A personal camcorder is one of the most indispensable accessories in most modern households. Sure, we all have smartphones these days, but a camcorder is a specialized device that offers much better video quality than an equally priced smartphone. Besides, another product that is gaining popularity as a compact video recording device is the action camera. Action cameras are designed for athletes, adventurists and extreme sports enthusiasts, they offer hands-free recording and are extremely compact and lightweight.
Other prominent features of an action camera include rugged exteriors, along with dust and waterproof bodies, in order to ensure reliable and error free operation in harsh conditions such as snow, desert, or even underwater environments. When it comes to buying a new HD camcorder/action camera for yourself, you need to realize that there are simply too many options on the market right now and making the right choice often requires some knowledge of video recording technologies and features.
A good starting point for you would be the budget, if you can eliminate the factor of pricing from the equation it becomes a lot easier since you can choose from within a limited range of products. In this article, we are going to show you the best camcorders and action cameras that you can get for under $200. In most cases, it is not easy to find a good HD camcorder for under $200, not because you will be getting old technology, but because of the enormous range of brands and models at this price range. Also, do not expect any crisp and crystal clear visuals. However, the recording will be good enough for the occasional birthday party, or Christmas celebration in the house.
Things you should look out for at this price range?
There are many aspects of a cheap personal camcorder that you must prioritize over other features, because at this price range, the image quality will more or less be the same, across all models and reputed brands. Features you need to prioritize include- optical zoom, sensor quality, battery, and image stabilization technology. Also, never go for a camera that completely lacks a viewfinder. There are some cheap camcorders out there which just have an LCD for recording.
Always select the camcorder which has a viewfinder alongside an LCD display, because a viewfinder allows you to focus better on the target in bright sunlight, it also manages to catch the whole image which is coming in through the lens. If you are taking a wide shot, the LCD may not be able to show you the whole picture. Also, when you have to choose between optical zoom and digital zoom, always chose the former. Digital zoom is basically artificial image manipulation in which the camera stretches each individual pixel to create a zoomed in perspective.
The base image remains the same, and after you go beyond a certain limit, the video appears fuzzy and loses a lot of its original detail. Optical zoom is natural, it moves the camera lens to obtain a realistic zoom and no loss occurs to image quality. Always go for “X” optical zoom over “2X” or even “3X” digital zoom. Another thing to note, all budget camcorders are going to perform very poorly in dim light and nighttime conditions unless you use an external source of light for outdoor recording, in which case the quality might improve slightly.
Also, most of these camcorders do not include a mount for external lights, neither do they include a port for attaching an external microphone, and you will notice that the sound quality obtained from the inbuilt microphones is not that great. However, it is just fine for indoor usage. Longer battery life is a great thing, for obvious reasons. Also, prefer a camcorder that allows you to manually control the lens settings such as exposure, shutter speed, white balance, etc. Go for optical image stabilization over digital, although modern digital image stabilization technologies have become exponentially better than their older counterparts.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the best camcorders and action cameras out there, that you can get for under $200.
Sony HDR-AS15 Action Video Camera
Pro: Extremely cheap, rugged, Wi- Fi enabled.
Con: Heavy lens flare, substandard video quality.
The AS15 from Sony is an older model, capable of recording in full 1080p at 30fps, and all its body is rated to be waterproof up to 197 feet. This action camera packs an “Exmor R” CMOS sensor which is optimized to deliver better dim light and nighttime performance than its competitors, due to Sony’s unique back-illuminated sensor technology. As a result, you will find reduced grain, and better lighting in those outdoor videos that you record after dusk or the ones you record inside a dimly lit room. It is extremely compact and is compatible with a variety of tripod and strap mounts, meaning you can strap it onto your head just as easily as you can mount it on a tripod or mounting bracket. You can easily share your videos with all your friends and fans, thanks to the wi-fi sharing feature found on the Sony AS15, unique at this price range. Hook it up with your smartphone or laptop, edit the video and instantly upload it on the internet for everyone to see.
Extremely compact, rugged, wi-fi enabled, with a sensor suited to low light conditions, this action camera is a great buy for anyone looking to make great POV videos on a budget. However, keep in mind the fact that the quality of the recorded video will not be as good as some of the cameras you with similar or slightly higher prices. Also, many users complained about the excessive lens flares and inability to record audio while shooting in slow motion mode( Yes, it also comes with a function that allows you to shoot in 2X, or 4X slow motion). But, it was equally praised for its excellent image stabilization technology and low light performance, so you weigh the various factors and decide whether this tiny camera is the choice for you, or not. We would say, at this price, it is definitely a steal for a camcorder under $200.
The XS100i is designed to give water sports enthusiasts and bikers a device that can capture every single moment of their adventures in real time, and effortlessly play back those memories in full 1080p glory. It is easy to use, comes with straps and handlebar mounts, and despite its plastic build is very rugged and can withstand shocks. The shape is very aerodynamic to minimize the noise generated by air streams when you are riding a bike or diving off a cliff. The device can connect with both android phones and iPhones with its wifi interface. You can download two apps to interface with the camera and remotely control its settings such as exposure, focus, slow motion, etc. It can also take photos in full HD, and has a “burst shot” mode which allows it to take up to 10 photos in quick succession.
The wide angle lens allows for 170 degrees of coverage, letting you capture every single bit of your surroundings whether you are mountain biking, snowboarding, or rafting. The device has a really good CMOS -sensor, capable of more than satisfying night-time shoots, and for this price you really can’t ask for more. The only user complaints with the device was the fact that the apps that allow you to connect and remotely operate the device are not very optimized and you will need some time to familiarize yourself with the user interface. All in all, a great deal for adventurists and people who want seamless connectivity between their video camera and smartphone/laptop.
Contour+2 Video Camera
This action camera from Contour manages to combine great recording quality with a slew of cool features such as GPS synchronization, which shows speed, elevation and distance on the video overlay. It can be fit on any sort of mount or surface and is waterproof till 196 feet. Low light recording is not that great compared to some of its competitors in the same price range, but acceptable nevertheless. It has some flaws however, such as the bad internal microphone which means you might have to invest in an external microphone to enjoy better audio in your recordings.
Again, the external microphone input port that has been provided on the camera is a 2.5mm port, so you will need to buy an adapter in order to attach a 3.5mm pin to it. Also, there are some customers complaining that if you are recording a lengthy video session and you run out of space on your SD card, then you will end up losing the whole video as the camera does not pause the recording and save the data when it runs out of storage space. This could be an issue for people who use SD cards of smaller capacity, and maybe the company will fix this potentially disastrous bug in the future.
Sony HDRCX405 Camcorder
An amazing budget HD camcorder, simply put. Not a lot of cons to point out, except for the fact that the camera could use an external microphone port and a more practical lens cover. Other than that, it is absolutely amazing for a sub 200 dollar video camera recorder. The amount of grain in dim light conditions is still a little bit high, but the Exmor R sensor does a great job at minimizing any further loss of detail in low light. Its inbuilt microphone is the best among all the video cameras on this list and the construction seems pretty solid. The 30X optical zoom allows you to really close in on those intricate details when you are recording videos.
Birthday parties, daytime outdoor recording, family picnics and tours are going to look great thanks to that optical zoom, and the battery life ensures you get more than 2.5 hours of footage before taking a break to recharge. Talking of recharging, Sony has added a neat little feature that you will love, they added an extendable USB 2.0 cord that fits in nicely while you are recording, and when you’re done, you can attach it to your laptop and transfer data both ways, or charge the camera. Two minutes of charging allows for one minute of recording. The camera comes with a fully rotating 2.7″ LCD display and allows you to manually adjust details such as white balance, exposure, shutter speed, etc. It is an amazing camera for beginners and for those on a budget.
Besteker Portable Night Vision Camcorder
This is the best camera on the sub $200 list for recording your night time parties, or any recording in low light conditions. It comes with Infrared night vision and its sensor is designed to reduce the distortion and grainy effect that you find in most low budget cameras. The audio quality from the inbuilt microphone is great and it is also equipped with a touch screen LCD panel that allows you to tinker with the various settings. The image stabilization works fine, but there is an issue with the digital zoom, as it feels jittery while zooming in and can often ruin a still shot, also the optical zoom on this camera is pretty weak. But those are all the issues with the camera, it has a great battery life, recording is all good and its build quality is one of the best as far as budget camcorders go.
JVC Everio GZ-HM35BUSD
This is definitely a great beginners camcorder, ideal for people who want to record indoors, or post short, homemade videos online. The sensor happens to be a back-illuminated CMOS sensor, which means you will have a good time recording videos under low light conditions. The inbuilt microphone is good and records clean audio, without distortions or white noise, and the optical zoom is a whopping 40X, allowing you to capture incredible detail from really far away.
Also, it is extremely compact and lightweight, you can just pull it out of your pocket, record some stuff and put it back in. It included an HDMI port for playing back recordings on your HD television, as well as a USB port to connect your PC. Not a lot of cons to talk about, except for the cameras inability to take good photos, which seems like a firmware issue. Overall, an amazing deal and best bang for the buck you can find in sub $200 camcorders.