When you see a camcorder, you may think you’ve been transported back to the era B.I.: Before iPhones. Cringe-tinged visions of your well-meaning grandmother recording your youth soccer games on clunky equipment swirl through your head. However, if (like me) you thought camcorders were anachronistic relics of the early aughts, doomed to some forgotten corner of the family garage, then you’d be mistaken. A lot of today’s popular influencers, YouTubers, and TikTokers aren’t actually recording all those sweet, sweet vids on their smartphones like us common folk. Instead, many of them are using camcorders and video cameras to capture superior quality content (and stoke our jealousy).
Whether you too want to skyrocket yourself to TikTok stardom or you have feature film ambitions a la The Blair Witch Project, camcorders can offer more durability and advanced features than smartphones to help unleash your creative freedom. Many of them are water-resistant for all-weather content-creating, while others are completely waterproof so they can capture your best karaoke pool parties or trips to Icelandic waterfalls.
Choosing a camcorder is a bit more challenging than mindlessly upgrading to the latest iPhone, though. There’s an overwhelming number of brands on the market for hobbyists and professionals alike, and you’ve got to know where to start or you might just end up opening and closing a thousand tabs with a sigh (we know the feeling). So, we’ve taken care of the hard part for you and rounded up the best camcorders and video cameras for all your cinematographic needs, so you can take it from here and finally shoot your pilot, sex tape, DIY demo, or home cooking show.
The best camcorders for beginners
The most beginner-friendly camcorder
A Canon camcorder is an investment, but it’s a worthwhile one. The IXIA model is a natural fit for beginners thanks to its user-friendly design and settings. The good news is that as your skill level grows, you won’t need to upgrade to a more advanced model; it’s already got the goods. This camcorder has 4K video, a built-in stabilizer, 20x zoom, and a CMOS sensor that will give you super clear videos even if your beginner camera skills are still a little wobbly. This baby can capture everything from landscapes, to action shots.
Best budget pick
Don’t want to drop a grand on a camera? I feel you deeply. For under a hundred bucks, this Kimire camcorder gives you 24 megapixels, 16x digital zoom, and 270-degree rotation. It has anti-shake features, so it’s not too difficult to get clear, smooth shots. Your quality videos won’t betray the camera’s true price point.
The action-adventure “Pro”
Need a camcorder that will keep up with your outdoor adventures? The GoPro Hero10 can follow all your action whether you’re skiing, surfing, climbing, or scuba diving. It’s the brand’s most impressive camera yet, with 5.3K video (which has 91% more resolution than 4K) and 23 megapixels. Your videos will be so sharp and stunning that your friends may actually want to look through all 1,000 of the clips you shot on your Joshua Tree spirit quest.
For the explorer who likes a bargain
The Kodak PIXPRO Action Cam fulfills a lot of the same needs as a GoPro—for about $400 less. It’s not as compact, but it’s still a true outdoorsman’s camera: This bad boi is water, shock, freeze, and dust-proof. Plus, it captures 1080p full-HD video at 10 frames per second. For seriously cool time-lapse videos (perfect for capturing those sweet sunsets), the camera’s high-speed video setting—which captures 120 frames per second— offers an impressive level of detail.
A bit of kitsch
This cute Polaroid action camera has a lot more going for it than its retro look. For starters, it’s waterproof and weatherproof, so no impromptu photo shoot is off-limits, and there’s an easy-to-use touchscreen, too. It’s not a professional camcorder by any means, but it’s the perfect one to use if you’re just trying to have some fun and level up your ‘gram game.
If you’re crazy-serious about making your own version of Blair Witch or if your directorial aspirations tend toward the more X-rated, this model can make those dreams a reality. It has an infrared night-vision mode where the camcorder can shoot vivid black and white shots of nightscapes (or other nocturnal activities, wink wink), and it works even when there’s low light or no visible light at all. It’s the perfect cam for your next camping trip (or graveyard seance).
Join the pros
If you want to splurge
Sony’s professional-grade PXW-Z90V 4K camcorder is fit for production pros, cinematographers, and documentarians alike. It’s got a slew of features to nerd out over, like highly accurate focusing and tracking, livestreaming compatibility, frame rate flexibility, and touch-screen-enabled subject switching. This camcorder takes impeccable videos, and you can take all the credit.
For the next-level vlogger
Whether you’re an established vlogger or you’re just starting out, upgrading your video equipment is the lazy way to give your content some extra polish without too much extra effort. This 4K video camcorder has a wide angle lens, a microphone, and a video light to make you look and sound like an absolute pro. Plus, you can use the camcorder to stream directly to YouTube, FaceBook, and Instagram.
This one’s for the aspiring YouTuber in your life. Kodak’s PIXPRO S360 takes 360-degree panoramic videos in 4K resolution, so you can share that golden sunrise from your #vanlyfe diary, or capture the full view before cannonballing into your sick Airbnb pool. This model also comes with PIXPRO 360 Stitch Software for post-production editing for Mac or PC, so you can start your influencer empire immediately.
See you at the film festival.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.