Here are the Best HD Video Camera Recorder from Panasonic, Canon, Sony, Samsung, and JVD, ranked by the image quality, design, and built-in editing tools.
We tested nine camcorders for about 15 hours. We compiled a two-minute video from all of the footage we gathered – inside and outside – and had seven reviewers rank what they saw. After comparing factors such as color balance, resolution, zoom, and durability.
Why Buy a High Definition Camcorder?
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 to. 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.
What to Look For
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 a 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.
Top 8 Best HD Camcorders
Canon VIXIA HF R52
PROS: The Canon VIXIA HF R52 has 32GB of integrated storage, more than most flash camcorders.
CONS: The Wi-Fi feature fails to maintain a consistent and reliable connection.
With 60 fps HD video and a long list of features, the Canon VIXIA tops our list of HD camcorders. It shoots in 1080p HD video at 60 frames per second and includes a strong feature set.
Whether you want to record your child’s concert, film a movie with your friends or start a career as a YouTube vlogger, you need a full HD camcorder that gives you access to high-quality video and a range of simple tools. The Canon VIXIA HF R52 is our top choice for HD camcorders, thanks to its wide range of features and excellent resolution.
As a continuation of the consumer line of VIXIA cameras, the R52 is simple to use, compact and affordable. Its many tools and features will give your videos a professional look without requiring hours of setup time on your part. It has a few quirks, like an unreliable Wi-Fi feature, but for its value and quality, the Canon VIXIA HF R52 is the best HD camcorder we reviewed and the winner of our 1st Top 8 Best HD Camcorders.
The Canon VIXIA HF R52 is the best HD camcorder, offering high-end resolution and features. With its multiple resolution settings, you can adjust the film quality to match the platform on which you plan to share your video. All of its settings are accessible by the 3-inch touchscreen viewfinder, and after using the camera for a short period of time, you’ll easily understand where to find all the features you want.
PROS: The Sony HDR-PJ275 has a built-in projector.
CONS: This HD camcorder has trouble keeping focus when subjects are in motion.
At a great price and packed with extra features, the Sony HDR-PJ275 is a great option for capturing your memories in full high definition. HD camcorders can be expensive, but the Sony HDR-PJ275 gives you all the features and capabilities that you need for a great price. With its full 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second, the PJ275 can give you the ability to capture your vacations, record life events, and even help you direct a short film. It also has a built-in projector, so you can show off your footage anywhere. However, it has a few quirks, including poor automatic focus and a weak battery. Also, its zoom function is controlled with a left-right pivot rather than a more intuitive front-back control.
The Sony HDR-PJ275 has all of the functions you need in a high-definition camcorder, and its few faults do not detract from the overall value of the camera. Because of this, the PJ275 earns our 2nd Top 8 Best HD Camcorders.
The Sony HDR-PJ275 is a top HD camcorder with excellent features and tools. Its low price makes it a great value for anyone who wants to record their vacations, capture events and memories or create amateur videos. It has a few poor features, like the automatic focus that has trouble staying in focus and awkward menu controls. Still, the PJ275 has plenty of extra features, and its built-in projector lets you show off your videos anywhere.
PROS: The Panasonic HC-W580Khas a dial for manual focus.
CONS: The second lens on the viewfinder is a gimmick with low functionality.
The Panasonic HC-W580K films in full HD and offers image stabilization, but its extra lens feels like a gimmick. In the world of high-definition camcorders, there is one main feature you need: 1080p resolution filming at a minimum of 30 frames per second. Beyond that, every other feature is extra. Sometimes these extra features are useful and sometimes they are simply gimmicks. The Panasonic HC-W580K fits both categories, offering excellent tools through its integrated Wi-Fi and including a second lens for picture-in-picture filming. Fortunately, its good features trump its questionable tools. Based on its excellent quality, the Panasonic earns our 3rd Top 8 Best HD Camcorders.
The Panasonic HC-W580K has most of the features we look for in a full HD camcorder. It offers excellent picture quality and great tools, but it also has some oddities. Its zoom controls are oddly placed, and its second lens is mostly a gimmick. However, it is compact and includes built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, making it an extremely functional camcorder for virtually any situation.
PROS: The Panasonic HC-X920 has all the manual settings you need to film professional videos.
CONS: It is far too pricy for casual use.
The Panasonic HC-X920 is a fantastic prosumer camcorder, but it’s overkill for people who only want to capture their memories.
The Panasonic HC-X920 gives independent videographers and amateur filmmakers high-quality video, but it’s an expensive camera for anyone who simply wants to film family events. This HD camcorder films in full 1080p resolution offers many manual settings, and is compatible with Panasonic’s 3D lens. It offers excellent video resolution, but unless you know how to fully utilize this class of full HD video cameras, you’ll have a hard time getting the video you want.
If you know what you’re doing, the X920 has some of the best video resolutions of any available camcorder. With full 1080p resolution filming at 60 frames per second, your films will look good on any high-definition display. In fact, this camcorder is 3D-ready, but you must buy Panasonic’s 3D lens attachment. Unfortunately, the frame rate is lower than most prosumer camcorders. At only 60 fps, you can only film in real-time, rather than in a high frame rate that allows you to playback in crisp slow motion.
PROS: The Sony HDR-CX240 weighs less than half a pound.
CONS: The camcorder lacks touch controls on its LCD viewfinder.
This Sony is an excellent entry-level camcorder because it is simple to use and offers good film quality. If you need a simple HD camcorder to capture your family memories, the Sony HDR-CX240 is compact and affordable and it has a small learning curve. This camcorder offers full HD resolution and easy controls. It also has several extra features that let you personalize your videos. However, it also loses focus easily and gets grainy when filming close-ups. Rather than using the standard touchscreen LCD viewfinder that most other high-definition video cameras utilize, the CX240 uses buttons, which makes the menus more difficult to navigate. If you’re looking for an affordable and simple HD camcorder, the Sony HDR-CX240 has all of the features you need, but it has some quirks.
This full HD camcorder records video at 1080p resolution, filmed at 60 frames per second. In most filming situations, it looks great on HD TVs and monitors. If you are uploading your video to a limited platform like YouTube and only need to film at 30 frames per second, you can easily adjust the frame rate and resolution to fit your needs. In most situations, the device captures crisp footage, but close-ups look grainy and motion looks blurry. It offers low-light filming, but it doesn’t look great.
PROS: The JVC GZ-R70B is protected from water, dust, shocks, and freezing.
CONS: There are very few advanced features.
This is a great camcorder for vacationers, but it doesn’t have enough tools to make it a versatile camcorder.
Vacationers and families with small kids need durable equipment, and the JVC GZ-R70B is a rugged and waterproof HD camcorder with good video quality and features. With its 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second, the R70 is good for any kind of filming. However, the camcorder is short on advanced tools. It is a durable HD video camera, but it does not have everything you might need.
In terms of filming quality, the R70 is slightly better than average. Its 1080p resolution and 60 fps recording speed give you good video for HD TVs and monitors, and its 40 times optical zoom ensures that you’ll get a good view of distant landmarks. It has a built-in camera light, but even with this extra tool, it isn’t great in the dark. It doesn’t produce as strong an image as the top camcorders in our lineup, but it still offers excellent video quality.
Where this full HD camcorder really shines is in its design. JVC labels the R70 as “quad proof,” meaning it is durable against 16 feet of water, a four-foot drop, dust, and a 14-degree Fahrenheit atmosphere. On top of that, the included battery is capable of 4.5 hours of power. The camcorder comes with 32GB of built-in storage, and you can increase this with an SD card. At maximum capacity and at the lowest resolution settings, the R70 can record just under 58 hours of video.
The JVC HD camcorder is best for point-and-shoot recording. While it has an intelligent automatic mode and an image stabilizer, it lacks image filters and full manual adjustments. It also does not have Wi-Fi, near-field communication, or any kind of smartphone app. While these features are not necessary to take great video, they are helpful if you want to share your footage instantly.
This camcorder uses face detection, which is a great tool. This feature makes the camcorder focus on a person’s face rather than on motion, so your subject will stay in focus, no matter what is moving around them.
Canon VIXIA HF G20
PROS: The Canon VIXIA HF G20 has the manual features you need as an indie filmmaker.
CONS: The camcorder is only capable of filming at 30 fps.
The Canon VIXIA HF G20 has all the manual tools that indie filmmakers need, but its slower recording speed looks worse on HD digital displays.
The Canon VIXIA HF G20 is an indie filmmaker camcorder with good video resolution, strong features, and a great design. It’s an HD camcorder for amateur and freelance filmmakers and videographers. If you’re looking for something to take with you on vacation or film your baby’s first words, the G20 is much more expensive than many other HD video cameras in this lineup. However, it’s a good starting camcorder to help you break into filmmaking or start recording events in a professional capacity.
At 1080p resolution, the G20 is a Full HD camcorder that captures every detail. Its unique lens hood helps control the light coming into the lens, and the manual focus ring feels natural. Unfortunately, its maximum frame rate is 30 fps, which could lead to horizontal lines on your TV or monitor when you view the footage. The movement still looks natural, but the G20 is a generation behind in terms of film speed.
The camera is a little larger than most of the other high-definition camcorders we reviewed, but this extra size is easier to control when filming with manual controls. However, it is far too bulky for vacationers or point-and-shoot recordings. It has 32GB of built-in storage space and two memory card slots. At its full capacity, you can record over 12 hours of video. The battery is equally impressive, able to film for two and a half hours.
This camcorder has a few notable flaws, including its poor software. It makes transferring footage to a computer a tough challenge. It also does not use a standard shoe adapter, so you have to buy Canon accessories if you want a light or shotgun microphone. This camcorder also lacks integrated Wi-Fi and near-field communication, so you cannot stream your video or upload clips quickly.
PROS: The Samsung F90 is extremely easy to use.
CONS: The maximum video resolution is 720p.
While the F90 is affordable and easy to use, its capabilities lag well behind the best camcorders.
Although Samsung is well known for its mobile and television products, the F90 HD camcorder is a disappointing product from this electronics giant. On the one hand, it is among the cheapest video cameras available, and its automatic features make it easy to use. However, its limited resolution and frame rate make it a poor choice for those trying to capture high-definition videos of vacations or special occasions. The Samsung F90 is a fine camera for its low price, but for $50 more you could get a full 1080p camcorder with better capabilities.
This high-definition camcorder barely qualifies as HD. At 720p video resolution, it has the lowest video quality of any of the HD camcorders we reviewed. On top of that, it is only capable of a recording speed of 30 frames per second at this resolution. If you turn the video quality down to standard definition, you can record at 60 frames per second, but the video won’t look as good on your HDTV.
The F90 has an impressive optical zoom of 52x, and the digital zoom extends to 130x. If you’re shooting a sporting event, you can easily capture the action across the field. On top of that, once you’ve set the camera up with your computer, you can upload your videos to YouTube with its one-click video sharing button. Unfortunately, it lacks Wi-Fi or Near Field Communication, so you’ll have to plug into a computer to upload videos.
Our favorite aspect of this underwhelming camcorder is its simplicity. The automatic mode adjusts the colors, exposure, and focus quickly. If you would prefer to get a more artistic feel to your video, you can switch nearly all controls over to manual. Although we usually prefer HD camcorders with a touchscreen viewfinder, the manual controls are easier to adjust with the F90’s button-based interface.
Samsung supports the camcorder with a one-year warranty, and from the website, you can download a new user manual, and browse the FAQs or troubleshooting sections. You can also use the forums to ask questions. Samsung representatives are available by email, phone, and live chat from the support pages.
How We Tested
We worked with nine camcorders for about 10 hours inside and outside the lab. To record footage, our savvy lab technicians built a unit out of PVC pipe that we strapped to the top of a car. Every camera was affixed to the rig and taken for a drive around town in their automatic setting. This was because we figure most people haven’t been trained as videographers and are going to likely use a new camcorder in the state it comes out of the box.
We also walked around inside our offices through well-lit spaces and dark corners to get footage in all kinds of light – both bright and dim. Then, all of the videos were assembled into squares on one screen, which seven of our reviewers watched and ranked best to worst in overall quality. Our videographers also ran the footage through Adobe Premiere Pro and assigned each camera a grade for its color-correctness.
We stress-tested the camcorders that were waterproof and shockproof. This meant completely submerging them in a bowl of water for about 10 minutes and dropping the shockproof camcorders three times from a height of 5 feet. All the cameras advertised as waterproof and shockproof passed our tests.
How Much Do Best HD Camera Recorders Cost?
The camcorders we tested cost an average of $400, mostly because the 4K camcorder we tested is very expensive. The average cost of the 1080p camcorders we tested was a little more affordable at $321. For storage, it’s easier to purchase an SD card for most camcorders to store your video on. SD cards with 64 GB of storage cost about $20 while cards with less storage space, like 16 GB, cost a mere $5.