The 7 Best Video Cameras of 2021

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.

The Rundown
"The video camera has essential features such as an in-camera dolly, zoom, cropping, Wi-Fi connectivity, and optical image stabilization."
"Capturing beautiful footage is effortless with the use of all the connectivity hardware and technology encompassed in the video camera."
"The video camera features an impressive 3,000mm optical lens, Nikon’s most powerful zoom lens."
"Canon’s VIXIA HF R800 offers basic video camera features at a budget-friendly price point."
"The video camera has a 2.7-inch clear LCD display with face detection."
"The lens has three layers of protection to reduce glare and a coating to protect against elements such as water and dirt."
Best Budget:
AKASO EK7000 at Amazon
"You’ll be hard-pressed to find a video camera with 4K shooting capabilities for just $50."

Today, numerous devices are capable of shooting videos, including smartphones, tablets, and GoPro cameras. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an amateur or professional videographer; anyone can plan and produce videos. Everyone is skilled enough to preserve memories of small and large events. To capture the most memorable moments, it’s critical to have a camera equipped with the features needed for quality production. While you’ll be able to edit your masterpiece on a computer, the foundation of a quality video camera is necessary. 

Any person buying a new camera should critique each model based on these three top factors: durability, video quality, and battery life. Durability will dictate the environment where you can record. Video quality will affect the final produced video. Battery life will determine how long you’re able to record your videos. Whether the video camera is capable of 1080p or 4K filming may be the most significant component you will need to consider in today’s world. Identifying the ideal screen display, looking for a long-lasting battery, and knowing what type of terrain (underwater, sports, etc.) your video camera can survive in are also essential. 

Considering the options available to record video these days, we understand how overwhelming the video camera buying process can be. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these cameras, from durability to video quality. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you know what to look for when shopping.

Best Overall: Panasonic HC-WXF991K 4K Ultra HD Camcorder with Wi-Fi

Panasonic
What We Like
  • UHD/4K

  • 20x optical range

  • Wi-Fi connectivity

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Panasonic’s HC-WXF991K 4K Ultra HD Video camera with Wi-Fi provides everything you need and more to record your most memorable moments. The video camera has essential features such as an in-camera dolly, zoom, cropping, Wi-Fi connectivity, and hybrid optical image stabilization.

What the HC-WXF991K has that most video cameras don’t is 4k shooting. The UHD/4K video provides four times greater quality than typical HD. Once you’re ready to watch your videos, the heightened pixel count will eliminate any roughness at any angle. Years from now, you’ll also appreciate the HC-WXF991K’s compatibility as the market for UHD/4K is ever-increasing. 

Panasonic's notability as a brand and the video camera’s UHD/4K technology comes with a hefty price tag of almost $900. Even after spending nearly a thousand dollars, this high-end HC-WXF991K’s 4K Ultra HD recording, LEICA Decoma Lens 20x optical zoom range, and in-camera effects and editing modes are worth it both now and in the future.

Max Photo Resolution: 25.9 MP | Max Video Resolution: 30 fps | Connectivity Options: USB, Wi-Fi | Sensor Type: CMOS | Optical Zoom: 20.0x | Screen Size: 3 inches | Battery Life: 1 hour per charge

"Noise is one area that Panasonic could use some help, as we noticed a measurable amount of noise both indoors and outdoors." — Jonno Hill, Product Tester

Best Features: Panasonic HC-V770 HD Camcorder

Panasonic HC-V770 HD Camcorder
What We Like
  • Premium features

  • Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity

  • Audio quality

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Features Panasonic didn’t include in its HC-WXF991K 4K Ultra HD Video camera were incorporated into the HC-V770 HD. In addition to basic video camera features, the HC-V770 has 20x optical zoom, a four-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. Somehow Panasonic managed to find the right balance of features, hardware, design, value, and convenience. 

Capturing beautiful footage with the HC-V770 is effortless with the use of all the connectivity hardware and technology encompassed in the video camera. Specifically, the HC-V770 has Wi-Fi and NFC so you’re able to connect to your phone.

Linking your video camera and your phone allows you to broadcast live and command the video camera from your mobile device. Whether you’re recording from your phone or the HC-V770 itself, you’ll have fun with creative filters, innovative effects, and high-quality sound recording. Although the video camera doesn’t hit the highest mark in any particular category for features, the HC-V770 checks every box for needed and desired features among most video cameras.

Max Photo Resolution: 20 MP | Max Video Resolution: 60 fps | Connectivity Options: USB, Wi-Fi | Sensor Type: CMOS | Optical Zoom: 20.0x | Screen Size: 3 inches | Battery Life: Around 50 to 55 minutes on full charge

"What really matters at the end of the day is image quality. By this metric, the Panasonic HC-V770 is, sadly, not a full success." — Jonno Hill, Product Tester

Best Zoom: Nikon COOLPIX P1000

Nikon Coolpix P1000
What We Like
  • Zoom capability

  • Portability

What We Don't Like
  • Design isn't most attractive

For travelers, sports photographers, and wildlife enthusiasts alike, the Nikon Coolpix P1000 takes you directly into the heart of the action by allowing you to shoot far-off subjects. The video camera features an impressive 3,000mm optical lens, Nikon’s most powerful zoom lens. Frankly, the Coolpix P1000’s lens is one-of-a-kind and one of the best on the market. You’ll be able to view your expanded horizons with the video camera’s 3.2-inch LCD display. 

In combination with the optical lens, the video camera’s resolution complements its zoom capability. The P1000’s 3840 x 2160 pixels provide ultra-HD resolution. Regardless of a low-lighting or action-heavy scenario, you can employ the video camera's auto-focus, image stabilization, and other pre-programmed settings to catch the best possible visuals. T

he P100’s features don’t stop there, as it also includes time-laps and RAW shooting capabilities. The sound quality is just as impressive as it records true stereo sound directly through the in-camera audio. Zooming in for the ideal up close and personal is easy as the Coolpix P1000 weighs just 3.12 pounds and measures 5.8 x 7.1 x 4.7 inches.

Max Photo Resolution: 16 MP | Max Video Resolution: 30 fps | Connectivity Options: Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi | Sensor Type: CMOS | Optical Zoom: 125x | Screen Size: 3.2 inches | Battery Life: 250 images per charge

"The body of the P1000 is big and solid feeling, if perhaps unexpectedly lighter than one would expect from a device of this size." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Best Value: Canon VIXIA HF R800

What We Like
  • Cost-friendly

  • Lightweight

  • Video quality

What We Don't Like
  • Unprofessional quality

If you’re an amateur looking to secure videos for family outings and home game nights, Canon’s VIXIA HF R800 offers basic video camera features at a budget-friendly price point. The HF R800 delivers outstanding 1080p picture quality and powerful zoom ability, similar to the Canon R82 model, but at a lower cost.

You’re able to focus clearly no matter how far away from your subject, thanks to the video camera’s advanced zoom of 57x. As such, capturing your moody teenager who doesn’t want to be caught on video will no longer be an issue. In combination with the HF R800’s impressive zoom capabilities, the advanced stabilization controls guarantee smooth, distortion-free recording, perfect for sports tournaments and high-action events. For extra flair, you can even film slow-motion videos or create a time-lapse. The HF R800’s picture quality is evident as the video camera produces 1920 x 1080 footage.

Since amateurs typically don’t have supporting equipment for their videography ventures, the video camera’s DIGIC DV 4 Image Processor makes up for that. The processor encapsulates more light, eliminating noise from even the darkest scenes and enhancing brightness and visual quality. Regardless of whether you’re in a well-lit or dim environment, recording videos has never been easier.

Weighing in at just under 9 ounces, the camera’s body fits snugly in your hand.The 3-inch LCD touchscreen offers an easy-to-read, user-friendly interface so you can ensure you’re getting the big picture.

Max Photo Resolution: 20 MP | Max Video Resolution: 60 fps | Connectivity Options: USB, Wi-Fi | Sensor Type: CMOS | Optical Zoom: 32x | Screen Size: 3 inches | Battery Life: High-capacity Battery Pack BP-727 (exact length unknown)

"On the plus side, we were happy with the 32x optical zoom (57x in Advanced mode), which helped to make up for some of the sharpness loss by giving us the ability to get closer to the subject." — Jonno Hill, Product Tester

Best for Beginners: Sony HDRCX405 HD Handycam Camcorder

Sony HD Video Recording HDRCX405 Handycam Camcorder
What We Like
  • High resolution

  • Megapixel range

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks premium features

If you’re just starting out with video recording, Sony’s HDRCX405 is the best video camera for you. Even though today’s video camera market is saturated with a number of low- and high-end video cameras and smartphones having impressive recording specifications, there are still benefits to purchasing a handheld video camera.

The HDRCX405 shoots Full HD video, 1920 x 1080, at 60p recording. The video camera boasts of respectable zoom specs such as 30x optical and 60x clear image (digital) zoom. Other features include a 9.2MP Exmor R CMOS sensor, SensorSteadyShot image stabilization, and an intelligent auto mode. Not only is the HDRCX405 easy on your pockets, but it’s also easy to record with. The video camera has a 2.7-inch clear LCD display with face detection.

Overall, while the HDRCX405’S technology is relatively basic, it certainly gets the job done. As such, the video camera is a great introductory budget video camera, especially for anyone who is a beginner video camera user.

Max Photo Resolution: 2.29 MP | Max Video Resolution: 30 fps | Connectivity Options: USB, HDMI, Multi Terminal | Sensor Type: CMOS | Optical Zoom: 30x | Screen Size: 2.7 inches | Battery Life: Approximately 2 hours, 35 minutes

"The smile detection allows the camera to determine when the subject of a photo is smiling, so it can capture snapshots at just the right moment." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Best Rugged: DJI Osmo Action Cam

DJI Osmo Camera
What We Like
  • Protective coating

  • Ability to shoot in various environments

  • RockSteady technology

What We Don't Like
  • Video quality is average

If you’re an adventure-seeker, you’ll need a durable video camera that can withstand a variety of situations and activities while you’re on the go. DJI has designed its video camera so that its features are thoroughly protected. For example, the DJI Osmo Action Cam’s lens has three layers of protection to reduce glare and a coating to protect against elements such as water and dirt.

Thanks to its protective coat, the video camera can be submerged up to 11 meters and can be taken into environments that dip as low as -10 degrees Celsius. Consequently, you don’t have to worry about damaging your video camera while trying to get the perfect shot. Wherever you are, you’ll be able to charge the removable battery, which lasts about 90 minutes while you’re on the go.

The Osmo Action Cam offers more than just ruggedness. The video camera’s features include an 8x slow motion, custom exposure setting, and timelapse. To switch between different settings and modes quickly and easily, the camera has a QuickSwitch button. If you need to perform basic commands, you can also control the camera with your voice.

Whatever the setting, Ultra HD 4K at 60fps 100Mbps guarantees vivid, lifelike videos. The Osmo Action Cam’s video quality is bolstered by RockSteady, DJI’s RockSteady technology that ensures bumps or movements in real life don’t result in irregularities on-screen.

Max Photo Resolution: 12 MP | Max Video Resolution: 60 fps | Connectivity Options: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB | Sensor Type: CMOS | Optical Zoom: N/A | Screen Size: 1.4 inches (front), 2.25 inches (back) | Battery Life: Up to 135 minutes

Best Budget: AKASO EK7000 Pro 4K Action Camera

What We Like
  • Easy on the pockets

  • Waterproof

  • 4K capability

What We Don't Like
  • Consistency of video quality

If you want a quality camera without breaking the bank, the reasonably-priced AKASO EK7000 Pro 4K camera may be the right fit for you. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a video camera with 4K shooting capabilities for just $50. The action camera can achieve a native resolution at no higher than 25fps. Even better, the EK7000 can shoot 2.7K footage at a full 30fps.

For still photos, a 16MP camera captures picturesque mirror selfies even in low-light settings. Though the video camera’s built-in image stabilization is electronically powered instead of the more adaptive optical image stabilization, the technology is just as functional. AKASO has designed a camera chassis that is waterproof up to 131 feet so that you can seize underwater sports photography or film coral reef life.

Whether you’re underwater, on land, or air-bound, you’ll be able to tackle just about any action shoots as the EK700 is well-equipped with accessories. The video camera’s built-in Wi-Fi functionality provides the option to commandeer the camera remotely. Accordingly, you’re able to view on your phone the footage currently being filmed. You can also immediately share the content you've recorded. There’s no need for a laptop or special cable to complete an improvisational data transfer with this Wi-Fi feature.

Max Photo Resolution: 16 MP | Max Video Resolution: 60 fps | Connectivity Options: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Sensor Type: CMOS | Optical Zoom: N/A | Screen Size: 2 inches | Battery Life: 90 minutes

"It might not pack all the bells and whistles of premium action cameras, but it’s well-featured for a model at this price and delivers amazing image quality." — James Huenink, Product Tester

Final Verdict

Panasonic is a significant player in the technology arena, mainly regarding cameras and video cameras. As such, it’s no surprise that our best overall pick is the Panasonic HC-WXF991K 4K Ultra HD Video Camera with Wi-Fi (view at Amazon). Even though the video camera doesn’t have notable premium features, it does shoot in 4K. While expensive, the HC-WXF991K produces untouched video quality amongst top-of-the-line video cameras. During and after shooting with the HC-WXF991K, you’ll enjoy its in-camera effects and editing modes.

Panasonic’s HC-V770 (view at Best Buy) is our pick for the video camera with the best features. The HC-V770 has everything the HC-WXF991K lacks, such as incredible zoom capability, lens systems, HDR, and BSI. Furthermore, the video camera’s connectivity options allow you to record, broadcast, and edit from your phone as needed. Either way, Panasonic has some of the best offerings on the market for quality, reliable video cameras.

How We Tested

We bought six top-rated video cameras and our reviewers tested them for more than 80 hours. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these cameras, from their durability to their video quality. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

About Our Trusted Experts

Nicky LaMarco has been writing and editing for more than 15 years for consumer, trade, and technology publications about many topics including: antivirus, web hosting, backup software, and other technologies. 

Jonno Hill is a writer who covers tech such as computers, gaming equipment, and cameras for Lifewire and publications including AskMen.com and PCMag.com.

Andy Zahn is a writer specializing in tech. He's reviewed cameras, weather stations, noise-cancelling headphones, and more for Lifewire.

Jeremy Laukkonen is tech writer and the creator of a popular blog and video game startup. He also ghostwrites articles for numerous major trade publications.

James Huenink is a writer and copywriter who has written for various publications including VPNside.com, The Federalist, Amendo.com, and Brew Your Own Magazine.

FAQs

How important is resolution?
Resolution is an overall measure of how many pixels make up an image and thus a good indicator of image sharpness/clarity, and will largely matter depending on what you're shooting and for what purpose. For amateurs, particularly those on a budget, it's not as much as a concern, but for pros looking to wow their clientele with beautiful footage, high resolution is absolutely crucial.

What features do you need?
This again depends largely on your use case, but most videographers will benefit from high-quality zoom functionality, a large, clear viewfinder for previewing the action, and manual balance, exposure, and focus adjustment controls.

What are the top video camera brands?
While there's a growing field of competition in the video camera space, there are a number of brands that have an established pedigree with good reason. These brands tend to provide reliable, high-end cameras supported by generous warranties and customer service, and include manufacturers like Canon, Nikon, DJI, and Panasonic.

What to Look For in a Video Camera

Durability

Adrenaline junkies need a video camera that can keep up with their antics. A video camera without the proper protection will not survive skiing, skydiving, rollerblading, hiking, or whitewater rafting. What does protection look like? Some action video cameras have a waterproof casing or sturdy mounts that you can attach to helmets. Even if you’re not an adventure seeker, you want to make sure your investment is protected.

Video Quality

4K is a big deal these days, but do you need a video camera capable of shooting in 4K? Years ago, 4K technology was costly. As the technology has become more common in recent years, it’s come down in price. Therefore, 4K video cameras are increasing in today’s market. Even if 4K produces videos with fantastic quality, 1080p is a popular alternative for capturing your favorite moments. Anything less than 1080p will be disappointing and look grainy.

Battery Life

The durability and video quality of a video camera are irrelevant in considering battery life. One of the most essential features of a video camera is its battery life. No matter how great a video camera is, it does you no good if the battery is dead. In your list of “must-haves,” make sure a decent battery life is on that list. Generally, a battery that will last two to three hours will suffice.


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