As smartphones get smarter and digital cameras get better at shooting video, the importance of owning a dedicated camcorder is less obvious. But people still love to make home movies, especially if they have young kids and small camcorders remain the most effective and versatile means of documenting memorable moments. We’ve compiled a list of easy-to-use and mostly affordable video cameras to help you create your own home films.
Panasonic HC-V700 ($399-$549)
This camcorder is just awesome. As the winner of our 2012 awards for Mid-Range Camcorder of the Year and Best Camcorder for the Money, the Panasonic V700 is great for plenty of reasons, but the reasonable price tag is perhaps the most appealing. It's a top-quality consumer camcorder that costs half as much as a similar model would have a few years ago, and hundreds less than competing models now.
Videos are smooth and clear even with moving subjects thanks to a 1080/60p frame rate. If you're a casual home videographer, the only downside we can see is a lack of a cinematic 24fps shooting mode. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a better option for they money than the V700. It's also available with 16GB of built-in memory as the V700M ($529-$599).
Samsung HMX-W300 ($99-$159)
As the most compact and portable model in this guide, the Samsung W300 is not impressive by typical camcorder standards; it lacks zoom, manual controls, and a slew of other common features. However, it has two major perks that make it perfect for low-budget home movies: low cost and waterproofing.
The W300 is light, thin enough to fit in a pocket, costs less than $150, and is waterproof down to 16.4 feet. The video quality isn’t half-bad, either. This makes it ideal for trips to beach and other waterfront excursions. You also don’t have to worry about sugar-high toddlers accidentally spilling something on it or dropping it in the toilet (kids do that, right?).
Panasonic HC-V500 ($199-$449)
It shares many of the same strengths as the V700, including a smooth 1080/60p frame rate. The 38x optical zoom range is actually even longer than the V700's. Low-light performance is a bit murky, so those indoor birthday parties might be troublesome. Overall video quality isn't quite as smooth and clear as its big brother's, either. But for many folks, this is a perfectly capable camcorder to keep around the house. It's available with 16GB of built in memory as the V500M ($259-$489).
JVC Everio GZ-GX1 ($649-$899)
The JVC GX1 is pretty unimpressive in a lot of ways: iffy video performance, poor handling, cheap build, and a weighty price tag. But it has a bunch of nifty features that make it an interesting option for creative home-movie recording. WiFi compatibility is the most obvious (it's branded on the side of the body, after all), and it unlocks some of the most interesting capabilities. These include remote monitoring and control via smartphone or web browser, as well as motion-detection recording. Think of the candid crib clips it can capture!