A camcorder is an electronic device originally combining a video camera and a videocassette recorder.
The earliest camcorders were tape-based, recording analog signals onto videotape cassettes. In 2006, digital recording became the norm, with tape replaced by storage media such as mini-HD, microDVD, internal flash memory, and SD cards.
More recent devices capable of recording video are camera phones and digital cameras primarily intended for still pictures; the term "camcorder" may be used to describe a portable, self-contained device, with video capture and recording its primary function, often having advanced functions over more common cameras.
Panasonic launched DVCPRO HD in 2000, expanding the DV codec to support high definition (HD). The format was intended for professional camcorders and used full-size DVCPRO cassettes. In 2003 Sony, JVC, Canon, and Sharp introduced HDV as the first affordable HD video format, due to its use of inexpensive MiniDV cassettes.
Sony introduced the XDCAM tapeless video format in 2003, introducing the Professional Disc (PFD). Panasonic followed in 2004 with its P2 solid-state memory cards as a recording medium for DVCPRO-HD video. In 2006 Panasonic and Sony introduced AVCHD as an inexpensive, tapeless, high-definition video format. AVCHD camcorders are produced by Sony, Panasonic, Canon, JVC, and Hitachi. About this time, some consumer-grade camcorders with hard disk and/or memory card recording used MOD and TOD file formats, accessible by USB from a PC.
In 2010, after the success of James Cameron's 2009 3D film Avatar, full 1080p HD 3D camcorders entered the market. With the proliferation of file-based digital formats, the relationship between recording media and recording format has declined; video can be recorded onto different media. With tapeless formats, recording media are storage for digital files.
In 2011 Panasonic released a camcorder capable of shooting in 3D, the HDC-SDT750. It is a 2D camcorder which can shoot in HD; 3D is achieved by a detachable conversion lens. Sony released a 3D camcorder, the HDR-TD10. Sony's 3D lens is built-in, but it can shoot 2D video. Panasonic has also released 2D camcorders with an optional 3D conversion lens. The HDC-SD90, HDC-SD900, HDC-TM900, and HDC-HS900 are sold as "3D-ready": 2D camcorders, with optional 3D capability at a later date.
In CES (January) 2014, Sony announced the first consumer/low-end professional ("prosumer") camcorder Sony FDR-AX100 with a 1" 20.9MP sensor able to shoot 4K video in 3840x2160 pixels 30fps or 24fps in the XAVC-S format; in standard HD the camcorder can also deliver 60fps. When using the traditional format AVCHD, the camcorder supports 5.1 surround sound from its built-in microphone, this is however not supported in the XAVC-S format. The camera also has a 3-step ND filter switch for maintaining a shallow depth of field or a softer appearance to motion. For one-hour video shooting in 4K the camera needs about 32 GB to accommodate a data transfer rate of 50 Mbit/s. The camera's MSRP in the US is USD $2,000.
In early 2014 Sony released the FDR-AX100 which represents the next generation of camcorders. It is capable of shooting in 4K resolution. It currently has a price tag of £1,699 and 4K camcorders are not expected to come into the mainstream market for at least another eight to ten years as most current Blu-ray players are not capable of playing 4K video. Virtually all mainstream TVs are not 4K ready either with the only 4K TVs available being very expensive at £2,500 or over. The only means of archiving 4K video is the 100 GB Blu-ray Disc XL but the discs are very expensive.
However, in 2015, consumer UHD (3840x2160) camcorders below USD $1000 have become available. Sony released the FDRAX33, and Panasonic has released the HC-WX970K and the HC-VX870.
In September 2014 Panasonic announced and claimed 4K Ultra HD Camcorder HC-X1000E as the first conventional camcorder design that can capture up to 60fps at 150 Mbit/s or alternatively standard HD recording at up to 200 Mbit/s in ALL-I mode with MP4, MOV and AVCHD formats all offered depending on the resolution and frame rate. With use 1/2.3" small sensor as commonly is used by bridge cameras, the camcorder has 20x optical zoom in a compact body with dual XLR audio inputs, Internal ND filters, and separate control rings for focus, iris and zoom. In HD capture, the camcorder gets benefit to reduce noises of the small sensor by in-camera downscaling of the 4K image to HD.
As of January 2017, the only major manufacturer to announce new consumer camcorders at CES (Consumer Electronic Show) in Las Vegas was Canon with its entry-level HD models. Panasonic only announced details regarding their Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera called the LUMIX GH5, capable of shooting 4K in 60p. This is the first time in decades that Panasonic & Sony haven't announced new traditional camcorders at CES, & instead carried over 2016's models, such as Sony's FDR-AX53. This is due to there being far less demand in the market for traditional camcorders as more & more consumers prefer to record video with their 4K-capable smartphones, DSLRs, and action cameras from GoPro, Xiaomi, Sony, Nikon, and many others.
Camcorders have three major components: lens, imager, and recorder. The lens gathers light, focusing it on the imager. The imager (usually a CCD or CMOS sensor; earlier models used vidicon tubes) converts incident light into an electrical signal. The recorder converts the electrical signal to video, encoding it in a storable form. The lens and imager comprise the "camera" section.