I want to buy a new (DVD) camcorder to reduce or avoid the slow loss of quality over time that I have experienced in VHS, VHS-C, 8mm, and Hi-8mm. It seems one of the new DVD camcorders from Sony, Hitachi, or Panasonic is the answer. Do you agree and if not, why not?
This question was answered on June 5, 2003. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
The 'latest and greatest' format being incorporated into camcorders is DVD, because of its long shelf live (about 30 years).
When you first hear about DVD based camcorders, most envision the ease of viewing the freshly shot video on their home DVD players Just pop the disk out of the camera and watch it on your home system, right?
Well, yes and no.
The type of DVD disk that you record on will have a big impact on what you can do with it.
Most current DVD camcorders support DVD-RAM and DVD-R disks for recording The DVD-RAM is much more flexible for video editing, but you must have a special DVD-RAM player (which most don't) or purchase a special DVD-RAM drive for your computer.
The DVD-R standard is usable in most newer DVD players, but has limited editing capabilities Sony's new DVD camcorders are now supporting the use of DVD-RW disks which increases the editing capabilities a little.
DVD camcorders are generally limited to 40-60 minutes of video in the highest resolution and up to 2 hours in lower resolution.
The media costs (disk vs tape) can be a little higher for DVD camcorders and finding the right format may prove to be a little harder at the moment, but that will likely change in the near future.
A really cool feature in the DVD-based camcorders is that you don't have rewind or fast forward to check the video that you have shot You can quickly jump to any segment (much like the chapters in a store bought DVD movie) by choosing a thumbnail that comes up on the cameras LCD screen
If you don't like a piece of video that you shot, you can quickly erase it as well.
There is a mechanical concern with these DVD camcorders based on my previous experience with DVD players and digital still cameras that used CD-RW disks
Anything that uses a laser to read and write becomes unusable if the laser goes out of alignment I used a CD based digital camera in the past that suffered from this alignment anomaly that required it be serviced in order to be able to use the camera again.
Often times, alignment problems are what render computer and home DVD players useless, so I have concerned about how much 'jarring' these new DVD camcorders can take before the laser goes out of alignment.
Basically, if you are the type that generally shoots video and never has the desire or knowledge to edit the video on your computer, than the DVD recorders may be just what you are looking for
If you plan on editing the video on your computer, than the MiniDV tape format will offer you more compatibility (the video compression technology used in most DVD camcorders is not supported directly by most video editing packages), lower prices and faster transfer methods because they generally have FireWire interfaces instead of the slower USB 2.0 found in most of the DVD camcorders.
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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on June 5, 2003