Panasonic's AG-HVX200, (about £4,000), is potentially better than any of the HDV camcorders as it records using the format (as well as in DVCPRO 25 and 50). Its other interesting feature is that it records onto P2 cards. These are removable flash memory - which should make for a faster workflow because there is no need (theoretically) to transfer from tape to computer hard drive for editing. Unfortunately, P2 cards are very expensive (approx £450 for a 4GB card compared to a £2.75 miniDV tape), so you may prefer for any you own to be in use on location rather than tied to your NLE. As P2 cards come down in price (and go up in capacity) this could be a very interesting camera, but anyone using it seriously for HD should consider Focus Enhancements' FireStore FS-100 hard disk recorder, which clips on the back and can then be plugged into your editor without needing digitisation. There is also an FS-4 Pro HD for HDV camcorders.
The HVX200 records 1080 and 720 lines formats (including, notably, 720/50p and 1080/25p, as well as 1080/50i). If it lives up to its promise, this will be a strong alternative to HDV, but as it hasn't yet gone on sale in the UK as we go to press, we have only had limited time with prototype models.
Advantages: Very good picture quality. DVCPRO HD is a more robust, less compressed format than HDV, and is more easily edited than HDV. It also provides a full 4:2:2 signal, so it records more colour information, which makes it more suitable for effects work, such as greenscreen composites. The camera also has the widest-angle standard lens (4.2mm) and probably the best sounding audio on any budget HD camera, with four channels of 16-bit PCM. It also records DV to tape. Like Panasonic's larger Varicam, you can record at various frame rates (at about a dozen different speed settings up to 60fps), but only in 720p mode.
Disadvantages: More expensive than the XLH1 if you buy a bundle with two 8GB P2 cards. If you record on a P2 card and then archive all your rushes (as you really should), you will spend a lot of time burning DVDs or saving to FireWire drives - P2 cards being way too expensive for archive use. Or you could buy a DVCPRO HD tape deck (the price of several HVX200s). The LCD screen is not as good as the Z1's.