In the past, capturing home videos and important life events meant: 1) owning a bulky, expensive camcorder that resembled a television news camera, or 2) hiring a professional videographer.
Today, though, a new generation of mini or pocket camcorders allows photographers and videographers of all skill levels to get the perfect shot and easily take the camera with them on the go.
We’ve assembled a list of the best pocket camcorders on the market today. They span all pricing tiers, experience levels, and uses. Check them out to find out which is the best pocket camcorder for you.
What Are Pocket Camcorders?
Camcorders are cameras specifically designed for making videos rather than still photos (though many do maintain a still photo option).
Pocket camcorders are sized as their name suggests – they’re small enough and light enough to fit in your pocket. This makes them ideal for everything from travel and family outings to capturing newsworthy events.
Best Pocket Camcorders
Rugged and waterproof? Amazingly steady? On a budget? Professional results? Whatever type of pocket camcorder you need, you’ll find it on the following list.
Best All-Around Pocket Camcorder: GoPro Hero 9
With a marketing slogan of “More Everything,” the GoPro Hero 9 is at the top of the food chain when it comes to mini camcorders. It sports a 5K resolution with 30 frames per second.
It can double as a webcam for your Zoom meetings, and you can use it to live stream to your favorite apps using your smartphone.
It’s extremely rugged – waterproof down to 33 feet (10 meters), dustproof, shockproof, and able to take on special protective housings if you’re really going to put it through its paces.
One of the best things about the GoPro, however, is the Hypersmooth image stabilization. This feature was introduced with the Hero 8 Black.
Whether you’re carefully walking with the camera in hand or hurtling down a hillside with it strapped to your head, the resulting video is smooth as butter, no external gimbal required.
In terms of price, the GoPro Hero series rests in the upper-middle range of mini camcorder prices. One other plus with the Hero 9 is that the packaging doubles as a carry case – convenient, money-saving, and environmentally friendly.
Best Professional Grade Pocket Camcorder: Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K
Touted as “the world’s smallest, HD and Ultra HD live studio camera,” the Blackmagic Micro is a workhorse built for professional applications.
It can be tucked into unexpected places to capture incredible shots – even candid ones. It is lightweight enough to safely fly via drone, even in crowded areas.
The Blackmagic Micro has onboard professional microphones, but it can also handle stereo mic attachments as needed.
It’s also the only camera in our lineup that will accept additional lenses – and the camera body is hardly larger than the diameter of the lens mount! It houses an HDMI port, 3.5 mm audio in, USB port, and SDI connection that allows control from any ATEM switcher.
At more than a grand, this pocket camcorder may not be the right choice for everyone. But its small size, front-facing buttons, and myriad accessories make it an outstanding choice for professional videographers.
Best Built-in Gimbal Pocket Camcorder: DJI Pocket 2 Creator Combo
This pocket camcorder has a large sensor for wide-angle shots and the ability to capture 4K video. The reason it made our list, however, is the 3-axis gimbal that provides excellent video stability.
The attached control panel or “Do-it-All” handle fits neatly in your hand, weighing just over four ounces.
In addition to stability, the camera also features ActiveTrack, enabling the lens to move and track a selected face or object. The gimbal also allows easy pan-and-tilt control.
This semi-pro camera is a bit pricier than many of our other selections, but still much cheaper than a professional setup.
Best Pocket Camcorder for Social Media: DJI Osmo Pocket
The DJI Osmo Pocket is the Pocket 2 Creator’s smart, less expensive little brother. The Osmo offers a similar 3-axis gimbal stabilization system for smooth, clear video in a considerably smaller package.
This pocket camcorder brings features to the table that are specifically designed for social media influencers and creators. In Selfie Mode, the camera swivels in order to keep your face in the shot – no matter how much you’re moving.
The camera can physically and digitally connect to your smartphone, allowing for easy image capture, video editing, and social sharing.
There are also a number of artistic features well suited to experimental photography – motion lapse video, in which the camera automatically swivels while taking a timelapse video; night shot, which illuminates long exposures; and seamless, automatic 3×3 panoramas.
You can also use this camcorder with a host of accessories, including an extra-long selfie stick, protective holster, and a waterproof case rated to a depth of 60 meters.
Best Budget Pocket Camcorder: Kodak PlaySport Zx5
The Kodak PlaySport Zx5 has a unique configuration. It’s a vertical rectangle with a viewscreen near the top and controls and grips on the lower half.
The buttons are intuitive, making it easy to use – for example, there are arrow keys for selection, a camcorder/camera button for switching modes, a standard play button for viewing, a garbage can for delete, and a wrench for settings.
The Zx5 is waterproof to 10 feet (3 meters) and shockproof to 1.5 meters. It takes full 1080p HD video with built-in digital image stabilization. Its stats may not outshine our previous selections, but considering the price differential, this is a solid budget buy.
The Kodak PlaySport Zx5 is about half the price of the newest GoPro, making it a great balance of value and durability. Its ease of use makes it accessible to the whole family.
Best Pocket Camcorder for Kids: Ourlife Kids Waterproof Camera with Video Recorder
Whether you’re fueling your child’s interest in photography or just keeping them distracted from your precious camera collection, the Ourlife Kids waterproof camera is a must. Its configuration resembles the GoPro – small and square with a viewscreen on the back, with various types of mounts for helmets, bike handles, and more.
Four easy-to-use buttons select Photography, Camcorder, Play Back, and Settings. It also comes pre-loaded with six fun photo frames and seven monochrome video filters. Video quality, however, maxes out at 1280×720.
The manufacturers also claim it is waterproof up to 100 feet in some advertising media, outperforming most of the camcorders we considered.
However, other descriptions claim it is waterproof to 33 only feet, so we recommend sticking with the lesser depth. The kiddos using this camera aren’t likely to be deep-sea scuba diving, anyway.
At less than $50 per unit, you’ll want to purchase one for every child in your family. The housing comes in your choice of light blue, navy blue, or pink, preventing arguments over which camera belongs to which budding photographer.
Pocket Camcorder Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Wondering if you should invest in a pocket camcorder? We’re here to answer all of your frequently asked questions.
I Already Have a Smartphone – Do I Need a Pocket Camcorder?
The short answer to this question is: if you want to take high-quality video, then yes, you do!
Most smartphones are capable of taking video clips in high definition. For example, the Google Pixel and iPhone X series phones can record video at 1080p (or higher, depending on the model).
The resulting videos, however, are likely to feel noisy or grainy compared to a dedicated camcorder recording at the same definition. Why? Because taking video is not your smartphone’s primary function.
It’s a fun extra. Less effort is put into perfecting the lenses and microphone, and the file is likely compressed so as not to compromise your phone’s storage.
The manufacturers of dedicated camcorders, however, know that less-than-impressive results will lead to bad reviews and fewer sales. They focus on the device’s primary purpose – recording video.
You’ll also be using removable storage such as SD cards, so memory is not a problem.
My Video Looks Wobbly. Is There Any Way to Fix It?
In recent years, most “action cameras,” including GoPro, have included advanced video stabilization features in their devices. The camera shake is automatically corrected.
So, if your video is shakey, first find out if your camera includes this feature. Then, make sure it is activated in the camera’s settings.
If your camera lacks stabilization features or you need additional stabilization, you can mount your camcorder on a gimbal. The gimbal allows the camcorder to rotate on an axis independent of the movement of your hands (or, in the case of an action camera, whatever you have it mounted on).
This greatly reduces or eliminates shakiness, resulting in better video quality that won’t give your viewers motion sickness.
Several of the pocket camcorders on our list come with a built-in 3-axis gimbal.
What Do Shockproof, Dustproof, and Waterproof Actually Mean?
Some camera owners believe that the terms shockproof, dustproof, and, waterproof indicate that their device is virtually indestructible. While action cameras are designed to operate in inclement and high-intensity situations, you should be aware of their limitations.
Shockproof indicates that a camera will still function after a drop from a normal height – usually 5.5 feet or less. It doesn’t mean that it won’t be damaged. Drops can still scratch the outer surface or crack screens. And if you drop it from a great height, it probably won’t survive.
Dustproof means that the seams of the camera are sealed so that dust, sand, lint, etc. won’t gum up the lenses or enter the camera body.
Waterproof means that you can use your camcorder in the rain without worry. It also means that the camera can be used underwater to a certain depth – typically 10 to 30 feet (3 to 9 meters). Water exerts an increasing amount of pressure the deeper you go. If you take your camera deeper than recommended, the pressure will cause water to enter sealed areas, causing temporary malfunctions or permanently damaging the camera.
After using underwater or in a wet environment, you should always rinse your waterproof camcorder with clean water, dry it with a cloth, then open all compartments and remove the battery and memory card.
This will allow any moisture to escape. See your user manual for more details.
Even though most smartphones have video capability, videography enthusiasts should always have a high-definition camcorder as part of their photographic arsenal.
We feel like the GoPro Hero Black in its most recent numeric iteration is the best all-around pocket camcorder, but there are plenty of other options to fit your budget and needs.
Whether you’re videoing your kids, your dog, stock video of nature or city life, or something else, we recommend filling your pocket with a mini camcorder wherever you go.