A lot of folks these days are more than content to use their cellphone to record videos - while most DSLRs, compact system cameras and premium compacts also offer the ability to record in at least Full HD.
That said, there’s still plenty of dedicated camcorder type devices on the market. The advantage of using one of these is numerous, especially if you’re a big fan of creating movies. Almost all of the cameras in this list shoot 4K, which looks fantastic when viewing them back on a 4K television, but Full HD is often enough for most ordinary shooters.
Over a smartphone, you’ll get the benefit of a larger sensor, optical zoom, not to mention the fact that it’s much more comfortable to shoot with a camcorder, than a flat phone.
If you’re somebody who likes to create videos of adventures, such as mountain biking, kayaking, scuba diving and so on, you’ll probably want to think about the action camera subsection of the video camera market, which is in particularly robust shape at the moment - we’ve included the best one here.
1. Sony AX700: $1,898, Amazon - Best Buy
This high-end video camera is for somebody who creates a lot of videos and wants to take things pretty seriously.
It’s got a much larger-than-average one-inch stacked Exmor RS CMOS sensor, which in essence means that your videos come out crisp and clear. It’s coupled with a super-sharp 12x optical zoom Zeiss lens, which allows you to get lots of the scene in, while also getting you close enough to the action in most scenarios.
4K video recording is available here, plus 40x super-slow-motion video for those special effects. As well as a 3.5-inch Xtra Fine LCD screen, there’s also a 0.39-inch type OLED electronic viewfinder, ideal for composing your videos when bright sunlight might prevent screen usage.
This is probably the best-dedicated camcorder on the market, but you’ll pay the price for it.
2. Panasonic HC-VX1: $797.99, Amazon
This mid-range video camera records in 4K resolution, as well as giving you Full HD options if you need to save space (or don’t have anything to view your 4K files on).
Along with a 1/2.5-inch sensor, you get a 24x optical zoom, taking you from a nice and wide 25mm equivalent for your sweeping vistas, all the way up to 600mm - which is ideal for sports and wildlife.
The VX1 features 5-axis hybrid optical image stabilization, resulting in smooth, stable footage - great for the adventurous types, or just those who like to record and walk at the same time.
As well as basic automatic functions, those with a little more expertise can delve into the various manual options available, too.
3. GoPro Hero 6: $398.95, Amazon
GoPro’s flagship model, the Hero 6, is just about the best action camera on the market right now. It’s ideal for the adventurous types, recording 4K video at up to 60fps per second. Image stabilization is great, but it tops out at 30fps - something to consider, but not what we’d consider a deal-breaker.
Other great features include voice control (meaning you don’t need to actually touch the camera to get it to do things, such as start recording), stills shooting in raw format, a two-inch touchscreen and waterproofing without need for any additional housing down to 32 feet.
4. Canon XC10: $1,399, Amazon
A good option for those who like to take a fair amount of stills, as well as video. It’s been designed with shooting video in mind, and has the ergonomics to match, but is still close in shape to a traditional DSLR.
With this camera you can record 4K video, but also take 12 megapixel still images that are much better than you’ll usually be able to grab from a standard camcorder. Full HD video recording at up to 100fps is also available.
The built-in lens is sadly not interchangeable as a DSLR one would be, but it gives you 10x optical zoom, which should be more than enough for most scenarios.
5. Canon Vixia HF R800: $219, Amazon
Although the Vixia HF R800 only records in Full HD, at $219, it’s a great bargain buy for those who aren’t too serious about their videography. As well as Full HD, there are also slow ad fast motion recording options, which can be great fun on family trips.
It comes with a 32x optical zoom lens, while the inbuilt optical image stabilization does a fine job of keeping things nice and steady.
One great bonus of this camcorder is the ability to record in MP4 format, making uploading to Facebook and other social networking sites nice and easy.
6. Panasonic HC-V180K: $227.99, Amazon
This inexpensive video camera is another great camcorder choice for those who just want to make family videos, without too much complication.
The V180K records in Full HD and features a 50x optical zoom lens with great image stabilization. Both work together to produce lovely sharp content that looks great and should be more than enough for those not too bothered by 4K.
A 2.7-inch touch-sensitive screen flips out from the side of the V810K , which is great for viewing and composing your videos.
7. Sony AX-53: $848, Amazon
The AX-53 is aimed at fairly-advanced consumers who want something a little better than some of the cheaper models, but don’t have the extravagant budgets of the super premium devices.
Great news is that the Zeiss lens is a good performer, giving you 20x optical zoom to contend with and the optical image stabilization is great for keeping things nice and still while recording on the move. Auto-focusing is swift and smooth, while there’s a heap of manual options if you went to venture outside of using the AX-53 in fully automatic mode.
The camera records in 4K, as well as offering Full HD options. Rounding out the spec sheet is a 3.0-inch Xtra Fine LCD touch-sensitive screen which is great for viewing your footage.
Verdict: best camcorders
These days, with most people opting to shoot video on their cellphones, choosing a dedicated video camera feels a little old-fashioned.
But for creating those precious home movies, or perhaps something a little more cinematic, nothing beats a proper camcorder. If you’re looking for something simple and easy to use, it’s easy to recommend the Canon Vixia HF R800, while those who would like something tough and rugged, the GoPro Hero 6 is the obvious choice.
Meanwhile, if you’re after the best of the best, the Sony AX700 is the one for you, but it’ll set you back a fair chunk of cash. For something which offers an all-round good choice, go for the Sony AX53.