The best camcorders go far beyond the videos created on today's flagship smartphones. Meaning that even if you've got one of the best camera phones around, you'd probably still benefit from a dedicated camcorder. Far from dying out, the camcorder is experiencing a renaissance, with a remarkable choice for every budget, level of expertise and activity thanks to their high quality footage, excellent resolution, and enhanced optical zoom lenses.
4K camcorders are now commonplace, from easy-to-use beginner devices that record with stabilised footage straight out of the box to high end professional-grade models that come studded with features and controls. Those needing something made of sturdier stuff there are rugged camcorders that can take more than the occasional knock, and often feature dust and waterproof sealing, able to operate in extreme temperatures, too. Many modern camcorders also offer wireless connectivity including Wi-Fi, NFC, or Bluetooth, allowing you to transfer videos without wires, or even live stream directly from the device.
Here we've rounded up the very best camcorders that deliver the optimum balance of value and performance, whatever your needs. To get the best deals this Black Friday and Cyber Monday head over to our Black Friday 2021 hub.
And if you're looking for ways to edit your footage once you're done, don't miss our posts on the best video editing apps and best laptops for video editing. Looking for a great allrounder camera for filmmaking and photography? We've got a page that lists all the best Canon R6 prices available now.
For professional-quality shooting, the Panasonic HC-X1E is hard to beat. It's the heaviest camera in our roundup by some way, so it's not the most portable option and will need a good quality tripod to keep it stable if you're not resting it on your shoulder. Experienced videographers will appreciate the comprehensive manual controls, including triple lens rings (for focus, zoom and iris), plus customisable controls for gain, white balance, shutter and more. Experienced videographers will appreciate the manual controls, including triple lens rings (focus, zoom and iris) plus programmable buttons for adjusting the shutter, gain, white balance and more. The HC-X1E also features a 1-inch CMOS sensor, Leica Dicomar Lens and 20x optical zoom for capturing pin-sharp footage without distortion. It's not a camcorder you'll master quickly, but the quality is well worth the time investment.
The Sony HDR-CX405 is a great value camcorder that doesn't compromise on quality – even a little. With a compact chassis and built-in image stabilisation, it's ideal for filming one-handed, and features a raft of presets to help first-timers achieve better results. It can record in both XAVC S or AVCHD format and MP4 format simultaneously, and capture high quality stills while also recording video. There's no wireless connectivity, but the USB connector is simple to use when it's time to charge or transfer files to a computer. There's even a built-in tool for editing videos in-camera. This camcorder is simple to use, and very impressive for the price.
Whether handheld or mounted on a tripod, the Canon LEGRIA GX10 delivers pro-quality 4K footage at 50FPS, or 1080P at 100FPS (ideal for super-smooth slow motion). There's also an eight-stop ND-grad filter for shooting landscapes, plus a 15x wide-angle zoom lens. With both automatic shooting modes and customisable manual controls, it's ideal if you're making the jump to a high-end camcorder and want to learn the ropes at your own pace. Unusually for a 4K camcorder, the Canon LEGRIA GX10 also features dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity for fuss-free file transfers. This is a robust, reliable 4K camcorder, and the perfect companion for shooting in the great outdoors.
The GoPro Hero10 Black is the latest of GoPro's action cameras and draws from older models by using the same size image sensor but packed with even more resolution. Despite its diminutive size, this little action camera is capable of capturing 5.3K footage in extreme conditions. It's waterproof to 33ft even without a housing (something few rival sports cameras can beat), and with voice controls it's easy to operate when your hands are occupied with swimming, skiing and otherwise having fun. 5.3K video capture maxes out at 60FPS, but the camera also shoots 4K at 120FPS for ultra slow motion. Instilled with the new HyperSmooth 4.0 video stabilisation it'll produce silky smooth footage on any adventure.
Sony produces a wide range of camcorders for all skill levels, and its mid-range models like the Sony FDR- AX53 are among the best on the market, especially if you need a camcorder for live streaming. This camcorder features Sony's proprietary image stabilisation to reduce camera shake when shooting handheld, which can prove invaluable when used with the 20x optical zoom, which would otherwise amplify unwanted movement. When shooting HD resolution the camera also benefits from 5-axis Intelligent Active mode for further stabilising support. Its Exmor R CMOS sensor gives ultra clear 4K UHD video footage when combined with the new ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* lens.
In the market for a decent budget camcorder that doubles as a webcam for live streaming? Take a good look at the Zoom Q8 Handy Video Recorder – its 160 degree field of view wide-angle lens fits plenty into the frame, ideal for capturing wide scenes. Aimed markedly at musicians and producers that require high-level audio in a small package, the Zoom Q8 has on-board X/Y pattern microphones and extra XLR connections on the rear. It's small, lightweight, and portable, perfect for capturing a live performance either on or off-stage. It can be used with GoPro-compatible mounts, and can be plugged into a computer for use as a USB microphone or as a webcam for live streaming. Higher than full HD video resolution and astonishing 96kHz/24bit audio shows that Zoom means business and it also doubles as an audio interface with in-built audio mixer.
For YouTubers that want to take their filming up a notch and grow their channel with better looking video, the Canon LEGRIA HF G26 offers full HD footage in AVCHD and MP4 format. Dynamic range and colours are plentiful thanks to Canon's HD CMOS Pro image sensor for shooting with low image noise, even when it gets darker. It comes with a lens hood to stop lens flare and protect it from the elements. It's also small and portable, perfect for taking it out on location or setting up in your bedroom.
If you're looking for professional-quality video with expert camera controls to match, then check out the Canon XA40. It has dual U3 SD card slots for expanded memory or backup recording for the most important video shoots - crucial for backing up that 4K UHD footage. The XA40 even oversamples for superior full HD movie capture. 20X optical zoom, 5-axis optical and dynamic image stabilisation, and an infrared mode means you should be able to capture scenes in perfect clarity whether day or night. A plethora of professional controls, including a 3-inch touchscreen, zoom rocker controls on the body and handle, and selectable manual zoom/focus ring on the lens means there's plenty of scope for higher end productions.
The JVC Everio GZ-RY980HEU is tough, powerful and dependable – ideal for shooting 4K on the road. JVC's new Falconbird image processor is less power-hungry than previous versions, extending battery life for 4.5 hours of continuous 4K shooting, and the camcorder's tough chassis will survive drops of 1.5m, submersion in water to depths of 5m, and temperatures of -10C. This is a strong candidate if you're looking for a camcorder for recording sports far from home (and power outlets), and with the JVC Everio GZ-RY980HEU capable of taking 8K stills, you might decide to leave your regular camera at home.
The Sony RX0 II is tiny – seriously tiny. The sports camera market has blossomed in recent years, with a host of rivals appearing to wrestle for GoPro's crown, and the tough little RX0 II is punching well above its weight. It's the world's smallest 4K camcorder, capable of shooting at 30FPS and capturing 15.3MP stills. Its Zeiss Tessar T* 24mm f/4 fixed wide-angle lens is impressive, and it even features a diminutive tiltable LCD display. It's waterproof to 1m without a case, and resistant to accidental crushing. You don't get a lot of camera for your money, but it's a pocket-sized powerhouse.
What is optical zoom?
Optical zoom refers to the lens' ability to change from wide-angle to telephoto which allows a zooming in on a subject that is either small or far away. The greater the optical zoom the bigger the difference between its wide-angle and telephoto ranges.
Which camcorder type should I go for?
There are four main types of camcorder: entry-level, professional, action, and mountable camcorders. For those new to video recording entry-level cameras aid in the setup of shooting and keep things simple with minimal camera settings. Professional camcorders include lots of extra buttons and switches to make changing settings easy and quick but often are much more expensive. Action camcorders are designed to be rugged, waterproof, and resistant to shocks. Mountable camcorders are small and compact, perfect for mounting on multiple surfaces including inside cars, on helmets, or anywhere else a larger camera wouldn't be able to fit.
Does resolution matter?
Higher resolution provides greater detail when capturing movies. 4K UHD is the standard of most modern camcorders and produces a moving image 4x larger than that of full HD (1080). Full HD is still widely supported though, and will make it faster to upload or stream footage on social channels such as YouTube and Twitch because it contains less image data.