The 9 Best Video Cameras to Buy in 2018

Just press record to capture every moment with these top video cameras

Sure, smartphones can shoot video, but it's not going to be anywhere near the same quality you'd get from a dedicated video camera. But, before you buy one, you have to know what you're looking for. Are you looking for something to document your whitewater rafting adventure or family vacation? A gift for your teen to support their budding film career? A video camera that can shoot in 4K? Or are you looking to stay under a certain budget? To help, we put together a list of the seven best video cameras, so whether you’re an amateur filmmaker or a hobbyist, these gadgets will deliver impressive performance.

Best Overall: Panasonic HC-V770 HD Camcorder

The HC-V770, Panasonic managed to find the right balance of features, hardware, design, value and convenience. It features all the connectivity hardware you should expect from a modern camcorder, and all the features needed to capture beautiful footage. The HC-V770 has 20x optical zoom with a 4-drive lens system, HDR (high dynamic range) video capture, Back Side Illumination (BSI) sensor that suppresses noise, and Full-HD (1080p) slow motion video capture. With WiFi and NFC you can instantly connect to your phone, broadcast in real time and control the cam from your mobile device. It’s also got a bunch of creative filters and effects, and high-quality sound recording. It doesn’t stand out in any one department, but rather hits the mark across the board.

Best Budget: Besteker HD Camcorder

Besteker sells Chinese white-label HD camcorders at an unbeatable price, offering consumers the opportunity to get their own HD camcorder for less than the cost of dinner for two. The camera has high ratings and the title of No. 1 Best Seller in Amazon’s camcorder category. It is no surprise why this camera sells so many units when you look at the specs: a 24MP CMOS sensor and 1080p resolution make for incredible footage, while anti-shake, an internal microphone, and 270-degree rotating LCD screen make for a great user experience. This lightweight device feels comfortable in the hand and comes with a nice bag for easy transportation. Finally, the 1250mAh lithium ion battery will last for almost three hours of continuous footage.

Read more reviews of the best budget video cameras available to purchase online. 

Best for Beginners: Sony HD Video Recording HDRCX405 Handycam

The camcorder market has traditionally been dominated by Sony and Panasonic. In the age before the smartphone, they produced a good bulk of low- to high-end camcorders for all purposes. Now the market for budget versions of these devices has grown super tight, with only a few options available. Really, what’s the point of buying a cheap camcorder if your phone can accomplish the same thing? Among devices that offer actual value for a budget, the Sony HDRCX405 is the best camcorder around, and a great introductory camera for teenagers and first-timers. It shoots Full HD (1920x1080) video at 60p with a 30x optical and 60x clear image (digital) zoom. It’s got a 2.7-inch clear LCD display with face detection, a 9.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, SensorSteadyShot image stabilization, and an intelligent auto mode. The tech is pretty basic, but it’s certainly a contender for any budget/value camcorder.

Best 4K Cam: Panasonic HC-WXF991K 4K Ultra HD Camcorder with WiFi

UHD/4K video still hasn’t quite reached maturity, but it’s only a matter of time. As the hardware infrastructure continues to proliferate and support both wired and wireless platforms, the video capture devices become a bit more affordable. For now, though, they’re still pretty expensive, and the Panasonic HC-WXF991K is no different. At just under $900, this is firmly a high-end camcorder. But the 4K Ultra HD recording, LEICA Decoma Lens 20x optical zoom range and in-camera effects and editing modes really seal the deal. There isn’t a whole lot in the realm of features—it’s got in-camera dolly, zoom and cropping effects, as well as WiFi connectivity and a hybrid optical image stabilization—but the 4K shooting is the real selling point here. That alone ensures its compatibility for the next several years.

Best for Action: YI 4K Sports and Action Video Camera (US Edition)

Don’t miss a moment with the YI 4K sports and action video camera. With a 155-degree wide-angle lens and housing the new generation Ambarella A9SE75 chip, it records video in 4K/30fps (100mbps), 1080p/120fps and 720p/240fps, plus shoots 12MP photos. If you’re on the artistic side, you’ll also enjoy its array of modes, including Time Lapse, Slow Motion, Timer, and Burst.

The camera itself has a sporty design that includes a 2.2-inch, 330ppi high-res and high sensitivity retina touch screen with Gorilla Glass. Its rechargeable 1400mAh high-voltage 4.4V lithium-ion battery can record up to 120 minutes of 4K/30fps video on a single charge, so you don’t need to worry about missing any of the action. It features built-in image stabilization as well, with a 3-axis gyroscope and a 3-axis accelerometer that detect tilts and motion changes and compensates accordingly.

Take a look at other product reviews and shop for the best action video cameras available online. 

Best for Filmmakers: Panasonic HC-WXF991K 4K Ultra HD Camcorder

If you’re a bit more serious about video, you shouldn’t skimp on quality. The Panasonic HC-WXF991K features sharp 4K Ultra HD recording that any professional will appreciate. It records video in 4K at 30fps (in MP4 format only) or at 1080p and 60fps, and you’ll even capture stills at a high 25 megapixels. This camcorder also has an adjustable viewfinder, which is hard to come by in most camcorders, and makes shooting in bright light easier given the inevitable glare on the 3-inch touchscreen LCD display.

On top of that, you’ll love its 20x optical zoom, hybrid image stabilization and five-channel mic that captures audio impressively well without additional equipment. Unfortunately, its battery life isn’t the best, logging just about two hours of recording time, and less when shooting in 4K, but it charges up fast and is a filmmaker favorite nonetheless.   

If you frequently find yourself wishing that your digital camcorder could get a little closer to the action, then Canon’s VIXIA HF R82 is a great investment. Whether you are stuck in the rafter seats at a sporting match or a field away from an animal at a nature conservatory, the 57x optical zoom range will still capture the footage. The camera has 32.5-1853 telephoto range, which lets you capture a variety of footage and the Optical Image Stabilizer assures that the footage comes out clean. The DIGIC DV 4 Image Processor films in 1920 x 1080 HD resolution that shows on a bright LCD touchscreen. This lightweight camera records up to 12 hours of video to a 32GB internal flash drive, which can be complemented with more memory via an SD card. And you can easily share your long-range captures via built-in WiFi and NFC. 

Runner-Up, Best for Action: Vivitar DVR914HD

This Vivitar option is astounding from a price-to-features perspective. The direct-sunlight-friendly display is two inches, and it lets you see what you’re shooting as it’s happening, without the need to look on your phone like GoPro. Though, if you do want to connect it to a phone via Wi-Fi, it has that functionality built in as well. The 16.1MP sensor on the camera will give you plenty of pixels to work with, which is great, because the crowning feature of this action cam is that it can shoot in up to 4K resolution.

The device comes in a waterproof case and includes a separate remote control for filming more precarious, one-handed activities. There are HDMI and USB outputs for getting the data off the camera, and there’s an SD card slot that lets you bolster the storage up to 64GB. It all comes in an ultra tiny package of 4 x 3 x 4 inches, which is perfect for action shots whether you’re strapping it to your head or mounting it on a tripod.

Best Value: Panasonic HC-V180K

The entry-level full HD camcorder from Panasonic earns its spot on our list as the best value camcorder for a variety of reasons. First of all, the 1080p resolution will be plenty sharp for most purposes, and the camera bolsters that with a 50x optical zoom paired with a 90x intelligent zoom. But with all that zooming, you’ll need pretty decent image stabilization, which is supplied by Panasonic’s research-fueled five-axis image stabilization. There’s a 2.7-inch touchscreen for controlling the onboard features and an impressive Back Illuminated Sensor to add extra brightness and pop to the HD videos you record.

Those videos are recorded with a 28mm wide angle lens that’s convenient for capturing large group settings. There’s a two-channel onboard mic provided by Zoom to capture top-notch professional-level sound, and they’ve even thrown in a proprietary Level Shot technology to determine when the camera is tilting and correct that tilt for you. The sensor leaves a bit to be desired at only about 2.51 MP, but the software and lens relationship has been optimized to go with it, so you probably won’t notice it on your shoots. The memory is expandable via SD card, and the whole thing comes in a .456-pound package, so this thing will be coming with you even in your most on-the-go moments.

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