobe, Roxio and Nero geared up to help you make the most of your video footage.

It's no secret that shooting HD video requires vast amounts of storage space - you'll soon eat up tens if not hundreds of gigabytes on your hard drive. A great reason to archive your raw footage to a Blu-ray disc is that it can store 25GB or 50GB if you've got a dual-layer drive.

Visit Photo Advisor for the latest reviews of digital photography and video hardware and software, cameras and accessories. PLUS: get tips and tricks to improve your photos

And it's just as important that the camcorder itself is able to store considerable amounts of HD footage. Unlike the MiniDV and DVD-based camcorders that you may well have used before, the digital camcorders we review here can store many gigabytes of footage.

The AVCHD (advanced video codec high-definition) format not only supports HD, it's available in convenient media too: AVCHD flash memory cards and Blu-ray versions can be read directly by your PC - a refreshing change from importing video stored on a MiniDV tape using a FireWire connection.

However, it's important to note that most AVCHD camcorders produce 1,920x1,080 interlaced video footage. As any home cinema enthusiast will tell you, this isn't up to the same level of picture quality as the 1,080p (progressive) standard featured in many modern TVs.

While you won't need a FireWire connection to transfer footage, since it favours USB 2.0 instead, you should check that your laptop or PC is up to the task of editing AVCHD footage.

We also reviewed the JVC Everio GZ-HD6, which records HD-quality video but to the standard Mpeg4 format rather than AVCHD.

If you can go HD, we thoroughly recommend it. HD camcorders deliver a radical upgrade in picture and sound resolution - ideal for those of us who use camcorders for capturing special events such as family gatherings and holidays.

HD camcorders finally offer the type of quality that can live up to our memories.

NEXT PAGE: HD camcorders - conclusions

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.

Visit Photo Advisor for the latest reviews of digital photography and video hardware and software, cameras and accessories. PLUS: get tips and tricks to improve your photos

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.

NEXT PAGE: HD camcorder reviews

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: reviews

Visit Photo Advisor for the latest reviews of digital photography and video hardware and software, cameras and accessories. PLUS: get tips and tricks to improve your photos