Top 5 Camcorders to Buy Under $500

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Vlogging has indeed become one of the most fashionable trends of our time and has been gaining popularity at a faster pace. And there is no denying the fact that a quality camcorder is an indispensable element of vlogging. But buying one such device requires quite a lot of research before reaching the final decision.

Today you will get a great variety of options lying before you while attempting to buy a good camcorder. This is really overwhelming and baffling at the same time. And these wide varieties make it even more difficult for you to arrive at the right buying decision.

One very relevant point that must be mentioned in this connection is the significance of 4k videos. This is significant because 4k video has become one of the crucial factors in evaluating the worth of a camcorder. 4k is presently the most dominant standard so far as the resolution of a video is concerned.

Although popular video playing websites such as YouTube supports 1080p videos at most, there are some obvious advantages of shooting a video in 4k resolution. Such videos will surely have an extra edge when 4k becomes the standard norm in future. They also have better scope for image stabilization in post production.

1. 1. Panasonic HC-V770 :

HC-V770 is one of the flagship models of Panasonic. It is full of several high-end features. Panasonic employs additional sensor resolutions with a view to achieve hybrid image stabilization. This implies it can easily compensate for vertical, horizontal as well as rotational movements.

Panasonic HC-V770 offers full HD video of 1080p running at 50 fps. There is also provision for recording full HD in slow motion at 100fps. The Crystal engine then interpolates it to 200fps before it is played back at 50fps. Turning on the slow motion disables the inbuilt microphone for very obvious reason.

Panasonic HC-V770 has the provision for Wi-Fi connectivity which allows it to be controlled from a remote location. This means you can easily use it as a surveillance camera to monitor your household or small children even from outside. It can also be utilized to stream live videos online through USTREAM.

It is frequently used by those who are associated with the vlogging platform and the youngsters who are addicted to live-streaming themselves.

There is also a Wireless Twin Camera feature under Wi-Fi menu. After installing an app and connecting your smartphone to the camcorder through that app you can stream your phone’s video to the camcorder as a “picture-in-picture”.  In place of your smartphone you can also use another Panasonic camcorder that supports Wi-Fi connectivity.

Panasonic HC-V770 is quite pleasant in appearance and nice to hold and shoot. Most of the functions can be accessed and controlled through the LCD panel. However a separate dial is provided to quickly access different manual settings. General adjustment consists of color, white balance and sharpness along with an exposure control. Even in auto mode some adjustments are still available only through the touch screen.

Although Panasonic HC-V770 has no accessory shoe onto the chassis, still there is a provisionary slot meant for an adapter which is already included in the list of accessories. The camcorder equips an efficient microphone array which can record 5.1 surround sounds. However if you wish to do it through an external microphone, a mini stereo port is provided beneath the LCD panel.

Panasonic HC-V770 is quite impressive in terms of image quality. It offers pictures that are rich and realistic with lots of fine details. The picture quality remains unimpaired in moderately illuminated places as well.

For example there is no issue while shooting an indoor social event where there is no additional light for shooting itself. The camcorder however equips a small LED light that can assists shooting in a poorly lit area. The range of the light is not evidently much long.

Pros

  • Panasonic HC-V770 is marked by its excellent image quality.
  • It is also fully packed with features some of which are really appreciable.

Cons

  • There is no downside of this model so as to say.
  • The only thing that comes to mind is that it lacks lens rings.

2. Olympus TG Tracker:

TG Tracker happens to be the first comer as a 4k action camcorder from the house of Olympus and its unique rugged appearance stands it out from the conventional box type devices created by most of its rivals. It employs a 1/ 2.3 inch CMOS sensor along with a 204 degree wide angle lens. The lens is further secured by a domed filter that can be replaced when damaged.

With 35*56*93 mm of dimensions and only 180 grams in weight TG Tracker is relatively smaller compared to its close competitors. There is also a small flip out screen of 3.8 inch for user convenience. However the screen only flips but does not rotate.

The image stabilization feature is quite efficient although cannot eliminate the vibrating effect altogether. A tiny LED lamp is also provided to be used in poorly lit places. This is something unique as an adventure camera feature.

Another striking feature of TG Tracker is that it does not come with a separate waterproof case as the device itself is water resistant upto 30 m underwater. For this reason all the ports and buttons are adequately sealed through a lock door. Moreover the device is designed to withstand severe abuse. It is capable of functioning at a temperature as low as -10 degree. Again it can survive a fall from over 2 meters.

In addition to that TG Tracker is endowed with 100 kgs of weigh tolerance. This means it remains unimpaired even if you accidentally sit on it. The device also features accelerometer, GPS, barometer, compass and thermometer which make it a competent rival to Garmin Vibro Ultra 30, the one we just talked about above.

Needless to say it also captures Ultra HD 4k video at 30fps. But what needs be said is that besides 4k videos there are options for capturing videos in other resolutions too such as 720p and 1080p at 30 fps and 60fps. The screen is bright and sharp and quite easy to reckon in almost all conditions.

By connecting the device with a smartphone you can also view and share the captured footage. However there is no option for adding overlays as to be found in Garmin app. So the app must be improved to fight neck to neck with Garmin.

The device comes with a number of accessories including a firm grip which bolts into the bottom of the device offering it a perfect cine camera feel and look.

Pros

  • Olympus TG Tracker boasts of brilliant picture quality.
  • It is also equipped with a number of highly useful sensors.
  • It scores high in terms of uniqueness.
  • The device is extremely sturdy and highly water resistant.

Cons

  • Olympus TG Tracker has got some demerits too. 
  • Its display screen cannot rotate.
  • Its software and apps are less competent when compared with that of its rivals.
  • The battery rapidly discharges when sensors are engaged.

3. GoPro Hero 4 Black

GoPro is fast becoming a popular name in the professional video shooting arena. Although it is not as recognized as leading brands like Panasonic or Sony, still it is slowly grabbing the market in a noticeable way. As GoPro Hero 4 Black is an action camcorder you cannot expect as much features as you do from other cameras; however it has its own benefits.

Being an action camera its main priority is to become smaller so as to record fast moving actions from the perspective of the individual who is experiencing it. In its attempt to get smaller it also omits the LCD screen; it only has a small display to facilitate different adjustments with the settings and check battery life.

Adjusting the settings is also a bit difficult especially for the new users as the interface is equipped with only a pair of buttons and nothing. However a smartphone can be connected to it to compensate the lack. But things get normal and easier with time.

Moreover you can adjust the settings from the smartphone app as well which is available for Android as well as iOS. However doing so costs a whole lot of battery consumption.

The device is extremely durable and capable of withstanding adverse weather conditions. Covered up with the waterproof case, it can go deep into 130 feet underwater. Its battery lasts approximately an hour or so when it captures 4k video without any break. So you must carry an additional battery along, if you are an extensive shooter.

Finally it captures 4k Ultra High Definition video (3840*2160) at 30p and can shoot Full High Definition video at 120p for the purpose of slow motion. The picture quality of Hero 4 Black is quite acceptable so as to say; however the image seems a bit soft.  This is due to 60 Mbits per second 4k data rate, a rate lower than those of premium 4k camcorders.

Its only downside is that it tends to get overheated for no obvious reason whatsoever. But if we look at the price tag we can easily overlook this small drawback. One noticeable difference in Hero 4 Black from others is its manual controls specifically in ProTune settings. This ProTune includes different levels of exposure and sharpness to suit various user preferences.

The ISO successfully diminishes the grains in low light conditions however at the cost of brightness. There is also an auto low light feature that adjusts frame rate and shutter to retain brightness. Accessing all of these settings through a small LCD screen is a bit difficult no doubt.

Pros

  • The voice command feature is really something unique in Hero 4 Black.
  • It is quite attractive in look as well.
  • Its water resistance is also very powerful and effective.

Cons

  • The body does not seem to be very strong and sturdy. 
  • The touch screen is not very smooth and swift in operation. 
  • The performance of the battery is not that satisfactory either.

4. Garmin Virb Ultra 30

Ultra 30 is one of the latest additions in the Virb series of Garmin. It is a high end 4k action camcorder with quite a lot of features. In appearance it is quite similar to GoPro Hero 4 Black, it resembles some of the features of that GoPro model as well. Ultra 30 features a small touch-screen on the backside of it and is something Hero 4 Black essentially lacks but possessed by Hero 4 Silver. You have to swipe through the screen in order to unlock it. 

You can fix a timeout for the display so that it does not result in additional battery consumption. The default timeout has been set to 5 seconds.

The most striking feature the touch screen is that it can be used even when it is covered up by the case. However it does not work as effectively as it does without the cover, still it is pretty well. And the case is water resistant upto 133 feet. Garmin has added a microphone port as well and surprisingly the sound seems extremely clear no matter whether the case is on or not.

Just try it yourself and you will surely be convinced with the fidelity of the claim made. This is really a worthy addition to the features of an action cam.

Remember that all the tasks that are performed through the touch screen can also be executed by making use of the manual button. So if you are in a position that does not allow touch screen function, for example underwater, you can just utilize the button instead.

Another significant addition of Garmin to its Virb Ultra 30 is the voice commands. It can recognize different voice tags such as “start recording”, “take photo” “stop recording” “remember that” and more. These voice commands have been tested in different situations and they really work well. It ensures that the users do not have to take their hands off their handlebars in the middle of an ongoing action.

This is something very unique and useful in shooting sports events and the users are sure to love it. The feature can be turned on or off depending on the requirement of the user.

The camera also equips a number of sensors such as a GPS radio, an accelerometer, a barometer, a compass and a gyroscope. These are no doubt very useful utilities so as to say. Moreover all the data collected by these sensors can be displayed on the captured video through text overlay using the relevant app.

This means you can show your speed, altitude, jump-height, g-force, lap times and all that in the video. This is really impressive, isn’t it? Last but not least Virb Ultra 30 supports live YouTube streaming. Currently the function is available only to iOS users. Android is sure to be added sooner or later.

Pros

  • Ultra 30 equips a nice full color touch screen that looks extremely vibrant and is quite pleasant to operate.

Cons

    • The battery of Ultra 30 does not yield a satisfactory performance.
    • The image stabilization is not quite up to the mark.

5. Canon Vixia HF R700

Canon has left no stone unturned to make Vixia HF R700 a very worthy camcorder in terms of features. It has got advanced zoom combined with full HD display to provide the user with a great shooting experience. It can produce cinematic video by adding film like effects to your personal moments.

The camcorder features 57x advanced zoom that helps to capture distant objects with great details. Moreover the Framing Assist feature keeps the object in proper frame. The color details are also very impressive. The optical image stabilizer takes active part in achieving steady shots by reducing the effect of camera shake. This is very useful when taking a distant shot on zoom.

The Smart Auto feature in Vixia HF R700 is another useful feature especially for beginners. This auto mode assists an amateur to take perfectly clear and distort free videos in every possible situation. It has been designed to identify a number of different scenarios and choose the right settings accordingly.

For example when you are trying to zoom further on a tiny object the Tele Macro mode gets activated and helps in reaching your desired goal. Generally the inbuilt microphone in the camcorder does its job quite effectively. But in case you are fastidious about audio, Vixia HF R700 has the answer for you. It features an additional port for audio input in which you can put a high end microphone for advanced audio input.

So far as video quality is concerned Vixia HF R700 has made no compromise on that. It employs a 3.28 MP full HD CMOS sensor that successfully captures videos in 1920*1080 resolutions offering life-like video quality. And so far as shooting in low lights is concerned the camcorder provides average quality video output.

In other words you will require additional lights to make up for the loss. The intelligent IS adjusts various settings of the device on the basis of the different shooting conditions. There are four such IS presets programmed in the camcorder. Vixia HF R700 has as many as seven filter effects that can offer a touch of creativity to your captured videos.

Again face detection feature ensures clear and sharp facial shots.  Vixia HF R700 packs a mighty BP-727 battery which offers uninterrupted shooting for extended hours. It also shows accurate remaining time so that you can arrange your shooting plans accordingly.

Pros

  • Video quality of the camcorder is definitely excellent.
  • It equips a highly efficient image processor.
  • It is also packed with many useful features. The camcorder has a low weight of 0.51 pounds that makes it very convenient to carry.
  • The baby mode is quite a nice and unique feature of this camcorder.

Cons

  • Night shots captured by Vixia HF R700 are poor in quality.
  • It also lacks Wi-Fi which is found in many similar devices.

It is clear from the above discussion that it is literally impossible to single out one particular model and label it to be the best one. This is because different models have different priorities of their own when they design a camcorder.

Actually every model has been endowed with some exclusiveness that set them apart from others. Again there are various user priorities such as features, price, actual purpose, additional accessories etc. So we can never pin point a single model if we consider all the relevant parameters of evaluating camcorder in a judicious manner.

That is why we provided a list of top 5 competitive Camcorders available under $500 from which it would be easier for an intended buyer to sort out the most suitable one for him based on his own priorities. Although the list can be prolonged further still our endeavor was to offer the most precise list so that it does not become a tiring job for an intended buyer to sort out the best model for him.