With the advances in digital video technology, numerous types of camcorders are now available to consumers. Their varying features couched mostly in technical language can be quite confusing for the regular user. In terms of how they store recorded video, there are two types that are commonly chosen by consumers – the MiniDV camcorder and the hard drive camcorder.
Just like old VHS camcorders, MiniDV camcorders still use magnetic cassette tapes for storing video recordings. But the data that's being etched on these tapes are no longer analog, they're fully digital. The advantage of using such storage media is that the video data can be taken in raw and uncompressed. What this simply means is that you get what you recorded as is and thus the resulting image quality is actually quite excellent. The benefit of recording uncompressed digital video is that this material is best suited for editing. When you're tweaking with the color, the resolution, the audio track or any other element of the footage, it's always better to have an unadulterated version of the data. A raw and uncompressed recording also gives you more format options in which to convert to later on.
Uncompressed data however eats up a lot of storage space. So if you're recording a lengthy event with your MiniDV camcorder, you will certainly need to bring extra tapes. You will also possibly find yourself constantly replenishing tapes into the camcorder. Digital camcorders nowadays can be easily connected to personal computers. The purpose for doing so is to make a back up copy of the video recordings and/or subject them to some editing. With MiniDVs this transfer process usually happens in real time which means if you have an hour's worth of footage, it will take you an hour to transfer this footage into the computer. The reason for this is the video recording on a MiniDV needs to be played back and simultaneously captured by the computer via a video capturing application. Another inconvenience that some consumers grumble about the MiniDV is the necessity to fast forward and rewind the tape when searching for a particular sequence or footage.
Hard drive camcorders, as their names suggest, use internal hard disks to store the recorded video. This eliminates most of the inconveniences that come with MiniDV's use of cassette tapes. Because it makes use of a hard disk, you can continuously record for longer periods of time with a hard drive camcorder. Transferring the recordings to a computer is faster and as uncomplicated as copying computer files. You can also skip across the recorded footage and find particular spots much easier, just as you would with a video file running on a computer's media player.
To maximize the hard disk however, hard drive camcorders record compressed video. This is either in MPEG 2 format or the newer MPEG 4 which has a higher quality than its predecessor but still inherently less compared to raw digital video. The difference in image quality may be imperceptible for most common users, but meticulous professionals who do a lot of video editing avoid using hard drive camcorders for video production. Another disadvantage of hard drive camcorders is the necessity to constantly transfer and back up the video recordings in another device. This isn't for lack of storage space but for preserving the footage from any untoward malfunctions of the internal hard disk. If the hard disk on a hard drive camcorder gives out, you could lose all the recordings stored in it.