Camcorders forum

General discussion

HDD vs. MiniDV vs. Sony DVD Camcorders

by mamatokai / November 20, 2006 3:21 AM PST

I have a Sony DVD camcorder (DCR-DVD403), which gets quite good review. But it drives me NUTS! Let me first explain and complain, then I'll ask for your specific advice and feedback, oh wise ones.

I bought it because I wanted the ease of popping the DVD into my DVD player or computer, and/or just sharing it with family. But Nooooo... not so. (MY DVD player is about 5 years old, and the Pioneer DVD burner on my pretty decent Dell PC is about a year old.) First of all, the DVDs usually don't play at all on my player--whether they are DVD-r, +r, -rw, or +rw. And on my computer--what a hassle! They don't tend to play outright, though in Windows Media Player I can get them to play with an extension (??? that's the message I get, something about WMP can attempt to play it only with an extension), but the quality is awful--poor picture, jumpy, stops and starts, etc. I have tried to download it, do some super basic editing (on Roxio Easy Media Creator, the lame Picture Package software it came with, Nero 6, Windows Movie Maker etc.), and then burn a new DVD. The Roxio is so buggy it never makes it all the way through the process (endless runtime errors), the Picture Package is worthless (always get a terminal error at around 98% downloaded), and the Nero has been decent. With a combination of all three software programs, I have occassionally been successful at creating a DVD that ends up playing on my computer and DVD player. Unfortunately, I can never seem to duplicate the results. And it takes forever to patch the pieces together. (Try one program to download, another to edit, another to burn, another yet again since it wouldn't work on that program, etc.) I have tried downloading programs to convert the video to another format, etc, but basically, this is what I find: it's all too darn much hassle.

Anyone else out there have the same troubles???

Now down to it: I am thinking I want to just sell this camera and get something else. What I want is this: a small, inexpensive camcorder that will allow me to shoot some video of my kid, very easily download it to my computer, do some super basic editing (just adding a title frame and deleting a scene or two), then burn it to a playable DVD.

Can I achieve that with a Canon Elura 100 (miniDV), which gets good reviews and is pretty cheap? What do you think of the HDDs, like the Sony DCR-SR40 (a little more than I want to spend, frankly, unless you tell me it's the easiest and most convenient, and that in this day and age I might as well go to HDD instead of miniDV)?

Please tell me what camcorder I should get and which software I should use. The cheaper and easier the better... I'm not looking to do anything fancy, just record my cute kid learning to talk and all...
Thanks SO much, in advance!!

Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: HDD vs. MiniDV vs. Sony DVD Camcorders
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: HDD vs. MiniDV vs. Sony DVD Camcorders
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
Before we shoot your camcorder, what kind of computer
by boya84 / November 20, 2006 4:40 AM PST

are you using?

In the case of your DVD-based camera, moving the DVD out of the camera and into the computer may be your only option. Another way you could get the video in there is to use a DVD ripper. So rather than importing directly from the DVD to your editing application, the ripper pulls the video off the finalized DVD and makes it a format your video editing applications might like better. If you open a DVD with your computer, you will see a couple of directories - video and audio... the apps you are using (some more successfully that others) bring them together - the DVD ripper does that for you, and the editing apps have an easier time editing... So, it *could* be that your computer needs a bit more horsepower (CPU speed increase) or RAM increase or Hard drive space increase - to edit video - but we don't know.

Anyway, in the case of a Canon Elura 100 (an excellent, affordable, MiniDV tape based camera, by the way), your computer will need a FireWire/IEEE1394/iLink (they are all the same thing) port. If you don't have a FireWire port, you may be able to add a card to your computer - but since we don't know what computer you have, we don't know what to recommend. The Elura 100 also has USB, but that port is used to transfer stills from the memory card (not video from the miniDV tape). When you shoot miniDV tape, pop it out, lock it, pop in another tape and keep shooting. When editing, you connect the camera to the computer and transfer the footage. In standard definition video, 1 hour of tape to transfer = 1 hour of transfer time. But you have an "automatic" archive in case you decide to recover something you edited out. Also, if the camera dies, you can play this tape back in any other miniDV-based camera and still get the video. FireWire cards are generally in the US$30-$80 range.

In the case of the Sony DCR-SR40 hard drive based camcorder, there is a USB connection to use so the camera and computer can communicate. When you plug the camera into the computer, it is treated like another external USB drive - and you drag/drop the video file to copy to your computer. Transfer time is considerably less, but when you are done copying, you delete the camera footage so the hard drive space is made available of the next set of video capture activities. Then you edit as you normally would and output to DVD. If you want to back up any of the footage, grab more DVDs and burn them as "data" discs. If you think you are done, delete the files to free up hard drive space on your computer. Oops... changed your mind about a shot you cut and want it back because the ... never mind, it is gone. Another potential issue is that if the camera dies before you have had a chance to transfer the video from the hard drive, you cannot get the video out... and if you have never had a hard drive crash in a personal computer, lucky you!

In either case, additional hard drive space may be needed on your computer. If you go the FireWire route, then a FireWire drive is STRONGLY recommended. It can keep up with the bandwidth required for video editing. I have not heard good things about trying to edit using an external USB drive (though I'm sure just using it for storage should be just fine). USB bandwidth will be challenged trying to keep yup with real-time video editing requirements.

More RAM for your computer is always a good thing...

Congratulations on your new baby. Good luck with the video! Happy parenting! (It is AWESOME! I have a son in college.)

Collapse -
Just a note for boya....
by whizkid454 / November 20, 2006 7:07 AM PST

On your comment about USB drives being slow for editing:
I have an external USB 250GB HDD and it works fine in editing video without lag. Just thought I would share. I have a WD.
Good post!

Collapse -
Thanks, whizkid...
by boya84 / November 20, 2006 7:49 AM PST

That is handy to know about the USB video real-time editing (standard def)being acceptable. My SIIG external drive case has FireWire400, 800 and USB2, so I guess I could give USB a shot with hi def footage...

Collapse -
Ya, interested to see how hi-def edits through USB.....
by whizkid454 / November 20, 2006 8:57 AM PST
In reply to: Thanks, whizkid...

Like I said, SD works ok. But not sure about HD. Good luck!

Collapse -
HDD video data to portable hard drive?
by tkg84 / January 7, 2008 3:06 PM PST


I am considering purchasing a HD Hard Drive video camera. Can anyone advise if you can transfer footage direct from the camera to a portable hard drive (ie a WD 160GB hard drive). Either via a docking station that may come with the camera or direct just via USB? I am going to be travelling later this month and this would make it much easier (ie no need for laptop).


Collapse -
I have not seen any product
by boya84 / January 7, 2008 10:30 PM PST

that does what you seek. The only external hard drive for camcorders - of which I am currently aware is for miniDV tape based camcorders that have a Firewire port - Firestore makes them. As for HDD based camcorders, the issue you cite is one of several reasons to not use this type of camcorder... the other option is to take a computer with your to transfer the video.

Collapse -
my computer
by mamatokai / November 20, 2006 9:12 AM PST

Hmmm, that's all really interesting and helpful info for me to consider.

My computer is a Dell Dimension desktop with a Pentium 4 (1.8GHz) processor. 256 MB of RAM. Windows XP home (2002). Currently 24.4 GB free space on the hard drive (30%). I don't have a firewire port. What else would be helpful to know?

Collapse -
MiniDV is probably a good way to go.
by Kiddpeat / November 20, 2006 12:17 PM PST
In reply to: my computer

The technology is relatively simple, and widely understood. You will need an additional hard drive to work with video.

Collapse -
Agree with Kiddpeat...
by boya84 / November 20, 2006 12:41 PM PST

You will need more hard drive space. If you have space internally, that would be great, otherwise, an external drive will work fine. USB or FireWire...

I would recommend a FireWire card if you need to connect the new camera. Some examples:

It would be a REALLY good idea to increase your RAM, too. 1 gig would be REALLY beneficial.

And with all this computer upgrading, I bet you can use your existing camera and don't really need a new one... Anyone else care to comment on that?

Collapse -
yeah, would anyone else like to comment on that?
by mamatokai / November 21, 2006 10:17 AM PST
In reply to: Agree with Kiddpeat...

Huh. That's very interesting. So you definitely think it's probably my hardware, not the camcorder... Yeah, would anyone else like to comment on this (below and above)?
You will need more hard drive space. If you have space internally, that would be great, otherwise, an external drive will work fine. USB or FireWire...

I would recommend a FireWire card if you need to connect the new camera. Some examples:

It would be a REALLY good idea to increase your RAM, too. 1 gig would be REALLY beneficial.

And with all this computer upgrading, I bet you can use your existing camera and don't really need a new one... Anyone else care to comment on that?

Collapse -
Yes I do agree that it is your hardware...
by whizkid454 / November 21, 2006 10:22 AM PST

Usually camcorders do not create problems, the PCs do...(If that makes any sense) An old computer needs sparatic upgrades to keep it running strong...

Collapse -
I realize commenting on my comment is odd...
by boya84 / November 21, 2006 12:57 PM PST

but even if you get a new camera, you should do the computer upgrades I noted. So... do the computer upgrades first. If your existing camera works after the upgrades (which we expect), then you don't need a new camera. Please keep in mind that the DVD-based cameras do a LOT of compression to fit what they fit on the DVD. I have worked with those discs (video captured by others) - I am not impressed with the image qulaity they provide - but I guess the tradeoff is ease of use for some (those who do not edit).

I would STRONGLY suggest that you use HQ or SP mode when recording They would have the least compression thereby offering the best quality (HQ is best, but 20 minutes record time is silly).

Two things on your camera you should NEVER EVER use: LP recording speed and digital zoom - and I am certain using them together would be just awful image-quality wise (or, you *could* say it was planned and call it "art"). I am presuming, of course, that you want clear, sharp, video images...

Popular Forums
Computer Newbies 10,686 discussions
Computer Help 54,365 discussions
Laptops 21,181 discussions
Networking & Wireless 16,313 discussions
Phones 17,137 discussions
Security 31,287 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 22,101 discussions
Windows 7 8,164 discussions
Windows 10 2,657 discussions


Turn up the volume with our Apple Byte sweeps!

Two lucky winners will take home the coveted smart speaker that lets Siri help you around your connected house. This sweepstake ends Feb. 25, 2018.