Tips on Choosing Between Hard Disk and DVD Camcorders - Camcorder Buying Guide

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If you’re in the market for a new camcorder, an obvious recommendation would be a mini DV camcorder. It’s a tried and tested format which produces video of high quality.

Despite its popularity there are drawbacks you may not wish to contend with. For one, to capture video, you would need a fast computer equipped with a Firewire port, and ample hard disk space as an hour of DV footage takes up about 13GB of storage space.

If you’re not prepared to meet these requirements, you have the option of either buying a hard disk camcorder or a DVD camcorder.

The major advantage of these formats over the mini DV is you save on storage media. With the hard disk camcorder, recording space will be freed up the moment you transfer your video footage to your computer. As for the DVD camcorder, you could use a rewritable disc, which you could erase and reuse for future projects.

If you’re undecided which to choose among the two formats consider the tips below to help you arrive at an informed buying decision.

Recording Time

A DVD camcorder records on an 8cm disc and you could store up to 30 minutes of good quality video.

On the other hand, hard disk camcorders allow for a relatively longer recording time, according to the size of the hard disk they come with. For example, a camcorder with a hard disk capacity of 30GB allows up to seven hours of high-quality video recording and longer if you’re capturing in the LP mode. So, if uninterrupted recording is what you’re after you could do well to opt for a hard disk camcorder.


Transfer of video footage to your computer would be via a USB cable. When it comes to editing, you may face a problem. DVD camcorders record in the MPEG-2 format. Many video editing programs don’t support MPEG-2. Even if they do, the output quality leaves much to be desired. The same applies to footage from a hard disk camcorder.

If your video editing software doesn’t support MPEG-2, you would have to make do with the proprietary software that comes bundled with your camcorder model. Usually, these programs can’t match the versatility of mainstream video editing programs.

DVD Camcorder Playback Issue

A DVD camcorder seemingly offers the most attractive playback option. All you need is record your video, load the disc into your DVD player and you’re ready to go. It’s not as simple as that in reality. Firstly, you would have to finalize your disc before you can play it in your DVD player or through your computer. Even if you finalize your disc, it’s not guaranteed your DVD player could read it.

To overcome the problem, you would have to test the disc with your DVD player before purchasing a DVD camcorder. This may involve bringing along your DVD player for testing before buying the camcorder.

Major Disadvantages

If you’re going to use your camcorder outdoors in robust conditions, you should think long and hard before buying a hard disk camcorder.

If you accidentally drop your camcorder or if it takes a knock, you may end with an unusable camcorder. Depending on the severity of the knock, you may not even be able to recover what has already been recorded in the hard disk.

On the other hand, if a DVD camcorder takes a knock, the camcorder may malfunction, but you could always recover footage captured on the disc.

The DVD camcorder has a disadvantage when it comes to archiving video footage. If you’re storing video footage in the original discs for future use, you run the risk of unreadable discs with corrupted data, especially if you’re using rewritable discs, which don’t have a long lifespan.