Now that smart phones are capable of shooting HD video, the standard camcorder has somewhat fallen out of favour. The quality of HD footage from mobiles isn't always that impressive, however, so understandably there are still many people who prefer to use a camcorder for shooting video.
This is especially true if they're looking to produce more professional quality footage or want a more rugged camera for capturing video of outdoor sports, such as snowboarding and mountain biking. Here we've rounded up five of the best models on the market right now.
GoPro Hero3 Black Edition
This is by far the best sports camera available today. It's 25 per cent lighter and 30 per cent smaller than the previous Hero2 generation of cameras, and on the front it has a new f/2.8, six-element aspherical lens for better sharpness and reduced barrel-distortion.
It can shoot video at resolutions of up to 4K, although the frame rate does drop off the higher the resolution you use. Still, at 1440p (4:3 aspect ratio) it can shoot at an impressive 48fps. Overall, the Hero3's smaller chassis, on-device display and controls, superior resolutions and frame rates make it the ultimate action cam.
iON Air Pro 2 Wi-Fi
The iON Air Pro 2 Wi-Fi is a compact, lightweight bullet-shaped HD camcorder that stands out from the sports-cam crowd by being both mountable and waterproof without the need for an extra housing.
It starts recording with a simple slide of a switch and its video quality is very good. This version comes with the Wi-Fi Podz that allows you to wirelessly connect the camera to a computer, smart phone or tablet. The 180-degree angle of view really lets you see your surroundings and although you get a fair amount of lens flare, it's pretty much expected -- and desired -- for this camera category. As this model substantially improves on the original, while still offering good value, we think it's one of the better action cam options available right now.
Essentially the ContourRoam2 is a stripped-down version of the Contour+2 that removes almost all the extra features, leaving you with just the essentials.
That might not sound great on paper, but the combination of its ease of use, good video quality and low price actually make it a great choice for those wanting a cheaper action cam. The Roam2 is also waterproof down to 1 metre and comes with both an adhesive profile mount and a rotating mount. Contour even throws in a 4GB microSDHC for good measure, making this a great budget package.
Canon Vixia HF G10
This is a high-end video camera, aimed at real home video buffs, with a high-end price to match. It uses Canon's HD CMOS Pro sensor, which is larger than a typical consumer sensor, and so helps it capture video with a wider dynamic range.
The combination of this larger-pixel sensor and the high-quality lens results in some of the best video quality we've seen in a consumer camcorder. It's well constructed and easy to grip too, and the manual focus ring and zoom switch are very responsive. So, thanks to its mix of excellent video quality and flexible features, the Vixia HF G10 really is a great prosumer camcorder.
The Contour+2 is the company's top of the range sports camera that offers HD video recording and comes with an extra waterproof case that's good for depths as far down as 60 meters.
It also has Bluetooth support so you can control it from the companion ContourConnect app for iOS and Android devices. We like the new slider that instantly allows you to start capturing video, and this now has a lock switch to stop it from accidental activation. The resulting HD footage looks crisp and sharp, and interestingly the camera can also embed GPS location data in the video file. All in all, this is a top notch and easy to use action cam.