Hard Disk Based Digital Camcorders, Opinions Anyone?

I have an old Digital 8 Sony Handycam. It was a lot of fun when I got it in 1999 with my first iMac DV. It’s a fairly capable camera, but a bit bulky and I hate having to sit down and capture the video off of it. So much so, that the camera sits idle more often than I would like it to. What to do?

I’m thinking off getting a new toy with the addition of a new child next month. At least that is what I am telling myself… of course it will be great to shoot him and Sophia interacting and get all of the fun little times that we will share on video.

It will also be a great way to breathe some more creativity into my design and development efforts. When I first got my handy cam I would take footage, snip it up, filter it, vectorize it, turn it into swf and chopped up dissolves and other effects in Flash and After Effects ala Hillman Curtis. It was great fun. Of course all of this was ages before FLV files and even before Flix, etc. I think that getting a new little camera would be equally freeing, if not more so… but here lies the dilemna.

Tapes seem pretty well dead. DVD cameras look terrible (MiniDisc format, etc). The cheapy MPEG SD camera look like fun, but they can’t possibly have good quality video, can they? The Hard Disk cameras look promising, but in order to get any of them with a big enough CCD to get good images we’re talking about nearly a grand, aren’t we? Basically I want a few things:

  1. It has to look decent when output on a TV, but even more importantly, the web. Grainy video isn’t cool, you know?
  2. It has to be reasonably easy to edit in iMovie and eventually out to iDVD.
  3. It has to be small enough to make me want to take it with me
  4. HD is not truly important to me at this time. Sinc emost of the ways I will be sharing this will be on SD DVD and Flash Video/Quicktime, I doubt it would do me much good to shoot 720p+.
  5. It can’t break the bank. I don’t have a real price limit set, but I’m sure I’ll know it when I see it.

So, anyone out there know what to get? I usually lean Sony on most stuff like this but if Sanyo, JVC, Panasonic, Canon, etc have something compelling out there, I’ll get it. If you have something, let me know, if you have clips shot with it online somewhere, give me the URL, I’d like to check it out.

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  1. Shan Feb 13

    The problem with Hard Disk and DVD cameras is that most are not supported on the Mac at all, and their movie format (usually MPEG-2) isn’t supported in iMovie. You end up having to transcode it into another format, losing quality in the process.

    If you find a camcorder you like, go to the iMovie forums and search for that model, see if people are asking how to get video off it and into iMovie. Of course, you’ll first want to make sure it works on the Mac at all.

  2. chadu Feb 13

    Thanks for the feedback. That’s pretty much what I was fearing… I may just hold off until iLife ’07 comes out… with all the DVD and HDD cameras onthe market, Apple can’t leave support for them out of iMovie for too much longer.

  3. Francisco Mar 20

    Thank you for the above info, but what is more important to me now is, under your opinion, which brand, among dozens of them, will worth the spending? While we talk here, the market have a lot of new camcorders about to coming out, and I don’t want to run the risk of choosing the wrong one, so I’m willing to accept any suggestion!

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