When choosing a new camcorder, one of the most important decisions to make is the type of storage media that will record your movies. Deciding on a storage medium early in the process will significantly reduce the total number of camcorders you need to consider, this will make later feature-based decisions easier. We'll review the types of recording medium available and provide recommendations based on expected usage.
== Tape Camcorders == While it's not the newest technology, tape provides the highest grade recordings for camcorders. When recording to tape, the image is subjected to a minimal amount of compression so the video recording preserves the highest possible image quality. In addition to providing high quality images, tape-based camcorders also tend to be more cost effective than camcorders that record to other recording mediums.
On the negative side, tapes are limited in how much can be recorded on them to somewhere in the area of 60 - 90 minutes. However the tapes themselves are fairly inexpensive to get, so carrying backup tapes is typically not a problem. An additional issue with tape-based camcorders is that to get your movie onto a DVD (which is the preferred format for distribution with others), you first need to download from your camcorder to your computer. The downloading transfer happens in real time. So if you need to download a 90-minute movie to your computer, it'll actually take 90 minutes.
You also cannot accomplish any sort of editing (other than backing over the tape and recording over it again); any editing that you are going to do needs to take place on your computer. Tape-based camcorders are best suited for two sorts of users: the person on a budget, and people who want high quality recordings. == Hard-Drive Camcorders == Camcorders that use hard disk drives (HDDs) tend to supply the longest possible recording lengths. With normal amounts of compression, you can often get as much as 10 hours of recording time on an HDD camcorder.
With an HDD camcorder, you never need to buy additional tapes. Depending on the specific model, you can edit your video footage right on the camcorder itself. And when it comes time to transfer your movies to your computer, the download rate will be substantially faster than when transferring recordings from a tape-based camcorder. The primary knock against with HDD camcorders is that the recordings are most often highly compressed and this results in reduced image quality.
HDDs themselves are also comparatively high on power consumption and can be ruined from drops or environmental extremes (as can any camcorder itself). But if you break a tape-based camcorder, while the camera may be dead, you still have the tape. In the case of an HDD-based camcorder, if the camcorder is ruined, you will probably not be able to get your existing movie off the camcorder.
HDD camcorders are extremely versatile and they are chiefly intended for the home user. == DVD camcorders == Camcorders that record directly to a DVD as their recording media are a nice choice for people who desire a recording format that is widely playable and for folks without a computer. There's nothing easier than filming a movie on your camcorder and popping the result right into the DVD player at Grandma's house. The primary negative for DVD camcorders is the recording time and the image quality. The amount of recording time available depends on the type of compression employed, but for the best recording quality settings, you can expect to get only get 20 - 30 minutes per DVD. If you reduce the quality of the compression you can get longer recording times, but then your image quality is reduced.
DVD camcorders are an excellent choice for folks without computers since there is no need to transfer the video off of the camera; it comes off straightaway on the DVD. If you have a computer, and it's a model that you do not think can handle the higher demands of video transfer and editing, a DVD camcorder may also be a good selection for you. == Flash Camcorders == As advances continue to be made in the field of flash memory, flash-based camcorders are becoming increasingly prevalent. Solid-state flash takes up very little space and is comparatively low-power, so camcorders with flash memory as a storage media are usually smaller and lighter than other camcorder models. They also tend to be more durable and are able to soak up abuse such as drops. Like many other models, flash-based camcorders require that their recordings uploaded to a computer before the video can be put onto a DVD, but the download is usually very quick for most models.
As with other non-tape based camcorders, there may be trade-offs around recording quality and compression. Also, based on the amount of the flash memory available, there may issues around the amount of the recording time. If you are seeking the lightest and smallest camcorder on the market, a flash-based camcorder is probably your best way to go.
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