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Finding the Best HD Camcorders

Updated on August 19, 2014

Looking for the Best HD Camcorders?

HD camcorders have hit the market in a big way. Now that people are getting HDTVs, they are able to enjoy their own HD creations easily. These camcorders offer improved resolution and clarity, smooth movement, and great color saturation.

On this page, we will provide you with a few tips for choosing the best HD camcorder to suit your needs. We will also introduce you to some of the best current models available.

Photo by Brain Sonic.


Why Choose an HD Camcorder?

If you're in the market for a new video camera, you may be trying to decide if you want an SD (standard definition) or HD (high definition) model.

It really isn't a hard choice to make in most cases. The critical differences for a consumer are merely price and resolution/clarity. Standard definition films at 480p or something similar while high definition is recorded at 720p or better. (Full HD is 1920x1080) Other things of course influence the quality of the video you record, such as light sensitivity, frame rate, and so forth, but in general, HD will provide more clarity.

On the cost side, SD has an advantage. An HD camcorder may cost up to 25-30% more than a comparable SD model.

On the otherhand, enjoying your HD films (in high definition) on TV would require that you have an HDTV and HDMI cables. However, most TVs being manufactured are now HD, so even if you don't own one now, you probably will if you make a new purchase in the next few years.

If you are one of the people who look at HD versus SD film and see no significant difference or won't own an HD TV in the foreseeable future, then you might save money and get an SD camcorder.


Buying tips

Choosing the best HD camcorder means considering a few critical features. Here are a few basics to think about:

1. Budget

First you'll need to decide how much you want to spend. There are good video cameras in the budget category but certainly higher end devices will generally provide many more features and higher quality video and audio. (On this page, you'll find a variety of devices at different price points, however if you're interested in the budget pocket camcorders look here.)

2. Memory

Most modern camcorders store recordings on either flash memory or a built-in hard drive. Many use a combination of both types of storage. Flash based camcorders tend to have a quicker response time and consume less power. They are also the smallest and lightest camcorders. Hard drive based camcorders can have huge memories and allow more filming without having to download. It is also easier to edit video with a hard drive video camera and they eliminate problems associated with forgetting, losing, or damaging memory cards. If you have large hands, a hard drive camcorder which is a bit bulkier than flash based models, can actually be easier to handle in some cases.

3. Optical Image Stabilization

OIS is critical if you want a film that isn't overly jittery or blurry. Most of the video cameras below offer advanced OIS. Another feature that can be good for getting steady video and still images is a remote control. If a camcorder is mounted on a tripod while filming, it is more secure and steady. If you trigger the camcorder, zoom with it, and so forth, then doing so with a remote will assure the camera doesn't shake while activating these controls. It also cuts down on noise created by the camcorder operator. Thus, a video camera with a remote control or the option of adding one could be useful.

4. Video Quality

There are many quality tests or demonstrations for most HD camcorders posted on YouTube by various users. You can seek these out and see for yourself.

Certainly a larger sensor can help and you can check the stated video resolution. An HD camcorder that records in 720p will have lower resolution than one that records in 1080p. In addition, progressive recording offers better quality than interlaced. Thus 1080i will not look as good as 1080p. Frame rate is another consideration. The more frames per second, the smoother the video will appear. Thus 30fps will not look as smooth as 60fps. 24p Cinema mode is one that is designed to be equivalent to cinematic films.

Back illuminated sensors tend to provide better low light performance, so this might be something to look for as well if you'll be filming at night or in indoor conditions somewhat frequently.

5. Other Features

Be sure to consider other features that you want. For instance:

How much Optical Zoom do you want/need? Is it easy to activate while filming?

Is face detection important? This helps you get the right focus and exposure on given subjects and to keep it there as you film.

Are manual controls important? For instance, some of these camcorders offer a lens ring that allows you to easily and manually adjust many settings. Others allow you to make adjustments through menus on the LCD screen.

What about the LCD panel? This panel is critical to monitor and frame your shots. Is it bright enough, can the brightness be adjusted based on lighting conditions? Does it tilt? Does it offer touch control which is more intuitive?

Do you want to take still images? If you want a video camera that takes good still images look for this feature. Also consider what other dedicated camera features it has. Does it have built-in flash? Does it allow scene modes for photos or manual controls? Can you take photos while recording video?

6. Audio

Audio is as important to the quality of your films as video. A stereo microphone is better than mono. A microphone on top will pick up noise from the filmmaker readily whereas a front mounted mic will pick up sound from your subjects better. A video camera with 5.1 channel surround sound is more worthy of your HD viewing. A jack to accept an external microphone is good as well in case you want to upgrade. The ability to monitor audio is also preferrable for those who want the very best sound.

7. HDMI ports and Cables

If you purchase an HD camcorder you'll still need to connect to your HDTV to enjoy your films in HD. Having HDMI ports and cables is important for this purpose.

8. Down Conversion

When sharing your HD videos online you may need to down convert. Several of the HD camcorders below offer features which allow you to easily do this.

9. Other Ease of Use Concerns

Be sure you know how you will be able to edit, download, and enjoy your videos. Some processes are easier than others.

Sony HDR-PJ50V High Definition Handycam Camcorder with Built-in Projector (Black)
Sony HDR-PJ50V High Definition Handycam Camcorder with Built-in Projector (Black)

This mid-range device is also among some of the best HD camcorder options. It offers a built in high contrast projector that can project an image up to 60" diagonally. It records 1920 x 1080 60p/24p video as well as 7 megapixel still images. It offers a 220 GB HDD which can hold up to 91 hours of HD video. It has a wide angle G lens, back illuminated sensor, optical image stabilization, 12x optical and 17x extended zoom, built-in GPS for geotagging, and tracking focus. With a 5.1 ch Surround mic, wind noise reduction and a mic/headphone jack for monitoring purposes, you'll get better audio too.

This camera has an Intelligent auto mode with 90 different scenes from which to choose, a golf shot feature, a built-in LED flash and video light, built in USB and direct copy to external hard drive capability.


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    • piedromolinero profile image


      8 years ago

      Great information about HD camcorders. The technology os changing so fast. I got a new SD camcorder about half a year ago, now I wonder if it wouldn't have been better to choose a HD one. Although I don't have a HDTV right now, I could enjoy the better quality once I change the TV.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      WOW! Technology, it is so difficult to keep up with whatever is state-of-the-art.


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