A camcorder combines a video camera with a video recorder. Cell phones and digital cameras (point-and-shoot or D-SLR) can also record videos, however in a camcorder recording videos is its primary function.
Video cameras have made a huge progress in the past 20 years. Today most of them use flash memory and the quality of of the footage on high-end models is getting close to those you can see on HDTV.
One of the key advantage of dedicated video cameras over smartphones and point and shoots is that they usually provide a good optical zoom, which allows you to record distant action. The optical zoom range is probably one of the first things you should watch out for. Remember not to confuse optical zoom with digital zoom, as the latter simply zooms in the image in the center rather than giving you any extra detail.
Electronic image stabilisation comes as a standard in most models, however optical image stabilization is what you need if you want to shoot steady movies at full zoom.
Full HD capability doesn't automatically guarantee high quality of your footage. The lens and sensor are far more important here. However, with Full HD 1080p monitors and tv sets widely used today and 4K standard getting more and more popular, you shouldn't really be investing in anything that has video quality of less than 1080p.
Many modern camcorders today ditch the rear viewfinder in favor of a large LCD screen. Its large size as well as high resolution (at least 260,000 dots) will help you frame your videos more easily.
Even if you don't plan to take advantage of more advanced features from the beginning (e.g. adjustable exposure), it might be a good idea in having them in case you need them in the future.
For example, you might realize that you built-in microphone doesn't meet your expectations. In this case you will need an external mic input, and that's something you should look for in your product research.
Below we include a list of a few models you might find interesting:
Sony RX10 Mark II features a DRAM chip, which allows shutter speed up to 1/32000s and 5x faster readout than the previous model. This give you an incredible 16fps shooting of 20.2 megapixel images. 4K video recording doesn't skip or bin pixels, which results in higher quality footage, and you even can shoot super slow motion videos at 960fps. (40 times slower than real time)
This RX10 Mark II comes with an excellent F2.8 ZEISS 24-200mm lens.
Panasonic's HC-X920 features a 3MOS BSI Sensor and 12x optical zoom (25x digital) with a wide-angle Leica lens at 29.8mm. Optical image stabilization takes advantage of 5-axis correction system, which helps to prevent blurry video shots. The camcorder comes with a 3.5 inch LCD screen, however if you shoot on a bright day, you might prefer to use the extendable viewfinder, which is also there. HC-X920 features built-in Wi-Fi, which for easy sharing as well as live streaming through Ustream.
This JVC video camera is intended for professional and semi-professional use. Fujinon's 23x zoom lens and three 1/3" CMOS sensors offer an excellent performance under low light and full HD resolution (1920x1080). It comes with a wide array of advanced features, such as simultaneous HD + SD video capture for web delivery. It has a built-in GPS and Wi-Fi that besides sharing allows remote control through iOS and Android apps. This kit includes a 32GB SDHC memory card, 2x replacement batteries, 4 filters, LED light, tripod and more.
Canon XA20 is a compact professional camcorder. It has 20x super zoom lens (26.8 - 576mm), with 8-blade circular aperture which can focus to as close as 60 cm (24 inches). It comes with optical image stabilization that helps to provider sharper videos and can record at Full HD 1080p at 60 frames per second. The built-in Wi-Fi makes it easy to share and upload videos. The handle is detachable for added flexibility.
There is a new model of this camera - Canon XA30.