Despite the onslaught of smartphones, all of which now come equipped with sensors and hardware that allow them to produce at least HD quality video, video cameras and camcorders are still very much worth investing in.
That’s assuming that you plan to record high quality footage that is likely to be edited or viewed on a high quality platform (capable of playing full HD or even better).
The age of full HD or even 4K video for everyone is very much upon us, with everything from our mobile phone, stills camera and even webcam able to capture these 2-megapixel videos with ease.
So what is the best camcorder to buy in this ultra-modern age? The good news is that you have a full range of features and specifications open to you – fully automated, hardware stabilised, broadcast quality video in the palm of your hand, and often for less than £500.
From novices keen to explore the joys of moving pictures to prosumers looking to get a more rounded, heightened filming experience, we’ve got almost everything covered (Blackview though). Enjoy our list and feel free to leave your comments and suggestions in the section below.
Note that the prices of the camcorders below do not include any promotions available at the time of publishing. Don’t forget to get your memory cards and appropriate battery packs (which can charge via the USB 2.0 port).
1. Panasonic HC-VX870EB-K
4K is here to stay and the technology, both to record and display the format, becomes cheaper. This model from Panasonic is one of the cheapest on market that allows users to record at 4K at 25fps with the added benefit of being able to extract individual frames at 8-megapixel. There’s a 20x optical zoom, a wide-angle Leica lens, HDR, a 5-axis optical image stabilizer solution and a nifty feature that allows you to combine footage from your smartphone or tablet as a picture in picture over Wi-Fi. Just make sure that you’ve got a spare battery pack as 4K recording does eat away batteries!
2. Sony Handycam HDR-CX240
At the other end of the spectrum is this little gem, the cheapest full HD camcorder from a reputable, recognised manufacturer. It still shares the same technologies as its more expensive siblings like the Exmor R CMOS sensor and the BIONZ X image processor. Also onboard is a 29.8mm wide-angle Vario-Tessar lens by ZEISS, image stabilisation and a new feature that allows you to record in two formats at the same time with MP4 being used should you want to upload to Youtube directly. As expected, it lacks some features found on more expensive models like NFC, Wi-Fi or a secondary camera.
3. SONY Handycam HDR-PJ620
If you look for a camcorder that does more than just filming, then try the PJ620 which comes with a built-in projector. Don’t expect the projection to be of cinematic quality with a brightness of 25 lumen. It packs a new higher bitrate recording format (XAVC S), a better optical image stabilization solution (compared to cheaper Sony models), with Sony’s own lenses and 5.1-channel surround sound. The PJ620 also excels when it comes to connectivity thanks to multi camera control (via W-Fi), remote control (by using your smartphone or tablet) and even has a built-in cable for PC connection and quick charging.
4. Sony Handycam PXWS-X70
If consumer-grade camcorders simply doesn’t cut it for you, check out that model. It sports a massive 1-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor – larger than a Super 16mm film frame – with a whopping 14.2 million effective pixels, far more than what 4K usually needs. Now this is not a 4K camera (although a paid-for update is available) but is a 4K-ready model. The spec sheet includes Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T lens, an XLR handle unit, lens hood, a large eye-cup plus professional interfaces like 3G-SDI and HDMI. Sony is also looking to support higher bit-rate recording mode beyond 60 Mbps for XAVC-L.
5. Panasonic HC-X1000E
A rival to the above comes in the shape of this Panasonic model (if that wasn’t abundantly clear, it is that Japanese brands dominate the global traditional camcorder market, no Korean or Chinese). It was the first camera capable of recording 4K 60p/50p images onto an SD card and included some nice features like a Leica Dicomar lens, 4-drive lens system, a new BSI sensor and the Crystal Engine Pro. Professionals will also like a slide-retractable LCD, 0-lux night mode, a handle, dual SD slots (with auto-switching recording, background recording and simultaneous recording), 2-channel XLR audio input terminals, triple manual rings, ND filter and an eye-cup. What a list!
6. JVC Everio FZ-R315DEK
If you are not looking for an action camera but want a traditional camcorder that can survive a few knocks, the occasional freeze, a proper shower and a trip to the Atacama Desert, then check out this JVC camcorder. Other than the ability to withstand some serious mishandling, it sports a rather long battery life (a whopping five hours), the ability to extract 10-megapixel stills and, surprisingly, the K2 technology, which restores sound elements that are lost during digital compression. Another noteworthy feature is the Zoom Microphone which changes the focal point to match the picture so that you can always hear what you see.
7. Canon XA30
One of the most eagerly awaited camcorders from Canon is the Canon XA30, which together with the XA35, was announced a few months ago. It is one of the smallest video cameras to sport a handle (one that is not only detachable but comes with XLR inputs and an IR lamp) and comes crammed with a plethora of features. Yes, it is full HD only but its large CMOS means improved SNR ratio which is particularly useful when shooting in low-light. It is one of the first to feature an OLED display as well which reproduces colours and contrast more faithfully. Dual-band Wi-Fi, Wide Dynamic Range and a new Highlight Priority also make it to the key features list.
8. Canon Legria HF R606
Want a video camera capable of doing Wi-Fi, to stream high quality content, but without breaking the bank? Then check out the Legria from Canon. Yes, it has Wi-Fi but it also has NFC and a 32x optical zoom. Yes, it can record in two formats (AVCHD and MP4) should you want to upload directly to Youtube. It has a two-hour battery life and uses Canon’s proprietary DIGIC DV 4 image processor. Unlike most of its competition, it has some onboard storage (only 8GB) which should last you for up to three hours. As expected, there is a myriad of consumer-friendly features like slow and fast motion recording and "fun" effects.