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Most smartphones are capable of taking short video clips but have limited video and audio quality and functions. Digital cameras can do a better job, recording in higher quality and minimizing shake while offering more advanced focus and other features. However, none of these devices compare to the 4K video and exceptional audio quality that the best camcorders have to offer. From small, handheld devices ideal for amateur use and convenience, to devices designed for professional use with extensive features and the best possible quality, there are camcorders for every requirement.
Below, you will find reviews of 10 of the best camcorders in 2023, as well as a guide to help you find the right dedicated recording device for your needs.
|Best Overall||Canon Vixia HF G60 Camcorder||
|Best Value||Sony HDR-CX405 HD Handycam||
|Premium Choice||Canon XC10 4K Professional Camcorder||
|GoPro Hero 8 Action Camera||
|Canon XA40 Professional Video Camcorder||
|Dimensions||8.4 x 4.3 x 3.6 inches|
|Total pixels||8.2 MP|
The Canon Vixia HF G60 Camcorder is an affordable camcorder with some high-end features. The 1-inch CMOS sensor offers 4K recording, although that’s the only resolution you can record at. The nine-bladed aperture gives footage a truly cinematic feel that you won’t find on less expensive models, and although the dimensions of this device mean that it certainly isn’t a convenient handy cam that will go everywhere with you, it bridges the gap between those and the high-end, high-cost devices.
It’s also easy to use and won’t take long to get to grips with if you’re making the step up, thanks in part to the 3-inch, flip-out touch screen. The 15x zoom lens is impressive, but the viewfinder can be tilted to your level and there are two SD card slots.
The mid-range price combined with some high-end features and a familiar layout to ease you into professional camcorders make this the best available camcorder. However, it is a bulky unit that isn’t as portable as alternatives.
|Dimensions||2.3 x 2.4 x 5.1 inches|
|Video resolution||1,920 x 1,080|
|Total pixels||9.2 MP|
The Sony HDR-CX405 HD Handycam is an affordable camcorder that is suitable for the advanced amateur. It is a portable device and, although it is lacking some of the more top-end features, it does offer some useful onboard features. It can shoot in multiple file formats at the same time, offers some editing and visual effects in-camera, thus minimizing your use of editing software, and its 30x optical zoom is more impressive than some of the high-cost units. It also has 5.1 audio and a good wide-angle setting.
The HDR-CX405 is a compact, portable, and user-friendly camcorder available at a fraction of the cost of some of the high-end units and, although it is lacking some premium features and doesn’t offer 4K recording, it is the best camcorder for the money. This particular bundle also includes an SD card, case, tripod, and an accessory bundle, but you will need an SDXC card (not included) to shoot in 1,080 pixels.
|Dimensions||4.92 x 4.02 x 4.8 inches|
|Video resolution||3,840 x 2,160|
|Total pixels||13.36 MP|
The Canon XC10 4K Professional Camcorder is a professional-level camcorder and has the price tag to match being the most expensive on the list. However, it can record in Ultra HD 4K, although does require CFast cards to do so. It’s compact, with an almost boxlike design, and is designed for mounting, hanging, and using in a range of scenarios while capturing high-resolution footage. It has a 1-inch sensor, records 5.1 audio quality, and includes a bundle of accessories and extras including a bag, tripod, multiple lenses and hoods, and a fast charger.
The CX10 is an expensive piece of kit, but it is compact for a unit capable of recording in Ultra HD 4K and has the high-end features that are needed from a professional camcorder.
|Dimensions||2.4 x 1.3 x 1.8 inches|
|Total pixels||12 MP|
While the Canon XC10 is considered a compact camcorder that can be mounted to some drones, it is heavy and expensive.
The GoPro Hero 8 Action Camera is lightweight, nimble, and rugged. And it offers surprisingly good features for its low price. It captures 4K footage at up to 60 frames per second and, as you would expect from a GoPro, is optimized for action footage with excellent image stabilization. It’s also waterproof so can record underwater footage without the need for a case or cover. It is also suitable for use on the go, enabling file transfer, video editing, and sharing all from the camera.
However, the GoPro’s voice controls aren’t always the most responsive and the lack of a front-facing screen lets it down a little.
|Dimensions||7.2 x 4.3 x 3.3 inches|
|Video resolution||UHD 4K|
|Total pixels||8.29 MP|
The Canon XA40 Professional Video Camcorder is an all-rounder. It is a large and reasonably heavy device but records in full 4K and has 5-axis image stabilization that offers professional-looking footage even if your hand isn’t that steady. The 20x optical zoom is good and the 3-inch LCD touch screen is clear, visible, and easy to use. Other features include dual SD card slots and a detachable handle that means you can use it however you prefer.
The Canon is quite expensive, but the footage quality is good, the resolution is decent, and it also includes a 1,200x slow-motion mode that produces professional-looking video.
|Dimensions||5.08 x 6.26 x 10.1 inches|
|Total pixels||8.29 MP|
The Panasonic HC-X2000 UHD 4K Pro Camcorder is a professional-level run-and-gun camcorder. It can record at 60 frames per second with a 2,160-pixel resolution. It has dual SD card slots, and as well as shooting full HD, it also has 120 frames per second slow-motion setting with 120 frames per second. The handle of the HC-X2000 is detachable and has a light, as well as a microphone handle, so you can modify its configuration to meet your shooting needs.
Although Panasonic describes it as the smallest and lightest camera in its class, it does weigh a hefty 50 ounces, and it has a professional price tag, so this is better suited to event videographers and isn’t really meant for the casual crowd.
|Dimensions||2.6 x 1.7 x 1.4 inches|
|Total pixels||12 MP|
The DJI Osmo Action Cam is a camcorder designed for gathering action footage. It can record up to 4K footage, has an 8x slow-motion setting, and uses RockSteady technology to ensure footage is stable and clear, without motion blur, which is essential when recording action footage.
The camera is also designed to be rugged. It can be taken up to 11 meters deep water, works down to -10°C, and the lens has multiple layers of protection that not only prevents damage but also ensures that you can get footage in virtually any conditions. The battery will last for 90 minutes of continuous use and is rechargeable.
While the resolution and clarity of the recordings won’t match those of higher-end units, this is an action cam and it offers the features that are required for this kind of use.
|Dimensions||4.6 x 3.6 x 7.8 inches|
|Total pixels||14.2 MP|
The Sony FDR-AX700 4K HDR Camcorder is a reasonably expensive camcorder with features that suggest it is best for professional use. It can record at 100 megabytes per second at 4K and also has a slow-motion mode.
Despite having a 3.5-inch viewfinder and dual SD card slots, this is a palm-sized device that is compact and easy to carry around. It has a 14.2-megapixel sensor, is easy to use and intuitive, and the built-in Wi-Fi means that you can quickly and easily transfer files or watch them directly on TVs and PCs.
It is expensive, however, and despite being small for a camcorder with these features, it is still a little cumbersome as a palm-sized camcorder.
|Dimensions||21 x 6.25 x 9.5 inches|
|Video resolution||UHD 4K|
|Total pixels||25.9 MP|
The Panasonic HC-WXF991K Camcorder is about average, in terms of price, and has some decent features while also being capable of recording in UHD 4K resolution. It also has a 20x optical zoom and this is a decent device for the keen hobbyist or as a first professional camera, although it does only record at up to 30 frames per second. Hybrid optical image stabilization does help eliminate shake and blur while built-in Wi-Fi means that you can share and upload footage easily without the need to remove cards and transfer files.
The HC-WXF991K could do with higher frame rates and users have complained that there is quite a lot of noise in most lighting settings.
|Dimensions||5.3 x 2.4 x 2.3 inches|
|Total pixels||36 MP|
There are lots of uses for camcorder footage, from watching on your home TV to sharing online. YouTube video quality doesn’t tend to be as high as found on other media forms, which means that the quality of the camera also doesn’t have to be as high so you can save some money rather than spending thousands on a top-quality camera from a major manufacturer, but you do have to choose carefully.
The Yeehao 36-megapixel Camcorder records footage in 1,080-pixel resolution and has an impressive 36 maximum pixel count. It also has infrared night vision and an external microphone and costs a fraction of the rest of the cameras on this list. However, its 16x zoom is digital zoom, which means footage appears choppy and grainy when used. It’s also a little fussy in appearance and difficult to handle, while the lack of 4K is off-putting.
When camcorders were first introduced, there were no real alternatives. Cell phones hadn’t advanced to the stage of being able to record video footage, tablets were a long way from being mainstream devices with advanced features, and digital cameras rarely, if ever, had video capture features. If you wanted to shoot video, you basically had to buy a camcorder.
Today, the outlook is different. Mobile phones and tablets virtually all offer some form of video capture, albeit with varying degrees of quality and features, while some digital cameras can do almost as good a job of video capture as camcorders. And, for specific uses, there are dashboard cams, webcams, helmet cams, and even doorbell cams, but the camcorder is a video capture device designed to capture video footage.
You should be able to carry the camcorder you choose by hand, and it should have the features that enable you to capture what you want, where you want, and how you want.
So many devices are capable of recording video footage, that a camcorder may not seem a necessary purchase for most. And, if you’re looking for a way to capture a few seconds of your dog running on the beach or the kids playing in the garden, a cell phone or tablet will likely do an admirable job of capturing that footage: some will even capture the footage in 4K.
But camcorders are designed solely to capture video footage. This means that they concentrate their layout, design, specifications, and features on that very purpose. They don’t need to be able to make phone calls, receive messages, or let you play casual games on your commute to work. Whether you’re a keen amateur or a professional videographer, a dedicated camcorder helps you take better quality video footage and gives the flexibility of advanced features.
If you’ve decided that you do indeed want a dedicated camcorder, there are a lot of options to choose from, including generic and cheap camcorders, as well as high-end camcorders from well-known brands. They can range from around $100 to several thousand, and while they might look similar in their maximum megapixels and their promises of 4K footage, there are many differences. Below are some of the features you will see when shopping for a new camcorder.
Technology moves quickly and, as it moves, prices relating to that technology tend to drop. This has proven the case with 4K resolution. When it was first introduced, 4K was expensive for viewing and even more expensive for recording. Today, however, 4K TVs and monitors are increasingly commonplace and there are a number of cell phones that can record 4K footage. As such, the majority of new camcorders do record in 4K footage.
There are even some that will record in 6K, although that particular technology doesn’t look likely to take off in the same way as 4K. In truth, if you’re recording footage for yourself and for your family to view, and you will be viewing this footage on smaller or lower resolution screens, you may not need 4K footage, but it is good to have because as more viewing devices incorporate 4K, it will become an increasingly desirable format.
One area where camcorders can really outshine their cell phone and digital camera counterparts is the quality of audio they capture. The onboard microphones on other devices tend to have short range and restricted audio channels. With a good camcorder, you can enjoy multiple channels that record more frequencies of sound.
The resulting audio, assuming it is played back through high-quality multi-channel speaker sets, will have greater depth. You will be able to differentiate between bass and treble and it will more closely replicate the actual sounds that were made.
As well as camcorders, you will also see a range of video cameras described as action cams. The GoPro is the best-known action cam and is designed not only to get action footage, but also to be used in rugged conditions, challenging light, and during the action. Action cams will struggle to provide the same kind of resolution or image clarity as a camcorder, but they excel in getting fast-paced action shots and are usually designed to be rugged and hardwearing.
An LCD viewer enables you to see a shot before taking it. They tend to be touch screens and are used to alter settings and features while also navigating menus. The 3-inch LCD screens are fairly standard and most work well in indoor lighting, but they can be difficult to see when outdoors or in other challenging lighting conditions.
When holding a camcorder, it is virtually impossible to keep a stable hand, especially if you’re filming and holding the camera for some time. Different manufacturers use different technologies to offer image stabilization, but this should be considered an important part of the camcorder unless you are going to be using a tripod or other device to hold the camera steady throughout your time using it.
The 5-axis image stabilization is generally considered the most effective and utilizes gyroscopes to control movement along the yaw, pitch, roll, horizontal, and vertical axes.
The majority of camcorders record footage on SD cards. Some may require the use of specific types of SD cards to record 4K or UHD footage, and once you’ve captured the video, this means you need some means of transferring from the card to a PC or other device. You can use a card reader on the external device and most 4K camcorders have USB and an HDMI port so you can transfer files directly or watch them from your camera on a TV or monitor.
Those with Wi-Fi built in can connect to a wireless network. This not only enables wireless transfers, but it means that you can upload to websites and may be able to share your footage on social media and other websites.
Zoom is common on camcorders, but different types of zoom offer different results. With optical zoom, the physical components of the lens move in order to make objects appear closer. When zooming in, the lens moves away from the sensor.
With digital zoom, this doesn’t happen and instead relies on software to magnify one area of an image. The result is that digital zoom reduces the megapixels of the resulting image. It can appear blocky, loses sharpness, and may result in a more magnified camera shake and visual noise.
Optical zoom is preferred and can range from 10x to 30x. If you don’t need or envisage using a 30x zoom level, you may be able to save some money by opting for a camera with a lower optical zoom level.
Camcorders are devices that are dedicated to capturing video footage with most modern models of camcorder able to record in 4K and with advanced audio, compared to the video capture setting on a cell phone that has limited audio recording and fewer settings. Prices, and features, vary, but there is a wide range of camcorders designed for everyone from the amateur to the professional videographer.
While compiling the reviews above, we found the Canon Vixia HF G60 Camcorder to be the best overall model with a reasonable 15x optical zoom, 4K recording, and a reasonable price tag. For those new to recording videos or working on a budget, the Sony HDR-CX405 is a cheaper alternative that actually has a better 30x optical zoom and a much lower price, but it doesn’t record in 4K.
Featured Image Credit: LD Media UK, Shutterstrock
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Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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