Digital Video Cameras

They're an ideal way to record footage of your family, friends and those special occasions: but which one is right for you?


DV camcorders: which one to choose?

From the introduction of the first DV camcorder using the MiniDV tape format, the choices of DV camcorder have expanded, and there are now several format options to suit the way that you want to work.

If you want to prepare video for the Web, or to write to DVD or VideoCD with little or no editing of video, a disc-based camcorder may be the ideal solution. DVD cameras record footage onto digital video discs which can then be inserted straight into your DVD player. However, if you want to edit your video on the PC, a tape-based camcorder should be at the top of your list due to its ability to transfer video to the PC in a format suited to editing. MPEG in all its forms is first and foremost a delivery format, which makes it less than ideal when it comes to editing on the PC.


Tape-based camcorders

MiniDV tape-based camcorders are the oldest form of digital video, with the first model arriving in the mid-1990s. A mini-DV cassette is of similar dimensions to an audio cassette and about half the size, with tapes priced from around AUS$10 each. The tapes hold from 45 to 90 minutes of footage and capture an impressive 500 lines of resolution. In recent years, high-definition MiniDV tapes have entered the marketplace, but these will only work with specific HD cameras (more on this later).

The advantages of MiniDV include a proven tape format with widespread availability. Most PCs with a standard FireWire connection will automatically recognise a MiniDV-based camcorder in much the same way that a USB device, such as a printer or scanner, is recognised when connected to a USB connection.

Tape-based camera tot

Digital 8 camcorders allow you to use your old 8mm analogue cassettes while also offering a direct DV connection to your PC, so you can store DV footage on 8mm tape. This solution could be a useful option for schools and learning institutions with a large collection of Hi8 and 8mm tape footage. Note: As of Q3 2007, Sony no longer manufactures Digital8 camcorders, although the tapes are still available to buy from most retailers as well as from Sony's Web site.

Other DV tape formats include DVCam and ProDV, offering high-end features such as a more robust tape construction, lower compression ratio and an interchangeable lens system, specifically designed to appeal to professional moviemakers. These formats should only be considered when working within a professional environment, as prices for such camcorders start at around $10,000 and go much higher.

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PC World Staff

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