Best Video Camera 2021 • 6 Video Cameras Reviews
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 in comparison to what you might hope (and what many people claim), recording video on your mobile phone cannot bring the same results as using a dedicated video camera. Our product test shows that 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 best manufacturers, they are now accessible to anyone who is passionate about making quality video content. To ensure that you’re buying the best video camera, we’ve spent a good amount of time testing each of the items in the product table below making a comparison.
Video Camera Leaderboard 2021
What is a Video Camera and how does it work?
A video camera (also known 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. Our test confirms that these days there are new models constantly hitting the market incorporating new technology and offering amazing features.
What are the types of Video Cameras?
In our opinion video cameras are best classified according to their intended use. Generally speaking, they are designed for amateur, semi-professional or fully professional use. Our test points out that 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
Price: This price is clearly cheaper in comparison to the other models.
Size: They are smaller and easier to carry.
Audio: They are not usually able to connect external microphones.
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.
Cameras for semiprofessionals
Price: They are priced between cameras designed for amateurs and cameras for professional use.
Size: There are models of many different sizes, although in general their dimensions are larger in comparison to those designed for amateurs.
Audio: They can be used with accessories for recording audio. Some feature audio inputs with XLR connectors..
Quality: They are manufactured with high quality components. They have CMOS sensors which offer better performance, digital viewfinders and good quality optics.
Cameras for professionals
Price: Their price is very high in comparison to the others, usually above two thousand dollars.
Size: They are fairly large.
Audio: They have audio inputs with XLR connectors. In addition, the camera’s internal functions allow different ways to record audio.
Quality: 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.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Video Cameras
Throughout our product test we discovered that 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 for a very specific purpose, such as live streaming, recording broadcast quality video, or for use in extreme conditions. Our test stated that the more features are offered and the higher quality video that can be recorded will mean a significantly higher price – especially for professional models.
- They can be used with accessories that other devices like mobile phones cannot.
- Some are designed for a specific use. This means you can buy one that is perfectly suited for your needs.
- 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.
- Video cameras can be significantly heavier in comparison to mobile phones.
- Professional equipment requires a large financial outlay.
Shopping Criteria for Video Cameras
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
- Style: video or cinematic
- Image stabilization
- Digital or optical zoom
Intended use of the video camera
In our opinion this is 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.
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
Our product test demonstrated that 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).
So the test also confirms that cameras with 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 is it 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.
In our opinion 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.
Our test revealed that 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 the best part is that your videos will be future-proofed for years to come. So this is the best option for wedding videos, or any major event you wish to film and watch for many years to come.
These days, the majority of cameras are capable of some type of image stabilization (IS), which helps to make handheld shots smoother. Through our test we discovered that 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 in comparison to others that 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, in our opinion you should definitely go for optical. Optical zoom is achieved in the lens, the test displayed tht 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. In our opinion you should also check the focal length, which is expressed in millimeters. The product test confirmed that the longer the focal length, the narrower the angle of view and the higher the magnification.
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 your 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.
In our opinion it is also important that the camera you choose has a USB port and an HDMI output. Our product test showed that you should check the standard of the USB port, as it will affect the rate at which you can transfer data. An HDMI output will allow 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.
You need to make sure you have enough battery power for how you plan to use your camera. Our test showed that 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 in comparison to cameras that have a power supply unit or cable, these you can just plug into a wall plug. If you are filming something like a football game, a live performance, or an event like a wedding, in our opinion it’s best to take this into account beforehand.
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, in our opinion 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.
Our product test confirms that 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.
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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.
Who should buy a video camera?
In our opinion 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 you're 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.
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. It’s best to 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 precedes 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.
Is it worth buying a 4K video camera?
It’s best to opt 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 in comparison to the ones before, our test reveals that 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.
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 have many additional accessories, specifically designed for the activity you are going to do. Luckily, many cameras of this type already come with a complete set of accessories included.
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