What do we want? Information.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
In the early days of the home use camcorder VHS was the standard for capturing family memories. In 1985 SONY introduced the video8 format, a small vhs-like cassette that was soon superseded by the Hi-8 format. These magnetic tape formats were convenient and compatible with VCRs of the day. Quality was modest. Operation simple. The digital revolution brought us Digital Hi8, a moderate leap in recording quality and our first introduction to a computer connected camcorder and VCR.
Jumping forward a few years the DVD camcorder improved convenience by burning a small DVD at the camcorder, ready for play in most DVD players. While convenient, DVD camcorder footage was difficult, if not impossible, to access beyond the disc to edit or compile footage.
Also in the late 90's, DV cassettes emerged touting high quality digital recordings. This magnetic tape format produced an excellent picture but the cost of entry for most consumers was prohibitive. Only in the new millennium have we seen the price of DV and miniDV camcorders drop below $1000, now well below $500.
Interestingly, the trend in personal camcorders has mirrored that of the professional video camera. News gathering transitioned from film to video in the 1970s and remained tape based until the early 2000s. In the last five years professional television production has begun to migrate to solid state storage.
In the gap between solid state (SD cards, for example) several hard drive cameras have been introduced. The problem that arises with some of these models is the same issue many users of the DV format face - the camera itself acts as the VCR and is required to view the footage. With a VHS recording, you could potentially give it to anyone to view, owing to the pervasiveness of VHS VCRs. Unless you are willing to loan your camera, sharing footage becomes problematic. (It should be mentioned that some hard drive cameras provide the same convenience as solid state storage. In fact, many so-called "hard drive" cameras contain solid state storage.)
Solid state, removable storage has been a boon for home users and professionals alike. Removable media means that footage is again portable. Quality remains high and footage is truly digital and extensible. The digital nature of these camcorders means that footage is stored as a computer file. This provides, for the first time, the flexibility needed for editing, compiling, storing and sharing (and deleting footage you NEVER want to see again). Another caveat of solid state storage is that footage no longer needs to be digitized (captured). Instead, files can be dragged from an SD card reader or sometimes the camcorder itself via a USB connection.
The price and quality of removable media drives has dropped considerably and well worth a look. For reviews and model details visit http://reviews.cnet.com/digital-camcorders/.
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