What are the pros and cons of various camcorder recording formats

So far I know of Hi8, 8mm, VHS-c, VHS and digital. What are the benefits and drawbacks of each? How many hours of video can you put on each? I know 6 hours is standard for VHS but I am new to camcorders and have no idea how much you can get out of an Hi8, 8mm or VHS-c tape.

Someone has to know something about these formats

I’m no expert, but I’ll tell you what I know:

VHS (full size) - I don’t think they make camcorders for this size anymore. The units are big and bulky and weigh a ton (comparatively speaking). The 6 hr or EP mode will give the most time but the lowest quality. Okay if you don’t plan on making copies. The 2hr or SP mode is best.

VHS-C - same tape as a full size VHS, but in a much smaller cartridge. Smaller cameras, but to watch the tapes, you either need to wire the camera directly to the TV or use an adapter (which can sometimes suck). Same recording modes as full size, but, obviously, you get less time - 20 to 60 minutes per tape (usually).

8mm & digital tape: no experience with those.

Tape seems to be on the way out, with the onslaught of DVD-based cameras. You can go right from the camera to your computer where you can edit your movies and send them right back to the disc. You can also make great copies with virtually no degradation.

I wouldn’t consider any analog tape format. I have a Mini-DV camcorder and it can record up to an hour at highest quality setting, I don’t think the same is true of DVD camcorders yet. You can go right to computer with a simple firewire cable and I just bought a DVD recorder (an AV component, not a computer device) that has the same connection. With digital transfers there is no loss in image quality unless the target media has a higher compression rate set.

Six hours capacity in a VHS tape is terribly misleading. Slowing the tape down that much dramatically reduces the image quality. The last thing you want to do with any camera is reduce quality of the orignal.

Six hours of recording time sound impressive, but it isn’t that useful in reality. The ultra-long tapes offer only poor quality, but even medium lengths are overkill most of the time. Unless you film “surveillance” tapes without a single cut, an hour of net footage is a lot, and if you really have to change the tape, it is only a matter of seconds. Probably your batteries will run out long before your tape anyway.

I would choose a digital tape format, probably miniDV. I have a digital8 camera myself. That’s ok as well, but I just bought it because that specific model was available at a very good price at the time. Unless you have old Video8/Hi8 tapes I don’t see any real advantage.

With digital don’t you need a Flash card in order to get any memory? The digital cameras i’ve looked at only have 3-4 minutes of record time unless you get a compact flash card.

You may be confused with a digital still camera that can record short avi files. The above posters are refering to digital camcorders that record on tape or a DVD disc. My MiniDV camcorder works pretty nicely and if you have notions of editing on a computer it is the best way to go if you can afford it.

It depends what you want to record. I have a VHS-C and its nice in that its definitely affordable and I rarely need to record more than 1/2 hour of material. (I mostly use it to videotape my horse shows). It’s very easy to make VHS copies if you need to distribute what you record for some reason.

I’ve never had a problem using the VHS adapter – either the one that came with the camera or a spare I bought at Target. I think VHS-C tapes are cheaper than Hi-8 tapes.

With the changes in technology you might want to consider all the stuff that goes along with a camcorder, not just the camera itself. VHS-C has the clear advantage of being able to drop the tape into an adapter and play in any VHS deck. IMHO this used to be a good feature but not any more. I think analog tape is ready to go the way of the dodo since you can now buy a home DVD recorder for under $150 and I wouldn’t be surprised if they break $100 by Christmas. You can get a DVD player for as little as $30 so there is no excuse for no one to have them available. For these reasons I would not spend a penny on analog video recording equipment.

I think you can do well with any digital camcorder format, I like Mini DV. Small tapes with an hour capacity. Once you have that format you need to decide how to distrubute copies. All camcorders I know of have analog outputs which makes it simple to connect to a VCR to record tapes.

If you want to do non-linear editing you’ll probably want to get a firewire board and appropriate software for your PC. It takes a reasonable amount of horsepower so make sure you have reasonably fast disks and processor and enough memory.

Low cost home DVD recorders are on the market. The one I got is an off brand that was on sale at Wally World and so far I’m extremely happy with it. You can use it just like an analog VCR with the same types if inputs and outputs plus S-video and component outputs for big screen TVs. It also has the same firewire connector as a digitcal camcorder. Digital dubbing is extremely easy as you only need to worry about controlling the machine doing the recording. It automatically controls the machine doing the playback through the firewire connection.

The only camcorder I ever used was an old VHS one my dad bought the family back in 1989-ish. I think it was $1200 then (camcorders on ebay start at $100 now).

What do all the formats mean though? I look on ebay and tehre are 6 analog formats and 6 digital formats. I don’t know what the digital formats mean. What is Digital8 recorded on? What is MiniDV recorded on?

Would a digital camcorder be able to record digitally, then transfer the files to a computer then use a DVD burner to make copies? I assume so but is that a universal attribute all digital camcorders have?