Pros and Cons of MiniDV and Hard Drive Camcorders

Discussion in 'Video Cameras' started by skarkada, Jun 27, 2007.

  1. skarkada

    skarkada Guest

    Since I have been in the market for a high definition camcorder, I
    have done some research comparing the two formats. I have read many
    threads on various newsgroups and forums and consolidated my findings.
    I have posted these findings at

    My intention is to help other people save some time in their research.
    Please take a few minutes to review the document and post any
    recommendations here. I will try to update the Web page with the

    Thanks for your time.

    (In case you are wondering, I haven't decided on a high-def camcorder
    yet. It has to be either HV20 or SR1.)
    skarkada, Jun 27, 2007
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  2. skarkada

    John Smith Guest

    I am in the excat same situation as you and are trying to decide which
    storage formate i am gonna invest in, the only difference bieng that i
    probably know much less about it than you, since ive only spend a few hours
    researching so far and havent ever owned a videocamera.

    Anyways i have a question for your comparesion (which i thought was very

    In the future and sharing section you say that you would need to keep the
    tapes as backup and that sharing is hard (due to it bieng on tape i asume).
    My idear if i bought a miniDV camera was to transfer all the data onto my
    computer and edit it from the harddisk, and try to save the movies as files
    on the harddisk and not on a tape. Am i completly missing a point here and
    is that not possible ? (if it is i would say that sharing would be easier
    and backing up data could be done on more futurefriendly medias)
    John Smith, Jun 27, 2007
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  3. skarkada

    skarkada Guest

    That is what I used to think about tapes. Transfer the tape content to
    hard disk and then reuse the tape. After reading many discussions, I
    have learnt that one is supposed to keep the tape as backup.

    Relatively speaking, sharing the footage from a hard drive based
    camcorder is much faster and easier. From what I have read, with Sony
    SR1, these are the steps:
    1. Transfer the clip to your computer's hard disk
    2. Open Sony's application
    3. Right mouse click on the file and burn either a regular DVD or a HD
    (It may not be that simple, though.)

    With MiniDV, you have to capture the clip first. Getting to that clip
    on the tape could become tedius with all the rewinding and fast
    forwarding. Then, you should know when exactly to stop. Then, you have
    to remember to fast forward to blank spot for future recording;
    otherwise you will overwrite existing footage. All these comments are
    based on my old VHS-C camcorder that I have stopped using 3 years ago.
    Probably latest tape camcorders are intelligent.

    My current camcorder uses DVD media. I don't like the picture quality
    at all. I recently read a few articles that said DVD lifetime is
    anywhere between 2 years and 10 years.
    skarkada, Jun 27, 2007
  4. skarkada

    Joe Guest

    I'm also studying different types of camcorders for a purchase and have
    never owned one.

    So, the question arises- why can't that make a hard drive camcorder which
    does not have any more compression than the DV tape camcorders? I suppose
    the answer is that doing so would eat up too much of the hard drive too
    quickly? But hard drives are getting bigger and cheaper- so I should think,
    given the advantages of using a hard drive, that it won't be long before
    they'll make hard drive camcorders without the heavy compression?

    Tape of any sort seems like obsolete technology.

    I understand the difference in compression between digital still imagery but
    not video imagery. Tape has no compression at all? And, just how much
    compression do the hard drives use?

    Somewhere online I read a review of new systems and the reviewer said he saw
    little difference between the quality of high end tape and hard drive
    camcorders so maybe the issue is moot or soon will be.

    Joe, Jun 27, 2007
  5. I would be very surprised if it ever happens. Concurrently with
    the cost-effectiveness (size/weight/capacity/cost) of small hard
    drives, we appear to have ever more compressed storage
    methods foisted upon the consumer. In the same manner
    that MP3 seems to be the audio "quality standard" of the latest
    generation of high-tech consumers.
    It still can't be beat for capacity, convienence, and proven
    reliability. It is still far and away the media of choice for most
    of our planet's data.
    Tape has whatever compression was written to it. If you are
    talking about DV video specifically, it is spatially compressed
    about 5:1, and has no temporal compression.
    Roughly the same compression as DVD video. Several x
    more compression (both spatial and temporal) than DV,
    for example.
    I could believe that under ideal conditions. In the real world,
    however, it is baloney.
    Richard Crowley, Jun 27, 2007
  6. skarkada

    David McCall Guest

    It depends on the quality of the device.
    There have been broadcast quality hard drive recorders
    around for quite some time. The drives are removable
    so you use them as temporary storage as in news gathering.
    It would probably take a pretty good eye to see the difference
    between it and Betacam SP. But, it's not inexpensive.

    I don't think that is what we are talking about here.
    This is probably about those sub $1000 consumer cameras.
    If compared to DV, DV would win.

    It's all relative

    David McCall, Jun 27, 2007
  7. skarkada

    Joe Guest

    Well, as much as I like convenience, I also like quality.

    About a decade ago when digital cameras were catching on with consumers- I
    had a tough decision- to buy a top of the line 35 mm or a consumer digital.
    At that time consumer digital cameras were not cheap and not very good- I
    ended up with a Nikon F100, a premium 35 mm and also got extra lenses, fancy
    tripod, fancy camera case, etc. For the same amount of money I could have
    gotten a digital camera that by today's standards would be a toy.

    But, I'm very impressed with the quality I see from friends using fairly
    inexpensive digital cameras. With my 35 mm, to use the pictures on the net-
    I had to scan them which lost quality and which resulted in pictures
    inferior to what you can get from modern $300 digital cameras. I just some
    pictures of my house which is for sale with a digital and they're much
    better than those I took with my Nikon F100- seeing those fine pictures
    really makes me realize that I want quality imagery and will sacrifice the
    convenience- so maybe I'll go with tape after all- from what I've read in
    this newsgroup, that seems to be the consensus if quality is more important
    than convenience.

    Joe, Jun 28, 2007
  8. In looking over your web page, I noticed a couple of things that
    may not be correct. Under "Quality", the Mini-DV compression
    rate is 5:1 (not none), but it is frame-by-frame, with a clever error
    correction system in place that covers well most small drop-outs.
    Under "Convenience 1", you are not limited to 1 hour of
    recording time with tape - 90-minute tapes are available (these
    have equal image and sound quality, but may risk a slightly higher
    drop-out rate, which is rarely a problem with well maintained
    gear), and the shooting camera can be FireWire connected to
    a cheap second Mini-DV camcorder in VCR mode ready to
    record a second 1.5 hours of continuous recording on tape (3
    hours total!). Having a cheap second camera also likely solves
    the "Future" problem...
    David Ruether, Jun 28, 2007
  9. skarkada

    PTravel Guest

    Your website contains at least one glaring error (I'll ignore, for the
    moment, some of the "not quite the whole story" assertions):

    "If the camcorder dies, what good is the tape backup? You have to buy
    another similar camcorder if you ever need to access those tapes. What if a
    similar camcorder is not available in 2027?"

    That's completely wrong. A miniDV tape, recorded at SP, will play on any
    other miniDV camcorder, unless the machine it was recorded on was defective,
    i.e. heads out of alignment. An LP tape will _probably_ work on other
    machines (I've never had any trouble), but an SP tape definitely will --
    miniDV is a standard.

    Tape is also, bar none, the best archiving medium around.
    PTravel, Jun 28, 2007
  10. skarkada

    PTravel Guest

    Oh, for crying out loud, this is really the blind leading the blind.

    1. Yes, capture of miniDV is real time and a hard disk transfer is,
    potentially, faster.

    2. You don't capture "clips" from a miniDV tape by finding what you want in
    the camera and then trying to capture it. You either (a) do an initial log
    _on_the_computer_ and then capture only the clips you want (and there is
    software that can do this at relatively high speeds) or, (b) capture the
    whole tape and let your capture software automatically split scenes based on
    time code or optical scene change detection. Then you can do what you want
    with the clips.

    3. You do not EVER delete a clip from the middle of a miniDV tape and then
    try to re-use it. You shouldn't reuse tapes, period. There's absolutely no
    reason to do so. Tapes are cheap -- they're consumables -- and your video
    is irreplaceable as you can never go back in time.

    Your experience with your VHS-C camcorder has absolutely no relevance to
    this process.

    I havd DVD-Rs that went bad after 6-months. I have 12-year old miniDV tapes
    that are in perfect condition. I have 30 year old analog tapes that look as
    good as the day they were recorded. Tape is robust and the best medium for
    PTravel, Jun 28, 2007
  11. skarkada

    PTravel Guest

    MiniDV uses the DV-25 standard, which requires approximately 13.7 gigabytes
    for an hour of video. They could make a hard drive camcorder that uses this
    standard, but a machine with a reasonable amount of storage would require a
    relatively large and more expensive hard drive.

    Camcorder manufacturers have made a deliberate decision to limit video
    quality in consumer machines, particularly at the low end. They did this
    for two reasons. First, they think that most consumers don't care -- all
    they're doing is the occasional kid's birthday party or vacation video and,
    for that, quality isn't sought or required. I think they're wrong, but I
    have to buy prosumer gear to get the quality that I require. Second, such
    manufacturers as Sony, Canon and Panasonic deliberately limit video quality
    of their consumer lines because, for digital machines, they could easily
    produce consumer camcorders that would match the quality of their prosumer
    and professional offerings. They don't want to compete with themselves for
    their higher-priced lines so they intentionally produce low-quality

    That's only part of the reason. A 120 gigabyte hard drive would work just
    fine. However, the mini-form factor that camcorder manufacturers think
    consumers want requires very small hard drives, and few are available beyond
    30 gigabytes. That would give only slightly over two hours at DV-25 data

    Not really, particularly if you're concerned with archival quality. Tape is
    robust -- it's not susceptible to impact damage or heat the way hard drives
    are. Damage to tape is recoverable. Damaged hard drives can only be
    recovered by experts with clean rooms, if at all.
    MiniDV uses DV-25, which is a non-temporal (see below) lossy compression
    that yields about 5 to 1 compression rates. The data rate is 25 mbits per

    Standard defintion hard drive camcorders use either mpeg2 or mpeg4, both of
    which are lossy, temporal compression formats. "Temporal compression" means
    that reference frames are used to calculate the change in image over time,
    with only changed data stored. This allows much greater compression, but
    also makes it much more difficult to edit. Compression rates are variable,
    but the highest quality compression will yield at least 10 to 1. Most
    consumer hard drive camcorders limit data rates to those of DVD, i.e. no
    more than 10 mbps.
    The reviewer is an idiot. The difference between standard definition miniDV
    and standard defintion consumer mpeg2/4 machines is obvious and dramatic.
    Note, however, that camcorder manufacturers can, and do, build lousy miniDV
    machines that can produce horrendously poor video. Video quality is a
    combination of compression technology, lens quality, sensor size and density
    and overall electronics quality. Junk is junk, regardless of storage
    PTravel, Jun 28, 2007
  12. skarkada

    skarkada Guest

    Firstly, thank you all for your inputs. Some of you seem to be
    assuming that I have already taken a decision agains MiniDV. That is
    not true.
    I have read in many forums and discussions that the life of MiniDV is
    up to 40 years. Say, my camcorder dies in 2037. What is the guarantee
    that there will still be some camcorder in the market that can read
    Please note that that response was related to sharing ability. Feature
    described in (a) is attractive. I didn't know such a feature exists.
    (b) won't work for sharing. Consider this scenario: A family visits
    you and your children and visiting children are playing well. You take
    some photos and some videos. You quickly want to copy the pictures and
    video clips to a CD or DVD and give it to them before they leave.
    There is still some blank tape left and the tape also contains footage
    of events that the visitors are not interested in. In this situation,
    I can burn them a CD with JPEG and MPEG files in under 20 minutes
    using my existing miniDVD camcorder. Capturing the whole tape is not
    going to work.
    Well, having the ability to delete unwanted footage is a good thing.
    Yes, you can't do it easily with a tape. That is a negative in tape
    and positive on hard drive.
    I agree that tape is a good archive and that is one of the positives
    in my pros and cons table.
    skarkada, Jun 28, 2007
  13. skarkada

    skarkada Guest

    I have updated the Web page with the proints you brought up.
    Interesting concept. Can the second "cheap" camcorder do its work even
    if the main camcorder is high definition?

    Thanks for taking the time to feedback.
    skarkada, Jun 28, 2007
  14. skarkada

    petgray Guest

    It's an interesting theory that Sony, Canon and Panasonic deliberately
    limit the quality of their video recorders but is there any hard
    evidence for this? If one of them did this unilaterally, the other
    two would out-compete them and they would lose sales. If they all
    covertly agreed to do it together, this would be a very anti-
    competitive practice and almost certainly illegal.
    petgray, Jun 28, 2007
  15. skarkada

    Joe Guest

    But with a modern world economy, it seems rather easy to avoid anti
    competitive actions by governments. Just consider the oil industry.
    Joe, Jun 28, 2007
  16. skarkada

    PTravel Guest

    First, as I've noted, I have analog video tape that is 30+ years old and
    pristine. I'd be surprised if miniDV didn't exceed that rather

    As for whether miniDV camcorders (or camcorders using miniDV format tapes)
    will be around in 2037, I cannot say. However, long before that, you will
    have moved your video data to a different archival format. Any format that
    results in image degradation could hardly be considered archival. For this
    reason alone, DVDs are not a suitable format for storing miniDV video --
    either you'd have to use a lot of DVDs (which could hold only 22 minutes or
    so of DV-25 video), or you'd have to compress to mpeg which will degarde the
    video quality.

    What many pros are doing now is archiving DV-25 on hard drives. Hard drives
    are relatively cheap and can be easily dropped into an external case. They
    do require monitoring, however, because a failure of the drive would
    compromise, completely, the video stored on it.

    None of this has anything to do with the point that I raised, i.e. any
    miniDV camcorder can "read" tapes recorded on any other miniDV camcorder at
    SP speeds.

    I assume that by "sharing" you mean giving video to others to view. If you
    are selecting clips, you are already engaging in editing, albeit in a rather
    crude fashion. Once the video is on a computer, it is such a simple matter
    to pull the clips into an editing package and select and trim what you want
    to share and the burn to DVD that it makes absolutely no sense to try and
    pull of selected clips from the camcorder.

    Take a look at Scenealyzer Live which is an extremely powerful but
    inexpensive capture program. As I recall, the Studio editing packages can
    do a high-speed log and, I suspect, many other consumer editing programs can
    as well.

    As an example of a suggested work-flow, when I travel I shoot roughly
    one-hour of video every two days (though frequently more). I'll return from
    a typical trip with 12 to 14 hours of tape. Once home, I'll pick a Saturday
    or Sunday when I'm going to be around the house and start the capture to my
    computer (I keep a cheap miniDV camcorder for this purpose, so as to avoid
    wear-and-tear on my prosumer machine). I'll start the transfer going and
    then go away for an hour or so -- eat breakfast, watch TV, go for a walk,
    whatever. Then I'll return and start the next one. Capture is completely
    automated and unattended. By the end of the day, I've got all 14 hours in
    the computer. I can do a quick review of the Scenealyzer captures if I want
    and delete unwanted clips right from within the program. However, usually
    I'll just pull everything into my editor (I use Adobe Premiere Pro) and then
    start the edit process. Now, I do a lot heavier editing than what you've
    described -- I want to create a souvenir/memory of our trip that will be
    something I want to keep for a lifetime, so I put a lot of attention into
    story, correcting the video, transitions, titles, compositing, etc. You may
    not want to do that. However, I also create short sequences that I share
    with friends, upload to Youtube, etc. It's very easy to make my selection
    from the captured clips within the editor, drop them on the timeline, throw
    in transitions as necessary and then export (I don't burn directly to DVD
    from the editor because I want the highest quality so I transcode using a
    standalone program and then an authoring program -- you don't have to do
    that, however as virtually all editors will let you burn a DVD directly from
    the timeline).

    How much video have you shot? If it's just a few minutes, it will take only
    a few minutes to capture.
    IMHO, that's bad practice -- I don't mix subjects on tape. As I said, tape
    is cheap. Think of it as a notepad -- there's no reason not to use a blank
    sheet of paper to record a new thought, rather than economizing by trying to
    write very small and put all sorts of unrelated topics on one page.
    Not if you insist on filling up a tape. Why would you do that?
    Why? Why not just throw in a new tape?
    I can't think of any reason why you'd want to do that. On a hard drive
    machine, your storage is limited to the capacity of the hard drive, until
    you dump your video into a computer. On a tape machine, your storage is
    unlimited. Fill up one tape? Just throw in another -- they're cheap.
    PTravel, Jun 28, 2007
  17. skarkada

    PTravel Guest

    Yes, though it's circumstantial. Sony's new ACVHD high-def machines use a
    codec that is specced to a bandwidth of 25 mbps. However, Sony's consumer
    implementations of ACVHD arbitrarily limit that bandwidth to between 12 and
    17 mbps, depending on the model. There is no reason for this arbitrary
    limit and it results in signficant motion artifacts and other undesireable
    concommitants of over-compression. With respect to the Sony line, the
    change in philosphy occured after Sony retired the TRV900. This was an
    excellent 3ccd camcorder, with good low-light sensitivity and a nice,
    noise-free, saturated image. In fact, the camcorder was so good that many
    small event videographers were buying it, rather than the prosumer VX1000
    which cost roughly 50% more. Sony's next iteration of camcorders consisted
    of the VX2000 (which I have) and the TRV950. The VX2000 was significant
    improvement over the VX1000 -- it has outstanding low-light characteristics,
    and a rich, noise-free, very saturated and beautiful video image. The
    TRV950, however, added all sorts of silly gimmicks, e.g. Bluetooth, but had
    dramatically reduced low-light capability, a relatively noisey and poorly
    saturated image (the result of using smaller, higher density sensors) and
    was unsuitable for prosumer applications like weddings and small event
    videography. Sony has maintained this clear demarcation in quality
    throughout its subsequent introductions, e.g. the prosumer HDV machines
    offer dramatically better high-def video than its consumer ACVHD machines
    which, as I noted above, have arbitrarily-limited data bandwidth.

    Canon and Panasonic have done, essentially, the same thing.
    They haven't conspired to do this. Canon's prosumer offerings were never
    threatened by Canon's consumer machines -- Canon did not (and, for all I
    know, still does not) offer a 3ccd consumer camcorder. There was also a
    greater spread in price point for Canon. Its XL1 and XL2 were (and are)
    more expensive than Sony's VX2000 and VX2100. Canon's GL2 was competitive
    with the VX2000 in price, though not offering as good an image.

    Sony "paved the way" for lowered consumer expectations with respect to video
    quality. The other manufacturers simply followed suit.
    PTravel, Jun 28, 2007
  18. skarkada

    skarkada Guest

    I think I am beginning to see your point of view now.
    skarkada, Jun 28, 2007
  19. skarkada

    Joe Guest

    Well, I'm sure learning a lot from you folks!

    So, let's say I'm willing to spend up to $1,500- I want high quality video
    and the ability to edit it on my new high end computer- in particular I want
    to video out door stuff, especially forests in New England. (I'm a forester
    and want to film forestry activities). I want a camera that is fairly

    Any suggestions? Should I just not think about hi-def? Or should I go for
    that too, for the future? I'm not likely to be able to afford to upgrade

    I know that getting good exposure settings in forests with my Nikon F100 35
    mm was difficult- so a video camera that can give me good exposures is a big

    Joe, Jun 28, 2007
  20. skarkada

    jerry Guest

    Have a look at the SD memory card high definition AVCHD camcorder from
    Panasonic.. the HDC-SD1:

    It should be fairly rugged because there are no moving parts.

    Nice image quality, too.

    Jerry Jones
    jerry, Jun 28, 2007
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