Digital camcorder formats

Digital8, Hi8, MiniDV, DVD, DVD-RW, solid state, ultra-holographic-crystal-matrices… okay I think that last one may still be in development, but what is the deal with all the different media to record digital video on? Sony alone sells camcorder lines in five different formats. What is the difference between them all, and why haven’t the less useful/cost effective ones been phased out?

Well Hi8 isn’t a digital format and DVD/DVD-RW are really the same fomrat so you’re only talking about three recordable digital formats.

Sony developed Digital 8 so they could use the same cassette form factor and make cameras and decks compatible with both the old analog 8mm/Hi8 format as well as digital. MiniDV has the advantage of being less than half the size of an 8mm cassette.

I suppose solid state is a different format but it’s more suited for still cameras. There is a huge proliferation there with secure data, smart media, Sony memory stick, Sony memory stick pro (capacities over 128mb), XD and compact flash. Compact flash has the fewest limitations and the highest capacity so it dominant on high end cameras while the othe formats duke it out among smaller cameras.

Right, of the cheaper Cam-corders(the DVD ones are more expensive), the Digital8 is the only one that records in true digital format. You can transfer this directly to your harddrive with relative ease. The less useful/costful ones work with VCRs and are easy to use for those who don`t care to work with a digital document. They still have very good quality, just not as computer freindly.

As of 6 months ago when I was comparing Digi8 to MiniDV I found something interesting. On Sony’s lowest priced models of the Digi8 cameras you CANNOT watch previously recorded analog 8mm/Hi8 tapes. You had to move up a couple models to be backward compatible with Sony if you still wanted digital 8.

I opted for the mini DV, mostly because of the size/weight and some of the features. I cannot address the ease of transferring to the computer for editing though because I haven’t had the time to get around to playing with it. I just keep buying more miniDV tapes.

Thanks for the responses guys. Few follow-up questions. What about quality, how do the formats compare? And price, is it worth spending extra money to get DVD (which I assume is the highest quality)? Lastly, will the dvd’s I record to play directly in my home player, or are they in some proprietary video file that has to be converted?

Sorry for the slight hijack, but I’ve got a Digital-8 question too: is there any good way to manually change the focus, because my camera only seems to allow auto focusing. Is that a camera model thing or a format thing?

Speaking from experience, the Sony Digital8 that I have has EXCELLENT quality. Especially in good light cnditions. Even in less than desirable lighting the results are pretty good because you get to screw with the settings to make the picture come out better as you record.

I think the DVD format HAS to be formatted to play in your DVD player. How would you view the results if the format wasnt universal? They certainly wouldnt make it so you would have to transfer the document to the PC and then burn another compatible DVD, that would be way too convoluted.

*whuckfistle, I have a Panasonic MiniDV camcorder that only cost $300. I’d certainly call that low cost and it is true digital. It is a feature bare camera though. It will record and playback from computer or another camcorder by firewire and will playback but not record through the analog connections.

*MrThomson, the format has nothing to do with the camera’s lack of manual focus. I’m sure they just deleted the feature as a cost saving measure. In any event most consumer camcorders don’t have true manual focus anyway but “focus by wire” where a thumbwheel electically drives the focus system. Are you sure it doesn’t have one of these?

I know I’m being nitpicky but IMO true manual focus is when your hand actually moves the focusing mechanism.

cainxinth - I can’t really answer your questions, but I would suggest that you try this link to the Circuit City camcorder section for comparions between formats/models. Also, the user ratings/comments on sites like were helpful when I was shopping earlier this year.