The best camcorders can certainly compete with mirrorless cameras, but with the convenience of a built-in lens and in most cases, better audio options.
With cameras for filmmaking now being available at every price point, more people are realizing that having a device that is designed solely for shooting video often means that when choosing the best camera for video, a camcorder is a much better choice than a multi-purpose camera phone.
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There are several types of camcorders on the market. Normally you will think of smaller, inexpensive all-in-one camcorders for casual and amateur use however, there's a growing professional broadcast market too, as demonstrated by the recent Canon XF605.
There is plenty to consider if you're shopping for a camcorder, with the market ranging all the way from friendly consumer camcorders to professional camcorders used for TV broadcast journalism or documentary filmmaking.
We've put together a list of what we think are be the best camcorders available on the market right now. From small and self-contained styles, designed for holidays and day-to-day casual shooting, to the latest and greatest 4K camcorders that produce stunning footage of superior quality, there should be something for everyone and all budgets!
The best camcorders in 2023
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Best budget camcorders
Not everyone requires a 4K camcorder, and if Full HD resolution is all you need, then here are some great choices that will deliver great-looking video at a rock-bottom price.
This small palm-sized and go-anywhere Canon Vixia HF R800 is all about family fun. It records at 1080p to SD cards and boasts a huge 57x advanced zoom, DIGIC DV4 image processor along with an Intelligent Image Stabilizer with Framing assist. There’s even a decent parcel of filters, including assorted Cinema-Looks. This is inexpensive to buy and a lot of fun to use.
You don’t need to spend big to make great movies – Sony’s HDR-CX405 sells for well under $300 but also comes with a host of sophisticated tricks to help you make extremely polished films.
The camcorder can record simultaneously in XAVC S, AVCHD, and friendly file-sharing MP4 format. You can edit in-camera using the onboard Highlight Movie Maker and can even apply various visual effects without having to faff around with separate editing programs, which is a real bonus for those that want a simple solution.
There’s a Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar 30x optical zoom, with an impressive 26.8mm wide-angle setting. The camcorder even has 5.1 audio capture. Given the spec, you might be hard-pressed to justify spending more, making this one of the best camcorders for filmmakers on a budget.
Best 4K camcorders
4K video has become the new normal for serious filmmaking. It doesn't just give you the step up in resolution either, it gives you great scope for cropping, tracking, and panning, whilst editing your videos later. Here are some great 4K camcorders that let you step up the quality without compromising your budget.
The FDR-AX43 may be compact, but it doesn’t skimp on its features. Fronted by a Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T lens, which includes a 20x optical zoom, 4K shooting (with super-down-sampling for 1080p displays), a low noise Exmor R CMOS sensor, and dual-video recording in XAVC S or AVCHD formats, plus easy to share MP4.
For those who want as if you were there surround sound when viewing their footage on a home cinema or soundbar, there’s also a multichannel 5.1 microphone. However, expect limitations in low light, but if you’re in the market for an easy-to-manage camcorder, capable of 4K video, then this model is a fantastic choice, and that balance between functionality, portability, and the price is why it takes our #1 spot.
Although it looks like it has now been discontinued, it is still available to buy from several camera retailers.
The Sony FDR-AX700 has a one-inch Exmor RS CMOS sensor that shoots 4K video in both SDR and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) HDR. Features include a 12x zoom, a big 3.5-inch viewfinder, dual SD card slots, and advanced phase detection AF.
The FDR-AX700 uses XAVC S for both 4K and HD recording, with recording speeds of 100 Mbps for 4K, and 50 Mbps for 1080p. It will also shoot Full HD 1080p slow-motion at 120 fps. The brand’s BIONZ X image processor keeps images crisp and makes the FDR-AX700 one of the best camcorders for keen videographers and even aspiring filmmakers. A standard SMPTE timecode can be included in recordings.
An upgraded follow-up to the XC10, the Canon XC15 is enhanced for more professional use, providing a more complete audio/video capture workflow in the same compact, ergonomic form factor. It features a 1" 12MP CMOS sensor capable of capturing up to UHD 4K resolution at up to 29.97 fps and 1080p at up to 59.94 fps. It has an integrated 8.9 to 89mm zoom lens with an f/2.8 to f/5.6 aperture. The lens has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 27.3 to 273mm in video mode. The lens offers separate focus and zoom rings and auto and manual focus controls.
The XC15 supports both CFast and SD cards. It records 4K video to CFast cards in an MXF wrapper at up to 305 Mb/s in an H.264-based, IntraFrame, 4:2:2, 8-bit codec. 1080p video is recorded on SD cards at up to 50 Mb/s in an H.264-based, Long-GOP, 4:2:2, 8-bit codec, also in an MXF wrapper.
The XC15 comes with the MA-400 microphone adapter, which connects to an XLR audio input. The MA-400 was originally designed for the C300 Mk II and is geared toward single-user applications such as news gathering. It's shoe-mountable from two different positions and offers an external mic holder.
The Vixia HF G60 is the latest 4K model from Canon for serious enthusiasts and semi-professionals. This model only shoots 4K, however, has a big 1-inch sensor and a nine-blade diaphragm that's going to give your footage a more cinematic look than smaller models. With its familiar layout, this is definitely a good step-up model for anyone who has used more basic camcorders.
The Vixia HF G60 has a 15x zoom lens with five-axis image stabilization, a flip-out 3-inch touchscreen, as well as a tiltable eye-level viewfinder. Another useful feature is that there are two SD card slots.
The XC10 4K is capable of recording professional Ultra HD 4K video and is presented in a package ergonomically designed for optimal handheld operation and portability.
The camera incorporates a 10x f/2.8-5.6 SLR-style manual zoom lens with auto and manual focus capability, along with the camera's 1" CMOS sensor that is backed by a DIGIC DV 5 image processor. With a 4224 x 3164 total resolution, it can capture video at up to 3840 x 2160 and 4:3 photos in up to 12MP (4000 x 3000).
The 8.9 to 89mm lens yields a 35mm equivalent focal length of a versatile 27.3 to 273mm in video mode or 24.1 to 241mm in the 4:3 photo mode. Video is recorded with H.264 compression and packed in the widely-supported MXF wrapper. Bit rates of 35 and 50 Mb/s are available for 1080i/p recording, along with 205 and 305 Mb/s modes (depending on frame rate) for UHD 4K.
Best professional camcorders
Mention 'camcorder' and most people think of affordable, consumer-friendly all-in-one video cameras, but there's also a growing market for professional camcorders that share the same broad design but are intended for professional news gathering and broadcasting, with underslung grips for a low-angle run and gun shooting or as shoulder-mounted camcorders fitted to chest harnesses or rigs.
If you're wanting to shoot like a pro, then this Panasonic HC-X2000 is the best run-and-gun camcorder on our list. Capable of recording 2160p at 60fps, it’s designed for event videographers and enthusiasts.
Weighing in at 1.5kg it isn’t a casual option, but it is much lighter than its predecessor the HC-X1000 and you can remove the handle with its built-in LED light and mic holder, if you need to travel light. It features a large 3.5-inch color touchscreen and has two XLR professional microphone inputs for professional audio options and dual SD card slots. Not only can it shoot 3,840x2,160 up to 60fps, but can also shoot slow motion at 120fps in Full HD 1080p.
This is a 4k professional camcorder that you can take wherever you go and can capture stunning and highly detailed 4K HDR video. This compact, palm-style camera offers phase-detection Autofocus (AF) along with HDR capabilities in a relatively small body.
Suitable for corporate events, broadcast news, and television production, the HXR-NX80 camcorder features a stacked 1" Exmor RS CMOS sensor with 14.2MP, an 18x Zeiss optical zoom in 4k or 24x in 1080p, an OLED viewfinder, and a 3.5" touchscreen LCD monitor.
This camcorder records 4K in XAVC S 4K codec, and it includes S-Log3/S-Gamut3 functions for additional image control. Additional features include built-in 2.4 GHz for multiple streaming options via RTMP/RTMPS protocols, making this the best professional camcorder for a vast number of applications.
The impressive XA40 from Canon is a pro-grade camcorder that not only produces stunning 4K footage but also uses oversampling to ensure its Full HD footage is peerless in quality. Its palm-sized build means it's easy to pack up and take with you wherever you want it to go, while the 20x zoom lens gives you real shooting versatility in a number of scenarios.
Optical 5-axis image stabilization is also a bonus, making it easier to capture professional-looking shots while you're shooting handheld. This is a camera for all seasons and all situations.
With Ultra HD recording, this professional camcorder from JVC is designed to fulfill the requirement for professional functionality. It offers ND filters, custom-assign buttons, and professional audio inputs with manual gain control in a form factor closer to a consumer camcorder.
The camera records up to 3840 x 2180 UHD 4K in 24 or 30p, with a bit rate of 150 Mb/s, encoding the file in an . MOV-wrapped H.264 codec. With two SDHC/SDXC card slots, the camera supports dual, backup, and continuous recording. It can also record 1080p at up to 60 fps in an 8-bit 4:2:2 50 Mb/s .MOV file, or in AVCHD for compatibility with consumer editing software.
What to look for in the best camcorders
If you're considering returning to the world of camcorders for the first time after adventures many years ago with 8mm or VHS-C tape, you might be wondering why you need one at all.
The key advantage of owning a camcorder over a camera phone is that you get a vast optical zoom lens built-in, meaning you can get closer to your subjects without compromising the quality of your image. This is particularly useful when shooting sports and wildlife, and is also something that sets camcorders apart from the best action cameras.
Of course, camcorders are not the only choice for videographers. The best cameras for filmmaking have the advantage of not only providing a gorgeous picture but also offering the capacity for the user to swap lenses. The best cinema cameras, meanwhile, are designed more for prosumers and professionals, but come with a price tag to match; whilst content creators working on their own will likely be more interested in the best cameras for vlogging.
See also: Best VHS to DVD converters
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