Camcorders have come a long way in terms of performance.
In the film and video industry, the term “camcorder” often gets a bad wrap, and it shouldn't.
Creators today associate it with what soccer moms use to film their kid’s scrimmage. And while fixed-lens camcorders still exist, would you consider the Sony FX9 to be a camcorder? Most likely not, but that's exactly how Sony has branded many of its higher-end production cameras—as camcorders. However, with the FX6, it seems the company is stepping away from the branding altogether.
While creators don’t necessarily want to use camcorders and more often prefer dedicated cinema cameras, DSLRs, and mirrorless cameras, for those who gather news, shoot red carpet events, record weddings, and livestream, camcorders are a perfect option worth considering. There are hundreds of other ways in which a small, compact, and affordable camcorder can actually be more beneficial than some of the more expensive interchangeable lens options.
Whatever you are looking for, be sure to head over to our gear guide hub page for more gear of all variety.
What we're looking for in this "best of" list is ease-of-use, reliability, and something that feels good in the palm of your hand that won't break the bank. Check out our favorites below.
Best Overall: Sony FDR-AX700
Diving into our top pick, you really can’t go wrong with the Sony FDR-AX700. Currently available for well under $2,000, this is actually one of the most expensive options on our list, as it represents the best specs and functions that you’ll find with any digital camcorder that isn’t also considered a cinema camera like the FX9 or FX6.
The AX700 is one of the best for 4K and HDR format recording with tons of bells and whistles to make sure that the footage your shooting will look sharp, crisp, and high res no matter from how far or in what settings. With its high dynamic range as the chief selling point, the AX700 also offers 12x optical zoom which can be pushed up to 18x with its clear image zoom technology.
This is a great feature for filming nature or wildlife or anything from far away without losing image quality. It also has superior auto-focus than most other options on our list and even includes S-Log and S-Gamut recording picture profiles if you’re looking to get a bit more technical with your colors and eventual editing and grading.
Table of Contents
- Best Overall: Sony FDR-AX700
- How We Picked
- Best Value: Canon Vixia HF G60
- Best Alternative: Sony FX6
- Best for Streaming: JVC GY-HM250
- Best Budget: Panasonic HC-V770K
- Best Compact: Canon VIXIA HF R800
- Final Thoughts
How We Picked
Speaking a bit more about our selection process, the sweet spot for digital camcorders in today’s crowded market space is to look around the $1,000 mark for perhaps the optimal point between price and functionality. If you’re looking to spend much more than that, then you should really be looking at mirrorless or DSLR cameras, which offer so much more cinematically.
However, if you stay around $1,000 or even lower, you can really find some great value and return on investment with solid cameras. Most of which come in 4K or Full HD that can actually shoot great looking footage.
In fact, we'd argue that just about any camera on this list—even the least expensive—can shoot footage that would look almost just as good as some higher-end cameras when only used for uploading online for sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. These camcorders will also offer so much more accessibility and flexibility in terms of stabilization, optical zooms, and fewer moving parts with no lenses to change or worry about.
Best Value: Canon Vixia HF G60
It was actually quite hard to pick between the Sony FDR-AX700 and the Canon Vixia HF G60 as they’re both so comparable. For many of you, we'd say if you’re already a bigger fan of either of the brands then we'd recommend going with the one that you know best.
The Canon Vixia G60 has a powerful 8.29 megapixel CMOS sensor and records with Canon’s patented DIGIC DV 6 Image Processor for its unique color science and look. It also has some of the best zoom out of any of these options on the market with up to 15x optical zoom without losing 4K. It’s also a great camera for sports or other fast-motion activities with its slow-motion that goes up to 60fps at 1080p.
At well under $2,000 again, it’s going to give you all the best with things like stabilization, controls, and battery life to truly be a pick-up-and-go value choice.
Best Alternative: Sony FX6
Since someone is going to come across this article while researching which camcorder to get for their next short film or indie feature and be a bit dismayed by the low price options, we do have to include a higher-end choice for those looking for cinema-quality recording.
The Sony FX6 is a very powerful and somewhat affordable option at just under $6,000. The full-frame sensor is the latest technology Sony has to offer and rocks some seriously trustworthy autofocus. The 4K capable camera also lets you shoot SLog 3 or RAW via its SDI output. It's loaded with other features like dual card slots, ND filters, two XLR inputs, real-time AF, Eye/Face detection, and prox recording.
If you're familiar with the FS5 II, think of the FX6 as the full-frame version of the Super 35 sensor with better autofocus, an improved dynamic range, and more versatile portability.
Best for Streaming: JVC GY-HM250
It's hard to have a camcorder list without including JVC. They've pioneered some of the best features in a camcorder dating back to the GY-LS300, a cinematic camcorder that could be used with interchangeable lenses.
While their GY-HC550U is a workhorse in the livestreaming world, it does come at a cost of $6,000. If you're looking to save some money, the G7-HM250 is the perfect candidate. The camcorder now includes SNS video streaming with vertical and square guidelines on the viewfinder to ensure an ideal image capture. It can also direct stream to platforms like YouTube Live and Facebook Live.
On top of that, the camera is able to produce streams in vertical (606x1080 and 404x720) and square (1080x1080 and 720x720) formats for social media. This includes not just safe markers, but actual streams with vertical and square resolutions.
Recording internally, it supports 4:2:2 at 4K 30p and 4K 24p as well as full HD up to 60p and full HD 120p The camera has a single 1/2.3-inch CMOS image sensor with 12.4 million pixels.
Best Budget: Panasonic HC-V770K
Moving a bit more into a more traditional camcorder without compromising DIY filmmaking capabilities, the Panasonic HC-V770K is one of the best budget options currently on the market. You’re getting a solid back-illuminated CMOS sensor, tons of optical zoom (up to 20 times optical, plus an insane 50x intelligent zoom), and all that you’d expect with solid stabilization. Also, like most Panasonic camcorders and products, the brand’s partnership with Leica means the lens will be quality and sharp as well as feature plenty of flexibility for low-light situations.
But what really makes the Panasonic HC-V770K is its connectivity for pairing with your Panasonic smartphone for working with creative new ways to shoot two angles at once or to set up and monitor a shot from afar.
Best Compact: Canon VIXIA HF R800
Finally, rounding out our list, we have what could be considered a technical breakthrough in terms of camera size when combined with surprising functionality. The Canon Vixia HF R800 is another solid camcorder option in the Canon family that can still shoot YouTube-worthy footage at a marginal price point. You still have a Full HD CMOS sensor that can actually record 1080p at 60fps along with more zoom than any camera this size should logically be capable of with 57x advanced zoom.
The R800 won’t work quite as well in low light or bouncy conditions as some others on this list, but you’d be surprised with its dynamic range and its stabilization to get the job done on most simple productions and shoots. A great option to keep in your pocket or bag in case any cinematic inspiration might hit you at a moment’s notice.
Camcorders can be a great and much more affordable option than some DSLR and mirrorless counterparts. While going with a more expensive digital camcorder might not be your best option for shooting your next cinematic feature, you might be surprised by the quality of the image of the lower-end models. Better yet, the majority of camcorders allow you to use it straight from the box.
So when considering a camcorder, think about what has the right feel, image quality, and price point that matches your shooting style and projects.