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Choosing a Digital Camcorder

In recent years, the choice of a digital video camera has become an increasingly difficult task: the number of models and formats has been increasing and continues to grow, more and more rapidly: miniDV, MPEG-2, DVD, HDD, Flash, HDV, MPEG4, AVCHD, SD, HD .. From all this, the head can really get sick. But I want to approach the choice of a video camera consciously, having at least a minimal idea of ​​all this diversity. This article is intended to provide the minimum necessary information about the variety of formats and features of modern household video cameras and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each of them. Immediately make a reservation that in this article we will not consider the video mode of digital cameras, as well as various “hybrid” photo-video cameras – a separate article in the series will be devoted to them. Here we focus on the “classic” video cameras (although the very concept – the “classic video camera” – is “blurring” at a fairly fast pace, but still …). And we will start by examining the basic “types” and “classes” of modern digital video cameras.

Classification
The main differences between the cameras that we will use in the classification are the type of video medium, video recording format and frame size of the received video (standard or high resolution).

Media Types
The simplest part in our classification is related to the types of video media, which in modern digital video cameras are miniDV cassettes, DVDs, hard disks (HDDs) and flash cards. Staying at each of these types individually, it can be noted that the cassette is still the undisputed leader in terms of capacity / price ratio; 60 minutes (about 13 GB) of digital video can be recorded on one miniDV cassette.

And immediately I want to dispel one myth, which is sometimes heard from not very knowledgeable people and which consists in the fact that “semi-digital information” is recorded on the cassette (we will leave the explanation of this “term” on the conscience of its inventors). In fact, in a digital video camera, purely digital information is written onto a cassette, which does not differ in this respect from that written on a DVD or hard disk. The main drawback of the cassette as a digital video carrier is the inability to directly access any part of the video; To view your video from the very beginning, you will have to rewind, which takes some time and consumes the resource of the tape drive. But, on the other hand, nothing prevents “dumping” the video from the cassette to the computer’s hard drive, and thus solve this problem. True, another drawback of the cassette appears here – the video is transferred to the computer in real time, that is, in order to transfer the hour of the recorded video to the computer, you need exactly … one hour. The objective shortcomings described above (the impossibility of direct access and the relatively large time taken to transfer the recorded video from the camcorder to the computer), as well as the invented “flaw” about the “half-digital video” (it manifests itself in different forms, but always comes down to a stable idea of ​​the tape as a “non-digital” medium), leads to a persistent trend, manifested in the loss of interest of an increasing number of buyers in the model of video cameras using a cassette.

What about the alternative? It consists of camcorder models that use DVD and HDD, as well as flash cards, to record video. Of course, they support direct access to any part of the recorded video, and the speed of copying this video to a computer is limited only by the capabilities of the video medium (read speed) and the speed of the interface (most often USB 2.0). However, in terms of capacity / price ratio, they lose much to miniDV cassette.

The capacity of DVD-ROM discs used in modern household video cameras is only 1.4 / 2.6 GB (the last digit is for double-layer discs), which allows you to record video in MPEG-2 format of standard resolution and with maximum quality on such a disc for about 20-35 minutes. Frankly speaking, it’s not a lot …. Video cameras, in which the hard disk acts as a video medium, are called to solve this problem. In modern camcorders, the volume of such a disk is from 20 to 100 GB, which allows you to record video for many hours in maximum quality. And flash-camcorders can attract by the fact that with a sufficiently large amount of video media (up to 4-8 GB, which is more than the size of miniDVD disks), they are practically devoid of moving parts in the mechanism responsible for recording and playing back videos (such as tape drive in cassette camcorders or rotating DVD / HDD), which means they have lower power consumption and greater reliability. In addition, they are also noticeably more compact.

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