Best Digital Video Camera iMore 2020
We've always said that the best digital video camera is the one you have with you. If your outdated camcorder is too heavy to lug around all day, you're missing out on memorable footage and opportunities. The best digital video camera today is lightweight, feature-packed, and fits your budget. My favorite model is the Black Magic Design Pocket Cinema 4K, which I've owned for more than a year. It uses inexpensive MFT lenses, has a generous touchscreen, and intuitive controls. There are a few other contenders, though. Check out my top picks this year.
- Best Overall: Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema 4K
- Best Value: Kicteck 604s
- Best for Content Creators: Sony ZV-1
- Best for Underwater: DJI Osmo Action
- Best Superzoom: Canon VIXIA HF R80
Best Overall: Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema 4K
The Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema is my digital video camera of choice because it outputs stunning Hollywood-quality video but doesn't come with a price tag to match. This is a DSLR-looking camera with a Micro Four-thirds (MFT) mount. That means any MFT lens in your collection will work on this dedicated video camera. MFT lenses are small, so your kit stays manageable too. And DaVinci Resolve, Blackmagic's color correction, and video editing software are also included. Score!
You'll get 4K footage out of the Pocket Cinema, plus 13 stops of dynamic range, and dual native ISOs up to 25600. The elegantly-designed body is made of lightweight carbon fiber, and there's a bright 5-inch screen on the back. There are also four built-in pro mics and recorders. You can shoot up to 60fps at 4K, and if you drop to HD, you'll get 120fps.
If you need a production-quality camera, look no further. Blackmagic has the hardware and the software to take your creativity to a whole new level. If I must complain, battery life could be stronger. It'll last roughly two hours, so if you're regularly doing long-form work, you'll want to pick up an extended battery or at least an extra standard battery. Other than that, no complaints after a year of usage. If you want to improve as a videographer and money is no object, put this bad boy in your cart and stop looking.
- Stunning video quality
- Works with all MFT lenses
- Comes with DaVinci Resolve
- 5-inch display
- Battery life could be better
A production-quality camera
An MFT dedicated video camera that does 4K at 60fps and has 13 stops of dynamic range. It's in a league of its own.
Best Value: Kicteck 604s
If you're new to videography, we recommend the Kicteck 604s. This is a camcorder-style digital video camera that's easy on the wallet. For your money, you'll get a lightweight video camera with a flip-out 3-inch TFT LCD, two batteries, a USB charger, an AV cable, a carry bag, and the user manual.
The camera is easy enough for total newbies to operate. It has physical buttons all along the body that control zooming, navigate through the menu, handle playback, and so forth. The Kicteck connects directly to a TV for reviewing and sharing footage and is useable as a webcam when paired with your computer. The sensor is 24 megapixels, and the fixed lens zooms in and out up to 16X.
The Kicteck shoots decent footage and stills during daylight hours but struggles a little after dark. If you're a nighttime creative, you should carry a fill light of some sort to locations to avoid the possibility of grainy footage. Also, the zoom does not work in webcam mode, so if this is your sole reason for purchasing a digital video camera, you may want to look elsewhere. For the money, we find this to be a good beginner video cam at a great price that will thrill young minds.
- Flip-out TFT LCD
- Can't zoom when in webcam mode
- Grainy in low lighting
An easy to learn gem
The Kicteck is inexpensive, easy to use, and comes with a few extras. It's not great in low light, but it's a steal.
Best for Content Creators: Sony ZV-1
Sony's newest release is the ZV-1, a 20.1 MP digital camera designed with content creators and vloggers in mind. Wi-Fi is onboard the Sony to share videos and photos across your network seamlessly and instantly. This model captures images at 24 fps, does 4K, and even super slow-mo HFR movie clips at 960 fps.
There's an optical zoom on this model, and it swings out to 2.7x. It's also coupled with 44x digital zoom. With the zoom range, you can hone in on the action no matter where it may be. With Sony's impressive real-time eye autofocus, you can track people and animals as they move, always keeping them in focus. Pretty cool! Sony has also included advanced image stabilization, so shots and videos are never shaky or blurry.
This model lacks a viewfinder. For video enthusiasts, this isn't important because there's a flip-out screen. If you want to do stills with this camera, though, take note. The battery life on the ZV-1 could be better, too. Sony claims you can get up to 45-minutes of recording, but it comes a little closer to half an hour. Still, if you're a vlogger or whetting your creative muscle, this is a sweet video camera with a mic, splendid zoom, and eye AF.
- Superb video stabilization
- Flip-out screen
- Real-time eye AF
- Good zoom range
- Short battery life
- Lacks a viewfinder
Best for Content Creators
Best for vloggers
Content creators rejoice! This small video cam has a sweet zoom, flip-out screen, and your work is instantly shareable.
Best for Underwater: DJI Osmo Action
DJI Osmo Action is a pint-size digital video camera that's small enough to tuck in a pocket, and that means there's no excuse not to take it on your next adventure. With dual screens, you can see the action live on the front or back of the camera. And the whole system is waterproof down to 11-meters so you can take it swimming, surfing, or even record in the snow and rain.
Spec-wise, the DJI takes 4K HDR video at 60fps. The 1300mAh Li-Ion battery charges in three hours and gives you 135-minutes of recording time with RockSteady turned off and 63-minutes when the image stabilization is on. Plus, you'll pocket lots of extras like a mounting frame, quick release plate, curved mount, flat mount, connector screws, and a battery case. Video is sharp and stable thanks to RockSteady, DJI's built-in image stabilization.
Images and videos from the DJI are clear as can be when shooting with some daylight. The DJI struggles in low light, though. It'll take stills and video after sunset and during the golden hour, but it's mostly grainy and unusable. If you're looking for a waterproof digital video camera that will stand up to extreme sports and your active lifestyle, the DJI shines like no other.
- Durable in any weather
- Waterproof to 11-meters
- Shoots 60fps
- Includes lots of extras
- Grainy footage in low light
Best for Underwater
An action camera that will keep up with you
If you're an outdoor enthusiast, you'll love the DJI. It's waterproof, weatherproof, and small enough to go anywhere.
Best Superzoom: Canon VIXIA HF R80
With 16GBs of internal flash memory, the Canon VIXIA HF R80 is ready to go right out of the box. You can also add an SD card to this hybrid camcorder to expand your shooting sessions. We love the stabilization in this Canon. It keeps images rock steady at short or longer focal lengths, no tripod needed.
The zoom on this digital video camera is spectacular. It slides from 32.5mm to 1853mm, giving you the ultimate flexibility in filming. The DIGIC DV 4 image processor does an excellent job of balancing light, so you get a noise-free experience no matter the time of time. Video capture resolution is 1080p, and the VIXIA is useable as a webcam using HDMI or as a walkabout memory keeper.
If you take long videos, be forewarned that, like most Sony cameras, this one gets hot during regular usage. It doesn't overheat and shut-off like some Sony models, but once you hit the 10-minutes mark, you'll feel noticeable warmth in the palm of your hand. Overall, we love the Canon VIXIA. Canon colors shine, the menu system is simple to navigate, and video quality is awesome.
- Easy to use
- Great stabilization
- Superzoom capability
- Gets hot
When you need to zoom in and out fast
This Canon is a fun camcorder-looking model with a superzoom that helps you catch every bit of action.
The last word
Whether you're looking for the best vlogging camera, a video cam that works underwater, or one you can take anywhere, you have choices. Lots of choices. The best digital video camera for me is the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema 4K. I've had this camera in my bag for more than a year, and I love almost everything about it.
Unlike the old school camcorders your grandparents used, the Pocket Cinema 4K looks and feels like a small DSLR in your hand. That's important because muscle strain is a thing for photographers and videographers. The handgrip is deep enough to be comfortable while the body is lightweight enough to handle all day.
The battery life of this model could be improved. I get about two hours of filming out of it. If you need a little more gas in the tank, I'd suggest a second battery or an extended battery. All MFT lenses work on the Pocket Cinema, and the buttons that control actions and the rear touchscreen make operating this model enjoyable. Whether you're just learning to shoot video or have honed your skills, you won't be disappointed with this class-leading digital video camera.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
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