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Camcorders make great gifts—and they also come in handy around the holidays for capturing the kids tearing into the presents, the local Christmas play, holiday parties and more. If you're looking for a camcorder for someone on your list (or because you have been really good this year, after all), here are our top recommended models in a simple holiday camcorder buying guide.
Any time you are buying a new camera or camcorder, you want to keep in mind what you will shoot most. The best camcorder for sports isn't the same as the best camcorder for bloggers. That's especially important when shopping for a camcorder as a gift—but don't worry, we have recommendations for general use, action and even music lovers. And if it's not here, go ahead and ask—we love to hear from our readers!
Best Overall Camcorder: Panasonic W850
If you are looking for a camcorder that will excel at a wide variety of things like recording kids, family vacations, sports and parties, the Panasonic W850 is a good bet. The W850 has a large sensor and a bright lens, leading to sharp, colorful performance even with limited lighting. Recording full HD with bit rates up to 50 Mbps, the video quality is quite excellent for the category. The W850 also has a built-in secondary camera, so you can record picture-in-picture without any editing.
Intelligent auto and a wide variety of scene modes makes the W850 easy to use, but for advanced users, there's options like manual modes and backlight compensation to get the footage just right. For dark shots, there's also a built-in light. The camcorder is also fast, processing videos quickly so you're ready for the next shot.
Budget Option: Sony CX240
If you are on a tighter budget, the Sony CX240 doesn't offer much in the way of features, but still keeps a decent sensor, lens and zoom, so video quality won't be too paltry. The camcorder usually runs around $200, though we've seen some Black Friday deals for $99.
Best Action Camcorder: GoPro Hero 4
GoPro is one of the top manufacturers of action cams, and the Hero4 editions have quite a bit going for them. The Silver is the first to include a screen, while the black includes 4K video that can record at a 30 fps frame rate. Since GoPros are so popular, there are a wide variety of accessories and mounts to adapt the camcorder to your particular style of action.
The older Hero3s are also among quite a few holiday sales and are actually a bit smaller than the newest models. The 3 doesn't have the touchscreen that the Silver 4 offers, and its also missing 4k video. But if you don't have a 4k monitor or want the faster frame rate anyways, they are still solid options.
Budget Option: Sony AS20
Quite a few manufacturers have the Sony AS20 at half off in their holiday sales—and it's a steal at that price. Like the GoPro, it can capture a 170 degree perspective and includes a waterproof case. Action is recorded in 1080p at 60 fps, so motion is smooth. The sensor is a solid 1/2.3” and the lens a bright f2.8. There's still quite a variety of accessories offering different mounting options as well.
For The Best Sound: Sony MV1
The Sony MV1 was designed specifically with the musician in mind, and as such has top audio specs for a camera at this price point. The 120 degree microphone captures a wide frequency and offers excellent sound reproduction. The video isn't bad either, though at 30 fps there are smoother option out there, but none that match the sound quality. The design is a bit odd with the screen at the side, but it's an excellent camcorder for taking to concerts or recording budding musicians.
Camcorders and cameras are gifts that keep on giving, in the form of a memory that can now be relived just a little bit. Happy shopping!