The Best Digital Video Camcorder for Sports: Top 6 Picks

A great action camcorder has intelligent autofocus, brilliant image stabilization, and high-quality video. This is our list of the best digital video camcorders for sports, from the Sony FDRAX53’s 4K capabilities to the Canon VIXIA HF R82’s extensive features.

The 6 Best Digital Video Camcorders for Sports

1. Canon VIXIA HF R80

Canon VIXIA HF R80

You can share your child’s incredible game with the world with this nifty camcorder! Complete with live streaming, you can show everyone how awesome they are! With slow motion, sped-up motion, and time lapse recording capabilities, you can impress your friends even more!

VIXIA R80’s battery life is impressively long, making it one of the best on this list. You can record for hours on end with the BP-727 battery. This camcorder has an intelligent battery meter that tells you exactly how much battery is left (so you don’t have to guess).

In this camera, you can zoom easily and flawlessly. The zooming mechanism is very advanced, so you can get closer to the subject without sacrificing sharpness or quality. In addition, the camcorder’s artificial intelligence (AI) can analyze shadows and highlights to determine which aspects of the image should be prioritized for exposure. You see, a camera cannot expose for both shadows and highlights correctly at the same time, so you have to prioritize one. The AI can make a prediction for you.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and very portable.
  • Built-in image stabilization system.
  • Incredible battery life.
  • High definition video recording.
  • WiFi and Live Streaming capability.
  • Various shooting modes, such as slow motion, high speed, and time lapses.
  • Zoom capabilities during filming without compromising quality.
  • Using shadows and highlights to determine exposure priority.

Cons:

  • Charging this camera takes a long time because of its long battery.
  • Limit on video length that it causes can only wirelessly

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2. Canon VIXIA HF R82

Canon VIXIA HF R82

Similarly to the VIXIA HF R80, the R82 features improvements across the board to the previous model. This camcorder is a great investment over the previous model if you have a bit more money to spare. It maintains a lot of the same features as the R80, while also featuring a few new tricks. You won’t have much trouble taking this camera to your favorite sports games, as it has the same lightweight and portable build.

If your hand shakes as you adjust the zoom, you won’t miss any action, even if it happens across the field. But what if you don’t want to miss any action? With a significantly improved internal image stabilization system, your hand won’t be much of an issue.

This new CMOS FHD sensor captures ultra-high-definition footage, so your volleyball videos will have an amazing cinematic touch! With the digic dv 4 image processor, you won’t have any trouble recording in low light or indoors. For such a low price point, the light quality is excellent.

Pros:

  • As with the R80, this model features a higher level of image stabilization than the R80.
  • Excellent low light performance.
  • Higher definition footage than many camcorders.
  • Works with SD, SDHC, and other external memory cards, including dual-recording mode.
  • Is compatible with fast charging.

Cons:

  • Battery drains quite fast in comparison to other camcorders.

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3. Sony FDRAX53

Sony FDRAX53

Sony FDRAX53 is a very popular camcorder in the world of camcorders since it can record in a whopping 4K resolution, ensuring every shot is crisp and clear.

It is obvious where the ball went with this one. Sony’s 4K imaging sensor is a brand new design.

Having always been a big innovator, Sony has also developed its own image stabilization (IS) system. The FDRAX53’s IS is called Steady Shot, and it outperforms its competitors by a wide margin. It’s a big secret to prevent others from stealing it. As well as correcting physical shake, it also corrects optical shake.

This camcorder comes with a 26.8mm ZEISS lens and a 20x zoom, which is a pretty decent zoom for most sports.

Pros:

  • Fairly lightweight and fairly easy to carry.
  • Incredible 26.8mm ZEISS brand lens which features excellent glass.
  • This big game changer is the 4k video recording resolution with a larger imaging sensor than most.
  • Steady Shot image stabilization included.

Cons:

  • Expensive. All of these great features come at a steep price.

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4. PANASONIC HC-V770

PANASONIC HC-V770

We consider the Panasonic HC-V770 to be one of the best bang-for-your-buck camcorders on our list. With its 20x optical zoom, this camera can record in high-definition. The zoom is supported by the 5-axis hybrid image stabilization that takes into account the different kinds of camera shake you might encounter.

With the ability to connect the camcorder to your smartphone, you can unlock a slew of new features. You can use your smartphone as a secondary camera and screen by connecting to the camcorder.

Additionally, this camera has a windshield for the microphone to reduce wind noise, intelligent autofocus that determines what action you want to capture, and motion sensors.

Pros:

  • Great price. Affordable.
  • High-definition (1080p) recording.
  • 5-axis hybrid image stabilization built-in.
  • WiFi and Bluetooth to connect your camcorder to your cell phone. This allows the phone to unlock additional capabilities, such as Twin Video Assisting mode.
  • Good microphone noise reduction due to the microphone windshield.
  • Intelligent autofocus with predictive technology.

Cons:

  • Weak battery.
  • Not very good low light performance.

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5. PANASONIC HC-WXF991K

PANASONIC HC-WXF991K

This Panasonic camcorder is cinema grade, unlike the other Panasonic camcorder on our list that is consumer grade. It is basically a higher-end camera. The use of this model requires a bit more manual control than the consumer grade model, which is more automatic. With this, there is a bit of learning curve involved.

The 18.9 megapixels of this camcorder are an impressive feat for a semi-pro model.

As well as being compatible with editing programs such as Corel VideoStudio and Cyberlink PowerDirector, this model also includes a variety of cinema modes built in just in case you don’t have time to edit specific looks. To ensure that your highlights and shadows are both adequately exposed, there is even a high-dynamic-range (HDR) mode.

In the camera there is a Leica lens inside, one of the most famous optical powerhouses in the world of photography. It has an audio microphone that is quite powerful and brilliant.

Pros:

  • HDR recording in 4k and cinema quality recording in 4k.
  • 18.9 megapixels with a Leica built-in lens.
  • Compatible with editing software such as Corel VideoStudio and Cyberlink PowerDirector.
  • Very solid and professional build.
  • Excellent internal microphone.
  • Twin cameras built in.

Cons:

  • This camcorder does not have a regular HD mode despite its 4k capabilities.
  • Expensive.
  • There is a learning curve and it is not as user-friendly.

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6. Sony HDR-AZ1VR

Sony HDR-AZ1VR

The Sony HDR-AZ1VR is a tiny waterproof camcorder that you can toss in your pocket and take surfing! You can control it with your smartphone or the included wrist remote.

You can also live stream your captures via WiFi via the wrist remote, which has a small screen for live viewing of what the camcorder is seeing.

This model features an ultra-wide view at 170-degree angle. The HDR-AZ1VR comes with photo editing software to make editing the footage easy and simple. It has a good battery life for its size, and it comes with microphone and tripod ports.

Pros:

  • Very small in size.
  • Waterproof.
  • Comes with a wrist remote control.
  • Can be connected to a smartphone and have the smartphone act as a remote. The smartphone connection also allows for live streaming.
  • Good 170-degree angle lens.
  • Excellent battery life.

Cons:

  • The Steady Shot in this particular model slows footage down.
  • The footage is not as high quality as other models.

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Best Digital Video Camcorders for Sports Buying Guide

1. How Does a Camcorder Compare to Other Cameras?

Since there is such a wide variety of cameras on the market, you may be wondering why a camcorder is better than a DSLR or cell phone.

A camcorder is primarily concerned with filming (if it can take photos, it is more of an afterthought). Video is a secondary feature in most cameras. It is for this reason that camcorders are calibrated and designed to produce excellent videos, akin to a large cinema camera that is small and easy to carry.

As far as recording audio is concerned, camcorders tend to have better built-in microphones than other cameras. It is just as important to record all the excitement as it is to see, so many camcorders have volume controls and external microphone inputs as well.

A big benefit to a camcorder is the ability to save videos to the actual machine itself as well as a memory card. It is possible to record longer periods of time with camcorders with their built-in memory (or when you don’t have a memory card with you). Since camcorders tend to be used for long periods of time, they don’t overheat like other cameras do.

Because camcorders are designed with video recording in mind from the start, their quality tends to be significantly better than other cameras.

The autofocus in camcorders tends to be better since the mechanism is designed for moving subjects, so it is smoother than autofocus in still images. In addition to image stabilization and large sensors, camcorders also feature zoom lenses and large sensors.

2. Making Sense of Video Resolution

When it comes to video cameras, camcorders are extremely comfortable and wonderful. It’s crucial to make sure the video quality is top notch if you’re investing in a device that will capture your favorite sports moments (otherwise, what’s the point?). Video quality can be tricky to figure out if you’re new to it. Here are some tips:

A video’s quality is determined by two factors, the frame rate and the resolution.

A frame per second is the number of frames you can shoot. Every second that you hold down a record button or shoot, a burst of images is being recorded. The more frames you are able to capture, the smoother the footage will be. A good quality recording will have between 30 and 60 frames per second.

If you want to capture action, a camera with a minimum frame rate of 60 frames per second is your best bet. Frames per second can go up to 240 and even more! You will also need a camera with a minimum frame rate of 60 if you wish to capture slow motion footage, anything below 60 will not be slowed down.

In addition to the quality of a video, you should consider the resolution as well. The more horizontal lines a video has, the better it looks when broadcast.

You can’t showcase your awesome snowboarding capture on a very large screen if the resolution is too low. If the resolution is too high, the screen will be larger.

Video resolutions include 360p, 480p, 720p, and 1080p, with 360p having a lower resolution than 1080p. As a general rule, 360p videos are used for cell phone viewing, 480p videos are used for DVDs, 720p videos are high-definition videos, and 1080p is actually true high-definition.

Nevertheless, new resolutions have appeared in recent years, such as 4k. 4k is unique since it is calculated based on the number of pixels versus the number of lines. As a result, it’s considered significantly higher than 1080p. Image appearance tends to be more hyperrealistic and less cinematic.

Buyers should always strive for the highest quality, since quality can always be decreased if necessary (but cannot be increased).

3. What Is The Best Memory Card for My Camcorder?

Videos are stored in camcorders in two different ways: internally or on memory cards. The standard for external storage is to use flash memory or SD cards that are inserted into the camera. Internal storage is non-removable memory that is built into the camera. MicroSD cards or memory sticks are also available for storage.

Internal storage has a smaller range of size, from 8GB to 96GB. But if you pair these two together, you will be able to record for a very long time, since these cards can range in size from 5GB to 120GB and more. If you want to know how much memory space you should plan for, these are the general sizes of video resolution files for camcorders:

  • One minute of recording at 720p is about 300MB in file size.
  • One minute of recording at 1080p is about 675MB in file size.
  • One minute of recording at 4k is about 3GB in file size.

As far as memory cards go, I personally use Sandisk, and have had no qualms with their SD cards. I also know plenty of photographers and videographers who use Toshiba and Lexar without issue.

4. LCD Screens Are Not All the Same

In low light conditions, all of these preview screens look the same, vibrant, and bright… but they’re not the same. If you expose them to direct sunlight, however, you might find them telling a different story. LCD displays can suffer from glares, some do not. Some can have their lighting adjusted, others cannot. Before deciding on a camcorder, check the display screen.

If your LCD screen is glaring, you can get a glare removing filter (much like the privacy filter on computers at banks). However, this may or may not work.

5. Not All Sports are Outdoors: Low Light Performance is Valuable

It is generally best to film sports in bright sunlight. However, basketball and hockey games do not always take place outside. I photograph dog agility championships in equestrian arenas with no artificial lighting whatsoever. As a result, it is a good idea to choose a camcorder that performs well in low light.  

As a result of the camera sensor’s sensitivity to light, low light performance is determined. This sensor’s sensitivity to light is often referred to as the ISO. When you combine this with the aperture of the built-in lens (the amount of light exposed to the sensor), you can either have an excellent low light camera or an absolutely terrible one.

For cameras with high ISOs or very sensitive sensors, you need a lens with a wide aperture. Small apertures result in wider shots, while large ISO numbers result in more sensitive sensors.

High-resolution video will also provide better low-light quality, since the footage contains more detail.

6. Additional Features to Look For

There are some additional features you should look for when choosing a good camcorder for sports. Although some of these features aren’t essential, having them is always a plus.

  • Image Stabilization. Although camcorders are ergonomic and comfortable to hold, you will still have shaky hands at some point. Due to the fact that humans are not naturally able to hold still, image stabilization in your camcorder is quite convenient. Rocky footage is never fun to watch! It is a mechanical system that makes a camcorder more stable by relieving camera shake. It can either use an internal gyroscope or a computer to stabilize the recording while it is being recorded in order to correct any bumps, shakes, or other physical movements.
  • Zoom. There’s nothing worse than being stuck with a fixed lens that makes it hard to zoom in on something captivating. Fortunately, most camcorders have zoom options. Look for zooms that are smooth, steady, and sensitive when comparing different models. These are the 3 S’s of the system. There are even advanced camcorders that have a silent zoom function, which is great for audio recordings.
  • WiFi. Sharing footage right on the fly is a great benefit (both for you and for your social media presence!). Some models come with built-in WiFi so you can sync them with your laptop, tablet, cell phone, and more. You can even use your cell phone as a remote control for some brands of camcorders with their own exclusive apps.
  • Durable Weatherproof Body. In some sports, the environment is cozy and controlled. As we all know, the majority of sports take place outdoors where the weather is unpredictable. The weatherproof body will ensure you can film no matter what the conditions are. You don’t want a little rain shower or gusty wind to stop you from filming your son’s big soccer game.
    Make sure that silicone weather sealing surrounds important attachments and components, and pay attention to what material the camcorder body is made from. You want material that is shock absorbing and weatherproof.

Final Words

The choice of a camcorder is really dependent on the kind of sports you want to film, the size of your hand, and the features you are most interested in. However, the Sony FDRAX53 is our favorite because of its technological advances features, which are far ahead of the rest of the market today.

The Steady Shot image stabilization system from Sony is very reliable and effective, and helps alleviate any kind of shake the camcorder may experience. When combined with the 4k resolution, you’ll be able to create drool-worthy footage for your friends and family. The Zeiss lens ensures the shots are crystal clear and sharp.

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