Lots of digital devices can capture video, including basic cameras, smart phones, and tablets. But when it comes to shooting important events, it's crucial your videos are clear, sharp and in focus. For those, here's why you'll do better with a full-size camcorder:
Image quality. Despite improvements on the sensors of other devices such as basic cameras and smart phones, full-size camcorders are almost unmatched in image quality, particularly in low light. Take the Canon Vixia HF M50 ($500): It captures excellent quality video in both normal and low light. It also takes very good quality still photos.
Long, smooth optical zoom. Although optical zoom in full-size camcorders ranges in strength from 10x to 50x or more, nearly all lenses on these camcorders zooms in gradually and evenly. With a camcorder and an SLR or SLR-like camera, zooming in and out is not as smooth. And of course, optical zoom blows the digital zoom you'll find on smart phones and tablets out of the water.
For more on full-size camcorders, check out our camcorder buying guide and Ratings.
Prices are dropping. Because so many other devices are offering HD-quality video, camcorder companies have been forced to lower prices. That's why you can get a camcorder like the Sony HDR-CX290, a Consumer Reports recommended model, for as low as $300.
They're better at composition. Unlike action cams, which have no LCD screens, full-size camcorders include swiveling LCD screens that swing out from the body and can tilt. This can be helpful in getting hard-to-reach shots and at minimizing glare on sunny days. Some are touch screens too. And pricey models like the Sony HDR-PJ790V ($1600) also include viewfinders.
They're packed with options. In addition to the above features, some full-size camcorders have unique capabilities that can be really useful or just plain fun. For instance, the Sony HDR-PJ790V includes a tiny pico projector, so that you can quickly show video on just about any surface. Others, like the pricey Sony HDR-TD30V ($1000), come with two lenses and two sensors, to capture top-quality 3D video. And more models are now including wireless features for quickly transferring video and still photos to a computer, smart phone, or tablet.