Top Rated Digital Camcorders
Camcorder Comparison Top Rated Camcorders

Camcorder Buying Guide

Digital HD Camcorder
Buying Guide 2012-2013

Choosing a Camcorder - Buying a camcorder can be confusing. With so many choices and features you need to understand what is important and what is not. This camcorder buying guide will help you sort out the facts on camcorders and what models best fit your needs. Our new digital HD camcorder comparison list makes it easy to compare camcorder features.

Buying with Confidence - After choosing the best camcorder, you need to consider the best dealer that provides dependability, service, support and competitive prices. After considering many dealers, we have chosen Amazon.com as our dealer of choice. Click here to see why.

Current Deals

Camcorder Ratings Top-Rated Camcorders - Smart-Review only displays the best Top-Rated HD camcorders available on its site. Smart-Review recommends that you read the owner reviews that are conveniently provided with each Top-Rated camcorder on Smart-Review.com. The overall average review is noted with a star rating for each camcorder, between 1-5 stars. We list only those camcorders that score 4 stars or higher. We find owner reviews to be valuable based on our own experience in buying electronics.

DVD Camcorder Video Recording: Flash, Dual Flash - Camcorders today store video on solid state memory or memory cards. Gone are the days of storing video to tape, dvds, or to a harddisk. Manufacturers for 2013 are only producing camcorders that record to Flash Memory.

  • DUAL FLASH MEMORY - These share all the same features of the below Flash camcorders, but record to not only memory cards, but have built-in memory. This means that you can record without memory cards. As prices have dropped these have become very popular.

    TOP PICKS:

    Sony HDR-PJ260V (16gb Dual Flash Memory) 2012
    Canon Vixia HF G20 (32gb Dual Flash Memory) 2013
    Sony Handycam HDR-PJ790V (96gb Dual Flash Memory) 2013

    Best Dual Flash Camcorders under $500:
    Canon HF M52 (32gb Dual Flash Memory) 2012
    Sony Handycam HDR-CX260V (16gb Dual Flash Memory) 2012

  • FLASH Memory - The most popular camcorders today are Flash and Dual Flash camcorders. These camcorders use flash memory cards (same as digital cameras) to store video, or have built in solid state flash memory. Without a tape mechanism or harddrive, these camcorders are generally smaller in size than other camcorders and have better battery life. Most are high definition (HD), using AVCHD compression technology to store the video. They range from cheap camcorders with mediocre video and features to those with excellent sensors and features (such as the higher end Sony and Canon Flash Camcorders). Flash camcorders usually have no moving parts other than the lens. They hold varying amounts of video per card. The most popular memory cards for these camcorders are the SDHC Memory cards. Currently you can get them cards with up to 32gb at reasonable prices, and larger sizes such as 64gb have been introduced. The camcorders below use SDHC or SDXC memory cards to record HD video.

    TOP PICKS (under $500):

    Canon HF M500 (Flash Memory) 2012
    Panasonic HC-V720 (Flash Memory) 2013
    Panasonic HC-X920 (Flash Memory) 2013
    Sony HDR-CX190 (Flash Memory) 2012


Wearable CamcordersWearable (hands-free) Camcorders - These type of camcorders have become very popular. You can wear these camcorders and keep your hands free. Wear them while riding a bike, motorcycle, skiing sporting activities. Many are Wearable and gear mountable. This means you can wear them or can mount them to your gear (such as a motorcycle). Many are weather-proofed or waterproof. They can record in 1080p Full HD video and with wide angle perspectives.
Here are the top rated models:

GoPro HD HERO2 (Motorsports Edition)
GoPro HD HERO2 (Outdoor Edition)
GoPro HD HERO2 (Surf Edition - Watersports)



Video Quality Video Quality - Most camcorders do a good job in bright sunlight outside. However, camcorders that have larger video sensors (CCD's) perform better than camcorders with smaller ones (especially in low light). The video sensor is the area that light hits (like the retina in your eye). The larger it is, the more fine detail can be recorded. Larger sensors generally come with higher priced camcorders. So if video quality, colors, and fine details are important, a camcorder with a larger sensor will perform much better than that of one with a smaller sensor. Another factor in image quality is the lens size and the optical qualities of the lens. Higher end camcorders have bigger lenses and higher optical quality.


Camcorders with high video quality:

Sony HDR-PJ260V (16gb Dual Flash Memory) 2012
Canon Vixia HF G20 (32gb Dual Flash Memory) 2013
Panasonic HC-V720 (Flash Memory) 2013
Panasonic HC-X920 (Flash Memory) 2013
Sony Handycam HDR-PJ790V (96gb Dual Flash Memory) 2013

Best Camcorder under $500:
Canon HF M500 (Flash Memory) 2012
Sony Handycam HDR-CX260V (16gb Dual Flash Memory) 2012
Panasonic HC-V720 (Flash Memory) 2013
Canon HF R21 (32gb Dual Flash Memory) 2011


Low Light Performance - As with video quality, a camcorder with a larger sensor will have better light gathering ability, and low light performance. Those camcorders with larger lenses will also help in low light situations. The above camcorders that have large CCDs will do well in low light, however only the professional camcorder will give you BOTH a larger sensor and larger lenses for excellent low light ability. Poor low light performance is the number one complaint of people buying camcorders. If low light performance is important, get a camcorder with a larger CCD Sensor. Smart-Review lists sensor size with each camcorder for better comparision. See our camcorder comparison list. Some reviewers have reported that buying a video light makes a big difference (which it should) in low light situations.

High Definition (HD) or Standard Definition? - Today you have two choices in camcorders. Standard Definition, which is up to DVD quality or worse, or High Definition which greatly exceeds DVD quality. In the future, all camcorders will be high definition, as that is the way the industry is headed. Most camcorders sold today are high definition. With a high definition camcorder, you usually have the option of recording in either standard or high definition. Even if you record in high definition, you can still play it through your standard (non HD) TV set. To future proof your videos, you can record in high definition today and eventually be able to able to transfer them to Blueray disc, Playstation 3, HD Tivo or another device. Most HD camcorders allow you to connect your camcorder directly to an HDTV through its HDMI or component input. When you hook up one of the top rated high definition camcorders to an HDTV, you will see stunning quality close to that of the best broadcast/cable HD programming such as the Discovery Channel. These camcorders can produce very high quality HD video.

Top-Rated consumer High Definition (HD) camcorders include:

Sony HDR-PJ260V (16gb Dual Flash Memory) 2012
Canon Vixia HF G20 (32gb Dual Flash Memory) 2013
Panasonic HC-V720 (Flash Memory) 2013
Panasonic HC-X920 (Flash Memory) 2013
Sony Handycam HDR-PJ790V (96gb Dual Flash Memory) 2013

Best HD Camcorder under $500:
Canon HF M500 (Flash Memory) 2012
Panasonic HC-V720 (Flash Memory) 2013
Sony Handycam HDR-CX260V (16gb Dual Flash Memory) 2012


Video Quality Professional Video Quality - If uncompromising video quality is top on your priority list, then a professional quality video camera may be your choice. A professional video camera/camcorder will generally be much larger than its consumer siblings. This helps in several ways. One is that the video sensors will be larger for better quality, and the lenses will be bigger for better light gathering and low light performance. Today, these professional camcorders come in two flavors. Standard definition (TV quality) and High Definition. Several of the professional models have been used to make documentaries and even full length movies. These are a favorite of indie (independant) filmmakers and those that record important events such as weddings. These larger camcorders also have the option of interchangeable lenses, separate microphones, wireless microphones, and many other options not available on consumer camcorders. Almost all professional camcorders incorporate the 3ccd sensor technology. The camcorders listed below are professional models.


3ccd camcorder 3CCD/3MOS Imaging Sensor - A 3ccd imaging sensor is a special sensor that is composed of 3 separate sensors. One for each color (red, blue and green). Most professional camcorders use the 3ccd sensor array. These type of sensors have generally been better than a single sensor. The advantage of a 3CCD sensor is that with the data from each of the three sensors, you can find out the exact hue, brightness, and saturation of each pixel, you're no longer interpolating (which is estimating). Most of the professional camcorders (above) have 3ccd.

3MOS Imagers: Panasonic for 2012-2013 has released the latest version of this technology called 3MOS to consumer camcorders, which is designed to improve on 3CCD and give better low light performance. These camcorders below all have 3MOS imagers, and better lenses to improve low light performance.

Panasonic Camcorders with 3MOS Imagers:
Panasonic Panasonic HC-X920 (Flash Memory) 2013
Panasonic Pro AG-HMC150 (Professional Flash Memory Camcorder)

Optical Zoom - Optical Zoom refers to how close an object can be "zoomed in". So a camcorder with a 10x zoom can bring a distant object about 2 times closer than a camcorder with a 5x zoom. Larger zoom lenses can give you more options. If you see a reference to digital zoom, this is an electronic representation of optical zoom, and really just crops the picture and you lose resolution. With optical zoom, you do not lose resolution. When buying a camcorder, digital zoom should not be a consideration in our opinion to purchasing a camcorder, while optical zoom should be considered. Most of our top-rated camcorders come with a 10x zoom which is good for most applications.


Camcorder Microphone Microphone - Almost all camcorders record in stereo sound. All have built in microphones. For better quality you can buy higher quality microphones, and even get a wireless microphone for some models. Several camcorders have a built in surround sound recording system (Dolby 5.1). There are two ways to add an extra microphone to a camcorder. One is to plug it into a microphone jack (if available), or what is called an accessory shoe which allows accessories to attach to your camcorder. An external microphone will give you superior sound and eliminate any sounds that are come from the camcorder itself.

2012-2013 Consumer Camcorders with External Microphone Jacks:

Sony HDR-CX260V (16gb Dual Flash Memory) 2012
Canon HF M500 (Flash Memory) 2012
Canon Vixia HF G20 (32gb Dual Flash Memory) 2013
Panasonic HC-V720 (Flash Memory) 2013
Panasonic HC-X920 (Flash Memory) 2013
Sony Handycam HDR-PJ790V (96gb Dual Flash Memory) 2013
Sony Handycam HDR-CX260V (16gb Dual Flash Memory) 2012

Camcorder with microphone jack under $500:
Canon HF R21 (32gb Dual Flash Memory) 2011


LCD Size LCD Size and resolution - The LCD is the screen that you use to compose your video, and view menus for the camcorder. Many are touchscreens which makes going through the menus easier. (You just touch a choice on the menu). LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display, the current technology used for such displays. A larger LCD screen is much easier to see. In addition to size its also important to look at the resolution of the screen (i.e. how many pixels does it have). The more pixels used for a screen the better. So for both LCD size and number of pixels on the screen, higher is better. Many models also have touchscreen capabilities built into the screen.

Camcorders with the largest LCD screens with the most pixels include:

Panasonic HC-X920 (3.5-inch screen) 2013
Canon Vixia HF G20 (3.5-inch screen) 2013
Sony Handycam HDR-PJ790V (3.5-inch screen) 2013


Manual Features/Zoom - Automatic focusing is standard on all camcorders. However there are times when you may wish to manually focus your camcorder. Examples are low light, macro (closeup), shooting through glass, and indoor shots where automatic focusing is not as effective. All professional camcorders can focus manually. Most of our top rated camcorders include the manual focus option.

snapshot Snapshot Feature - Many of the newer camcorders offer the ability of the camcorder to take pictures (still photos) with your video camera. Many list the size of the pictures they can take in megapixels. Image quality varies from camcorder to camcorder, but you should not expect the same quality as a dedicated digital camera. Use this feature more as a convenience when you don't have your digital camera with you.

Image Stabilization (IS) - Image Stabilization is a technology that reduces the blurry video that you could get in low light, using a zoom lens, or riding in a car. (Sony camcorders call their image stabilization SteadyShot). This technology compensates for any movement of the camcorder you are holding to give you sharp video, even in low light. This is a very valuable and useful feature. Almost all camcorders now have this feature. This also helps when using your zoom out to its full magnification. As you zoom in, any shaking of the camcorder is magnified. Optical (as opposed to digital) stabilization is considered to be best.

Image Stabilization On
Image Stabilization Off
Image Stabilization On
Image Stabilization On

3D Camcorders - In 2012-2013 a new type of camcorder has hit the scene, the 3D camcorder. Panasonic is the current leader in this field as they are introducing several models this year. The nice thing about these 3D camcorders is that you can shoot regular HD with them, and then when you want to shoot in 3D you put the 3D conversion lens on the camcorder. That way you have two camcorders in one. Most of these camcorders do not come with the 3D conversion lens, but are what is called 3D compatible. That means that they can record in 3D with the proper lens. The 3D lens is not compatible with older models.

Top 3D Camcorders for 2012-2013:

Panasonic HC-V720 (Flash Memory) 2013
Panasonic HC-X920 (Flash Memory) 2013

Dedicated 3D Camcorders - these camcorders are built to take 3D Video with the lenses built-in. They can take regular HD as well, but do give superior results if you are interested in 3D primarily.

Top Dedicated 3D Camcorders for 2012-2013:

Sony HDR-TD20V 3D (32gb Dual Flash) 2012

JVC GY-HMZ1U PRO 3D (64gb Dual Flash) 2012

Built-in Video Light/Flash - Many camcorders have a built in flash (for the snapshot feature - still pictures) and/or a video light for lower light situations. Our camcorder comparison page will note if this is included. External flash units and video lights are available as accessories for many camcorders. (See our accessories page for each top-pick camcorder).

Top Rated Camcorders
Canon Powershot Cameras
Top Rated Camcorders Top Rated Digital Camcorders
The best camcorders for 2012-2013, rated 4 stars or better. Deep discount prices. Consumer and professional camcorders with advanced cutting edge features. See the latest advanced High Definition models.
canon powershots Canon Powershot Cameras
The point and shoot Canon Powershot cameras have resolutions up to 14.7 megapixels and many advanced features. Canon Elph cameras are easy to carry, yet are full featured. Deep discount prices. Best 2012 reviews.

[Home] [About Us] [Contact Us] [Privacy Policy] [Buying Online]

Copyright@2005-2013 Smart-Review.com


Top Rated Digital Camcorders