The HV20 records ultra-crisp 1080i HD video to MiniDV tapes. Its sweet "cinema mode" fixes the frame rate at 24 frames per second, just like Hollywood.
This cam produced the sharpest video we tested and uses a single 3.1 megapixel sensor taken from Canon’s DSLR cameras. You can shoot stills during filming.
Palm the superlight (1.2 lb.) HV20 and it’s easy to forget you’re holding a grand in your hand. The plastic-and-rubber build doesn’t help. More heavy metal!
JVC Everio GZ-HD7
This gnarly cam records up to five hours of 1080i HD content straight to its built-in 60 GB hard disk, so no fumbling for tapes or discs during an epic shoot.
We dig the boxy lens shade and easy manual controls, like a fat focus ring and buttons to adjust the shutter and aperture. Hey, at least you’ll look like a pro!
Short battery life’s a bummer—one and a half hours at the most. You’ll need a backup to make it to the end of that backyard Lord of the Rings remake.
Sony’s model captures 1080i HD vid onto a 40 GB hard disk for five hours of filming. A cool slo-mo feature can stretch three-second wipeouts into 12.
The SR5 is one big bag of tricks: It records a soundtrack in Dolby 5.1 digital and captures your nocturnal adventures with a built-in infrared system.
Files are stored in the AVCHD format. If you’re going to use a Mac to edit, the only program that will do it is Final Cut Studio 2—which can cost as much as the camera.