If you want to film your next family event or vacation, you have three main choices. A smartphone can film in HD, but it’s hard to control the video settings. A camera usually offers some good filming settings, but the video quality rarely compares to the still-image quality. Also, both of these options tempt the user into filming vertically, which severely limits playback options. The third option is our favorite for filming video: HD camcorders.
HD camcorders are usually easy to use and quick to respond. You can pull out the camera and start recording in seconds. You can adjust your filming settings with a few changes in the menus. Whether you want to film your baby’s first steps, start a vlog or record your new short film, these high-definition camcorders give you lots of options without being too confusing. All of the camcorders we reviewed are able to film in 1080p, so you’ll only have to decide which camera has the best capabilities for your needs.
Resolution is the most important aspect of HD camcorders. For our reviews, we excluded 720p camcorders as that is not full HD. We also ignored 4K video cameras as they are prohibitively expensive. Even though all of the cameras we reviewed are 1080p, each one has subtle differences. Below are the criteria we used to rate each HD video camera.
Video & Image Quality
One of the best ways to distinguish between HD camcorders is to look at the frame rate. The human eye processes just under 30 fps, but in this age of digital displays with high refresh rates, this standard frame rate occasionally results in horizontal lines across the display. Usually, 60 fps is the best choice if you plan to show your video on HDTVs and monitors.
We also looked at the zoom capabilities, the low-light rating and the focal length. All of these factor into how crisp the video will be in various situations.
Since you will likely be holding your HD camcorder as you film, you want something comfortable and lightweight. We also looked at the physical features, including the size of the LCD screen, the number of memory cards and whether or not a camera has a direct HDMI port. The integrated storage, maximum recording time (usually measured on the lowest video settings) and the battery life also factored into our ratings.
Most HD camcorders offer an intelligent auto mode, image stabilization and face detection. You can turn these off if you need to, but these features are extremely helpful if you aren't a professional videographer. We also look for video and image filters, which give your footage a personal touch. The best HD camcorders include built-in Wi-Fi so you can easily upload and share your footage or use your camcorder as a security camera or baby monitor.
Help & Support
In an ideal world, you'd never have an issue with your HD camcorder, but in case you do have a problem, it's important that the manufacturer provides help. We look for do-it-yourself options, like FAQs, downloadable manuals and user forums, as well as contact options that include phone, email and live chat.
Our HD camcorder reviews offer detailed analysis of the video cameras and their best uses. No matter what your video needs, there is an HD camcorder out there for you.