Luckily for me me, on the watercolor forum on WetCanvas, I came across with a discussion about some rather cheap, but still in the "artist quality" range, watercolor paints which are made in India and are called "Camel Artists Water Colors". They can be found as cakes in a metal box (18 shades) or in tubes of 20 ml, 9 ml and 5 ml. The major problem is that they are sold only in India. On the good side is that most of the e-shops in India that are selling the Camel watercolors are shipping them worldwide and the shipping cost is not very high, especially if you find one that send them using the India Post services (for example, the cost was 15$ for a box under 1 kg, to ship from India to Greece).
My experience with the e-shop from India was very good - they were very helpful and answering very fast to my e-mails. My order included some brush sets and drawing materials, except of the paints.
As for the paints, I ordered one box of cakes (18 shades), 1 box of 20 ml tubes (12 shades) and 2 boxes of 9 ml tubes (18 shades) of the Camel Artists' Water Colors.
I started my tests with the box of cakes, which must be one of the cheapest on the market at approximately 3 US$.
Except of the very low price, one good thing about the box is that is a metal one and one of the two sides, when open, has three quite large mixing areas. Also, the box comes with a Camlin synthetic hair brush from the round series, which seems to be the equivalent of the size 6 of the round series 66 (the size is not indicated on the brush found in the box).
What I didn't like at all about the Camel box of cakes is the plastic part, where the paints are placed. It is very thin and fragile, and while trying to get it out of the metal box the part where the brush is placed just came out in pieces (as you can notice in the photo).
Maybe very important for the watercolorists that are using pans is that these cakes are not of the usual pan-size, the square cakes look to me quantitatively as being the equivalent of about 1/4 of a full-pan.
The pigments in the box, from left to write and top to bottom order, are:
236 Lemon Yellow
154 Gamboge Hue
492 Yellow Ochre
241 Light Red
031 Burnt Sienna
032 Burnt Umber
056 Cobalt Blue Hue
436 Ultramarine Blue
071 Cerulean Blue Hue
117 Emerald Green
453 Viridian Hue
391 Sap Green
367 Raw Umber
And this is how they look on the paper at a consistency similar to that of paint out of a tube:
First impression is that I like the intensity and the colors. Light Red seems very close to Burnt Sienna, and Yellow Ochre very similar to Raw Umber. But I need to check them in mixes, to really see the differences. This will take some time to do, and many experiments. I only started now with testing a basic palette of 3 colors: 153 Gamboge Hue, 063 Crimson and 056 Cobalt Blue. First I made value charts of the 3 primary colors plus the 016 Black, and then a color wheel.
I think my selection of 3 primary colors is very good to get a beautiful range of mixes, and now I am looking forward to test it with some paintings too.