What camcorder should you buy? Home and family use?

26.01.2015 10:51

If you’ve ever tried to record your kid’s soccer game or music recital, you’ll know that there are some settings at which a smartphone just won’t do the job. For shooting video from a field away, catching clips longer than 30 minutes, or shooting when the lights are low, what you need is a dedicated camcorder. And for that, the camcorder we recommend for most people is the $550 Panasonic HC-V750K.

After more than 30 hours of research and testing, we found that it beats out any other camera in its price range: it captures video that has more detail, better color, and better sound than all the cameras we tested (or any camera up to twice its price). In our tests, it produced the sharpest footage in bright light, plus it had the best stabilization and the least noise in low light. It also featured the best touchscreen controls of the bunch and, with a long 20x optical zoom, you can capture the action from across a huge space—try to do thatwith a smartphone.

How we decided

Although fewer people are buying dedicated camcorders these days, the camcorder market still has an array of different priced and featured models. In our research, we discovered that spending more than $900 got you a professional or 4K model, which most average people don’t need for their kid’s piano recital or soccer matche. Dipping much below an MSRP of $300 saw a major decline in video quality—especially in low light. From this range of prices, we were able to skip models that are identical to less expensive versions except for adding features of dubious usefulness—like internal hard drives, when it’s cheaper just to use a large SD card, or Panasonic’s recent introduction of a second camera that points at your face while you record.

In the end, only three models made the cut, and these were tested in bright daylight to look for detail, color, and motion; while walking and zooming to account for stabilization; in dim light indoors, and in the middle of the night to see how they performed when things get dark. We also took into account handling and ease of use, because what good is a camcorder if you can’t figure out how to use the thing?

Our pick

Hands down, the $550 Panasonic HC-V750K is the best camcorder for most people if you want to spend less than $900. Under bright daylight, it captured the sharpest detail and deepest, most saturated color, so that recording of your kid’s first football game will capture every blade of grass. It had the best stabilization system of all those we looked at, so when you’re trying to track the action while zoomed in to a full 20x and shooting across the field, you won’t see too many shudders and shakes.

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