A camcorder perfectly captures your most precious moments. They’re ideal for filming vacations, baby’s first steps, or vlogging. Compared with smartphones, video cameras have bigger and better lenses, better external sensors, and higher video quality. Some models even support extra features like dual memory card slots, external microphone support, and powerful optical zoom. Here are some of the best camcorders for a variety of situations.
Easy to take along
The Sony HDR-CX405 camcorder is a great option for anyone that is happy with 1080p video quality and wants a video camera that’s super compact and portable. It offers 30x optical zoom with a Carl Zeiss lens. You'll get intelligent features like optional SteadyShot and Intelligent Auto mode for a smooth finish. Onboard editing is an option and can be saved on the memory card. The USB cable is tethered for easy file transfer as well as recharging. You also get 5.1 audio with the built-in microphone.
The SEREE video camera is a good option for vlogging. It shoots video in FHD at 1080p, has 16x zoom, and night vision so you can capture the action in any place and under any condition. This digital camcorder has jacks to connect a microphone for better audio or an LED light when needed. It also has expandable storage options and is compatible with 128GB SD cards. It comes with a remote control and can sit on most tripods so you can be part of the action, too. And the pause function helps you stop recording without stopping the video altogether.
The GoPro Hero8 is the ultimate action camera with a tough build that can withstand water and knocks. Under the outer shell is a super powerful system that captures 4K footage at 60fps. It also comes with some of the best image stabilization out there and offers lots of pre-set modes to suit what you’re filming. The supporting app is excellent for easy file transfer, video editing, and sharing footage. Onboard GPS, triple microphones, and a 1220mAh battery all add up to a complete video solution in a very portable package. The GoPro even lets you live stream via the app.
For professional quality
The Panasonic HC-X2000 camcorder is a prosumer model. This means it is professional quality and consumer-friendly. The camera does it all from 4K image quality at 60 fps to 24x optical zoom. It has five-axis hybrid optical image stabilization and works with a Leica Dicomer lens for optimal quality. There is a microphone attachment and two XLR pro mic inputs. It also has a really useful LED light that’s diffused for a professional lighting finish, even in a rush.
High-quality 4K HDR camcorder
The Sony FDRAX700 takes a lot of high-end professional camera specs and crams them into a palm-sized camcorder. This means you get 4K resolution and HDR so playback on a TV will look stunning. Sony creates sharp and crisp images using its BIONZ X image processing paired with a 14.2-megapixel sponsor. The built-in Wi-Fi makes exporting footage simple. In fact, this is easy to use in general with clear menus, useful physical buttons, and ergonomics that are spot on. This portable Sony camera still manages to cram in a 3.5-inch viewfinder, dual SD card slots, and a built-in microphone. It records in both SDR and HDR.
What type of camcorder should you get?
We spoke to a few experts in the field to find out what people should be looking for in a camcorder, and as always, it comes down to your experience and what you want to get out of the device. Kelly Johnson is a video editor for the North Dakota broadcasting company Prairie Public. He said people who don’t have a lot of experience with videography or photography should focus on getting a camcorder that is easy to use and practice using it often.
“You get what you pay for sometimes, and you get out of it the time you spend teaching yourself to use the camera,” Johnson said. “If you’re going to buy it and let it sit for a month and a half in a desk drawer, your video is going to look crappy because you didn’t spend time teaching yourself how to use it.”
Cory Erickson has about ten years of photography and videography experience in the upper Midwest and said it’s important to make sure your camcorder works well in low light for when you’re filming indoor concerts or in the evening. The best way to do that is to get a camera with a large sensor size and small aperture, as the lower the aperture number, the more light gets into the lens to hit the sensor and create a video.
When it comes to a camera’s zoom capabilities, Erickson said to stick to optical zoom if you want a clear image. “Don’t be lured in by the digital zoom numbers,” he said, noting digital zoom merely crops an image instead of magnifying it. “You’re sacrificing something for those numbers.”
If you’re going to be using your camcorder in the great outdoors, then you’ll also want something rugged and built to last. This also applies to people looking to film things like skateboarding and biking videos - one fall or crash could easily smash a fragile camera or smartphone. In this case, we’d recommend something like a GoPro. These devices are often also called action cameras, largely to disassociate themselves with the aging reputation of camcorders. But make no mistake, these are still camcorders, just wearing a new suit.