Buying Guide: Top Camcorders For Shooting Sports

best_camcorder_for_shooting_sportsThanks to next-generation camcorder technology, we all have the ability to create our own human highlight reels – capturing our most athletic moments and adventures in stunning high definition.

At the same time, you’re not going to be able to produce something that could land on the Top 10 on SportsCenter just by pointing your camcorder in the right direction and hitting the record button.

No, you’re going to need to know EXACTLY how to get the most out of your camera when you’re shooting action sports – and it’s a little bit more involved than buying the best video camera for sports you can afford, mounting it correctly, and then getting after it!

But that’s why we’ve put together this quick guide.

Armed with all of the inside information we have for you below you’re going to be able to completely transform the quality of your HD sports footage with your camcorder no matter what kinds of games you’re recording.

This is some next level stuff here, so pay attention and use just as many of these tips and tricks as you can to get the ball rolling!

Let’s dive right in!

Comparison Chart

 Panasonic V770Sony AX100Canon HF R700Sony RCX405
panasonic_hc-v770_hd_camcorder_reviewSony 4K HD Video Recording FDRAX33 Handycam ReviewCanon VIXIA HF R700 Camcorder Reviewsony_hd_handycam_hdrcx405_review
Rating (4.5 / 5) (4.4 / 5) (4.3 / 5) (4.2 / 5)
Video Res1920x1080p/60 fps (4K upgrade avail)3840x2160p/30 fps (100 Mbps)1920x1080p/60 fps (28 Mbps)1920x1080p/60 fps (50 Mbps)
FormatAVCHDXAVC S, AVCHDAVCHDXAVC S
MicrophoneBuilt-in micBuilt-in mic, Optional ExternalBuilt-in mic, Optional ExternalBuilt-in mic
ViewfinderLCD3.5" LCDLCDLCD
WiFiYesYesNoNo

Top 5 Camcorders for Shooting Sports in HD

Panasonic HC-V770 HD

panasonic_hc-v770_hd_camcorder_review

Features and specs:

  • Long 20X zoom draws the scene from far away
  • Exclusive high-dynamic range feature reduces bright spots for a professional look
  • Wirelessly connect your smartphone’s video camera to a picture-in-picture video effect

HC-770 Test Footage:

Pros

  • High dynamic zoom capabilities right of the box make this an impressive “pocket” sized camcorder
  • Top-tier image capture and video capturing technology at a bargain price
  • Wireless connectivity makes getting your files off of this camera a breeze

Cons

  • Battery life is a little bit less than exciting for a camera this size
  • 5.1 audio-only available in AVCHD mode – not MP4

Buyers looking for a dedicated camcorder that’s capable of shooting full high definition video without any difficulty at all – especially those that don’t want to have to have to fight a bulk camcorder to get the shots they’re after – are going to fall in love with everything this Panasonic has to offer.

We’ve rated Panasonic’s HC-770 as the best video camera under $500 dollars – it just such an easy camcorder to use.

The auto settings are great for beginners and intermediate videographers, as it figures out the best exposure and lighting settings for each environment. It even has auto-flashlight that powers on via a sensor, so you can walk from an area with light into a darker room with a seamless transition.

One of the few downsides is that recording as MP4 files only has stereo audio. You have to record in AVCHD mode for multi-channel 5.1 audio.

If you’re looking for a great all-around unit – we rate the HC-700 as the best camcorder for sports in 2016.

Canon VIXIA HF R700 Camcorder

Canon VIXIA HF R700 Camcorder Review

Features and specs:

  • Canon VIXIA HF R700 Full HD Black Camcorder with 57x Advanced Zoom
  • Canon BP-718 Lithium-Ion Battery Pack – For HFR30, HFR40, HFR400BK, HFR42, and More
  • Canon 3.28 Megapixel Full HD CMOS Image Sensor.
  • 3.0″ capacitive touch panel LCD with increased brightness and new User Interface for easy menu navigation and simple viewing of videos

R700 Test Footage:

Pros

  • VIXIA HR R700 HD shooting capabilities with 57X Advanced Software Zoom
  • Lithium-ion battery pack lasts and lasts (and lasts and lasts)
  • Easy to use and navigate LCD touch screen is very responsive

Cons

  • Image stabilization (on long distance shots in particular) can be tough
  • Can’t take still images (check the Canon R600 if shooting images is required)

This compact camcorder from Canon is a polished product for sure, though it isn’t quite as capable as commercially focused cameras for professionals (though that’s to be expected). Smartly engineered and effortless to control, you’ll have no trouble shooting your favorite videos with this camcorder almost right out of the box!

Sony FDR-AX100/B 4K Video Camera

sony_fdr-ax100-b_4k_video_camera_review

Features and specs:

  • Capture 4k/24p/30p video that far exceeds HD resolution
  • ZEISS® lens w/ Balanced Optical SteadyShotTM image stabilization
  • Direct Pixel Read Out for smooth edges and color gradation
  • Manual Control ring (Iris/Shutter/Exposure/White Balance)
  • 0.27″ EVF (201K) and touch screen 3″ Xtra Fine LCDTM (921K)
  • 5.1ch surround sound mic w/ manual audio controls
  • Connect, control, backup, and share wirelessly with NFC2/Wi-Fi®
  • Broadcast LIVE from your camcorder using Ustream live-streaming

AX100 Test Footage:

Perfect for buyers who want to future-proof their sports camcorder purchase and recording in Ultra-HD 4K resolution. The best sports camcorder for 4K video in our opinion is Sony’s FDRAX33 Handycam.

With the ‘base unit’ which we’ve link to below Sony haven’t included a battery pack. This means that you’ll need to recharge the battery whilst still inserted in your camcorder. Seeing most sports recording is out of reach of mains electrical connections consider purchasing the external ac adapter, which is included in the ‘with battery and travel pack’ package.

Canon VIXIA HF R600 Camcorder

canon_vixia_hf_r600_review

Features and specs:

  • Advanced Zoom and SuperRange Optical Image Stabilizer provides outstanding, steady video (57x (32.5-1853mm)
  • 3.28 Megapixel Full HD CMOS Image Sensor
  • DIGIC DV 4 Image Processor captures video at 1920 x 1080 resolution and helps provide outstanding imaging performance
  • 1080/60p recording in MP4 (35 Mbps) and AVCHD Progressive (28 Mbps)
  • 3.0-inch capacitive touch panel LCD offers fast, easy and intuitive controls

R600 Test Footage:

With the VIXIA HF R600 camcorder, you’ll capture brilliant sports action quality that your memories and videography deserve. The camcorder’s recording range seems virtually endless, with a 57x Advanced Zoom that’s also incredibly steady, due to the propriety Canon’s SuperRange Optical Image Stabilizer.

Control is fast and simple with the big 3.0-inch capacitive touch panel LCD. Smart AUTO intelligently selects camera settings based on predefined shooting situations; Audio Scene Select delivers clear sound indoors or out, another essential feature for buyers who will be recording sports games.

The high capacity battery pack will also help ensure you won’t miss a moment of the action.

Sony HD RCX405 Video Recording

sony_hd_video_recording_hdrcx405_hdr-cx405-b

Features and Specs

  • 50Mbps XAVC STM1 1920×1080 at 60P, AVCHD®, and MP4 codecs. 30x Optical / 60x Clear Image Zoom to get closer to the action. 26.8mm wide angle ZEISS® Lens
  • Automatically creates highlight video in MP4 from multiple clips. Optical SteadyShotTM image stabilization w/ Active mode. Built-in USB cable for easy file transfer/charge
  • Face Detection with voice enhancement and noise reduction. Get creative w/ 7 picture effects for video and still photos
  • View on 2.7″ Clear Photo PlusTM LCD display. Intelligent Auto (60 different scene combinations possible)

HDRC405 Test Footage:

We rate Sony’s HDRC405 as the best sports camcorder for beginners. With a recommended price usually lower than Canon’s R700 and R600 which we’ve reviewed, it’s ideal for capturing action videos on a budget. Unlike the Canon R700, you can take still images with the HDRC405, an important feature for some buyers.

Which options are missing on this bargain camcorder so that Sony could lower the price? Sony hasn’t included options such as a Touchscreen menu, Mic-in and headphone jack. HD video quality remains very good. The HDRC405 model is the smallest and lightest in our top list, so perfect for recording on the move.

Sony included an LCD 2.7inch display, with menu control via a joystick style knob. LCD Pixel count is the same as Canon’s R700 model: 230,000.

How to Shoot Sports with Your Video Camera

#1. Breaking down of the key differences in indoor and outdoor lighting

Look, the biggest challenge that you’re going to have when it comes time to record all of your action sports with your new camcorder is making sure that the lighting is just as ideal as humanly possible (or using the right filters during editing to clean things up).

When you are indoors you’re going to have a lot more control over the lighting of the subjects that you are recording, including when you’re recording sports inside the dome or in a gymnasium somewhere. The lighting indoors is static and fixed, and you’ll have the opportunity to – to some degree – change the intensity and direction of the lighting that you are working with.

When you are outdoors, however, you’re pretty much at the mercy of Mother Nature and the time of day that you were shooting your HD videos in.

Sure, you can get your hands on some exterior lighting equipment to throw light on your subject – but for the most part that’s going to be pretty ineffective, especially if the sport you are filming is high speed and full of action.

The best thing you can do is choose the right time of day to get out and film your sports, or at least make sure that you are filming action scenes that are going to be under relatively stable, fixed, and artificial lights – like on an outdoor football field or baseball diamond at night.

This will give you a lot more control over the finished product, and great lighting is the only way to pull off great HD footage!

Fall in love with higher frame rates and accelerated shutter speeds

The most important thing you can do aside from getting your lighting right when you are capturing HD sports is to accelerate your frame rate capture and jack up your shutter speeds to the highest level possible.

Because you are going to be capturing humans in motion – and objects moving pretty fast as well – you need to be 100% sure that your camera is capable of capturing every frame and every nuance of the sport your filming. It’s the only way to create buttery smooth HD pictures with brilliant color, jaw-dropping action, and a feeling like your viewers are really right there in the thick of things!

60 frames per second should be your baseline level, though if you have the opportunity to go all the way up to 120 frames per second you’ll be able to create something really, really special. Sure, you might get a little bit of that “soap opera” effect when you go to really high frame rates, but for the most part, you’ll be able to mitigate that impact a changing the settings on your TV or computer monitor.

Your shutter speed also needs to be a lightning quick and it’s going to be a big benefit if you invest in an action camcorder that includes the highest quality CMOS sensor. This is going to allow you to bring more light into your camera lens while your shutter is operating, and that means that your images will be more vibrant, more alive, and more lifelike as you shoot 1080p HD!

It’s always a good idea to tinker around with your shots and your camera settings to find that happy medium for the perfect picture that you’re interested in. Start off with lighting, elevate your frame rate and shutter speeds, and play around with settings and you’ll be good to go!

#2. Live with the wide shot

While there are definitely going to be circumstances where you’ll want to zoom right into the thick of things while your filming action sports, the best high-definition videos are going to take in the real scope and scale of things with wide shots.

There’s a reason why the “normal flow” of football, basketball, hockey, soccer, and baseball games all show the entirety of the field or playing surface, giving everyone that’s watching the action the opportunity to focus on the center of the sport – where all the action is – while also watching different plays and strategies develop as well.

Highlights zoom right in on the “big play” for sure, and you’ll be able to do the exact same thing with a couple of select zooms (but don’t go crazy). Zooming into much and too often little disoriented and confuse your viewers but also won’t really capture the real feel and flow of the action that your recording, either.

#3. Make sure that you’re always prepared when you set out to record some video

At the end of the day, the quality of your camera and the gear that you bring with you to film your action sports in high definition are going to make or break the shots that you are a to capture – especially when you use the tips and tricks we’ve included above.

You’ll want to do your level best to make sure that you’re prepared for any and every eventuality or action scene you might want to capture, and you’ll only be able to do that when you bring as much gear as you can manage without ever loading yourself down too much.

Here’s a quick checklist of all the accessories and pieces of equipment you want to make sure you have on hand when you are recording action videos:

  1. Make sure that you have at least one fully charged backup battery on hand (and ideally two or three)
  2. Make sure that you have plenty of storage space on board your camcorder as well as this extra storage cards or hard drives ready to go
  3. Bring streak free cloths that allow you to clean your lenses when you are in the heat of action so that you’re always getting crystal-clear shots and picture-perfect video
  4. A small tripod is ALWAYS going to make a huge difference in the quality of your action videos
  5. A mobile charger unit is a big bonus for those that are going to be recording video near their vehicle
  6. Any and all pieces of lighting equipment you can get your hands on that won’t get in the way of your action

… And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

There are obviously a bunch of other accessories you can invest in that will help you film of the highest quality action sports (better camera lenses, additional cameras to set up multi-camera recording sessions, etc.), but with the list above you should be pretty set to rock and roll 99.99% of the time.

It’s always a good idea to get really familiar with a quality editing software as well, especially if you’re going to be sharing the videos that you record with friends, family members, or the Internet in general.

A lot of those pieces of software can set you back at least a few hundred dollars (some of them are even more expensive than the best HD action cameras on the market), but there are plenty of open source and inexpensive options available that get the job done, too.

Some quick YouTube videos covering the basics of editing, filtering, and framing videos to create more cinematic experiences later and you’ll be off to the cutting floor for a quick editing session and will come out on the other side with action and sports films that will look almost as good as the ones you’ve seen on highlight reels on TV!

Hopefully, now you have a better appreciation for everything that goes into shooting those gorgeous high definition action camera sports videos you checked out online. At the end of the day, going out and capturing crystal-clear HD sports films is a little bit more involved than most people expect – but it isn’t impossible.

So get out there with a couple of your friends and put together your own human highlight reels!