Most parents have had the luxury of owning cameras to help document the lives of their children. Many old photo albums really bring on the nostalgia that featured grainy, slightly fuzzy, low resolution moments that appear like coming straight from a dream.

The times have changed vastly since the advent of the video camera. These days, technological marvels can be found for a fraction of what one might expect to pay for a top of the line recording device.

For the customer who is not sure where to start looking, never fear. Any one of these top 10 camcorders will record such a crisp, vibrant picture that no one in the family will forget “The Great Ant Invasion” from summer’s last BBQ.

#10 Samsung HMX-QF20

Within the last decade or so, technology advancements have drastically changed the descriptions one might read when shopping for a new camcorder. The Samsung HMX-QF20 is a great starting point when searching for a product embodying the best qualities camcorders have begun picking up over time. Weighing less than half a pound and less than 5 inches long, Samsung’s HMX-QF20 is extremely compact as opposed to yesterday’s camcorders. But with wireless capabilities, a shooting mode specifically for YouTube videos, 20x optic and 40x digital zooms and an HDMI port on top of the USB 2.0 option, in this case, less (size and weight) is definitely more functional than ever before. The massive power and myriad of functions do tend to ensure a hefty investment, but at $350, it is hard to find a better deal for any less.

#9 Canon Vixia HF-G20

Canon, like most every other company that produces quality electronics, has become a household name. Unlike the competition though, most of Canon’s strongest products are cameras. Because of their knack for developing top of the line cameras, devices from Canon can be a bit pricey, but their reputation is as such for a reason. The Canon Vixia HF-G20 is significantly more expensive than the little Samsung (Selling for $800 on a good day), but the more tech savvy or well-versed photographer might point out features that justify the price. Until that happens, the 10x optical zoom and 200x digital zoom both get the job done, but are not necessarily game-changing.

As well as a few shooting programs, this camera also has a handful of special effects, as well as exposure modes and those coupled with the white balance presets do add up to some functionality the more affordable options may fail to provide. The other saving graces of this product are the 32 GB internal flash storage, as well as memory slot compatible with the various SD card formats available. The extra money may be worth it if these options are all desired, but for the very beginning amateur videographer, it is extra money better saved for when the old camera wears out and the skills are more honed.

#8 Sony Handycam HDR-CX220

Sony has always been well-known for their arsenal of top of the line electronics, including but not limited to televisions, music players, game consoles and (of course) cameras. The Handycam HDR-CX220 represents one of their best camcorders to date and, for all of the perks and extra abilities programmed into the device, the price point is so much more than reasonable. Features that really make the CX220 stand out as a steal are the 8.9-pixel resolution, HDMI capabilities, face detection, electronic stabilizer, 2-channel Dolby audio and a laundry list of shooting programs to turn recording chores into filming fun. This little device is nearly the same in size and weight as the Samsung but slightly more powerful, containing 27x optic zoom and a staggering 320x digital zoom. For $399, customers can buy this great camera and trust that Sony’s stellar reputation for quality electronics will remain intact.

#7 Sony Handycam HDR-TD30V

Sony products are often fairly affordable, but they manage to also make unexpectedly expensive products, even if other products they sell for less may be better in some opinions. That oddball camcorder that costs an arm and a leg is the HDR-TD30V, running just about $2,500 to purchase new. Although it costs more than a visit to the doctor (which is saying a lot), the Handycam TD30V still only has 10x optical zoom and 120x digital zoom which, judging by number alone, reads somewhat lackluster. This item does have face detection, HDMI and video resolution of 3.98 pixels, taking pictures at 5 megapixels, so there are benefits that come with the heavy price tag. Other pluses are that it comes with a remote control, reduces wind noise and supports the widest variety of memory cards, including SD and Memory Stick PRO duo. For those customers with money burning a hole through a few pockets and a passion for video work, take a closer look at the specifications to get a good idea of the subtle strong points not yet mentioned.

#6 Panasonic HC-X900

Although Sony’s $2,500 Handycam dwarfs every other price provided on this list, Panasonic’s HC-X900 comes in a close enough second, running consumers $1549.95. Much like Sony’s product, a more detailed look at the specs may shine some light on features that make this little camcorder worth its price, but the more obvious qualities do help justify the cost a bit. This camera shoots videos in over 6 megapixels and takes still images in resolutions up to 7.11 megapixels. That is resolution too strong to scoff at, especially with 38x optical zoom and 1140x digital zoom. This is a camera that does not miss a heart beat, or a corn kernel popped. It is fully capable of catching every millisecond of life’s most amazing moments and although it costs a pretty penny, the pretty videos and pictures will last a lifetime.

#5 JVC Everio GZ-EX355

Although the last item was quite impressive, it must be said again that less is often more. For the tight-budgeted customer who wants versatility and bang for their buck, JVC’s Everio GZ-EX355 might just win the ticket. The EX355 has one of the best battery life expectancy of this list and, for just $299, the reliability is a huge win. It is also capable of taking 8.3-megapixel still photos, has 16 GB of built-in memory, comes equipped with built-in WIFI and streaming capabilities, as well as 40x optical zoom. Without even mentioning the image stabilizer, power saving, audio wind reduction, time lapse, or any of the remaining countless features, this absolute goldmine of functionality sounds like it should be selling for $2,500, but JVC has aimed to win over consumers with one of the cheapest and best camcorders on the market without much comparable competition.

#4 Canon Vixia HF-M52

The second camera (HF-M52) of the Canon Vixia trilogy makes its presence well-known, combining the reasonable cost of $400 dollars with quality parts and build. Knocking on the doorstep of the top 3, it is hard to say that much of these products will be a huge distinct difference than the rest. The M52 does have 32 GB of built-in memory, as well as a port for SD cards, which can be vital in keeping the camera rolling. Much like many of the other cameras though, the M52 also only has 10x optical zoom. The two other main points of interest are the built-in wifi for transferring files to the computer and the 3-inch LCD display. Although pretty much every camcorder mentioned does have an LCD screen close to the same size, not all screens are created equal, and this one is touch screen.

#3 Sony HDR-PJ380

Moving into the top 3, just making it in is the Sony HDR-PJ380. The last in the Sony trilogy to be presented, this $598 camera is certainly not least. Actually, the PJ380 is one of the richest cameras in terms of function. While priced reasonably, this camera takes both Memory Stick PRO Duo and SD format cards, can shoot video and stills at 8.9 megapixels and also takes videos in more than just a couple of formats, which most cameras were extremely limited in that scope. 16 GB of internal memory is standard, as are wind noise reduction and face detection. The most interesting feature of this product from Sony is that unlike any of the competition up to this point, the PJ380 has a built-in projector for easily sharing video. The $600 price tag was already reasonable-sounding without a projector. Now, the PJ380 is a steal that’s hard to pass up.

#2 Panasonic HC-V770 HD

With only two options left, the runner up for best camcorder is easily handed to Panasonic’s HC-V770 HD. This camcorder matches its fellow top 3 members, selling for about $600, but also has 20x optical zoom, which surely takes a win over the 10x put into most of these competitors.

There is also a built in wifi feature and NFC that allows pairing of the camera and a smartphone. The images can be reviewed on the phone using this feature, which is not something many of these other products can say. This same connection makes it possible to live stream events in HD, or use the camera as a baby monitor that notifies the caregiver of a waking or crying baby via push notification. Phones can also be used as sub-cameras, shooting the same picture from multiple views when these two devices are paired and in use together. Videos in full HD can also be recorded at 120 frames per second, allowing enough frame rate captured that videos can also be played in slow motion and HD. This camera is great for time lapse videos, live streams, youtube videos, or any family event. With so much unique ability, the $600 HC-V770 HD is well worth the money.

#1 Canon Vixia HF-R42

Surprise, surprise, the number one item on the list is made by the optical titans at Canon. The Canon Vixia HF-R42 also hits the shelves priced around $600.

The only way to beat Panasonic’s functionality is to include a similar variety of tools and options. Canon did just that, using built in wifi to post videos to Youtube and Facebook, live stream, serve as home security and use the phone paired to the camera as a remote control.

This machine still weighs less than a pound and it includes a touch screen LCD. Comparable to the best competing cameras, the R42 has 32 GB of built in flash memory and to put a cherry on top, the video quality is beautiful and crisp, creating a gorgeous 1080p full HD video.

Although still photo taking with this camera leaves a bit of room for improvement, for $600 no better camcorder or digital camera can even come close to matching Canon’s stunning work on the Vixia HF-R42. Canon really outdid themselves, making a camcorder that is almost impossible not to admire and desire. With the Vixia HF-R42, catching life’s greatest moments gets better.

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