Vintage camcorders may not be as popular as they used to be, but many people still use them for nostalgia, certain functions, and to produce retro home movies that look exactly like they did 20, 30, or 40 years ago.
Capture has seen tens of thousands of hours of camcorder footage over the last 20+ years from just about every old video camera in history. Now, our videotape history archivists put together this list of the 8 best old camcorders that you can still buy today.
Keep reading to learn about the best camcorders, their features, where to buy them, and how to choose the best camcorder for your needs.
Quick Overview of the List
- Sony Handycam CCD-TRV87
- Panasonic PV-L858
- JVC GR-SXM260U
- Canon ES8600
- RCA CC439
- Sharp Viewcam VL-E33U
- Hitachi VM-5000A
- Kodak Ektasound 245
Criteria for Choosing the Best Vintage Camcorders
When putting together our list of the best vintage camcorders, we wanted to be as objective as possible. That’s why we used a variety of criteria to select the ones that have the best image and sound quality, durability, availability, and popularity. These are also criteria you can choose to find the best option for your purposes!
Image and Sound Quality
For most people, this is the most important criterion. You want your home movies to have high-quality audio and video, but there are other things to consider including special features like optical zoom, low light functionality, image stabilization, and more that impact this criterion. Additionally, we know that people often want the best camcorder for a vintage look and feel, so we considered that as well.
Since these cameras are old, we wanted to make sure they were sturdy, durable, and wouldn’t require tons of repairs. Some old school camcorders are okay for occasional use, but will stop working in humid conditions, when exposed to too much sunlight, or when banged around in luggage on vacation. We didn’t want to include those types and tried to only add camcorders that would last.
Availability of Camcorder and Accessories
Since this is a list of videotape and film cameras that you can buy in 2023, we have to make sure that the availability was one of the factors we used to select the best. In addition, we considered whether you can still buy the accessories including the format (MiniDV tapes are harder to find than VHS tapes for example), lenses, straps, replacement parts, and more.
Popularity Among Collectors
Finally, we also considered the popularity among collectors, filmmakers, and analog video camcorder enthusiasts. This popularity is a sign of iconic features, innovative functions, and nostalgic superiority. Additionally, we used their feedback as well as our own experiences to create a more objective overview of each video recorder.
List of the 8 Best Vintage Camcorders
These are the 8 best vintage camcorders according to our hopefully objective criteria as well as a description of the features, availability, price, and pros and cons so you can easily decide on the best old camcorder for your videography.
1. Sony Handycam CCD-TRV87
Image Source: www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/sony-handycam-ccd-trv67-hi8-analog-1791749056I
This Sony camcorder uses Hi8 tapes to create exceptional image quality recording, but it’s the other design elements and features that earn its spot on this list. The lightweight, handheld appearance makes it super easy to use and it also has 560x digital zoom and 20x optical zoom for superb images. Plus the 2.5 inch color LCD screen was ahead of its time and more reminiscent of modern digital camcorders. In addition, it is good for low light and even night shooting because of the built-in infrared mode.
One of the more frustrating aspects of this vintage camera, though, is the fact that accessories, adapters, and television connections are harder to find than some of the others on our list. Also, it’s a little more fragile than other old video cameras, which is one of the reasons it’s also a little pricey with refurbished options in great condition costing $250 to $400.
- Good image quality with LCD screen for easy viewing
- Uses Hi8 tapes (better quality than 8mm tapes)
- 560x Digital zoom and 20x optical zoom
- Night and low light capability
- Hard to find accessories
- Cost more than alternatives
2. Panasonic PV-L858
IImage Source: www.mediacollege.com/equipment/panasonic/camera/pv/pvl550.htmlI
This VHS-C camcorder is fantastic for its compact design, excellent lightweight use, and built-in strap that makes it as easy as any vintage camcorder to film on the go. In fact, it even has anti-shake and image stabilization features to make sure that you get action shots or walking footage that looks clear and still. It also has an LCD color screen, 18x optical zoom, and 150x digital zoom.
One of the issues with this camcorder is the auto-focus because it’s designed primarily for manual control including manual focus, aperture, and shutter speed settings. Additionally, the battery isn’t great and may run down faster than you’re used to. Still, for around $50 to $150, it’s just about as good as you can get.
- Good image quality with great color contrast
- Compact design with built-in strap
- LCD screen
- High-quality image stabilization
- Battery runs down quickly
- Need adapter to play tapes on VCR
3. JVC GR-SXM260U
Image Source: www.mediacollege.com/equipment/panasonic/camera/pv/pvl550.htmlI
This is a fantastic JVC S-VHS-C camcorder that records up to 60% higher resolution than standard VHS models. Plus, it features a built-in auto light and 2.5” LCD screen as well as three recording modes including standard VHS-C capability. The amazing 700x zoom feature and long-lasting battery allow you to capture your memories without worry.
Plus, it’s affordable costing between $20 to $100 on eBay, but unfortunately, it’s not durable. Many of the options on eBay are listed for parts or repair because they simply don’t work or are untested. That being said, you can get them for the upper edge of the price range tested and in good condition.
- High resolution S-VHS-C with standard VHS-C functionality
- 700x digital zoom
- Long-lasting battery
- LCD screen
- Not durable
- Harder to find in pristine condition
4. Canon ES8600
Image Source: global.canon/en/c-museum/product/8mmvc442.html
This early 2000s Canon model for Hi8 tapes offers a high-tech lens with a 22x optical zoom lens and 800x digital zoom. The monochrome viewfinder is really good and perfect for the nostalgic experience and the sound quality is as good as any vintage camcorder (even as good as most digital video cameras). The auto focus is also exceptional.
However, it isn’t great for low light situations, so if you are expecting to use this camera at night, we recommend choosing a different option. Plus, unlike competing Samsung and Sony DCR models, this option is difficult to find in good condition on Amazon, eBay, or elsewhere. If you can though, it’s usually available for $80 to $200.
- Great viewfinder
- Fantastic sound quality
- Good image quality with 800x digital zoom
- Subpar for low light situations
- Harder to find than alternatives
5. RCA CC439
Image Source: www.manualslib.com/manual/508059/Rca-Cc4391.html
This RCA video camera is fantastic especially when you consider the affordable price and availability in 2023. The LCD color screen is good as well and the auto light makes nighttime filming easy and good quality. There are also lots of great accessories that are fairly easy to find at camera stores and online forums.
The main complaint with this model is the fact that the digital zoom is 32x and the image quality is a little less adequate than some of the higher quality models. Additionally, some users find the design uncomfortable and difficult to get used to. Still, for as little as $25 or around $80 with a case, adapters, battery packs, straps, and more, it’s a good budget retro camera.
- Highly affordable
- Easy to find with lots of accessories
- Auto light for night filming
- Average 32x digital zoom
- May be uncomfortable to use
6. Sharp Viewcam VL-E33U
Image Source: picclick.com/Sharp-VL-E33U-8mm-8-Viewcam-Camcorder-Untested-AS-IS-175678098307.html
This Sharp model uses 8mm tapes and has an iconic design that’s closer to a standard camera that many collectors love. It’s also incredibly durable and great for going on vacation or capturing action shots using the wonderful auto focus feature and 8x power zoom. Plus, it has easy to use settings to view your memories directly on the screen.
The LCD screen itself leaves a lot to be desired because it’s small and scratches easily. Additionally, the image quality may not be as good as most on our list and the strap has a tendency to wear out. Still, the iconic vintage camcorder and accessories can be found for as little as $20 and rarely sells for more than $60.
- Iconic design
- Tough and durable
- Good auto focus feature
- LCD screen is small and scratches easily
- Not as high image quality as some other options
7. Hitachi VM-5000A
Image Source: www.flickr.com/photos/kalaabpickering/12107263313/in/photostream/
This standard VHS camcorder from 1987 is perfect for a completely nostalgic experience. The large design is fun to use and comes complete with tons of good features like a video zoom lens, auto and Manual aperture and focus control, and more. Many options you can find in 2023 also come with a case, adapters, and more.
The downside is that it weighs about 15 pounds and can be extremely large to lug around. Additionally, the battery is not designed for longer shooting like many of the newer models on our list. It’s usually available for $50 to $100 though and can be a lot of fun to use for a retro experience.
- Retro VHS experience
- Often comes with accessories
- Manual and auto functionality is a lot of fun to play with
- Weighs 15 pounds
- Poor battery longevity
8. Kodak Ektasound 245
Image Source: https://3f-museum.de/429-2/
This 8mm camcorder from the early 80s is memorable, iconic, and was widely popular throughout the decade and into the 90s. It’s also lightweight at only around 5 pounds including the battery and offers playback options, auto focus, auto zoom, and automatic iris and color balance as well as an electronic viewfinder. This makes it easy to use for good image quality.
It is a little harder to find than most of the options we’ve reviewed and even harder to find accessories and parts for it. Despite that, it’s very affordable at around $50 to $90 online in 2023, but be careful of options in poor condition.
- Iconic, popular design
- Lightweight at around 5 pounds
- Easy to use with automatic options including color balance
- Electronic viewfinder
- Hard to find accessories and parts
- Many options online are in poor condition
Where to Find Vintage Camcorders
Now that you know some of the best vintage camcorders to look for, it’s important to know where to look. Some of the most convenient places to buy vintage camcorders include online marketplaces like Amazon or eBay. However, many of those places only have cameras in average or below average condition.
Other online places you may want to keep in mind are dedicated camera stores like KEH Camera and B&H Photo Video. If you still can’t find what you’re looking for we highly recommend browsing online forums like Filmshooting.com or DVinfo.net. Even if they don’t have what you want, they are full of experts who can point you in the right direction.
Finally, don’t forget about local camera shops, antique stores, thrift stores, and even yard sales and garage sales. Sometimes the hunt to find a video camera is a lot of fun and you may be surprised by the high-quality options you discover.
Vintage camcorder options are plentiful, but some break easily while others are nearly impossible to find in 2023. With our list of 8 options that produce high-quality images, offer great features, and more, you can finally get the retro video camera you’ve been wanting.
Regardless of the type of camcorder you get, it’s important to preserve the home video digitally so that future generations can enjoy it. Whether you have MiniDV, VHS, VHS-C, Hi8, or any other type of videotape, Capture digital converter service can turn it into digital copies that ensure your memories last forever. Click here to learn more about our services.