The latest camcorders are small, light, affordable and capable of shooting HD video. PC Advisor reviews 12 delectably diminutive devices.

Until a couple of years ago, a fairly so-so digital camcorder would set you back £400. And you'd end up paying twice that if you wanted to shoot in a convenient digital format rather than having to mess about with tapes and downloading from a fixed hard disk.

But that's all all changed, thanks to the take-off of flash video recording. FlipVideo's mobile phone-sized camcorders have led the charge for sub-£100 models, while the big guns such as Sony and Panasonic are producing stunning HD models in the £200 to £350 range. At the pricier end of the scale, Sony's soon-to-launch TG7VE GPS-enabled HD camcorder will cost £849. It will be one of the slimmest, lightest and most feature-laden models around.

But it's at the entry-level end of the digital video market that things are really shifting. Over the past year we've looked at some basic but robust models for as little as £35. There's even a Fisher Price camcorder if you're keen to head to the beach and let the kids do some filming of their own.

But there are some competent and pleasingly affordable models targeted at adults too. This means you can easily capture some decent video footage, and you won't have wasted precious recording media in the process. You can now shoot HD video and upload it to YouTube in minutes.

The latest lightweight, compact video cameras replace the tapes of old, committing imagery directly to built-in hard drives or, as seen here, removable media. The latter is typically provided with Secure Digital (SD) or higher-capacity SDHC memory cards.

NEXT PAGE: the future's tiny

Index:

  1. Ranked and rated - the best holiday video cams
  2. Compact camcorders: the future's tiny
  3. Compact camcorders: top 12 reviews
  4. Compact camcorders: conclusions

Digital photography reviews and advice

The latest camcorders are small, light, affordable and capable of shooting HD video. PC Advisor reviews 12 delectably diminutive devices.

Compact camcorders: the future's tiny

Shooting video directly to removable media has a couple more advantages. You're not restricted in terms of storage space, for one thing: if you want to shoot for longer you can simply insert a higher-capacity card. With SDHC boasting a 32GB capacity, the flash camcorder is reasonably future-proofed. And since the technology is ‘solid state', there is, in theory, less potential for something to go wrong.

Camcorders are shrinking, with their dimensions getting nearer and nearer to those of mobile phones. Prices are getting smaller too, as such products become the latest must-have mass-market devices.

More of us are investing in HDTVs and flat-panel screens and many of today's camcorders shoot in 16:9 widescreen movie format, complete with stereo sound. The Mpeg4 footage captured by such models can be replayed on almost any PC using Windows Media Player, QuickTime or RealPlayer.

However, for all the talk about the superior quality of HD video, the total pixel count only actually translates to a 2Mp image; paltry by still camera standards. And, of course, file sizes will inevitably be large even for short video bursts, so it might be worth investing in an additional drive.

NEXT PAGE: 12 camcorder reviews

Index:

  1. Ranked and rated - the best holiday video cams
  2. Compact camcorders: the future's tiny
  3. Compact camcorders: top 12 reviews
  4. Compact camcorders: conclusions

Digital photography reviews and advice

The latest camcorders are small, light, affordable and capable of shooting HD video. PC Advisor reviews 12 delectably diminutive devices.

Compact camcorders: top 12 reviews

NEXT PAGE: camcorder conclusions

Index:

  1. Ranked and rated - the best holiday video cams
  2. Compact camcorders: the future's tiny
  3. Compact camcorders: top 12 reviews
  4. Compact camcorders: conclusions

Digital photography reviews and advice

The latest camcorders are small, light, affordable and capable of shooting HD video. PC Advisor reviews 12 delectably diminutive devices.

Compact camcorders: conclusions

Today's camcorders barely resemble the bulky beasts of old. In terms of look and feel they now have more in common with MP3 players and mobile phones than with video cameras of yore.

With the rise in popularity of filesharing and social-networking sites, the focus is on all-inclusive fun as much as technological advancement. If you're in the market not just for a small camcorder but one that shoots HD footage, it's worth mentioning that you'll inevitably end up with huge video files - and if your hard drive is already groaning with image files, MP3s and video clips, it might be well worth investing in an external add-on.

Of the 12 models we reviewed here, we preferred the tactile rubber bodywork of the Creative Vado HD over the shinier FlipVideo MinoHD, although the MinoHD was more user-friendly and intuitive to use. Both Kodaks scored highly for ease of use, as did the Wiki model - although that was something of a wannabe. We'd have given late entrant Sony some serious praise were it not for the price tag. We're hoping they bring the Webbie's UK price tag into line with the US pricing, pronto.

Despite the impressive showing of several ‘candybar' models, however, it was the pistol-grip camcorders that really wowed us. Now their prices are as low as £150 (£69 if you count the Medion model along with the camera brands) grabbing a ‘real' camcorder with a proper zoom, image stabilisation and the convenience of flash memory storage is our recommendation.

It may not shoot in HD, but the Panasonic SDR-S26 with its 70x zoom and incredibly lightweight, compact proportions is the one the others need to beat. If you absolutely have to have HD, meanwhile, the Sanyo VPC-CG10 with its 720p HD shooting and 10Mp stills is the best overall.

Index:

  1. Ranked and rated - the best holiday video cams
  2. Compact camcorders: the future's tiny
  3. Compact camcorders: top 12 reviews
  4. Compact camcorders: conclusions

Digital photography reviews and advice