The very best HD camcorders go far beyond the videos created on today’s flagship smartphones. Meaning that even if you’ve got one of the best camera phones around, you’d probably still benefit from a dedicated camcorder. Far from dying out, the camcorder is experiencing a renaissance, with a remarkable choice for every budget, level of expertise and activity.
4K camcorders are now commonplace, from sophisticated semi-pro models with full manual controls to beginner-friendly devices with presets and automated features to ease the learning curve. For sports and tough conditions, there are also camcorders designed to be dustproof, waterproof, shockproof, and able to handle temperatures well below freezing. Many modern camcorders also offer wireless connectivity, allowing you to transfer videos without wires, or even stream them directly online.
Here we’ve rounded up the very best HD camcorders that deliver the optimum balance of value and performance, whatever your needs.
For professional-quality shooting, the Panasonic HC-X1E is hard to beat. It’s the heaviest camera in our roundup in some way, so it’s not the most portable option and will need a high-quality tripod to keep it stable if you’re not resting it on your shoulder. Experienced videographers will appreciate the comprehensive manual settings, including triple lens bands (for concentrate, zoom and iris), plus customizable settings for gain, white stability, shutter and even more. Experienced videographers will value the manual settings, including triple lens bands (concentrate, zoom and iris) plus programmable control keys for adjusting the shutter, gain, white stability and even more. The HC-X1Electronic also includes a 1-in. CMOS sensor, Leica Dicomar Zoom lens and 20x optical zoom for capturing pin-sharp footage without distortion. It isn’t a camcorder you’ll expert quickly, however, the quality is really worth the time investment.
The Sony HDR-CX405 is a good value camcorder it doesn’t compromise on quality – even a little. With a compact chassis and built-in image stabilization, it’s ideal for filming one-handed, and features a raft of presets to help first-timers achieve better results. It can record in both XAVC S or AVCHD format and MP4 format simultaneously, and capture high-quality stills while also recording video. There’s no wireless connectivity, but the USB connector is simple to use when it’s time to charge or transfer files to a computer. There’s even a built-in tool for editing videos in-camera. This camcorder is simple to use and very impressive for the price.
Whether handheld or mounted on a tripod, the Canon LEGRIA GX10 delivers pro-quality 4K footage at 50FPS, or 1080P at 100FPS (ideal for super-smooth slow motion). There’s also an eight-stop ND-grad filter for shooting landscapes, plus a 15x wide-angle zoom lens. With both automatic shooting modes and customizable manual controls, it’s ideal if you’re making the jump to a high-end camcorder and want to learn the ropes at your own pace. Unusually for a 4K camcorder, the Canon LEGRIA GX10 also features dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity for fuss-free file transfers. This is a robust, reliable 4K camcorder, and the perfect companion for shooting in the great outdoors.
The GoPro Hero5 Black isn’t the newest of GoPro’s action cameras, but it set the bar very high and is now better value than ever. Despite its diminutive size, this little action camera is capable of capturing 4K footage in extreme conditions. It’s waterproof to 10m even without a housing (something few rival sports cameras can beat), and with voice controls it’s easy to operate when your hands are occupied with swimming, skiing and otherwise having fun. 4K video capture maxes out at 30FPS, however, the Hero5 Black continues to be a fantastic choice and tough plenty of to survive any experience.
Sony produces an array of camcorders for all skill amounts, and its own mid-range models just like the Sony PJ620 are one of the better out there. This camcorder features Sony’s proprietary picture stabilization to minimize shake when capturing freehand, which can confirm invaluable when used in a blend with the 30x optical zoom, which would in any other case amplify undesirable movement. Spot-focus, intelligent car, wind noise decrease and smile shutter make issues even simpler when capturing home films. The Sony PJ620 also includes a built-in 25-lumen projector, but this quickly becomes rather hot – even more of a gimmick when compared to a useful tool, which camcorder’s only letdown.
Searching for a 4K camcorder, however, not all set semi-pro? Have a look at the Panasonic HC-VX980EB-K – its impressive specifications list contains HDR video for lifelike colors, an intensive selection of scene modes, complete manual mode (with settings for focus, white stability, shutter and iris) and top-notch picture stabilization. The wireless multi-cam option, which is becoming a key feature for Panasonic’s consumer range, lets you link multiple camcorders and assemble the footage using the Panasonic app. It’s a shame that most of the creative effects can only be used when shooting in 1080P, but shooting in 4K gives you more potential for editing in post.
Detailed, Realistic Pictures Full of Presence: GZ-RY980 is the first shooting style camcorder to put 4K video and Quad Proof reliability in the palm of your hand. Record your adventure with lasting 4K quality.
The JVC Everio GZ-RY980HEU is tough, powerful and reliable – well suited for shooting 4K on the highway. JVC’s new Falconbird picture processor is much less power-hungry than earlier versions, extending battery lifestyle for 4.5 hours of continuous 4K shooting, and the camcorder’s tough chassis will survive drops of just one 1.5m, submersion in drinking water to depths of 5m, and temperatures of -10C. That is a strong applicant if you’re searching for a camcorder for recording far from home (and power outlets), and with the JVC Everio GZ-RY980HEU capable of taking 8K stills, you might decide to leave your regular camera at home.
The Sony RX0 II is tiny – seriously tiny. The sports camera market has blossomed in recent years, with a host of rivals appearing to wrestle for GoPro’s crown, and the tough little RX0 II is usually punching well above its weight. It’s the world’s smallest 4K camcorder, capable of shooting at 30FPS and capturing 15.3MP stills. Its Zeiss Tessar T* 24mm f/4 fixed wide-angle lens is impressive, and it even features a diminutive tiltable LCD display. It’s waterproof to 1m without a case, and resistant to accidental crushing. You don’t get a lot of camera for your money, but it’s a pocket-sized powerhouse.