In this day and age, you don’t have to spend a lot of cash to get high-quality recordings of your life’s memories. We live in a time where 1080P (HD) is the standard (for cheap 4K cameras, check out this list). Fortunately, this resolution does not come at a high price. For the most part, these cameras will record great video in almost any situation. Though, as with most cameras at this price range, they will struggle with low-light situations such as in a dim room, or at night. Beyond that, however, for daylight situations, you simply don’t need to need to spend a lot of cash to get a great camcorder.
Gone are the days of DV, tapes, and clunky analog recordings. These camcorders all record to solid state media, meaning you can take their memory cards right out of the camera and into your computer to upload to YouTube, Facebook, or your personal cloud storage. It’s never been a better time to shoot video on a budget.
Here are ten of our favorite cheap camcorders.
1. Panasonic HC-V180K
This camera is perfect for someone looking to recording outdoor events with flexible zoom options. It has great battery life and it’s tiny. The image stabilization and zoom are ridiculous; it’s hard to imagine a situation where 50x zoom won’t be enough.
It also boasts a couple of less common features like a stereo microphone with acceptable quality sound and full touch screen functionality, which can be a help or a hindrance depending on your preferences. All in all, it’s a great budget camera for those looking to film outdoors from a distance, particularly sports.
- Camera is small and light
- Video is sharp and allows for relatively stable 50x zooming (optical)
- Battery life is great, at least two hours of recording
- Takes ten megapixel stills
- Lacks buttons for playback control; it’s all touch screen
- No viewfinder means you’re limited to using the screen
- Audio quality is only acceptable
2. Canon VIXIA HF R700
For a small, light, and fast solution, the R700 is very hard to beat. This Canon camera may have a small sensors, but it packs a big punch. This model stands out of the crowd with its liquid-smooth 1080P 60FPS recording. While most camcorders record 30FPS or 24FPS, 60 frames per second means that you can slow down footage to half-speed and it will still look great. At normal speed, it just looks plain smooth.
This camera has a ton of conventional perks including long battery life, selfie mode (its screen fully rotates), and a powerful image stabilization and focusing system (up to 57x). It also has some cool less common features like pre-recording, where the camera records three seconds prior to you hitting the recording button, perfect for catching those quick moments. There’s also a baby mode which helps track and organize your baby’s growth, for those parents looking to document their developing children.
Price: $215 (7 percent off MSRP)
- Records 1080P at 60FPS for that smooth look
- 32x optical zoom or 57x hybrid zoom makes for solid close-up shots from a distance
- Different scene settings allow one to achieve different looks easily
- Screen rotates fully allowing one to take selfie video
- Battery life is great allowing for over two hours of recording
- External mic input means you can purchase mic to get better sound if need be
- It takes stills, but they’re only 3.28 megapixels
- Sound recording quality isn’t great, as most cameras in this price range
- Tripod mounting threads are plastic meaning it’s not that durable
3. Sony X405 Handycam
This Sony camera is very comparable to the R700 with a few slight advantages and disadvantages. Right off the bat, this camera is a lot cheaper. This does come with some minor drawbacks, mainly the lack of an external mic input. This means you’re stuck with the sound on-camera unless you want to get a dedicated audio recorder. If you’re looking for high quality external sound, take a look at (audio recorders on Amazon). That said, one further disadvantage here is that you’ll have to sync this audio to the video in post, whereas with the R700 you would not have to deal with syncing.
Beyond this, however, this camera is very comparable to the R700 shooting 1080P 60FPS and boasting tremendous zoom power. It also has a 9.2 megapixel sensor, meaning that the camera can take high quality still as well. It also has several interesting features include Face Detection and seven picture effects. Two other nice things include USB out functionality, meaning you can plug this camera straight into your computer, and highlight reels, which edit your videos into a compilation of sampled parts.
- Great vlogging camera
- Shoots 1080P 60FPS for that smooth look
- Takes nine megapixel stills meaning you can grab decently high quality stills
- 30x optical zoom and 60x hybrid means you can get in close to the action
- No external mic input means you’ll need a dedicated recorder to get high quality sound
- Audio quality is only acceptable
- Video quality is poor in low light
- Some users complain that autofocus is noisy
4. Panasonic HC-V770
While in a different price class than the other cameras on this list, the HCV770 offers a few features that show you get what you pay for. Many users praise its enhanced low-light ability, great build quality, and cool (yet practical features) like being able to record your cell phone camera in “picture-in-picture” mode. Clearly aimed at the vlogging-minded, this is one camera that delivers a lot of bang for your buck, especially if you’re on Wi-Fi (required for use of picture-in-picture).
Some other features include image stabilization, a 20x zoom, and taking pictures. “Level-shot” mode, another unique hallmark, has the camera adjust its internal picture to automatically record video that is level to the horizon. Remote shooting and viewing is also possible, allowing one to use their smartphone to see what the camera sees. This can also be used in baby monitor mode, which one can use to check on their child anytime, and which can send a push notification anytime the audio sensors detects baby movement or crying. The camera also permits for live-streaming straight to UStream, but some users say this is difficult if not impossible to set up correctly.
- Live Streaming capable – camera can send 1080P stream straight to UStream
- You can wirelessly connect your smartphone for a picture-in-picture effect
- High dynamic range mimics look of much more expensive cameras
- Somewhat capable in low light situations
- Microphone input permits for recording external audio
- On the pricey side of cheap
- Some users complain live streaming isn’t straightforward or as-advertised
- When in selfie mode, LCD screen does not display recording time or information
- Some users complain autofocus is slow
5. Ancter Ghost Hunting Full Spectrum Camera
If you’re in the market for a fun camera that shoots solid normal footage and lets one see in the dark, this full spectrum model may be for you. For those looking to capture the paranormal and merely creepy, it is unbeatable in the price range. If you need it for more practical normal situations, it still does the job, though not particularly well.
For $189.99, one gets full 1080P recording. That said, it is not 1080P 60fps, nor is the quality particularly stand out. This camera is very much intended for people who want to take infrared recordings of dark rooms. It does so, out of the box, decently, though one will need to purchase an infrared floodlight to capture large spaces (search Amazon for infrared flood lights) as the included IR light isn’t very bright. This could make a great gift for the paranormal-inclined who needs a camcorder for other situations, or for anyone who’s seriously into ghost-hunting.
Footage from a similar “full spectrum” camera:
- Two SD card slots mean you’ll always have room for more footage
- Includes remote to trigger remote recording
- For shooting infrared recording, it is unmatched in this price range
- Cool night vision functionality
- If one isn’t into paranormal recording, then it offers no advantages to other models
- No external mic connector to enhance sound recording
- 30FPS doesn’t look great; this camera is really only for the night vision
6. Panasonic HC-V380K
The Panasonic V380K is the same camera as the first on our list, but with several extra features that are enabled by Wi-Fi. These two features are controlling the camera remotely and the Twin Camera feature. This feature allows the user to have video recorded by the user on their phone instantly broadcast into the Panasonic camera so that one can record “picture-in-picture.”
Otherwise, this camera retains all the great features of the V180K (and its weaknesses). It zooms far at 50x and has a stereo microphone that is good enough to get the job done. It’s an ideal camera for shooting outdoors from a distance. The extra Wi-Fi features help make this model more compatible with vlogging and to easily share your recordings.
Price: $297.99 (9 percent off MSRP)
- Camera is compact and doesn’t weigh much
- Takes great outdoor and well lit video with its 50x zoom
- Superb battery life permits for up to two hours of recording
- Takes ten megapixel pictures
- Wi-Fi allows for picture-in-picture recording and quick sharing of videos and pictures
- There are no buttons for playback control, it’s all touch screen
- Audio quality is only decent and camera does not have a mic input
- Low light ability is comparable to other cameras in this price range; it’s noisy
7. Sony HDRCX675/B
While this Sony may be on the pricier side, it offers some amazing features. First and foremost is its ability to stabilize. One user claims that even handheld, some of the shots look like they’ve been taken from a tripod. Other cool abilities include 1080P recording at 30FPS, and 1080i at 60fps. While 1080i isn’t as good as 1080P, at least you have the option to shoot 60fps.
Many users praise this camera’s low light ability, claiming that it only gets noisy in dark situations, but tends to produce usable images otherwise. The included Sony software is praised by some users. Some also enjoy the robustPlayMemories Mobile App which allows Android or iOS devices to record, photograph, or zoom remotely. One can also share movies or photos directly to the device. UStream, direct live streaming is also supported (Wi-Fi required). This camera may be the most expensive on the list, but it’s also the most capable.
Price: $528 (12 percent off MSRP)
- Stabilization works great
- External mic input means you can upgrade the sound quality if you wish
- Time lapse feature is unique because it takes nine megapixel stills, not video
- Low light shooting is of an acceptable quality
- Shoe on top of camera is multifunctional allowing for mic, light, or other accessories
- Some users claim low light shooting is still too noisy
- Menu system is clunky and confusing for some
- One users reports audio being below usual Sony standards
8. Besteker Wifi Camcorder
A common mistake amateur filmmakers make is focusing on the video quality while ignoring the sound. The truth is that a video with bad picture quality is ugly, but a video with bad sound is unwatchable. The Besteker WiFi camcorder aims to fight this with its included large external microphone. Many reviewers praise its long range recording ability and high quality sound. For the audio-minded folks, this camera offers excellent pick-up, even from ten feet away.
On the other hand, this camera’s video has some limitations. One user said that it can’t focus unless camera is three feet away from its subject, so close-ups are out. Others were unimpressed by the footage in general. Per the norm in this price range, low light footage is very noisy. In terms of the WiFi feature, according to some reviewers, it seems easier to just move memory cards back and forth rather than use the app. Still, for people who want good audio and know how important it is, this may be the camera for you. If you don’t want to go all in on this camera, you could always buy an external mic (Amazon search for external microphones for cameras) and plug it into a camera (like the R700 on this list).
- Audio quality is praised as excellent
- Wi-Fi connectivity allows on to trigger camera remotely and move files to smartphones
- 12 month warranty means you can always return it
- Comes with two batteries that deliver solid battery life (two hours each)
- Some users were not impressed by video quality
- Camera cannot focus close-up
- 64GB SD cards are not supported
- Handheld footage is shaky
- Menus can be hard to navigate
9. Hausbell 302S FHD Camcorder
If your budget is tight and you need a camera with no frills, the Hausbell 302S might be a good fit. This simple video camera has nothing but 16x digital zoom (meaning it just shows you less and less resolution the more you zoom in), but it does record full 1080P (though only at 30FPS). Still, it does have one unique trait, its infrared mode will let you see in the dark (but nowhere near as good as the Ghost Camera).
Some other nice functions: it comes with a remote control and outputs HDMI so you can see yourself on the big screen. While this certainly isn’t a video camera for filmmakers, it gets the job done and at a price like this, you can’t ask for much more than that.
- Includes 32GB SD card
- HDMI output means you can watch your recordings on the big screen
- Included remote control is nice for vloggers and those who want to be in the group photo
- Night vision mode lets you see in the dark (somewhat)
- Some users complain of build quality
- Video and audio quality is nothing special
- Some users complain that battery life is poor
10. Besteker Portable Camcorder
Truly exemplifying the “cheap” part of this list, the Besteker Portable Camcorder is definitely cheap and for a specific user, it can do the job just fine. It records video of dubious quality and sound of a similar nature, but there is a great reason to buy this camera: you need to buy someone a camera, any camera at all. Many purchasers report happy four-year-olds, 12-year-olds, and older parents that are none-too-happy to have a barebones, simple camera. That said, if quality is your aim or even if you have a decent smart phone, this camera will not add high quality recording to your life. Still, for someone looking to own a video-recording device who doesn’t need anything complicated or with high fidelity, the Besteker Portable Camcorder will do.
- $58 is very cheap
- Articulating screen rotates 270 degrees meaning you can look down while skateboarding, for instance
- Video quality worse than modern phones
- Some users report errors with video once brought into computer
- Pixelated and poor quality even in decent light