I want to buy a new camcorder, and would love some help narrowing it down from the huge number of choices (which all look very similar on paper) out there, from people who know far more about what’s available out there than I do, especially as far as actual camcorder video quality is concerned.
Budget: $700 softcap, 500-700 ideal range. Under is always good. A bit over is fine with good reason.
Size: Must be handheld. Doesn’t have to be tiny, but has to be portable enough to take on a few weeks for vacation, so something you have to set on your shoulder is a no. Really, this shouldn’t narrow it down much, other than eliminating professional video equipment out of my price range anyway.
Storage: Internal storage is nice, but not necessary. Easily transferrable, swappable, large, external storage is a requirement. 64 GB+ SDXC card capability greatly preferred, other external storage options tend not to be as universally readable. Single-write options such as DVD-R/BD-R not wanted. AVC recording greatly preferred to mp4. Ability to do both is fine.
Resolution: Must have an option to record in full HD (1080p), with tolerable audio (good enough to hear and understand voices outdoors on a windy day).
Zoom: Minimum 10x optical required. 15x optical/’enhanced’ digital+ preferred (Digital zoom that simply magnifies pixels can be ignored. I’ll never use it.) High zoom ability always a plus.
Other: Some sort of functional low-light or nightvision mode required, such as being able to record wildlife/people at twilight and not simply get a black screen. Color shift (/’green’ screens) in low-light mode is acceptable.
The most important consideration is video quality. Only camcorders with exceptional video capture quality should be considered. (This includes good video stabilization – I don’t use a tripod often, and so will likely shake a decent amount while recording) I’d take a camcorder with barebones features but exceptional video quality and stabilization in a heartbeat over one packed with random features and settings but only mid-range video quality/image stabilization. Likewise, if I can spend a bit over my soft limit to upgrade to a whole new tier of sensor/video capture quality, it would be worth it (but full frame devices, for example, seem to be in the 1k range, which is way too high).
Battery life and charging ability is also quite important. I want to be able to travel internationally with it, which means that I need to be able to use it for most of the day on 2-4 batteries. (I usually carry 3 camera batteries, so wouldn’t find an equivalent number of camcorder batteries unreasonable). More importantly, I need a way to simultaneously charge these batteries with limited outlets (hotel rooms often only have 2-3 outlets, or I only have 2-3 international adapters, and I have to charge a laptop, camera, and camcorder…), so I can recharge them overnight for the next day at the end of each day. For the three camera batteries, I usually charge one via USB connected to some other electronic device, and the other 2 on a charger that plugs into a single outlet. Being able to charge the camcorder batteries via external chargers that hold multiple batteries (additional purchase is fine), external usb chargers, fast (e.g. 1 hour) chargers, would all be fine. A camcorder that only charges a single battery at a time, over 6 hours, inside the camcorder itself, would be an example of something to avoid (I had a camera that did this! Awful!). The available chargers must be able to handle both 120 and 240 V (almost all these days do).
On a similar note, I’d like some sort of ‘standby’ mode so I can quickly go from not recording to recording without a long startup time or constant heavy battery use.
Some form toggleable (i.e. you can turn it off if you want) gps-tagging would be nice, but not necessary. I don’t care either way about options like wifi, streaming, still image capture, smartphone control, etc.
All else equal, I’d like a camcorder with a viewfinder as well as an lcd, so I can just use the viewfinder to save battery life when possible. Now many camcorders seem to have this, and it’s hardly a dealbreaker, but it would be a nice perk. 3D recording would be an interesting (read: oooh! SHIIINY!) perk to play with too, but I doubt I’d use it much after the first week or two, especially since I assume I’d mostly be viewing it/sharing it on non-3D devices. A HDMI or mini-HDMI out would also be great, so I could play video directly from the camcorder to the TV, since only a few very new tvs have SD card readers, but again is not required.
So, what are some good options for me please?
Thanks for your time!
TLDR Version: Need a $700 handheld camcorder, 1080p, nightvision, SDHC, great picture quality, good battery life, 10x zoom, easy charging.
(Crossposted to a few different AV forums for a wider range of responses)