These days most of the latest models of mobile phones already have integrated cameras that are capable of recording high quality video, many of them even offer 4K resolution. However, contrary to what you might hope (and what many people claim), recording video on you mobile phone cannot bring the same results as using a dedicated video camera. This is especially true in conditions that are not ideal for filming – namely when there is insufficient light available.

This is mainly due to the fact that video cameras are constantly being updated with new and amazing features, which are specifically designed to get the best possible results. Manufactures now offer models that are designed for certain applications, such as filming in extreme conditions and challenging situations. These cameras are designed for professional use, but thanks to lower prices being offered these days by some of the top manufacturers, they are now accessible to anyone who is passionate about making quality video content.

Key Facts

  • There are so many different reasons for buying a professional video camera. It could be anything from wanting to make a souvenir of your latest vacation or social event (wedding, birthday, graduation, christening or bar mitzvah), to professional or semi-professional work, live streaming over the internet or filming amateur sports.
  • The first thing to keep in mind when choosing a video camera, is the purpose for which it will be used. You won’t need the same camera for filming actions sequences in extreme conditions as for vlogging or streaming a video on YouTube.
  • These days the majority of video content is still recorded and broadcast in HD. However, 4K is becoming more popular, and will soon become the standard format. 4K offers 4 times the resolution of HD. Even if you plan to broadcast your video in HD, there are many exciting benefits of still recording in 4K – as it will give you more options when editing your video.

Ranking: The best video cameras on the US market

In this section, we present the five best video cameras currently available on the market. All the cameras on this list offer great value for money and are quality devices. We have offered a wide-range of products, so you will be sure to find one that suits your needs.

No. 1: Kicktek Digital Camcorder

Here we have a great video camera, that is inexpensive but still delivers great results. Kicktek are not a well-established brand like some of the other manufacturers on our list. However, if you are not looking to make a big financial investment, but still want to get something great, this is the option for you. This video camera supports a maximum of HD 1080p (15FPS) video resolution, 3.0 inch LCD Screen with 270°rotation, 16X digital zoom and a built-in fill light.

Users report being pleasantly surprised by the quality of this inexpensive product. It is perfect for people wanting to make home movies, plus it can even be used as a webcam.

No. 2: Sony Handycam FDR-AX100 Wi-Fi 4K HD Video Camera Camcorder

This product from Sony, is similar to the Kicktek in design but packs way more features into its lightweight frame. It is over $1K more expensive than the Kicktek, so the question has to be whether it is worth the extra cost. The answer is definitely yes! When you are buying a Sony product, you know that the extra cost means better quality components, and all the latest technology and features.

The Sony Handycam FDR-AX100 Wi-Fi 4K HD Camcorder records video on a large 1″ Exmor R CMOS sensor with direct pixel read out. It captures 4K/30p video that far exceeds HD resolution. Create 14MP videos and 20MP still images that are sharp and saturated thanks to the Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens with 12x optical zoom. Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization with Active Mode will keep your video and pictures blur-free.

No. 3: Canon XA11 Professional Camcorder

If you need a no-nonsense, workhorse for run-and-gun documentary shooting, look no further. This camcorder offer a pair of XLR inputs for recording quality audio on the go. Ideal for a wide variety of applications, the XA11 can open new recording possibilities with its outstanding video quality in a powerful, versatile and portable package.

Canon has a strong and loyal fanbase who love their products, and if you have ever used one of their cameras, it’s easy to see why. The XA11 Professional Camcorder is no different, with great reviews from happy users. If it’s a Canon, you know it’s quality!

No. 4: PANASONIC LUMIX GH5 4K Digital Camera

The Panasonic LUMIX GH5 is widely considered at the best prosumer video camera ever manufactured. It offers 4K recording, and can record 10-bit 4:2:2 footage at HD 1080p 60fps in the camera. This means that you can record broadcast quality footage, without the need for an expensive external recorder. The in-built image stabilization (IBIS) in this camera is unbelievably effective at stabilizing handheld footage, eliminating the need for a tripod in many situations.

Panasonic already had a loyal following of fans of the GH series, with the GH5 they have established themselves as the best in the business when it comes to dSLR cameras. This product has amazing reviews from countless people who have fallen in love with this camera. The only reason it is not number one on our list, is that it requires a little more technical knowledge to use than the other cameras. Plus is requires the purchase on a lens in order to be used, unlike the other options on our list that have all the optics integrated into the camera.

No. 5: TENKER 4K Action Camera

Here we have the cheapest video camera on our list, that can still shoot in 4K and offers lots of great features. This action camera is perfect for people who like extreme sports, or any other type of action-packed activity that they would like to film.

Very positive reviews of this camera from users who are surprised by the image quality, considering how cheap this video camera costs to buy. Like most action cameras, it is simple to use without any complicated features.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about video cameras

When you are purchasing a video camera, it is only natural that you will have lots of questions. Don’t forget that there are many different types of videos, specifically designed for different applications. To help make your decision easier, in this section we answer the most frequently asked questions people have when buying a video camera.

There are many different reasons for buying a video camera.
(Source: Renaud: 44504998/ 123rf.com)

What exactly is a video camera?

A video camera (also know as a camcorder, handycam, or dslr), is a device that is capable of recording video. Usually they also simultaneously record audio, which is embedded into the video file. Video cameras use different types of media (most commonly SSDs, SD cards or CF cards) to store the recorded files, which can then be transferred to your computer, tablet or phone for editing. These days, there are new models constantly hitting the market incorporating new technology and offering amazing features.

Professional video cameras allow the recording of broadcast quality video.
(Source: Toyhem: 37510026/ 123rf.com)

What were the first video cameras to be released on the market?

The video camera market has evolved significantly since the appearance of the first models in the 1950s. One of the very first was manufactured by Ampex, which released a video camera that recorded videos onto cassettes tapes.

However, it wasn’t until the following decade (when Sony launched the CV-200), that we saw the real birth of the modern video camera. The seventies marked the beginning of the popular use of video cameras. Decades later, in the early 2000s, the first digital devices began to appear on the market.

Casey NeistatAmerican film director

“I think I’m like that nerdy dad from middle school who always has a video camera, but in the same respect, I only take it out during interesting occasions.”

What are the advantages and disadvantages of video cameras?

Video cameras offer a number of important advantages over other devices that also record video, such as mobile phones. For starters, they allow recording with better codecs which greatly improve image quality. In addition, they can be used with various accessories that make them more versatile and able to adapt to any type of situation.

Some video cameras are designed with for a very specific purpose, such as live streaming, recording broadcast quality video, or for use in extreme conditions. Of course, the more features offered and the higher quality video that can be recorded will mean a significantly higher price – especially for professional models.

Advantages Disadvantages
They can be used with accessories, that other devices like mobile phones cannot. Video cameras can be significantly heavier than mobile phones.
Some are designed for a specific use. This means you can buy one that is perfectly suited for your needs. Professional equipment requires a large financial outlay.
Professional or semiprofessional models have sensors that can be up to 8 times larger. The difference in image quality that a video camera offers is especially noticeable in low light conditions.

Who should buy a video camera?

There are so many different reasons for buying a video camera. Perhaps you just want something for filming family videos, or for making a souvenir of your last vacation. Or maybe your are an athlete, or nature lover, and want to film yourself doing some type of outdoor activity, such as extreme sports.

Another possibility is that you need it to produce a live video or to record content that will be broadcast on the internet.

You may also want to produce your own professional or semi-professional film content or advertising videos. The truth is that the reasons are many and vary from person to person.

What type of video cameras are available on the market?

Video cameras are best classified according to their intended use. Generally speaking, they are designed for amateur, semi-professional or fully professional use. The price of a particular model will be influenced by the features it offers, and the standard of video it can record – which needs to be higher for professional applications.

Cameras for amateurs Cameras for semiprofessionals Cameras for professionals
Price This price is clearly cheaper. They are priced between cameras designed for amateurs and cameras for professional use. Their price is very high, usually above two thousand dollars.
Size They are smaller and easier to carry. There are models of many different sizes, although in general their dimensions are larger than those designed for amateurs. They are fairly large
Audio They are not usually able to connect external microphones. They can be used with accessories for recording audio. Some feature audio inputs with XLR connectors. They have audio inputs with XLR connectors. In addition, the camera’s internal functions allow different ways to record audio.
Quality They are usually made with lower quality components that are less expensive. The sensors, optics and build quality are not capable of exceptional performance. They are manufactured with high quality components. They have CMOS sensors which offer better performance, digital viewfinders and good quality optics. They have high quality CMOS sensors, offer recording at very high bit rates, allow image stabilization and offer high ISO capability with low levels of noise.

How is the resolution of a video camera measured?

There are several different ways to measure the resolution of a video camera, a TV or a computer monitor, which can lead to a lot of confusion. This means you could see the resolution expressed in the following ways: HD, 1080p, 4K or 1.2 MP.

HD means “high definition” and is equivalent to 1K or 1080p, while UHD means “ultra high deinfition” and is equivalent to 4K or 2160p. If the resolution is expressed as 720p, 1080p or 2160p, the letter p stands for “progressive scan”. The number that proceeds the letter p corresponds to the number of horizontal pixels. If the resolution is represented as 1K, 2K, or 4K, the number preceding the letter K refers to the number of vertical pixels rounded to the nearest thousand. Most video 4K video cameras actually shoot at a vertical resolution of 3840p – which is rounded to 4000p and then abbreviated to 4K. If the resolution is expressed as something like 2MP, 8MP or 20MP, the MP is referring to the total area of the image calculated in megapixels.

Semiprofessional cameras offer great quality video at an affordable price.
(Source: Kirch: 51100493/ 123rf.com)

Is it worth buying a 4K video camera?

Opting for a video camera that allows recording in 4K offers a number of huge advantages, even if you are not planning on exporting your final video in 4K (or UHD). With a 4K camera, you can record video with superior image quality to HD, offering four times the number of pixels. Additionally, recording in 4K means that you can crop the video, or do zooms or pans, in post-production.

What kind of maintenance and care do video cameras require?

Although modern video cameras are more durable than ever, it is important that you protect them from moisture, dust and extreme heat. It is recommended that you carry them in a protective case, that will help to protect them from bumps and even being accidentally dropped.

Another important piece of advice is to remove the battery from the camera, if you are not going to use it for a prolonged period of time. Obviously, it is very important to clean them regularly, particularly sports cameras that are more often exposed to extreme weather conditions.

Video cameras allows us to capture special moments.
(Source: Macor: 26822699/ 123rf.com)

What are some useful accessories for a video camera?

For starters, you will definitely need a memory card – either SD, microSD or CF. SSDs are now also being used in high end professional cameras, but these are usually attached externally to the camera via HDMI or SDI. If the video camera does not come with a decent carry case, you will need to purchase one separately. Additionally, you may want to purchase a tripod, gimbal or slider for more cinematic shots. The inbuilt microphones in video cameras are designed more for reference than for quality audio recording. If this is an issue for you, make sure you purchase a camera with an audio input jack to attach an external microphone.

For creating professional and semi-professional videos, high quality audio is crucial and definitely requires the use of an external microphone – if you are not shooting with a dedicated location sound recordist. If you buy an action camera, you will many additional accessories, specifically designed for the activity you are going to do. Luckily, many of cameras of this type already come with a complete set of accessories included.

Shopping Criteria

When purchasing a video camera, it is important that you take into account a series of factors to make sure you choose the product that is right for you. To help make this process easier, we have chosen the most important factors you need to keep in mind. We hope these criteria serve as a buying guide, and help you choose a device that meets your expectations and your requirements.

  • Intended use of the video camera
  • Optics
  • Style: video or cinematic
  • Resolution
  • Image stabilization
  • Digital or optical zoom
  • Connectivity
  • Battery
  • Brand

Intended use of the video camera

This is obviously the first question you should ask yourself when you are going to buy a camcorder. If you want a camera to record yourself while playing sport or doing an outdoor activity, an action camera will probably suit you. For streaming video over the internet, you can probably make do with a webcam. A camcorder is best for run-and-gun documentaries, while a dSLR or a cinema camera will offer the best image quality – but are less user friendly.

If you only need a camera to make some basic home videos, then you can choose a cheaper model that allows you to record in HD. On the other hand, if you want to record movies or videos at broadcast quality, then you should choose a professional camera that allows you to record in 4K – and with a codec that offers a large enough bit rate. Typically broadcast video must be recorded at a minimum depth of 10-bit 4:2:2, which will require a more expensive video camera.

Ansel AdamsAmerican photographer.

“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”

Optics

This is without a doubt, one of the first elements that you have to take into account when choosing a camcorder. Make sure that the inbuilt lens is of good quality. The best options are Leica, Fujinon or Carl Zeiss. In terms of the sensor, the best are CCD, CMOS o 3CCD.

Style: video or cinematic

Less expensive video cameras have small sensors, which results in a flatter image, with less contrast and without the capacity to achieve a nice depth of field. Being able to play with depth of field allows for more cinematic shots (as often seen in feature films), whereas a lack of depth of field will result in the entirety of the image being in focus (as is typical of the style used in video and TV).

However, cameras that have a larger sensor, such as certain dSLR, mirrorless or professional and semi-professional cinema cameras, allow you to produce a more artistic or cinematic image. Not only it is possible to achieve great depth of field and create bokeh (unfocused backgrounds), they also offer better dynamic range, low-light performance, resolution and image quality.

Professional video cameras can be large and heavy.
(Source: Macor: 18095984/ 123rf.com)

Resolution

The maximum resolution that a video camera is capable of recording video, is something you really need to consider when choosing between different models. The resolution is the number of pixels that make up each frame of a video image, measured in height by width. Most cameras these days will allow recording at HD (1,920 x 1,080), which is still sufficient for most tasks.

Today, the majority of video is broadcast and viewed in HD. However, 4K (or UHD) is becoming increasingly common and will be the new standard resolution within a few years. Recording in 4K not only allows more options for editing videos that will be rendered in HD, but if you do choose to make 4K versions of your videos they will be future-proofed for years to come. This is a great option for wedding videos, or any major event you wish to film and watch for many years to come.

Image stabilization

These days, the majority of cameras are capable of some type of image stabilization (IS), which helps to make handheld shots smoother. However, there is a big difference in how effective the performance will be, depending on the camera and the system of stabilization it uses. Some cameras use lens stabilization, whereas others have in-built image stabilization (IBIS), which is achieved by a floating sensor.

Digital or optical zoom

If you are wondering whether you should choose a camera with an optical or digital zoom, you should definitely go for optical. Optical zoom is achieved in the lens, however digital zoom merely punches in on the digital image captured by the camera. This results in lower pixels appearing in the final image, and therefore lower resolution. Also be sure to check the focal length, which is expressed in millimeters. The longer the focal length, the narrower the angle of view and the higher the magnification.

Connectivity

WiFi connectivity is a very useful feature offered by many video cameras these days. It allows you to rapidly transfer files to other devices, or even directly to the internet. NFC and Bluetooth connectivity are also used to connect you camera to your mobile phone, so you can make use of apps created by the manufacturer or third parties. GPS is often included as a feature in action cameras, which adds your location to the metadata of the video file.

It is also important that the camera you choose has a USB port and an HDMI output. You should check the standard of the USB port, as it will effect the rate at which you can transfer data. An HDMI output will allows you to connect the camera to a TV, monitor or external recorder. Firewire is fast becoming an obsolete technology and is not practical for general use.

Battery

You need to make sure you have enough battery power for how you plan to use your camera. There are many different types of batteries used in cameras, and all cameras are capable of different maximum recording times. If needed you can simply purchase extra batteries, or plug the camera into a wall plug if it has a power supply unit or cable. If you are filming something like a football game, a live performance, or an event like a wedding, this needs to be taken into account beforehand.

Brand

Even if the brand you buy isn’t the most important factor to consider when choosing a new video camera, if your budget will allow it, you should definitely pay the extra money for a quality device. The most trusted manufacturers, who make the best video cameras, are Sony, Canon, Panasonic, JVC and Samsung.

If you buy a video camera from one of these manufacturers, you can be sure it meets high quality standards, and you can rely on good customer support. Another benefit of opting for one of these brands, is the big range of accessories available on the market that will be compatible with your video camera.

Summary

Even though mobile phones (with great video cameras) are a huge part of our lives these days, they have not replaced the need for cameras designed specifically to record video. There are so many reasons for buying a video camera, and many different models, designed for different applications. Manufacturers are constantly releasing new cameras with amazing features, so it’s important to remember the functions that you need when making your choice.

While all the advances constantly being made in the technology used in video cameras is exciting for users, it can also make your decision a little more complicated. A person without at least a little technical knowledge can feel overwhelmed by all the options available. Just keep the criteria we outlined in this article in mind when buying a new video camera, and you will definitely make the choice that is right for you.

If you have found this guide to be useful in helping you make your choice, please leave a comment and be sure to share it with your family and friends.

(Source of featured image: Macor: 11258221/ 123rf.com)

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Our writers and editors at THEGOODESTATE.com focus on making your life easier by selecting the best available options on the U.S. market of everyday objects and supplements.