Whether you want to film your child s school play, your family s vacation or holiday get-togethers, there s no shortage of options when it comes to camcorders. We reviewed the best HD camcorders and enjoyed their quality and simplicity, but we hear one question often: Is a high-definition camcorder better than a smartphone camera for filming my family s big moments? There are pros and cons to both devices, and while both technologies improve each year, the primary differences between them remain the same.
When comparing camcorders to phones, both are capable of 1080p resolution, with many entering the neighborhood of 4K. Our HD camcorder reviews focused on 1080p cameras, since they are typically more affordable than the new 4K camcorders coming out. Dollar for dollar, though, smartphones with 4K resolutions are the better buy. In fact, a phone with a 4K camcorder costs the same as a previous year s phone with 1080p resolution, whereas 4K camcorders are typically twice the price of 1080p camcorders. If you want 4K resolution, smartphones are better.
Filming Simplicity and Customizability
Both camcorders and smartphones offer point-and-shoot options. With intelligent auto modes and fast-boot speeds, you can record something seconds after pulling out your device. The primary difference lies in filming options. Typically, smartphones try to keep all functions simple, and when you want to change the settings, you re given a limited set of options. HD camcorders give you the power to experiment and turn your family vacation into a work of art. There are layers upon layers of options, and while it can be overwhelming at first, you soon start to see a world of possibilities. You bought your camcorder to record your baby s first steps, but you can also use it to chronicle a trip to Europe or a camping adventure. For that purpose, camcorders are superior.
Filming Position and Playback
The real tiebreaker between the two technologies depends on how you use them. When most people film or take pictures with their phones, they hold it vertically. If you share videos with other people s phones or use a phone-based social platform, the playback is comfortable and user-friendly. However, if you ever want to post it online or play the video on your television, the vertical picture is laughably bad. You will never see a blockbuster movie presented vertically.
HD camcorders record horizontally by default. Many camcorders include Wi-Fi capabilities, so you can instantly upload your video to YouTube or Facebook, where the playback is horizontal. If you edit your video and play it for your friends and family, it will fit perfectly on their televisions or projectors. Since HD camcorders do not offer any kind of temptation towards vertical filming, we prefer camcorders for our family memories, short movies and vlogs.
While there are other differences, particularly with storage options, there s no universal difference between smartphones and camcorders with these. For example, the memory card you buy determines storage capabilities, but both camcorders and smartphones have varying compatibilities. For looking for the best device for your needs, use our above comparisons.