HDD Or MiniDV?

With the season being just around the corner, I’d really like to get something to film with. The question is: should I go with a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) camcorder, or stick with MiniDV? Just in case anyone doesn’t know, with a HDD camcorder the data is written straight to a disk, so there are no “tapes” involved. MiniDV tapes are those small tapes that the vast majority of digital camcorders use.

I found this quick comparison on a forum:

In terms of pros and cons of HDD camcorder vs. miniDV (tape):
  • Pro: Can shoot for hours without need to change tape.
  • Pro: Copying files to PC is faster than with tape
  • Pro: Can do basic editing on the camcorder itself.
  • Con: Quality for your pound is not quite as good as DV.
  • Con: If you are on a trip and fill the HDD, you have to offload it somehow. With tape you can always buy more tapes.
  • Con: What do you archive your footage to? (Tape provides you with an archive).

To me, the convinience of not needing tapes is a big plus point. You don’t have to worry about running out of film when you’re on the hill. If you take some footage that you don’t like I assuming that it is quite easy to delete it straight from the camcorder. This will save time later at the pc when you’re sifting through your video. Quite a few people these days have laptops, so if there’s one in your group you can off load data to it while you’re away. The setup just seems more simple.

What about the quality? Well normally with these types of things I prefer to go for what ever gives the best image quality/sound quality. But looking at it realistically, most of the video that I take is ending up on the web, here on this site. I’m pretty sure that compressing video for the web imposes a much bigger restriction on the image quality than the move from miniDV to HDD. So I’m not sure this is an issue for me.

Will it skip? That’s the big question for me. Will writing to the camera’s hard drive be effected if you’re filming while moving around – if you’re filming while snowboarding? That would be a problem…

23 Comments

  • Reply April 10, 2010

    Anonymous

    HDD is a great concept, but its expensive and takes batteries that can run flat.There are also cards, but the same price problem a 16gb card (the largest you can buy) will cost you a fortune, and if you are filming 35mb/s wont actually give you that much run time so you’ll need two whicvh could cost almost 1000 GBP. + Mini dv tapes are better if you are doing a job. they are cheap and you can just pass the tapes on when you are done.You can buy a camera that is capable of using all three.The Z7 or most of the sony XD cams can use cards, mini DV and you can buy a HDD drive that connects throiugh the firewire. Personally I recomment sticking with mini dv.

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Zaskoda

    I was actually just researching the same stuff… and I’m completely stuck. BTW, one more Pro for miniDV, you can get a really good quality camera for less money than one with an HDD….Fortunately for me, I don’t have to decide anymore… I had to do an $800 repair on my truck so I’m too strapped to buy anything right now… Let me know which way you go and how it works out for you….

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Gavin Hope

    That sucks about the embedded editing, but it that the case with all HDD cameras? Was the camera your friend had one of the early HDD models?

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Anonymous

    Don’t go for HDD. Someone last season did and only after shooting loads of god stuff did we realise you had to use the embedded editing softwear supplied with the camera which was crap. Keep it simple with tapes. And ride Jeenyus.

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Gavin Hope

    I think it’s gonna be a case of try it out and see (if I go for a HDD). I’m pretty sure that the majority of the time it will be totally fine…

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Anonymous

    dunno – fairly early i guess but then again was new last year. just check that it saves the footage in a compatible format to the editing softwear you want to use. really important!

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Zaskoda

    I’m pretty sure that not ALL HDD cameras are like that. However, that is definitely one feature to check into before purchase.

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Gavin Hope

    Yeah you’re totally right – it’s no good if the video isn’t saved in a format that can be editted on a pc!

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    soundbyte

    We just picked up a Sony DCRSR40 hard drive camera, and I’m still debating whether or not to keep it.The pros are easy…no tape, and files transfer to a PC extremely fast. However, the file format is MPEG2. Once it’s on the PC it can be a little tricky to edit. Sony has a new edit suite called Vegas that is getting some strong reviews, and seems to work well with these files. So far though, I’m not thrilled with the picture quality of the camera. The amount of compression involved seems to have an effect. I’m considering picking up the Panasonic PVGS300 MiniDV…which gets better reviews…and see for myself which one performs best…keep that one and return the other. I sure like the idea of the Hard Drive, but I can’t help thinking I could do better with MiniDV.

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Gavin Hope

    Yeah I agree – in fact I’ve decided to go with MiniDV. Like you said the pros of the HDD are easy, but I kinda feel like I don’t <>need<> those benefits.Whereas with MiniDV there won’t be the risk of skipping, the quality will be better, the format is more flexbile and it’ll be cheaper.One of the things that sealed it for me was the wide angle lens. I might not have this totally right, but the guy in the shop was suggesting that the sony HDD I was looking at was only compatible with a sony wide angle converter – at £150. The lens I bought for my previous camcorder was a generic model that only cost £50, and it did the job fine…I’m thinking that with there being a much bigger choice of miniDV cameras, I’ll be able to get one that’s compatible with a cheaper wide angle lens 🙂So have you had a chance to compare the HDD with the miniDV yet?

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    soundbyte

    Never did get around to making a direct comparison to the Panasonic MiniDV. I did, however, stumble aross a deal on the Sony DCRSR80. So I returned the DCRSR40. It’s got double the hard drive size (60gb), a hot shoe, slightly larger LCD screen, built in lens cap, and a couple of other non-essential upgrades. It does give better results though. Or maybe it’s just me trying to justify the difference in cost. It got better reviews, and really does seem to deliver better video. I still think MiniDV is the way to go for picture quality, but this was a bit of a comprimise with my wife. She loves the idea of the hard drive…no media to worry about and it is ridiculously easy to use…and I get a slightly better picture out of the deal. Haven’t put it to much use yet, but we’re taking a vacation in a couple of weeks so I’ll get to put it to the test then.

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Gavin Hope

    Well I took the new camera away to Morzine/Avoriaz last week and so far it seems pretty good. I haven’t looked at any of the pictures off-camera yet, but I should have them on the computer soon and I’ll have a better idea of how the Panasonic NV-GS300 performs.

    I’ve hooked it up with a wide angle lens also, so I’ll post some stuff about that too.

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Anonymous

    DVD / HDD / Mini DVLots of things to consider:I think i read somewhere that HDD or DVD start up times (power on to catch that magic moment on film before you miss it) can be faster than Mini DV, which is a big plus.Ease of use is not really a factor for me. How hard is it for my girlfriend to put in a tape and press the record button?More moving parts in a Mini DV recorder means more that can break or go wrong, and can be quite expensive to repair. Ripped or crinkled tapes are everyone’s nightmare. How many scrached DVDs/CDs do people own? I do it all the time (lazy i suppose) unless i’m REALLY careful. If you look after DVDs it’s ok, but tapes are tougher and automatically protect the film with the little cover, making it easier to just chuck in you pocket.HDD cameras usually don’t have a optical viewfinder, which I would normally use when I need to save battery for long filming sessions. The screen chews up the battery and the brightness can annoy other people (i.e. cant be more subtle).Storage limitation is something to consider. If you run out of room on a holiday you need to lug a laptop around with you to free up hard drive space. Easier, lighter, smaller and more flexible to carry a bunch of DVDs or tapes.Travelling abroad, it can be harder to find little DVDs that it is to find Mini DV tapes, and the tapes are heaps cheaper and record for longer too.For me it’s the MPEG-2 format limitations that mean I can’t edit my videos afterwards very well. Both DVD and HDD have this limitation. Sure people might just use their camera just for web videos etc, but for the cost of the camera I would like to at least reserve the option of being able to make a high quality video if I want to later on. 2 cameras for the price of 1?End of the day you get what you pay for. No doubt a high end DVD or HDD is going to be better quality than the low end Mini DV, but with tapes being the ‘old’ technology you can get the same specs for cheaper than the newer HDD or DVD.As much as i like the new technology, I’m sticking to Mini DV for now. My humble opinion – each to their own.

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    The Technology Muse

    I also worked out how to copy a DVD to the HDD camcorder.As for scratches and archiving – I archive all my DVDs to a couple of 500G hard drives anyway. All the MiniDV tapes that I have have been transferred to DVD, and it was a pain to say the least. First you have to read the avi files into a DVD authoring program (in real-time via Firewire from my Sony) and then re-write back to DVD in MPEG2 format.As you can see – you are skipping a step here. Quality does suffer a bit, but I can now play my holiday tapes on any DVD player.

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    The Technology Muse

    The embedded video editing is a “Red Herring”.Sure the format is MPEG2 (the same as DVDs) – editing can be achieved in the same way as avi files – if you know what you are doing.I haven’t even cracked the seal on the S/W that came with my HDD camcorder. It works just like a portable harddrive.I guess I travel with a laptop. The camcorder can be used to backup all sorts of stuff – photos from the DSLR and even an image of the laptops harddrive (compressed of course)

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Anonymous

    wow, hdd would mean no head cleaning? also, would you go with the canon vixia hf10 or the hv30?

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Gavin Hope

    I’m still with miniDV 🙂

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Anonymous

    Do you have to worry about head problems with the hdd- im figuring not. If thats true isnt that a huge plus to go with a hdd??

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Chris

    I stick with MiniDV because your video is uncompressed: original top quality, whereas HDD footage is usually compressed to save space, to MPEG2, so you’re stuck with a lower quality. I like MiniDV because, even though uncompressed AVI footage files are usually MASSIVE, you can downgrade to a format/quality you like or need. Though I suppose a con for MiniDV is you usually need an IEEE 1394/FireWire/i.Link port and cord to tranfer the footage to a computer, which is a feature not all PCs have. Good luck with your choice.

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Gavin Hope

    Thanks Chris,I ended up going with MiniDV – I like the full, uncompressed video. The camera I went with has a USB output, which is handy, as like you said, it’s more common than firewire.

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Anonymous

    Well I have both a Mini DV and a Sony HDD. To be honest as far as the quality is concerned the HDD is far superior plus for what I use it for I can leave it running for 11 hours and forget about it, plus the still image is very good and can be taken as you film without interruption. There is a one touch burning button which will work with your own PC burning system; I haven’t down loaded the CD’s that come with my camera. That’s the good thing about the HDD the down side is if I want to edit other then deleting footage I can’t. I use Pinnacle Studio Version 9 for my Mini DV and it’s very good and I have allot of fun producing professional looking DVD’s. I have emailed loads of editing companies to see if they have a product I can use with my HDD camera, none have replied to me except Sony recommending there Vegas pro 8, that’s fine but its actually more then I paid for the camera its self. So if anyone knows of a system I would only be too happy to hear from them.John

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    Anonymous

    Well I have both a Mini DV and a Sony HDD. To be honest as far as the quality is concerned the HDD is far superior plus for what I use it for I can leave it running for 11 hours and forget about it, plus the still image is very good and can be taken as you film without interruption. There is a one touch burning button which will work with your own PC burning system; I haven’t down loaded the CD’s that come with my camera. That’s the good thing about the HDD the down side is if I want to edit other then deleting footage I can’t. I use Pinnacle Studio Version 9 for my Mini DV and it’s very good and I have allot of fun producing professional looking DVD’s. I have emailed loads of editing companies to see if they have a product I can use with my HDD camera, none have replied to me except Sony recommending there Vegas pro 8, that’s fine but its actually more then I paid for the camera its self. So if anyone knows of a system I would only be too happy to hear from them.John

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    munkyhead

    mini dv all the way also look into mini dv hd the best thing at the mo but still expensive. hdd when dropped will snap the pin and be useless untill fixed dvd is ok but when dropped the dvd can be messed up. mini dv when dropped doesnt mess up too much and is harder to break and wont mess up the rest of the tape maybe just a little bit at the point when it was dropped on playback.

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