What Video Camera Is the Best for Family Videos?

Home-movie making requires far less technology in the 21st century than it did in the last half of the 20th, with 8 mm film cameras and boxy VHS camcorders giving way to equipment that can capture higher quality footage using equipment smaller than a reel of film or a videocassette. When you're immortalizing your family's most important moments, the type of camcorder you need depends on the setup, the scenery and the situation.

Save the Moment

Professional photographers talk about using the camera you have rather than missing the moment you see. When you're faced with the prospect of leaving a significant family occasion undocumented because you don't have your camcorder with you, the moment takes precedence over the camera you use. Besides, your smartphone gives you the ability to shoot HD footage without reaching for another device. You may prefer to use your camcorder's dedicated video functions, such as its optical zoom and stereo microphone, but your smartphone goes with you in situations to which you may not remember or think to bring other equipment choices, or when you forget to carry enough camcorder memory cards with you for a long event.

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go

It may be athletic kids, a fast-moving kitten or puppy, your toddler's bumpy gait or your own mountain bike adventures, but when you need to catch a fast-moving subject without subjecting a traditional camcorder to the potential bumps, thumps, rain and splashes that can come along for the ride, a compact camcorder designed to record point-of-view video or sports in progress fills the bill. This type of device comes in a flat, thin rectangular housing similar in dimensions to a smartphone, but it packs dedicated camcorder performance into that small casework, along with the ability to strap it onto your arm or attach it to your bike helmet and record your real viewpoint.

Flexibly Yours

Camcorders have evolved from the shoulder-held bulk of their early years into palm-sized devices that can switch recording angles in seconds. They can shoot in the upright view that captures a standing adult figure, the landscape orientation that grabs the full width of an outdoor scene, or any angle in between. With rotating view screens that show you what you're shooting as you rotate through a 180-degree radius and optical image stabilization that adjusts lens position to cancel out camera movement, these flexible performers can rest in the palm of either hand. Mount your camcorder on a tripod for static shots, longer scenes and low-light situations that benefit from a fixed recording position. Zoom lenses can bring you close to small subjects—a flower, an insect or a piece of jewelry—using optical enlargement that relies on hardware rather than on pixel-based enlargements. Wireless capabilities enable your camcorder to save footage wirelessly to social networks or back up videos automatically to your computer.

Watch Closely

Before you screen the raw footage you capture of family milestones, use your home computer to edit together the best moments from a family reunion or the highlights of a child's sports performance. Playing back your videos on a tablet device provides a one-on-one way to show your young athlete her winning tennis match or to reminisce with Grandma. To watch your videos with the entire family, your HD camcorder's recordings make ideal subject matter for display on the high-definition TV hooked up to a home theater system in your living room. With smart playback hardware, you can view videos without hooking up your camcorder to the set. If you captured footage using your smartphone camera, you can screen it on your HDTV and use the smartphone for remote control of the set.

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