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Here at Reviewed.com we have been testing camcorders for over 15 years, watching the industry grow and change substantially over that time. While the traditional camcorder form factor is still thriving, it's the new players like system cameras and wearable action cameras that are driving forward with new innovations and greatly improved performance. From a DSLR that can autofocus like a camcorder to improved wireless connectivity, 2013 saw a host of new technologies that continue to close the gap between the old guard and the rest of the market.
Canon chose to stand pat with their camcorder lineup through much of 2012, though this year they introduced two new models at the top of their consumer lines. While the G20 was mostly a subtle refresh of the already-excellent G10, the G30 represented a substantial leap forward in terms of performance and image quality. The G30 finally saw Canon introduce 1080/60p shooting (with simultaneous MP4/AVCHD recording) as well as a slightly reworked control scheme and a 20x lens with double the zoom range. Though the G30 comes at a premium over the G20, it's hands-down the best consumer camcorder we tested in 2013. (MSRP $1,699.99)
Sony's PJ790V performed well in our lab tests, featuring just about everything Sony offers in their camcorder lineup in one model. With smooth 60p video and superb low light noise results, the Sony offers compelling performance that is only slightly outdone by the G30. While we're still not sold on the need for a built-in projector—especially at just 35 lumens and with no cheaper, projector-less alternative this year—the PJ790V was still among the best camcorders we tested in 2013. (MSRP $1,599.99)
DSLRs have been encroaching on the territory of camcorders for the last few years, offering extremely high-quality video capture, manual control, and shallow depth of field that camcorders simply can't match. Where camcorders still hold serve is in ease of use, especially where autofocus is concerned. The Canon EOS 70D's on-sensor Dual Pixel AF technology seeks to change all that, offering usable autofocus that locks onto subjects quickly and accurately, transitioning from point to point smoothly and without stuttering. It's a true game-changing piece of technology that we expect to appear in all of Canon's consumer DSLRs in the near future. (MSRP $1,199.00)
The Canon XA25 is built off of the same platform as the company's consumer flagship, the HF G30, with a slightly different form factor that incorporates dual Phantom-powered XLR inputs, an HD/SD-SDI port, and the ability to shoot 1080/60p simultaneously in MP4 and AVCHD, the XA25 is a run-n-gun camcorder for professionals on the move. The XA25 is one of the best performing camcorders to come through our labs this year, offering a compelling option for professional and prosumer workflows alike. (MSRP $2,999.00)
Sony stole plenty of headlines this month with the introduction, finally, of full-frame, interchangeable, mirrorless cameras. Of course, the NEX-VG900 ticks all those boxes as well, though as a camcorder it's been overlooked for much of the year. For prosumers who want the advanced control and input/output features of an advanced camcorder, but the flexibility of an interchangeable lens camera, the VG900 is a compelling alternative. With a mount that can be adapted to fit almost any system in the world and a host of first-party full-frame lenses on the way, the VG900 would be a fun camera for any prosumer to have in their kit. (MSRP $3,299.99)
Both Sony and Canon reworked their high-end camcorder lineups for 2013, in slightly different ways. While Sony cut much of their high-end CX (projector-less) range, Canon added a new high-end, consumer-oriented option in the G30. The HF G30 justifies its premium price with a host of new features and truly stellar performance, offering a new high-end option for those who want the ease-of-use of a consumer camcorder but prosumer-level performance. (MSRP $1,699.00)
While Panasonic's excellent X920 may suddenly find itself feeling awfully "mid-range" compared to the very expensive flagships from Canon and Sony this year, the V720 represents the best mix of performance and price point in this category. A modest update over the V700 with the introduction of live streaming over WiFi in addition to some noticeable cost-cutting efforts, the V720 is nonetheless a great bargain, offering excellent performance despite its modest price point. (MSRP $549.99)
For those looking to record some high-quality HD video without breaking the bank, the Canon HD R40 is a perfect budget option. The HF R40 sees the introduction of 1080/60p video to Canon's consumer lineup, with 8GB of internal storage, a 32x optical zoom lens, and an affordable sub-$400 price tag. Those looking to save even more may also want to look at the Canon HF R400, which is built off a similar platform, only giving up the internal memory. (MSRP $349.99)
The GoPro Hero 3+ is mostly a minor performance update for the action/adventure cam leader, with a redesigned waterproof housing that cuts down on the weight but can't dive quite as deep. Coupled with greatly improved latency when using the camera's built-in WiFi, the GoPro 3 Hero+ is still the action cam king for 2013. (MSRP $399.99)
The wearable action cam market generally comes with one drawback for solo shooters: you can't see what you're recording when the camcorder's strapped to your head. GoPro gets around this problem by offering a remote viewfinder functionality for smartphones. On the original Go Pro Hero 3, we found this functionality barely useable thanks to awful latency. While the new GoPro still has around a second of delay when using the app, the improvements make one of the Hero 3+'s most compelling features usable for the first time. (MSRP $399.99)
BlackMagic has shaken up the video system camera market with the promise of affordable cameras offering spectacular features like 2.5K RAW video, swappable built-in SSDs for recording, and native ProRes and CinemaDNG recording, and other prosumer-oriented features. The most forward-thinking feature on the company's Cinema Camera, its built-in Thunderbolt port, promises the connectivity speed necessary to take advantage of all those advanced recording features. Unfortunately, like most new connectivity standards the adoption rate for accessories means it's not quite ready for everyday use, but the promise of future adoption is worth recognition. (MSRP $1,995.99)
DSLRs have cast a large shadow over the traditional camcorder market, offering a compelling alternative to prosumer shooters who want the distinctive look that these cameras provide. While we take serious issue with Canon's decision to not include a headphone jack—something both the Nikon D7100 and Pentax K-3 provide—it's impossible to overlook the 70D's innovative new Dual Pixel AF technology, which drastically improves the usability of autofocus when paired up with any of Canon's new STM lenses. With otherwise stellar video performance and full manual control, the EOS 70D represents the best system camera for video among the cameras we tested in 2013. (MSRP $1,199.00)
This nod could easily go to the more affordable Nikon D7100—which also offers prosumer-friendly features like headphone and mic jacks, dual card slots, full manual control, uncompressed HDMI output, and excellent video quality—but the full-frame D600 earns the nod here thanks to its larger sensor, which provides an uncropped field of view when using legacy or adapted FX lenses. The Nikon DSLRs still have their quirks—Seriously, Nikon: fix the aperture control in Live View issue—but feature-for-feature they stack up well against any system camera on the market. (MSRP $1,899.95)
While we couldn't overlook Canon's new Dual Pixel AF technology in the 70D, those looking for a sub-$1,000 DSLR with excellent video quality should be knocking on Nikon's door. The D5200 offers sharp, smooth 1080/30p video, a 3.5mm mic jack, and uncompressed HDMI output. For a camera that can easily be found for under $700 body-only, the combination of features, performance, and control is rather remarkable. You'll still run into the usual video DSLR hangups like poor autofocus performance, but given everything else offered here, these are venial sins at worst. (MSRP $799.95)
The Sony RX100 II takes excellent advantage of its large 1-inch sensor and bright lens, outpointing every other point-and-shoot that we've tested this year for video quality. With a compact size that can easily fit in a jacket pocket and a bright lens that excels in low light, the Sony RX100 II is the best point-and-shoot for video from 2013. (MSRP $749.99)
For those on a budget who are looking for a dedicated point-and-shoot that isn't a slouch in the video department, the Canon 330 HS is the way to go. Available for $179.99 and lower on sale, the 330HS is also simply the best sub-$200 point-and-shoot camera we tested in 2013. (MSRP $179.99)
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