When we say best budget camcorder, you might think of something low-quality or feature-lacking. However, that’s not always the case. In reality, it’s possible to get your hands on a good camcorder for less than you would expect. Many new, low-cost camcorders have features once reserved for high-end models.
Of course, “budget-friendly” will have a different meaning depending on who you ask. A content creator will have a different idea of what makes a camcorder budget-friendly than an indie filmmaker or a news station.
In this guide, we’ve come up with various budget camcorders to meet many different videographers’ definitions of budget-friendly. Every camcorder included in this list can shoot 4K and costs less than $1600. The majority of them cost under $1000. In addition, we’ll give you a few cost costing tips so that you can keep your budget in check.
Budget 4K camcorders
When faced between a budget camera or camcorder, there are situations where a camcorder will be the better. While many camcorders don’t have interchangeable lenses, they typically offer nice zooming capabilities. They also work well in run-and-gun shooting conditions or overseas travel shoots.
We picked two great camcorders that deliver excellent image quality at a reasonable price.
Panasonic HC-VX981K 4K Ultra HD
Panasonic offers one of the lowest-priced 4K camcorders on the market. The Panasonic HC-VX981K features a 20x Leica Dicomar Optical Zoom lens in front of a 1/2.3-inch BSI MOS sensor. It also takes advantage of a 60x digital zoom in 4K and a 1500x digital zoom in HD. Additional features include digital and optical stabilization and the ability for some cropping and editing right on its touchscreen. This unit does not have an audio input but does feature a unique, wireless multi-cam feature.
Sony FDR-AX43 UHD 4K
The Sony FDR-AX43 is one of Sony’s best low-price 4K camcorders. The camcorder has a 26.8 mm Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T Zoom Len and a 1/2.5-inch Exmor R low-light CMOS sensor. It also features optical stabilization and Sony’s Fast Intelligent AF with tracking functionality.
Unfortunately, the Sony FDR-AX43 doesn’t feature an audio input, but it does have a 5.1 Channel Surround Sound microphone. Though, it can’t record Surround Sound while the camcorder is in 4K mode.
Low-budget, professional camcorders
A step above the budget consumer-level camcorders and cameras, we have the pro-level camcorders. These camcorders generally give you more image control and better choices for inputs and outputs. Of course, those features come at a price. The units we’ve selected don’t have interchangeable lenses. Typically, camcorders with interchangeable lenses support sell at a higher price. Additionally, while a camcorder body might be low-cost, you also have to factor in the cost of the lenses you want to use. Lenses can get expensive — in some cases, double or triple the price of the camcorder’s body.
However, our picks here are stuck with one built-in lens.
JVC GY-HM170UA 4KCAM
Immediately you’ll notice that this JVC camcorder is not your dad’s camcorder. The JVC GY-HM170UA has a top handle with dual XLR plus and lots of audio control. The camcorder has a 1/2.33-inch CMOS sensor and a built-in neutral density filter. It also has a full-size HDMI output to connect it with a switcher, monitor or recording device. It also features an external single button white balance switch and classic zoom rocker.
Canon XC10 4K Camcorder
The Canon XC10 looks like a mirrorless or DSLR body, but there is no interchangeable lens. This camcorder features the largest sensor of this group, sporting a 1-inch CMOS sensor. It does have a flip-out, 3-inch touchscreen and comes with a unique viewfinder loupe. Additionally, it has a 3.5 mm audio input jack. Plus, it features both an SD card slot and a CF card slot, which is quite unique.
Rent or buy refurbished?
When you start building your budget for your project, several considerations can help you lower the overall cost of your equipment.
You might consider renting a camcorder instead of buying a new one. Renting can slash production costs if you have a clear blocked-out schedule.
Renting cameras and camcorders is certainly a budget-friendly option, especially if you only need the camcorder for this specific project. There’s no need to purchase a new camcorder if you’re only planning to use it for a few weeks. However, before renting a camcorder, there are a few things you have to consider. First, you have to locate a rental facility. You can check to see if there are any local rental facilities near you with the camcorder you need. If not, there are plenty of online rental stores you can use. One popular choice for many video producers is Lens Rentals. It’s a highly reputable company that rents professional camcorder gear from all major brands.
While renting can be a great option for budget filmmakers, be sure to double-check renting costs. You might discover that renting your particular camcorder isn’t as budget-friendly as you think. The rent cost can add up if you need the camcorder for an extended period. Additionally, you have to manage your time wisely with the camcorder. Since you don’t own the camcorder, you can’t go back and reshoot unless you’re ready to pay again.
Another option you can consider is buying a refurbished camcorder. While not as cost-effective as renting for a few days, you still can own the camcorder for much less than the sticker price. Refurbished camcorders are camcorders that people have returned to the store. The store then resells the camcorder at a significant discount. Typically, the store will look over the camcorder to ensure it’s still functioning properly. If any repairs are needed, the store will do them. Still, you want to make sure you know the warranty options and the store’s return policy. It possible there’s an issue with the camcorder that’s wasn’t detected in the store’s inspection.
The bottom line
There are many ways you can save money when purchasing a camcorder. Though the options we listed above are low-cost, they all offer great value without sacrificing quality. Ultimately, you need to use a camcorder that delivers the quality you need at the right price for your budget. Fortunately, there are a lot of great options out there. Shopping around is key to saving on camcorder costs. However, when shopping for a budget camcorder, or any type of camera, be sure to do your research and ensure what you’re getting is what you’re getting. Oftentimes, many online bad-faith actors will try to sell you a broken piece of equipment. Remember: If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. When shopping, shop around but also do your research. With that strategy, you will find the right camcorder for your budget.
Featured image courtesy: Sony