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Camcorder reviews

The latest dedicated digital camcorders offer more features and greater control.
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We review 20 of the latest HD digital camcorders priced between $279 and $1999.

CHOICE bought 20 of the latest high-definition (HD) camcorders to review. Our testers reveal which camcorder:

  • has the best picture and sound quality
  • is the easiest to use, and
  • has the longest recording time when used with a fully charged battery.

On this page:

So why buy a camcorder?

Consumer camcorder sales are sliding with most people asking, "But why would I stop using my smartphone and buy a dedicated device, when my phone's video is good enough for what I want?"

One answer is that any of the recommended camcorder models on test will comfortably outperform a smartphone for taking HD video, particularly in less-than-ideal lighting conditions. 

A dedicated camcorder has: 

  • an optical zoom lens, 
  • a menu system focused on working with video, 
  • quick access to removable memory,  
  • features such as slow-motion effects and in-camera editing, and
  • in response to competition pressure from smartphones, they also come with more connectivity features.

Today there's so much more choice, and you can get a model that will work well in all lighting situations for well under $1000. If you're looking for a point-and-shoot that will capture your memories in HD, you can pay as little as $500 for a model that will perform well in pretty much most situations.

Issues with availability for camcorders

The CHOICE camcorder test schedule has also been dealing with the major camcorder makers tendency to let their product stock run out leading up to the end of the year and waiting until the end of January before announcing new products for with availability delayed for several months.

As such, we have highlighted models that we have found to be difficult to find or discontinued altogether and placed them in a separate "previously tested" the table with the models shown with a strikethrough on the product name. We have also removed such models from the What to buy list.

Choose the right camcorder

No need to rely on a salesperson. Use this report to decide:

  • What high definition camcorder is best for you.
  • What connections you'll need.
  • What features you need and what you can do without.

Looking for something a little smaller? Check out CHOICE’s pocket camcorders. For more information on camcorders see Video cameras.

Brands and models tested

  • Canon HF G25
  • Canon HF G30
  • Canon HF R406
  • JVC GZ-E100BU
  • JVC GZ-E305
  • JVC GZ-EX355BU
  • JVC GZ-EX555
  • Panasonic HC-V100
  • Panasonic HC-V110
  • Panasonic HC-V210M
  • Panasonic HC-V520M
  • Panasonic HC-V720M
  • Panasonic HC-X920M
  • Panasonic HX-DC2
  • Samsung HMX-QF20
  • Sony HDR-CX220E
  • Sony HDR-PJ230E
  • Sony HDR-PJ430V
  • Sony HDR-PJ790V
  • Sony HDR-TD30V

How we test

Video camera testing is a complicated and expensive process. To help with the high costs, we share the results between a number of consumer organisations around the world. All the tests are carried out by professional labs in Europe that specialise in photographic testing.

Ease of use The panel looks at the instructions; ease of various functions; quality and functionality of the viewfinder, LCD monitor and remote control; portability of the camcorder and data transfer to a computer. They also measure the time delay between switching the recorder on and being able to use it.

Sound quality A panel assesses quality of speech and music recorded with the inbuilt and external microphone (if applicable). They also look at whether there is any sensitivity to wind noise.

Picture quality An expert viewing panel assesses the resolution, sharpness, colour and overall image quality of recordings in daylight and artificial light. They also assess macro recordings, recordings made in low light and (where applicable) at night. Testing for low light is carried out with an ambient light measurement of 8 lux. Our testers also look at low light performance when panning across a scene as well as operating the optical zoom.

Still photo For the still-photo score, the panel assesses the quality of photos taken in daylight, shutter delay and the transfer speed of still pictures via USB. All the models support USB version 2.0 for video and still photo transfers.

Autofocus score Our testers assess the overall quality and speed of auto-focusing on a number of subjects in close, mid- and long range.

Image stabilisation Testers look at the picture stabilisation function, as well as its effect on picture quality. 

Recording time The panel measures how long the batteries last using a recording and playback test cycle. The camcorder is positioned on a slowly rotating turntable recording a well-lit room, with items at different distances, until the camera stops. During this time the camcorders are switched to full auto-recording mode, with the monitor, autofocus and image stabiliser switched on.

CHOICE independence is guaranteed

These independent ratings are only available through membership with CHOICE Online because no one test products like we do. Arm yourself with our unique and exclusive information and make your next purchase with confidence.

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