Canon’s latest top-range camcorder didn’t so much fall from the ugly tree as hit every perfectly-pixellated branch on the way down. And, in this hard-drive age, it even has the temerity to merely record onto old-school Mini DV tape. Yet the HV20 has one feature that’s got hardcore videographers very hot under the collars of their multipocketed weskits: 24P.

Old classic

By shooting at the same frame rate as proper 35mm film cameras, it's suddenly a viable, and extremely cheap, option for budget film-makers. Combine it with its 'Cinema' mode and you'll get something approaching mightily expensive film – if a little more Pinewood than Hollywood.

The lower frame rate that 24P uses also gives the Canon amazing low-light ability. In fact, for anything other than fast moving sports, we'd recommend keeping it on at all times. Things just look better.

The unforgiving resolution of HD makes accurate focus even more critical. Luckily, the HV20’s provides stellar autofocus performance thanks to its ‘Instant AF’, which combines a blunt quick-fix sensor below the flash with standard in-lens AF for fine-tuning.

In control

There's tons of other stuff to keep the pros happy, including the next best thing to an actual focus ring; a focus dial on the lens. Lazy pros can just stay in auto with its surprisingly fast and accurate autofocus and white balance.

The fact that it records to old-school Mini DV tape will also be a positive in the eyes of film-makers. Tapes are cheap and plentiful, although you do have to transfer them to a PC in real-time.

The only real downside is the build. It looks plasticy and feels flimsy (the zoom rocker is pathetic and the hot shoe door is prone to jettisoning), but think instead of the final results. That and the knowing looks you'll get from other smug users. Don't speak, just nod back – knowingly.

Stuff says... 

Canon HV20 review

Ugly but impressive. If you’re looking for glory at Cannes, this is the camcorder for you