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Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012: camcorders and action cams

Zach Honig

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Welcome to the Engadget holiday gift guide! Picking presents for friends and loved ones is never a simple task, and with thousands of options for each category, buying technology can be an especially frustrating experience. We're here to help. Below you'll find today's bevy of curated picks, and you can head back to our hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the holiday season. And don't forget to enter our giveaway -- leave a comment for a chance to nab AT&T's Samsung Galaxy Express.

Smartphones and point-and-shoots do a fine job at snapping HD footage, so there's really no need for a dedicated video shooter, right? Well, not quite. Despite the best efforts of manufacturers, our handsets and pocket cams most often can't compete with the usability or stabilization features of a camcorder. There are three options to contemplate this holiday season: a tiny, versatile action cam, a consumer camcorder or a high-end professional model. We've rounded up our picks for each category, collected for your consideration just past the break.

Sports action

GoPro Hero3

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 camcorders and action cams

GoPro has some serious competition in the action cam realm, but the company's tried-and-true models have become ubiquitous, landing shooting roles on dozens of adventure-themed television shows and amateur projects alike. The Hero3 debuted last month, and it's just beginning to arrive in stores. There are three flavors to choose from -- Black ($400) is the crème de la crème, capturing 4K video (limited to 15 fps) and 1080p clips at up to 60 frames-per-second, while Silver ($300) and White ($200) shoot 1080p at 30 fps, though the Silver model can grab higher-res stills. Each model packs built-in WiFi with app and wireless remote compatibility, but only the Black ships with a controller.

Key specs: Up to 4K 15 fps or 1080/60p video, up to 12MP stills, f/2.8 fixed wide-angle lens, WiFi, shockproof, waterproof to 197 feet (60 meters), ships with a variety of mounting hardware.

Price: $200-400 on Amazon

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This helmet-mounted cam is a bit larger and pricier than the competition, but it offers 1080p video and a line input for piping in external sound sources. This update to the original Contour+ connects to your handset over Bluetooth to provide a remote viewfinder and controls. We put this compact shooter through its paces in September and loved the results.

Price: $370 on Amazon


Sony Action Cam

This is a new category for Sony, but if the company's other imaging products are any indication, it's certainly up to the task. The Action Cam packs a 16-megapixel Exmor R sensor (for decent stills, too), SteadyShot IS, WiFi support, 1080/30p video and a speedy 720p option that snags 120 frames-per-second.

Price: $198 on Amazon

Consumer camcorders

Canon VIXIA HF M500

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 camcorders and action cams

If you're very serious about your home movies or need to do some video reporting on a budget, you can't go wrong with Canon's VIXIA HF M500. Image stabilization's critical for devices of this kind, and there are four options here, ranging from a Dynamic mode for snapping steady footage while walking to Powered IS for when you engage the camcorder's 10x HD Video Lens. You can expect excellent audio capture from the built-in mic -- there's also an input for adding your own source and a headphone jack that'll make monitoring a breeze. Video is captured directly to SD or SDXC cards with support for up to 64GB, and the camera offers AVCHD for higher bit-rate clips or MP4 for easier editing and direct web uploads.

Key specs: 1/3-inch CMOS sensor, 1080/30p video, 3-inch touchscreen.

Price: $399 on Amazon

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Sony Handycam HDR-CX760V

If you can afford it, the Sony CX760V will surely earn its keep, especially for videographers with shaky hands. This full-featured camcorder packs Balanced Optical SteadyShot IS -- the entire lens module moves to compensate for shake or motion, yielding surprisingly stable footage at wide angles and telephoto positions alike.

Price: $1,498 on Amazon


Panasonic HC-V700

Looking to boost your sensor size and focal length while sticking to a reasonable budget? The Panasonic HC-V700 features a 21x optical zoom lens, a 1/2.33-inch sensor and 1080/60p video capture, with 5.8-megapixel stills and standard image stabilization features, too.

Price: $380 on Amazon


Sony NEX-VG900

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 camcorders and action cams

Looking to drop some serious dough on the aspiring professional in your life? Sony's NEX camcorder line has earned its fair share of credibility among expert shooters, and the VG900 steps up the company's game with a full-frame sensor. It's the same chip that you'll find in the Alpha A99, so you can expect killer stills, with the added benefit of a camcorder form factor. Expect 1080p video at 24 or 60 frames-per-second and 24.3-megapixel stills, with support for 14-bit RAW captures. There's a top sensitivity of ISO 32,000, along with support for uncompressed HD output through the HDMI port. As you shoot, you can monitor video footage through the XGA-resolution OLED electronic viewfinder or the 270-degree swivel LCD. North of three grand is no small sum for a holiday gift, but if the best is what you're after, you can't go wrong here.

Key specs: Full-frame 24.3-MP CMOS sensor, 1080/60p video, 5.1-channel mic, XGA EVF.

Price: $3,298 on Amazon

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Canon Cinema EOS C100

This time last year, Canon grabbed our attention by announcing its entry into the motion picture industry with the $16,000 EOS C300. Now the camera maker is setting its sights on slightly lighter wallets, with the 1080p-capable C100. This new model may not shoot 4K, but it does offer XLR inputs, SD card support and autofocus.

Price: $6,499 from B&H



We love all-in-one solutions, and so does JVC, it seems. This capable compact has photojournalists in mind with a trio of CMOS sensors and WiFi connectivity with FTP support, enabling instant transfers from the field. It's not scheduled to ship until December 31st, so an IOU will have to do.

Price: $5,695 from B&H


DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 camcorders and action cams

Samsung Galaxy Express

Ready to take home one of AT&T's hottest smartphones? Today's offering is the Samsung Galaxy Express, which runs a snappy 1.5GHz processor and sports a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen. To enter for your chance to win, be sure to review our full guidelines, then leave a comment below.

The rules:

  • Leave a comment below. Any comment will do. Duplicate entries will be filtered out and discarded, so adding additional comments won't increase your likelihood of winning.
  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 States and the District of Columbia, 18 or older! Sorry, we don't make this rule (we hate excluding anyone).
  • Winners will be chosen randomly. One winner will receive one (1) Samsung Galaxy Express.
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes a contact email. Social media contact details are not carried over into our system.
  • This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. AT&T, Samsung and Engadget/AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.
  • The full list of rules, in all its legalese glory, can be found here.
  • Entries can be submitted until December 31st, 2012 at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!
In this article: canon, HGG, HGG 2012, Hgg2012, sony
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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