When looking for the best video cameras on the market today, we evaluated the top models on the market today and came up with a list of the top seven. In analyzing what makes a good video camera, we looked at durability, resolution, ease of use, portability, and additional features that might set it apart from other competitors. This included things like voice control, stability control, optical zoom, creative shooting modes, the ability to attach different lenses and mics, and more.
Rising to the top of our best video camera list is the GoPro Hero5 Black camera, which is jammed full of features, shoots bright and crisp video, and is amazingly easy to use. It hits that sweet spot in the market of being simple enough for a beginner to use, yet robust enough for more advanced videographers to enjoy. Plus, it’s waterproof, can take a lot of knocks and is super portable. Continue reading for more information about this mini powerhouse as well as our other picks.
Top 6 Best Video Cameras
#1 GoPro Hero5 Black
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: The GoPro Hero5’s compact size makes it by far the best video camera for travel. The value here is pretty much unbeatable as, for a relatively low price, you get a video camera that’s loaded with features, is easy to use, durable, waterproof, and captures great sound and images.
- Best for travel
- Waterproof to 30 ft
- Unbeatable feature set
- No security strap
- Camera can separate from holder
- No zoom
While GoPro cameras are traditionally thought of as belonging in the realm of surfers, mountain bikers and other adventure sports enthusiasts, thanks to the company’s dedication to constant improvement, this mini-beast can truly satisfy anyone’s video camera needs. And even if you’re not going to take this camera down the slopes or into the sea, you will still benefit from the features that make it a favorite for active people: the stability control is second to none, the camera is incredibly durable and waterproof, and a range of mounts means you can get very creative with your camera angles.
You’ll be giving up optical zoom with this camera but otherwise, the GoPro Hero5 goes toe-to-toe with many of the best video cameras out there with 4K capability; the ability to shoot 30 frames-per-second in normal mode and up to 120 FPS in slow-motion mode; 12MP photo-capture ability; a backside illuminated image sensor that captures top quality sharp images in poor lighting; a microSD slot, and about two hours of battery life running at 1080p at 50 FPS. On top of that, you get a bunch of goodies including built-in WiFi and GPS, touch-screen controls and editing, loop recording, time-lapse photo capture, and voice control that lets you simply speak your commands to the camera to free up your hands. To top it all off, it has three built-in mics and software that combines the best of what each of them captures to provide truly impressive sound. All this at an impressively low price as well, makes it the video camera to beat. You can compare it to the best instant film camera if you are torn between the two.
#2 kicteck Video Camera Full HD
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: When it comes to choosing an affordable, yet feature-packed video camera, it’s hard to beat this little gem. Its flip-out screen, dual rechargeable batteries, SD card slot, and additional bonuses like face detection and smile capture means you truly get a lot for a little.
- Best budget
- Full 1080p HD video
- Can be used as webcam
- Audio could be better
- No optical zoom
- Doesn’t have autofocus
While the GoPro Hero5 gives you maximum features for a low price, this budget video camera by kicteck is perfect for those who don’t need all the bells and whistles of that model but still want a solid little camcorder for half the price. First the specs: The camera can capture full HD video at 15 FPS; with a 24MP CMOS image sensor; it has a 3.0-inch screen that rotates 270 degrees; its software features include anti-shaking plus face and smile recognition; and it has a 16X digital zoom.
Beyond that, we like this camera because its small, lightweight size means you can slip it in your pocket, yet the flip-out screen gives you a generous 3-inch display, which trumps even the GoPro. One of the more fun features of this budget beauty is that if you connect the camera to your computer via USB cable and use it as a webcam. In addition to its built-in front LED light, you can also attach an external light, although you won’t be able to do the same with an external mic, which is a shame because the sound quality on recordings made with this camera average at best. So it may not be one of the best vlogging cameras under 300.
#3 Panasonic Lumix FZ80 4K Digital Camera
Award: BEST 4K VIDEO
WHY WE LIKE IT: This Panasonic powerhouse is one the best affordable cameras with a 16x optical zoom lens, making it the best video camera for sports shooting. While that long zoom might cause shake and blur on other cameras, Panasonic’s image stabilization software delivers smooth, vivid photos, even when the lens is completely extended.
- Excellent image stabilization
- Full 1080p HD video
- Optical and digital viewfinder
- Can be complicated for novices
Oftentimes, when you buy a camera that’s also a camcorder, you wind up sacrificing one or the other. Not so with this two-in-one from Panasonic. Its most impressive feature by far is the 16x optical zoom combined with great stabilization software – which makes it a good camera for shooting soccer and other sports matches. It can also shoot both photos and video in 4K – and it even allows you to shoot video and then choose a still shot from the stream of images to keep. Its burst mode can capture 30 FPS in 4K, which is a pretty impressive feat.
The camera has a nice handfeel too with a bumped-out grip below the shutter button. Adding to this camera’s value is built-in WiFi; a very sensitive sensor that allows for impressive low-light shots using up to an ISO of 6400; a focus-stacking feature that lets you adjust focus or depth of field after you shoot; both an optical and digital viewfinder; and the ability to use a variety of effects and filters including Expressive, Retro, Silky Monochrome, Impressive Art, Toy Pop, Bleach Bypass, Miniature Effect, and many more. You may also want the best photo box for your photography needs.
#4 YEEHAO Camcorder Video Camera
Award: BEST MIC
WHY WE LIKE IT: While this camera isn’t from one of the major brands, it is still a reliable workhorse with lots of extras (like night vision) included for a great price. The included boom microphone makes it the best video camera for interviews and other sound-intensive projects.
- Excellent for interviews
- Night vision
- Easy touch-screen control
- Weak stabilization software
- No optical zoom
- Image quality not the best
If you’re just stepping into the video camera game, this option might be a good place to start. While it won’t give you the highest-quality video streams, it does come with a heap of extras including a case, detachable wide-angle lens, a hood to reduce glare, a remote; two rechargeable batteries; HDMI and 3.5mm cables; and a detachable boom-style mic.
The video camera also has some high-end features that are surprising to find in an under-$200 camera including night vision, a motion sensor that will start recording when something moves across the frame and a flip-out viewfinder that also lets you navigate the camera’s simple menu system by touch. It also has a Sony sensor, which helps a bit when considering a purchase from a relatively unknown brand. You also may want the best selfie light for snapping videos of yourself.
#5 Canon VIXIA HF R800 Portable Video Camera
Award: BEST OPTICAL ZOOM
WHY WE LIKE IT: There are two major features that set this camera apart from the others on our list: the incredible 32x optical zoom and the ability to record in the mp4 format. The first feature is wedded to Canon’s “SuperRange” image stabilizer, which makes even very zoomed-in recordings look smooth, while the second allows users to upload videos directly to YouTube and other social media sites without the need to convert the file type.
- Best for YouTubers
- Can record in MP4 format
- Can attach external mic
- Can’t record in 4K
This Canon boasts a 57x zoom, but it’s important to understand that 25x of that is a digital zoom. Still, that leaves you with a crazy 32x optical zoom, which should let you get up close and personal with pretty much any subject. It can also be set to capture input in the MP4 format at 35 fps, which not only allows it to take very high-quality videos but also makes it perfect if you want to upload your videos to YouTube or other popular video sites without having to convert it.
When it comes to operating the camera, options are intuitive and simple, and the flip-out LCD touchscreen gets high marks for its visibility – even in bright light. Another interesting stand-apart feature of this camera is something Canon calls “Highlight Priority Mode,” which can correct overly bright backgrounds so that you can capture more details. If you want a camera for adventure, look at the best action camera.
#6 Sony a5100 16-50mm Interchangeable Lens Camera
Award: BEST AUTO FOCUS
WHY WE LIKE IT: Thanks to fast autofocus, excellent low light capabilities, small form factor and an interchangeable lens, this camera is a top pick for crafting videos on the fly. It also perform with the best in low light scenarios.
- Excellent in low light
- Interchangeable lenses
- Ultra-fast autofocus
This Sony setup truly brings you the best combination of camera and camcorder we’ve seen. Not only do you have a screen that flips out and rotates 180 degrees, but the super-fast autofocus and interchangeable lenses work in both still image and video mode. You also get built-in WiFi and near field communication (NFC). With the right app on your smartphone, you’ll be able to instantly import and edit photos from the camera thanks to the WiFi functionality, or you can simply tap the camera to your phone if it features NFC.
This camera also excels at taking video in low light, thanks to its big image sensor that provides an ISO range that goes all the way up to an astounding 25,600. And while cameras can sometimes be more unwieldy to use as video shooters, this one is specially designed for one-handed operation and is also pretty lightweight, coming in at just .62 pounds.
How We Decided
In choosing our list of the seven best video cameras, we focused specifically on consumer-level rigs. The best professional video camera can cost thousands, so instead, we wanted to make sure that every camera on this list was accessible to most consumers. We then primarily evaluated the quality of the images each camera produces, followed by its reliability. We also threw specs into the mix such as the ability to shoot 4K or not; types of zoom; stability control; easy of use; and more. Every camera that made our list had to at least shoot in HD (1920×1080), and we favored those that were able to shoot in Ultra HD or 4K. Additionally, the video cameras that made our list had to offer most of the bells and whistles available in video cameras today, be durable, be user-friendly, and represent a good value, so as to make your decision as easy as 1 2 3!
Best Video Camera Buyer’s Guide
The Most Important Features to Consider
All but the most basic video cameras today have the ability to shoot video in HD, which is 1920×1080, meaning that there are 1920 pixels across the screen and 1080 from top to bottom. What differentiates cameras is whether or not they can also capture Ultra HD (UHD) or 4K, a standard where there are 4,000 pixels across the screen. At this time, 4K isn’t all that widespread and, unless you are shooting very high-quality video productions, you simply might not need it. Knowing this can save you money, as cameras without 4K capabilities tend to be cheaper.
When it comes to evaluating video cameras, it’s important to distinguish between optical and digital zoom. Optical zoom is what zoom always used to be – it’s the ability to physically extend the lens to get closer to a subject. Digital zoom is really just a cropping feature. Optical zoom is a far more valuable feature, as you’re actually capturing subjects as if you were closer, rather than using digital manipulation to zoom.
- Image Handling
Two important image-handling features you’ll want to look for when making your video camera choices are image stabilization and autofocus. Image stabilization is software in the camera that compensates for your shaky hands while filming. It’s not important if you’ll primarily be shooting on a tripod, such as for a YouTube program, but it’s critical if you’re going to be doing a lot of handheld filming. Auto focus is the ability for your camera to make your subject look sharp and in focus when filming – even when you zoom. Again, this isn’t critical if you’re going to be filming mostly in one distance range, but if you plan to do a lot of zooming, you’ll want to be sure the camera has autofocus.
- Night Vision
Some cameras are simply good at shooting in low light, but some go an extra step with infrared functionality that literally lets you see and film in the dark. If you’re going to be doing a lot of nighttime recording, or if you simply think a night vision effect would look cool on your clips, you’ll want to look for a model that specifically mentions night vision.
Many video cameras now come with WiFi built in, which lets you more easily transfer your clips to your smartphone or computer. If you’re going to be uploading your work to YouTube or another site on the internet or sharing it with family and friends, this feature can make your life much easier. It’s not essential, as most cameras have a removable SD card that you can simply slide into your computer, but it is nice to have.
Video Cameras FAQs
Should I buy a camera or a camcorder?
Most cameras these days – including the one that's likely built into your phone – can shoot video as well as still photos. So do you really need a separate piece of equipment to shoot video (a camcorder)? It depends. If you're going to shoot a lot of video, investing in a camcorder probably makes sense. They usually have better displays for composing your shot, are more comfortable in your hand, and can grab better audio either through built-in or external mics. But if you're just going to shoot video occasionally, a camera is your better bet, as cameras tend to have bigger sensors that make them better at shooting in low-light conditions.
Should I buy 4K or full HD?
As we mentioned above, 4K video cameras can capture 4,000 pixels in the space from the left side of your screen to the right, while full HD cameras can only grab 1920. So the resolution on 4K video is almost twice as good as with full HD. However, if you don't have a 4K TV to view your films on, it would be nearly pointless to pay for 4K ability, because you won't be able to watch it in all its glory.
Learn More About Best Video Cameras
Gadget Review brings you the latest and most in-depth video camera reviews out there. The best video cameras and camcorders are assessed by in-house experts for performance, features, and cost. Check out our comparisons of high definition action cameras from GoPro and find out where these stand against models by Sony, Panasonic, and Canon. Find out which digital recorders are the best for recording videos of yourself. Looking for a camcorder with a difference, we regularly cover video cameras that feature a minimalist design and creative looks.
The in-house experts in Gadget Review give you the latest and most thorough reviews of the best video camera reviews and camcorders. All our reviews are written based on performance, features, and cost.
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