January 2017 Update
With a myriad of camcorder models and brands it is not easy to decide on one best that suits your needs. Here’s a list of top 10 camcorders selected based on picture quality, functionality, ease of use and value for money. You can use this as a starting point in making your buying decision.
The top of the line Panasonic is the undisputed king of prosumer camcorders. It records in 4K UltraHD giving you more than 4 times the resolution of HD camcorders. The low light capability is the best we’ve seen. You are given the option of full manual control along with many professional features like precise Histogram Display, 4K Video Editing and Simultaneous Recording on 2 SD cards. Given its large and fast f1.8 Leica lens it has a rather larger form factor but something you will get used to after a while. It records in AVCHD, MOV and MP4 formats at maximum bit rate of 200 Mbps which make editing quick and easy. The picture quality on 4K displays is superb helped in part by the excellent image stabilization. A +48 V phantom power supply is also included to handle pro-spec, high-performance mics for recording high-quality sound.
List Price: $2999.99
The HC-WXF991 is Panasonic’s new flagship consumer camcorder for 2016 and it offers some interesting weapons to combat other 4K camcorders in its class. It is the pinnacle of hand-held 4K video capture, featuring several in-camera cinema creative and editing solutions that enables you to capture amazingly sharp videos like a pro. For those without 4K display options, the WXF991 offers in-camera down sampling to 1080p Full HD displays. It also features multi-camera scene picture-in-picture recording via a second built-in camera, or add a Wi-Fi link to a mobile device camera to increase creative possibilities. It also offers one new upgrade that is lacking in the previous model, the addition of an electronic viewfinder.
List Price: $999.99
Sony unveiled the successor to the popular AX33 – the Sony FDR-AX53 but retaining the same price. The Sony FDR-AX53 is slightly larger and combines 4K video recording and Balanced Optical SteadyShot image stabilization. It delivers sharp and clear HD videos that rivals the best we have seen. The biggest improvement that is the new ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T lens which now allows shooting video at 26.8mm wide-angle. The best thing about this improved lens is that the optical zoom for both 4K and HD has been doubled to a more acceptable 20x. . We found it easy to use in spite of having many features with the help of many automatic image and audio options for easy point-and-shoot operation.
List Price: $999
The Sony FDR-AX100 is the latest 4K Ultra HD camcorder aimed at the prosumer market. It is not cheap but what the image quality and feature set more than justify its price. Image quality from the newly developed Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens delivers true cinematic depth thanks to the 1.0″ Exmor R CMOS sensor. The FDR-AX100 records HD movies in the XAVC-S format, which uses MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 for video compression. Also captures high resolution 20MP still images. Connectivity with smartphones for One-touch sharing/One-touch remote has been simplified with Wi-Fi/NFC control.
List Price: $1698
Canon made the Canon HF G40 for wedding videographers, student reports and amateur filmmakers. Some of the features that make this camcorder stand out from the rest of the more affordable lineup are the impressive 3.5-inch OLED display and electronic viewfinder. It also comes equipped with dual SD card slots as there is no internal memory. All that extra bulk makes the camcorder weigh about 1.7 pounds but the grip belt still makes the camcorder feel comfortable to use.
List Price: $1599
The HC-VX981 is the 2016 replacement of the VX870 and now serves as Panasonic’s most affordable 4K camcorder. It’s a great 4K Ultra HD camcorder with a Second lens that lets you record yourself during shooting. It does not really reinvent the wheel and retains a lot of the key specs including the 1/2.3-inch backlit sensor, LEICA Dicomar 20x optical zoom lens, wireless camera support, 3-inch touchscreen and overall look. It comes with a useful control dial for comprehensive manual settings. The Leica Dicomar Lens captures sharp Video images in both HD and 4K. Records Full-HD at 120 fps and the Intelligent Frame Creation of the Crystal Engine interpolates to an equivalent of 240 fps for smooth slow motion. Also features 20x optical zoom and Panasonic’s 5-Axis Hybrid O.I.S.+ optical image stabilisation as well as other functions including HDR movie mode.
List Price: $899.99
The HC-W580K is a direct successor to the HC-W570 and that really means that the older model had its fans and they really liked the idea of using another camera lens to do all sorts of creative stuff. That secondary camera makes a return to the Panasonic HC-W580K and remains as the selling point for this particular model. You won’t find any other Panasonic model in the 2016 series like this so owners can have a little bit of those bragging rights knowing that the prosumers have only one lens to work with.
List Price: $399.99
The HDR-CX675 is a Sony digital camcorder designed for people who need to record extra high-quality video while not needing some of the extra prosumer bulk that often makes these camcorders less portable. Not everybody needs a camcorder with manual controls so this is where the Sony HDR-CX675 looks more like a cost-effective alternative with the superior video quality to boot. Being part of the CX series, the HDR-CX675 doesn’t come with a projector which is something that a sizable audience sees as a solution looking for a problem. The key feature that makes the it really stand out from its lower priced siblings is its Sony G Lens. It may use the same BIONZ X image processor and Exmor R CMOS sensor as the $399 HDR-CX455 but this 46 mm makes all the difference when it comes to raw video quality.
List Price: $549.99
The Canon HF-R72 is an entry level Dual Flash Memory HD Camcorder with 32GB of onboard memory which is good for 12 hours of 720p video. It is an ideal camcorder for videographers of every skill level to capture HD quality video good enough for most purposes. It comes with a 57x advanced zoom, Optical Image Stabilizer and DIGIC DV 4 Image Processor. Has an Advanced Baby Mode to help capture your child’s daily growth and share videos and images instantly with its built-in Wi-Fi. The refined interface also introduces a few new features including the Zoom Framing Assist option which can serve as a very nifty feature for those that like to zoom in all the way.
List Price: $449
10) Sony HDR-CX455
The Sony HDR-CX455 is the cheapest Sony camcorder to have the Optical SteadyShot image stabilization system with 5-axis Intelligent Active mode. 5-axis basically means that it tries to keep the video stable by compensating for vibrations in 5 directions. As a result, videos look smoother even when walking while recording video. Easily connect to an Android or iOS smartphone or tablet with Wi-Fi and the PlayMemories Mobile app to control the camcorder or instantly transfer, share movies and photos via your mobile device. NFC (Near Filed Communication) technology makes it even easier to connect to NFC compatible mobile devices with one touch.
List Price: $399.99