While we can shoot both 4K and 1080p in many SLR and mirrorless cameras today. Unfortunately, these cameras tend to lack in one area or another as, historically, they are not video-centric cameras from the get go. With that, they have limitations that erk serious videographers and filmmakers needing the utmost performance from their cameras.
Well, in comes the camcorder. Though, they’ve been around for quite some time now and seem overlooked these days. They’re still the best options when it comes to video camera hands down.
Today, we discuss the top best video cameras to date that meets a wide array of use cases, budgets, and skill sets.
|Blackmagic Design Pocket|
|Canon VIXIA HFG50|
Table of Contents
Canon’s XA11 camcorder delivers high performance and quality in a compact and portable package. It has a 1/2.84-inch CMOS sensor, 26.8-576mm lens (f/1.8-2.8), 5-axis image stabilization, 3-inch touchscreen LCD, tilting viewfinder, 20x optical zoom, dual XLR terminals, 1080p FHD recording at 60p, headphone input, microphone input, dual SD cards, five custom buttons. It also has a wide dynamic range option and a highlight priority option, helping users to shoot in high contrast environments with greater flexibility without damaging footage.
Not only that, but it also has a detachable handle that provides expanded audio capabilities and also increases the camera’s mobility when shooting handheld. The most notable trade-offs with this particular camcorder are the lack of 4K UHD recording and FHD records at 35 Mbps. For the price and its feature set, however, it is still an excellent choice. It is a cost-effective full HD professional-level camcorder geared towards the hobbyist or advanced amateur, who doesn’t demand 4K capture in their particular workflow.
The XA11 still meets a wide range of shooting situations, all the while maintaining a compact size that’s traditional for Canon’s camcorders. Working professionals will find the abilities of this camera comfortable as it inherits much of the features expected in a professional-level camcorder.
Canon VIXIA HFG50
The Canon HF G50 replaces the previously released G40 and marks the first Vixia camera to offer 4K capabilities.
It holds steadfast to the traditions of this series in its abilities in noise performance, image quality, and compact size but now caters to a broader array of media applications making it more competitive amongst serious and professional level filmmakers.
It features a 1/12.3-inch 8.29-megapixel CMOS sensor, 29.3-601mm lens (f/1.8-2.8), 20x optical zoom, 5-axis image stabilization, five programmable buttons, tilting viewfinder, 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen LCD, 4K UHD at 30p, dual SD card slots, microphone, and headphone inputs. It has an eight blade circular aperture, delivers better defocusing, especially when shooting with points of light in the background. It records to MP4 format for maximum compatibility cross-platform. It’s a simple package, but one that delivers and sits as Canon’s top of the line advanced level camcorder.
The Panasonic WXF991 makes an exciting release from the manufacturer. It features a 1/2.3-inch 8.29-megapixel MOS sensor, 30.8-626mm Leica lens (f/1.8-3.6), 20x optical zoom, 4K UHD 30p, 1080p FHD 60p, 5-axis image stabilization, 3-inch touchscreen LCD, tiling viewfinder, 4K post-editing, picture-in-picture recording, microphone input, headphone input, USB charging and Wi-Fi. This camera features some niche functionality the competition lacks, namely 4K post-editing and picture-in-picture. With 4K post-editing, users can zoom, track, pan, or stabilize footage after the fact. It’s rare to find a camera that allows users to do pans, tilts, or zooms in the camera.
Picture-in-picture is also quite an exciting feature. This one allows users to recording footage of the camera operator using the secondary camera built into the edge of the LCD. Helpful, as it makes it possible to record reactions or to record images simultaneously. In all, this enables users to capture multiple angles or viewpoints simultaneously for a unique experience.
The Sony FDR-AX100 picks up where the previously released Sony RX100 point and shoot camera left off. This camera marked a revolutionary release from the manufacturer to the market as it was the first prosumer-grade camcorder to deliver 4K recording. It features a 1-inch 14.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, 29-348mm ZEISS lens (f/2.8-4.5), 3.5-inch touchscreen LCD, tilting viewfinder, 4K UHD 30p at 100 MBps, FHD 60p, HD 120p, image stabilization, 12x optical zoom or 24x Clear Image zoom, built-in 3 stop neutral density filter, microphone input, headphone input, 5.1 Dolby surround sound, USB charging, Wi-Fi and NFC.
Though it inherits the same sensor from the RX100, it included the new BIONZ X imaging processor, which delivers more accurate reproduction and higher resolution images. It also means that Optical SteadyShot is possible, which supplies excellent stabilization when shooting handheld. The built-in ND filters are excellent for those shooting outside during bright daytime conditions, giving users more precise control over exposure without fear.
The touchscreen works fantastic for menu navigation and focusing (though a bit slow), and we’re glad to see the menus on this camera are more streamlined and intuitive as well. Battery life on this camera is excellent, delivering approximately 2 hours of continuous recording. Interestingly enough, the lens on this camera is parfocal, and it maintains the set focus point even while zooming, subtly, but not all cameras do this. Overall, the AX100 is a very conventionally built and designed camcorder and makes an excellent choice for users wanting to start their very own 4K libraries.
The Sony AX700 packs a significant punch in an incredibly small body. It features a generous 1-inch 14.2-megapixel Exmor sensor, 29-348mm Carl Zeiss lens (f/2.8-4.5), 12x optical zoom, image stabilization, 4K 30p @ 100 Mbps, FHD up to 120p, 3.5-inch vari-angle touchscreen LCD, tilting viewfinder, built-in 3-stop neutral density filter, full-sized HDMI port, microphone input, 5.1 Dolby stereo microphone, headphone input port, dual SD cards, Wi-Fi and NFC. Focusing performance is where this camera shines.
This camera inherits a supremely fast hybrid autofocusing system, combining both phase and contrast detection, with 273 focusing points that cover 84% of the frame. The result is superior subject tracking that outperforms conventional Contrast Detection autofocusing systems.
Not only that, but the 1-inch image sensor dwarfs smaller sensors commonly used in camcorders, delivering more beautiful background defocusing compared to the competition. Nice. Battery life is excellent; upwards of 2.5 hours of 4K 30p recording is possible. It features a very traditional camcorder design, especially in ergonomics. Technically, it’s a prosumer camcorder. In actuality, it’s a robust performer designed for commercial work and higher-end consumer applications. Sony attempts to deliver stunning 4K HDR to the palm-sized camera.
The Sony AX53 is the lighter weight and a more compact version of the pricier AX100 mentioned on this list. It’s predecessor, the AX33, was a game-changing release as it was the first camcorder to offer 4K under $1,000 and, thus, bringing 4K capabilities the average user.
This camera continues suit and improves where that particular camera lacked. It features a 1/2.5-inch 8.28-megapixel CMOS sensor, 26.8-536mm Zeiss lens (f/2.0-3.8), 20x optical zoom, 3-inch articulating touchscreen LCD, tilting viewfinder, balanced optical SteadyShot stabilization, UHD 4K 30p at 100 MBps, 4K timelapse, FHD 1080p 120 p, 5.1 Dolby surround sound, microphone input, headphone input, USB charging, Wi-Fi and NFC. The primary selling feature for this camera is Balanced Optical SteadyShot (BOSS). This feature delivers best in class stabilization by moving the entire lens assembly instead of just a single lens element.
BOSS is a system that makes the need for a gimbal entirely irrelevant, saving you a lot of hassle. In all, this is a competent camera with a budget-friendly entry-level price point. It’s size plus the addition of BOSS, despite the reduced sharpness due to a smaller sensor, are true selling points of this camera. This is a camcorder aimed at the enthusiast or the professional needing a compact or stealthy option. In all, it makes an excellent lower-priced alternative to Sony’s higher-end professional-grade AX100.
The Canon XC10 is an all-in-one, conveniently sized, and capable video shooter that delivers Canon’s renowned color science with excellent performance. It features a 1-inch 12-megapixel CMOS sensor, 27.3-273mm lens (f/2.8-5.6), 3-inch tilting touchscreen LCD, 4K UHD 30p, FHD 60p, HD up to 120p,4K timelapse, optical image stabilization, built-in 1-stop neutral density filter, headphone input, microphone input, and Wi-Fi. This camera also offers Canon’s C-log and Wide Dynamic Range gamma, which supplies the broadest dynamic range and exposure latitude achievable from the sensor.
Do bear in mind, however, 4K video records to CFast cards, not SD card, which is an added cost with this particular camera. As far as imagining quality, this camera delivers equivalent performance to Canon’s higher-end EOS cinema cameras, the C300 and C500 principally, at a fraction of their price. The sensor provides an impressive 12 stops dynamic range, supplying excellent footage, especially when shooting outdoors in high-contrast environments. Not only that, but it also shoots in the 4:2:2 8-bit color space up to a bit rate of 305Mbps internally or 10-bit via HDMI output, making this a competent choice for broadcast usage.
Battery life is excellent, and convenient, as it uses the familiar LP-E6 series of batteries and chargers. It features a rotating handgrip, allowing comfortable shooting at awkward angles and is an uncommon feature amongst the competition here. In all, ergonomics here are similar to their EOS still cameras, and its handling is excellent. It offers a wide range of workflow options and makes an excellent choice for advanced amateurs to professional digital filmmakers requiring a cost-effect solution to shoot 4K video. In all, it makes a versatile and compact 4K recorder that delivers quality and convenience to meet a wide array of imaging needs of the budget-conscious pro.
The JVC HM 170 is a fully featured high performing 4K camcorder that’s more than capable of delivering. With this release, JVC aims to make 4K recording accessible to a wide array of shooters, from amateurs to professionals, by producing a cost-effective yet feature-packed camcorder. It has a 1/2.3-inch 12.4-megapixel CMOS sensor, 29.5-354mm lens (f/1.2-3.5), 12x optical zoom, 4K UHD 24p at 150 Mbps, FHD 60p, 3.5-inch vari-angle touchscreen LCD, image stabilization, nine custom buttons, two-stop neutral density filter, dual SD cards, dual XLR connectors via detachable handle, microphone input and headphone input. This is one of the few camcorders that shoot 8-bit 4:2:2 internally on this list.
Not only that, but it also does live 4K output via HDMI, and it simultaneously records low-resolution web-friendly proxy files that are suitable for immediate posting online. These web-friendly files can be quickly imported to a smartphone and edited immediately via iMovie or other video production suite, making it easier than ever before. This is a camcorder that is excellent for professional broadcast applications, and one that delivers many professional-level features in a form factor closer to a consumer camcorder.
Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema camera melds traditional camcorder performance with the styling of a digital SLR. Unique indeed, It’s undoubtedly a compact design but one that delivers the latest advanced digital film technology into a palm-sized package. It has a 4/3 sensor, 5-inch touchscreen LCD, 4K UHD 60p, 1080p FHD 120p, full-sized HDMI, built-in microphone, mini XLR input, microphone input, headphone input, three card slots, Bluetooth, USB-C.
This camera is unique to the camera listed, as it features an interchangeable lens system using the micro four-thirds mount. Having an interchangeable mount allows the camera to use a wide variety of professional-grade lenses available on the market today, especially when using adapters. Bar none; this will be the most versatile camera of this list. With USB-C, the camera even supports external recording to a connected hard drive, significantly increasing record times.
Video quality is the resounding strength of this camera. Of the cameras listed, it has the most extensive dynamic range at an impressive 13 stops. That means we will get HD images and fantastic low light performance across its range. Not only that, but the advanced color science and RAW recording rivals quality that cost tens of thousands of dollars. This is a camera that, while handheld, delivers incredibly mobility without sacrifice.
The Panasonic HC-X1000 is a highly agile and multi-format camcorder that is the ideal solution for a multitude of shooting applications, from amateur to professional use. It marked the first camera to record 4K UHD at 60 fps on to SD cards, an impressive feat from the manufacturer. It has an 8.29-megapixel 1/2.3-inch MOS sensor, 29.5-600mm Leica lens (f/1.2-3.6), 20x optical zoom, built-in 3-stop neutral density filter, C4K, and 4K recording, slow-motion FHD, 3.5-inch retractable touchscreen LCD, tilting EVF, 2-channel XLR audio inputs, triple manual lens ring, image stabilization, in-camera 4K video editing, dual SD cards, W-Fi, and NFC.
Video quality is excellent, especially in FHD 1080p. This camera captures exclusively at 4K UHD then subsamples down to create a 1080p video, with that the field of view is unchanged, and the noise experienced in 1080p is almost nonexistent. It shoots Cinema 4K UHD at 24p and standard 4K at 60p at an impressive bitrate of up to 150 Mbps. Battery life is remarkable, roughly four and a half hours of continuous recording time.
The X1000 supports a multitude of professional-level features that set it apart from the contenders on this list. Namely, triple manual lens rings to control zoom, focus, and iris as well as a full-sized HDMI port and dual XLR inputs to handle pro-level high-performance microphones. Another unique feature is the in-camera 4K video editing feature, which allows users to performance pans, tilts, zooms, and stabilization in-camera while maintaining HD picture quality.
The vari-angle LCD positioned above the lens makes viewing during handheld shooting a more natural and welcomed addition. The variable frame rates available make this an excellent choice that fits smoothly into broadcast workflows. In all, this is a pro-level camera that highlights with satisfactory manual controls and a robust feature set that is pleasing for professionals, but a prosumer price point the amateurs appreciate.
Comprehensive Video Camera Buying Guide
Are you in the market for a video camera? With the abundance of options available, making the right choice can be a challenging task. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the key factors you should consider when selecting a video camera. We’ll provide in-depth information on each aspect and prioritize them based on their importance. Keep in mind that the importance of these factors may vary depending on your specific needs, so use this guide as a foundation for your research.
Factors to Consider
The sensor size of a camcorder is a crucial factor, as it directly impacts image quality. Sensor sizes can range from 1/2.6-inches to Super35 or APS-C. In general, larger sensors, such as 1-inch and Super35, provide better image quality. Smaller sensors can offer extended zoom capabilities, but they come at the cost of image quality. Super35 sensors are the industry standard, matching the film stock used in movies and TV productions. Keep in mind that the larger sensor also affects the depth of field, which can be mimicked by zooming with a telephoto lens.
Resolution & Frame Rate
Camcorders are available in two main resolutions: 1080p Full HD (FHD) and 4K. Opting for 4K offers more creative flexibility, detailed videos, and future-proofing. When considering 4K-equipped devices, be aware of the frame rates they offer, with 30 FPS being standard and 60 FPS for high-resolution slow-motion. Note that devices offering 60 FPS tend to come at a premium.
4K UHD or Cinema 4K
There are two primary 4K resolution variants: 4K UHD (3840 × 2160) and Cinema 4K (C4K, 4096 x 2160). While the difference is subtle for most users, C4K is standard in the film industry for widescreen films. Consider your intended output medium when choosing between the two.
Bit depth refers to the number of colors each channel of video produces, ranging from 8-bit to 16-bit. Higher bit depths offer more flexibility for color grading, reducing the likelihood of color breaks and posterization. Devices with 10-bit color are preferred if you plan on grading the footage.
The bit rate determines the level of compression applied to video recordings. A higher bit rate yields higher quality videos at the cost of larger file sizes. Find a device that strikes a balance between file size and quality. A bit rate of 100 Mb/s is a good compromise, while 300 Mb/s provides greater post-processing latitude.
Consider the color sampling of your camcorder. Most record in 4:2:0 subsampled video, but devices offering 4:2:2 subsampling provide more color data and less compression, making them ideal for extensive color grading.
If you intend to shoot slow-motion video, look for camcorders offering frame rates of 60 FPS or higher, which is commonly available in both 1080p and 4K resolutions.
Image Analysis Tools
Advanced videographers often require tools like vectorscopes, waveforms, false colors, zebras, and RGB parades to monitor exposure and color accuracy. Research the level of customization and fidelity these tools offer when choosing a camcorder.
Inputs & Outputs (I/O)
Consider the connectivity options of your camcorder, including HDMI and SDI connectors. SDI connections are preferred in professional applications due to their high bandwidth and robustness.
The integrated optical zoom lens’s focal lengths and zoom ranges can vary between camcorders. Select a model that suits your framing requirements.
Optical image stabilization is common, but some models also feature electronic or digital stabilizers, which work well for handheld shooting. Combining both stabilization types offers superior results.
Check for built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or NFC connectivity, which allows you to connect your camcorder wirelessly to a smartphone or tablet for remote monitoring.
While manual focus is prevalent in professional settings, reliable autofocus with subject detection algorithms can be convenient. The accuracy of autofocus systems varies between manufacturers, with Sony and Canon offering dependable implementations.
Most camcorders use large format Sony NP-F style batteries, providing extended recording times. Consider models with USB-C charging for on-the-go convenience.In conclusion, understanding these factors and how they align with your specific needs is essential when purchasing a video camera. Take your time to explore each feature and determine which ones are most critical for your workflow. Remember that your choice should align with your budget and production requirements to ensure you make an informed decision.
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Last Updated on November 23, 2023 by Photography PX Published October 14, 2019