Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.
Increasingly, smartphones have replaced camcorders for video recording by hobbyists. Despite this, there are still reasons to consider choosing a digital video camera over a smartphone for your video needs.
The most obvious reason is price, but that’s not the only factor as you’ll see below on our list of the best camcorders for beginners and hobbyists.
Why Choose a Camcorder?
All About the Footage
Most of the high-end smartphones on the market can shoot video in 4K. Though 4K digital video cameras are gaining popularity, most mainstream devices only shoot in HD. Despite this, pixels aren’t everything, especially when it comes to recording your child’s latest concert or sporting event.
Because they are bigger than smartphones, camcorders benefit from having better built-in microphones. They also offer decided viewfinders that makes it possible to get a better perspective on what’s in a frame.
There’s no denying that 4K videos are stunning. Unfortunately, all that splendor requires a lot of storage space. On the iPhone XS Max, for example, one minute of 4K video at 60fps is 400MB. That adds up quickly, especially on devices (like those from Apple) that don’t allow additional storage.
On digital video cameras, you don’t have this problem since you can buy new memory cards with ease.
The size factor also benefits camcorders when it comes to optical zoom. Even on the largest smartphones, such as the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max, zooming while recording can be a complicated process especially in a crowded situation. Plus, despite impressive advances in digital zoom technology, a smartphone can’t always hold up against the physical zoom lens found on most digital video cameras.
Smartphones have been designed to take the perfect shot, but not necessarily the best shot for the occasion. For this, most digital video cameras offer manual controls that are lacking on smartphones, including advanced stabilization technology and more.
More Affordable Price
Finally, there’s the issue of price. Smartphones, even the mid-priced models, are expensive and that’s before adding a monthly service plan. Camcorders, by contrast, are relatively cheap.
We’ve included several camcorders on our list, ranging in price from around $120 to no more than $400. We believe these are the top camcorders for hobbyists.
The Canon VIXIA HF R800 is ideally suited for hobbyists, amateurs, vloggers, and more. Featuring a 3-inch touchscreen, this model offers a 57x advanced zoom range with optical image stabilization.
Offering a CMOS sensor for detail and clarity for both video and still images, R800 supports SD, SDXC, SDHC, and FlashAir memory cards. A zoom lens with instant autofocus helps to eliminate blurry images.
For around $250, the Canon VIXIA HF R800 is available in black and white. The value package includes a 32GB SD memory card, replacement BP-727 battery, LED video light, camera case, mini spider tripod, memory card wallet, and cleaning kit.
At around $450, the Panasonic HC-V770 is one of the most expensive camcorders on this list. For this, you receive added flexibility when it comes to capturing digital stills. There are nine selectable resolutions, including: 1920×1080, 4736×2664, 6528×3672, and 5472×3648. Standard HD is 1920×1080 (or 1080p).
The HC-V770 also includes a 20x optical digital zoom, 3-inch touchscreen LCD, and Back Side Illumination Sensor (BSI) MOS sensor. A Crystal Engine PRO+ image processor adds accurate coloring for natural, lifelike images. The camera supports an SD memory card, SDXC memory card, and SDHC memory card.
Are you looking for more? You can remotely control this camera from your phone, useful for distance shooting, or simply using as a baby monitor.
If you’re looking for a Panasonic camcorder, but want to spend a little bit less money, consider the HC-V180K.
Great for taking videos of weddings, reunions, and vacations, this compact, lightweight, and easy-to-use handheld digital video camera offers 50x zoom and 80x intelligent zoom. With a 5-axis image stabilizer (for pan, tilt, and roll axes, plus horizontal and vertical directions), 28mm wide-angle lens (35mm equivalent), the HC-V180K includes a BSI sensor, 2.7-inch LCD, and a two-channel zoom microphone.
Finally, the Panasonic HC-V180K includes effects to enhance your creativity. The built-in Creative Control models offer four effects: Miniature, 8mm Movie, Silent Movie, and Time Lapse Recording. You can use these in conjunction with our simple tips to shoot better video, regardless of your device.
Bundles are common with digital video cameras, and nothing proves this more than the Sony HDR-CX405, priced at around $250. This particular bundle includes all that you need to get started, including a battery pack and charger, rechargeable LED light, 12-inch rubberized spider tripod, memory card wallet, card reader, mini tripod, screen protectors, cleaning kit, and high-speed micro-HDMI (HDMI type D) to HDMI 6-foot cable.
Offering cinematic video in HD, the HDR-CX405 includes 30x optical and 60x clear image zoom with a built-in 26.8mm wide-angle Zeiss lens. There’s also face detection with voice enhancement and noise reduction.
Finally, with Dual Record mode, you can shoot HD video and HD still images at the same time.
For a little bit extra, there’s the Sony HDR-CX440. Also featuring a bundle, this camcorder ships with a 32GB MicroSDHC memory card, compact gadget bag, and battery pack/charger. There’s also a 5-inch flexible mini table-top tripod and high-speed micro-HDMI to HDMI A/V 6-foot cable.
Beyond this, the only thing separating the HDR-CX440 and HDR-CX405 is wireless connectivity; the former has it, the less expensive model does not.
For the budget consensus, consider the HDV-5052 from Hausbell. Priced at around $120, it’s the least expensive digital video camera on this list. Featuring a Wi-Fi function that allows you to remotely view, capture, and shoot video, the model offers HD 1080p quality with 16X digital zoom.
Offering a 3-inch touch TFT LCD, the HDV-5052 is a great product for beginners.
Finally, say hello to the Veho HD10, the only pocket digital video camera on our list.
Measuring just 3.2 inches long and 1.9 inches wide, the HD10 provides HD video recording in a compact size. Featuring an internal rechargeable lithium battery, the model supports four hours of recording between charges and ships with a 4GB Micro SD card. A 1.5-inch LCD viewfinder, while small, gets the job done. Other features include a self-timer, digital zoom, and noise activation.
Convenience comes at a price, as the Veho HD10 is around $300. However, if you’re looking for a compact digital video camera, this might be the one to grab.
Great Camcorders to Choose From
If you’re looking to move beyond recording little clips on your smartphone, it’s time to consider buying a digital video camera.
Camcorders aren’t dead. They are alive and continue to get better with each passing year. We believe the best camcorders of 2018 for hobbyists are listed here—to recap, they are:
- Canon VIXIA HF R800
- Panasonic HC-V770
- Panasonic HC-V180K
- Sony HDR-CX405
- Sony HDR-CX440
- Hausbell HDV-5052
- Veho VCC-005-MUVI-HD10