Camcorders have come a long way since the old VHS days. The digital revolution has not only done away with tapes and discs for recording, but it also brought high-quality resolution camcorders to the consumer market.
In less than a decade, the average price for a high-definition camcorder has dropped exponentially, making it possible for anyone to document their world in stunning HD. For this article, we will look at some options for the best HD camcorder you can get today.
Before we break down our ten choices for the best HD camcorder on the market, we want to answer some of the most common questions people have when shopping for them.
The technology can be intimidating for newer users, but it doesn't have to be. The following crash course will help you make an informed and confident decision when choosing the best HD camcorder for your particular needs.
1. What Does High Definition Mean?
In general terms, high definition refers to the resolution of recorded video. HD video recordings will have a screen resolution higher than 1080p as opposed to traditional standard definition, or SD.
1080 refers to the pixel count in the video, and the higher the count, the higher the resolution. Simply put, more pixels means you can record more color, light, and detail from the scene.
2. Are There Different Types of High Definition?
Yes, there are. Though the lower-quality video is called “standard definition,” it's not the current industry standard. Most handheld camcorders offer a 1080p resolution, but that's the bare minimum for being considered HD.
Some models that made the list of best HD camcorder go far beyond 1080p by shooting in high definition 4K. There are even some television shows that are being filmed in 4K, even though that resolution is beyond most household TVs' capabilities.
3. Does HD Mean More Than Just Higher Resolution?
HD may specifically refer to the shooting resolution of the camcorder, but for the items on this list, it means much more. High definition camcorders arrived on the back of the digital revolution.
Tape and CD recording were fine for SD, but they can't handle the informational load needed to record in true high definition. Camcorders needed to adopt a faster, cleaner, more digitized system of recording video.
This means the traditional camcorder was overhauled for the HD age, making them smaller, faster, and easier to shoot with.
4. How Is Recording in HD Different From SD?
Old video camcorders were notoriously difficult to shoot with, requiring you to do things like color correction or white balancing. Lower resolutions looked better with higher light levels, so getting the hot spots right in a scene was critical to getting a good shot.
One positive outcome of working with HD video is the need for less key lighting. The higher resolution and faster frame rate mean light goes further in exposing the subject.
Scenes are easier to record, and the colors remain consistent as you move around a subject in the same space.
5. How Is HD Video Stored on the Camcorder?
Even though we've moved away from CDs and tapes, that doesn't mean there's no more “removable media” in the world of camcorders.
Most of the items that made the list of best HD camcorder use a USB or SD card (and that's a different type of SD) to store the video. Some higher-end models we looked at even use an external Solid State Drive to store the video data.
There's a surprising amount of flexibility when it comes to the method of storage, so be sure to check what the capacity is for each model before making your final decision.
The Best HD Camcorder - How We Reviewed
We looked at the most popular HD camcorders currently on the market and judged them on video quality, the suite of features, ease of use, hardware durability, and even the included accessories.
We used these metrics to determine which models would make our list for the best HD camcorder you can buy today.
Each model has its own strengths that cater to different needs, be it a casual recording of family events, documenting an important game, or even filming professional quality commercials.
Overall Price Range
The range of prices we found for the best HD camcorder was about $300 to $2,600. The prices were heavily influenced by the total suite of features on each camcorder and the included list of accessories and peripheral attachments.
The mid-range of prices had some of the best values based on the current pricing.
Canon VIXIA HF R82
The prices were heavily influenced by the total suite of features on each camcorder and the included list of accessories and peripheral attachments.
The mid-range of prices had some of the best values based on the current pricing.
Canon offers a limited one-year warranty on this camcorder that covers anything considered a manufacturing defect.
- Get in Close and Detail: 18.91 Megapixel MOS sensor plus 20x Zoom LEICA Decomar Lens (4.08-81.6mm), plus 5-axis Hybrid...
- 1/2.3-Inch BSI Sensor: The Back Side Illumination Sensor has a large effective area with 8.29M effective pixels,...
- 4K Recording and In-Camera Editing: Ultra-sharp 4K Ultra HD recording, plus in-camera editing for 1080p displays; Total...
This is the first Panasonic to make our list for the best HD camcorder, and there should be no surprise when you look at the price. This is a finely tuned camera that shoots like a consumer model but records in fully defined ultra 4K.
This is a camcorder ahead of its time, giving the option of 4K while requiring little setting adjustment or balancing from the user. This is a great option for someone just starting out with non-linear editing or other post-production of their home movies.
The optical steady shot tool from Panasonic is built into this model, so the usual motion blur is a thing of the past when this is activated during shooting.
Panasonic offers a limited one-year warranty on this line of camcorders. There is a manufacturer option for a three-year warranty, provided you purchase certain accessories and the camcorder from an authorized retailer.
Sony has more than a couple of camcorders on this list, but that's to be expected from the leading manufacturer of consumer-grade camcorders.
The Handycam series is almost twenty years old now, as it was introduced to us at the dawn of the digital revolution. The quality of this model is insane when compared to the price.
This was the least expensive model we looked at, and that's saying a lot when you consider what's working on the inside of this little machine. This camcorder comes with a Zeiss lens system, allowing for full 30x optical zoom.
If that's not enough, then add in the digital stabilization and auto color correction to the list of tools for this camcorder. This is the best HD camcorder on the list for the price, hands down.
This model of camcorder comes with a limited one-year warranty from the manufacturer that covers anything considered a factory defect
JVC Everio GZ-RY980
- Detailed, Realistic Pictures Full of Presence: GZ-RY980 is the first shooting style camcorder to put 4K video and Quad...
- Newly-developed JVC 4K get lens: provides a wide angle of 29. 9mm, custom-designed for fine image reproduction while...
- New image processing engine - FALCONBRID 4K: Enables high-speed processing of the massive 4K pixel data for high quality...
Do you like to take your camcorder hunting, fishing, or camping? If you regularly record in rough weather, or if you just like to make sure your camcorder is tough, then the Everio from JVC is what you need.
The big difference in this camcorder starts with the quad-proof construction of the body and frame. This is a JVC-exclusive feature that protects the sensitive lenses and processors from the roughest conditions.
This is a durable camcorder that also shoots in full 4K resolution, which is something you don't find on most outdoor designed models.
This model of camcorder comes with a limited warranty from the manufacturer that covers factory defects.
- XF200, Lens Hood with Len Barrier, Eyecup, Battery Pack BP-955
- Compact Power Adapter CA-930, DC Cable DC-930, Wireless Controller WL-D6000
- Microphone Holder Unit, Canon XF Utilities Disc
Canon is here again with the XF200, a professionally designed HD camcorder made for the burgeoning filmmaker in all of us. The first thing you notice about this camera is the accessorized body, which includes a microphone boom holder right on the top handle.
The professional lens barrier and protection hood make it easy to mount and protect the camera for more active shots. The XF200 is also great for night shoots since it comes with a built-in infrared and low-light function.
This makes it ideal for capturing HD images in a low-light or night time scenario.
This model of camcorder comes with a limited warranty from the manufacturer that covers any problems considered a manufacturing defect.
- 4K XAVC-S recording with 16.6MP, Exmor R sensor, B.O.SS stabilization
- ZEISS lens(26.8mm) 20x optical zoom in 4K, 30x Clear Image Zoom in 4K
- 3.0" LCD (Touch panel), EVF, Wi-Fi/NFC, manual ring, night shot, 4K Time-lapse capture
Sony has a great partnership with the maker of Zeiss lenses, which comes in handy when you need great zooming at a reasonable price.
Where digital zoom is all the rage these days, there's a massive loss of definition and color range with an all-digital picture. The FDRAX53 has a Zeiss 26.8mm lens with auto stabilizing zoom control.
You can get in really close, all while maintaining a crisp 4K picture. This is a great intermediate camcorder for someone stepping into a more professional level of video recording.
There are professional grade tools like a manual control ring on the lens and burn-on digital time coding.
This camcorder comes with a limited one-year warranty that covers anything considered a manufacturing defect.
- 1” (1.0-Type) stacked Exmor RS back Illuminated CMOS sensor
- Incredibly fast, Hybrid AF with 273 points and wide coverage
- 4K resolution (3840 x 2160) in addition to full HD. Filter Diameter: 62mm. Minimum Focus Distance-...
Sony is here again, but this time they're stepping up to full professional shooting with the FDRAX700. A step up from the AC53 we discussed before, this is the next step for someone getting into commercial video production.
This is a 4K capable camcorder that has lossless balancing built in, so there's little need to adjust your AF or internal lenses when moving to different temperatures of light.
The AF sensors are extremely sensitive, giving on-the-fly adjustment to a full 270+ point range of coverage. The best lenses available for 4K are built onto this model, using the Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 28mm wide-angle lenses.
This camcorder comes with a limited one-year defect warranty from the manufacturer.
- 4K Cinema-Like recording experience with advanced in-camera capture options.
- LEICA DICOMAR 24X optical zoom lens (25-600mm, F1.8-4.0), and large 1/2.5” BSI MOS Sensor for impressive capture even...
- Three Optical Image Stabilization (O.I.S.) technologies work together for impressive stability under many shooting...
Panasonic makes the list again with the beautiful HC-VX1. This is the latest in the popular HC series from Panasonic, this time coming in with full 4K control and internal image stabilization.
The Leica Dicomar lenses give a professional looking balance to your light controls, making it easy to get a gorgeous shot in any light level.
This model also comes with wireless connectivity to your cell phone or other mobile recorders, so you can have incorporated picture-in-picture with multiple angles right in the viewfinder.
Panasonic has a limited warranty on all of their camcorders that covers any defects considered factory related.
Sony HVR-Z7U HDV Professional Video Camcorder
If you need something to play with the professionals, then look no further than the Sony HVR-Z7U. This small camcorder comes with all the features you could ever need, from auto-balancing to super-fine zoom controls.
One of the best parts about this camcorder is the option to record to an SD card or HDV mini-cassettes. This gives you a double control for saving your video, allowing easy tape-swaps for archiving and safekeeping.
The biggest difference between this and some midlevel camcorders is the interchangeable lens system, so the cinematographer inside can come out and shine.
This product comes with a limited manufacturer's warranty that covers defects as long as the purchase originated through an authorized retailer.
This is one of the better values we found for this article, and it's not surprising that Samsung is behind it. This small camera packs a real punch, with full HD quality video saved onto an internal SD card.
The storage is easily changed out, so you can add space as you need it. The casing and overall construction of this camcorder make for a light, easy to handle recorder, while maintaining the durability and battery life.
This camcorder comes with a one-year limited warranty from the manufacturer that covers anything considered a factory defect.
The Best HD Camcorder - The Verdict
Those are the ten picks for the best HD camcorder currently available. Choosing just one to take the top honor is difficult, as each model is ideal for different situations.
If you need an everyday camcorder for little league games or birthday parties, then we recommend the Samsung HMX-F90.
That particular model is not only one of the least expensive ones on our list, but it has a lot of the features you need for quick grab-and-shoot situations.
For the best HD camcorder for more professional settings, like for commercial or business productions, we recommend the Sony FDR-AX700.
This model shoots in ultra defined 4K and has a long list of adjustable settings for fine-tuning the balances in your shot. It's not the most expensive on the list, but dollar for dollar it packs in the most features for the price.
These are wonderful models, but don't be afraid to look into the entire list and consider which of these is the best HD camcorder for you and your needs.
Featured Image via Pixabay