The 7 Best Video Cameras to Buy in 2018

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

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

While smartphones shoot video, their quality can’t be compared to a dedicated video camera, or camcorder. But with so many options on the market, how do you decide which one to buy? To help you select the right video camera for your needs, we rounded up a list of our favorites, looking at factors like price, durability, and 4K support. We even took a few home to log some hands-on hours with the best models.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Panasonic HC-V770 HD Camcorder

Panasonic HC-V770 HD Camcorder
Courtesy of Amazon.com
4.9

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 for Beginners: Sony HD Video Recording HDRCX405 Handycam

Sony HD Video Recording HDRCX405 Handycam Camcorder
Courtesy of Amazon.com
3.3

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, especially for anyone who is a beginner video camera user.

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

4.6

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

Panasonic
Courtesy of Amazon 

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 Zoom: Canon VIXIA HF R82

Canon VIXIA HF R82
Courtesy of Amazon.com

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

Vivitar DVR914HD-BLK-PR Black Action Camcorder
Courtesy of Walmart.com

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: Canon VIXIA HF R800

For family outings and home videos, the Canon HF R800 delivers outstanding 1080p picture quality at a modest price point. Similar to the Canon R82 model, the R800 also boasts powerful zoom ability, just at a lower cost. With an optical zoom of 57x, faraway figures come into clear focus; not even the moody teenagers can escape from being featured in your home movies. Also, for sports tournaments and other high-action events, the R800 offers advanced stabilization controls, ensuring smooth, distortion-free camera work. For an extra flair, you can even film slow-motion videos or create a time-lapse.

In addition to capturing HD 1920 x 1080 footage, you’ll enjoy the enhanced brightness and visual quality from the R800’s DIGIC DV 4 Image Processor which captures more light, eliminating noise from even the darkest scenes. At 8.5 ounces, the camera’s body fits snugly in your hand, and the 3-inch LCD touchscreen offers an easy-to-read, user-friendly interface.

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent six hours testing three of the most popular video cameras on the market. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these cameras and we've outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a Video Camera

Durability - Adrenaline junkies need a camcorder that can keep up with their antics, whether it be skiing, ski diving, or whitewater rafting. Some action cams come with waterproof casing and include mounts that can be attached to helmets.

Video quality - Is 4K support crucial for you? The technology used to be very expensive but it’s gradually coming down in price, meaning 4K camcorders are proliferating. While 4K produces videos with amazing quality, 1080p is a solid alternative for capturing your favorite moments. Anything less than that will, unfortunately, look grainy.

Battery life - No matter how great a video camera is, it does you no good if the battery is dead. Look for a camcorder that has a decent battery life, generally two to three hours. If that’s not enough, carry an extra battery in your bag.

Test Results: Panasonic HC-V770 HD Camcorder (Best Overall)

4.9

What We Like

  • Great video quality

  • WiFi capability

  • Easy to use


    What We Don’t Like

    • Pricy

    • Poor battery life

    Lifewire testers thought the Panasonic HC-V770 HD Camcorder was a solid purchase for anyone looking for a reliable video camera. When we asked reviewers to describe the camera’s negative aspects, they were left speechless. One person simply wrote, “None.” Our testers loved the camera’s crisp, high-quality video output and applauded its 20x zoom feature. They also added that the camera is lightweight — it weighs less than two pounds — which makes it easy to take on the go.

    Test Results: Sony HD Video Recording HDRCX405 Handycam (Best for Beginners)

    3.3

    What We Like

    • Great price

    • Provides all necessary functions

    • Solid zoom

    What We Don’t Like

    • No built-in audio jack

    • Hardwire USB

    One of our testers seemed to think this camera’s biggest competition was your own smartphone, which beginner videographers can whip out at a moment’s notice. However, he admitted that this Sony Handycam had better optical zoom and audio, which gives it an edge over high-end smartphones.

    The camera also has a hardwired USB cable that tucks away into the hand strap. Some reviewers found this to be a handy addition while others found it unusual. One person said, “It was so surprising that it actually took me a little while to find it on setup . . . If the USB cord ever had issues, you might have to replace the whole camera.”

    Test Results: YI 4K Sports and Action Video Camera (Best for Action)

    4.6

    What We Like

    • Highly portable

    • Variety of shooting modes

    • Intuitive touchscreen

    What We Don’t Like

    • Only has basic features

    • Lens and screen get smudged with fingerprints

    One of our reviewers told us the variety of modes was the “differentiator” that would make him choose the Yi 4K over his smartphone to capture video. It’s easy to use for people of all experience levels, according to one of our reviewers who wrote, “Both my four-year-old daughter and my 60-something mother understood how to use it equally and were capturing their own videos and photos within the first minute.”