The 7 Best Video Cameras to Buy in 2017

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

GoPro has dominated the adventure camera market, thanks to the small size, versatility and durability of its products. If you’ve done any outdoor activity, from skiing to scuba, in the past decade, you’ve undoubtedly encountered someone decked out with a GoPro. Hero5 is the latest release from the camera company, and it is easier to use and captures higher quality footage than any previous model.

The Hero5 sports a simple one-button control that makes it easy to capture 4k video or 12MP photos. Shooting features include 30 FPS Burst and time lapse, while voice control and wind noise reduction allow you to issue command hands free. As with all GoPros, the Hero5 can upload captured footage to the cloud from anywhere on Earth. It comes with a curved adhesive mount and a flat adhesive mount. There are also plenty of other options available to fit your needs. So whether you’re on a jetski or about to jump out of a plane, trust the Hero5 to record the entire experience.

Amateur and professional filmmakers find the Canon XA30 to be the best handheld digital video camera to make their vision a reality. This compact and affordable device has a genuine Canon 20x High Definition Optical Zoom lens, as well as an upgraded HD CMOS Pro Image sensor that excels in low-light performance, featuring a low-luminance noise rating of +3 dB. The image sensor is 1/2.84-inch with 2.91 Megapixels to capture 2136 x 1362 pixels.

There are plenty of features to indulge your creative impulses, including Wide DR Gamma and Highlight Priority that seamlessly extends colors. You can even capture video at 1200x the original speed. Native 24p recording matches the frame rate of a film camera, a valuable tool for a high quality and professional look.

The design is optimized for compact flexibility. The removable handle is essential for stability while filming, but can be stored for easy transport. It also has an external microphone holder, manual audio control, zoom control, infrared light and a tally lamp. All your connectivity options are here, too, including WiFi and an optional Bluetooth Mic with two-way intercom-like capability. With all the features, you’re set to make the motion picture of your dreams.

GoPro may be the most recognizable name in the adventure cam space, but that doesn’t mean you should have to spend GoPro prices to get a decent adventure cam, especially if it's a gift for your teenager or kids. If you want spend up to $100 less on something that works more or less the same way, the Sony AZ1 Action Camera Mini is worth looking into. The AZ1 shoots 1080/60p video from a sleek, compact, splash-proof package. It features image stabilization tech to prevent shaking and blurring, a built-in stereo microphone, live remote shooting through WiFi and NFC and an ultra wide (up to 170°) pro quality ZEISS S lens. Really, if you’re the adventure type, there isn’t much room to regret that kind of purchase.

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