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Planning on buying a high-def camcorder. Which is best????

by lakersfreak24 / November 3, 2008 2:37 PM PST

Sony? Canon? Panasonic? I'm so confused! Ive always bought Sony camcorders but this time I thought I would do some research before I purchase. I want a high-def camcorder recorded on hard drive or memory/flash drive. First of all is there a difference in quality between the hard drive and flash drive? I'm looking into 3 camcorders: Sony HDR-SR11, Sony HDR-UX20, Canon Vixia HF10, and Canon Vixia HF100. Can someone help me please!

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There is little difference in video
by boya84 / November 3, 2008 10:05 PM PST

quality between the consumer flash memory and hard disc drive models - they use the same file formats. HDD has some known issues with very high levels of noise causing enough vibration to park the heads and not record video and high altitude issues not allowing the heads to work properly - so they fall off.

But miniDV tape continues its reign of best available video quality - among a host of other advantages. Flash and tape do not have the problems HDD cams do.

Consumer DVD cams barely make good doorstops.

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by lakersfreak24 / November 3, 2008 11:57 PM PST

when you say little difference; is the hard-disk better or the flash. I dont want to buy miniDV (want to eliminate having tapes). So my options are flash or hard disk. There are two reasons why Im leaning towards flash; smaller size and no fear of hard-disk failing. What good Flash based camcorders are there?

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by boya84 / November 4, 2008 2:10 AM PST

"better" is an easy term to throw out there for discussion... and since the video files from HDD and flash are the same, what constitutes "better"?

When I am in a miniDV tape environment, I shoot video, fill the digital tape after about an hour (~63 or 83 minutes, depending on the tape length - never shoot using LP mode), take the tape out, lock it, make a note what is on the tape, put in another tape, resume shooting. I usually have an 8-pack of tape in the car - and another 8-pack in the gig bag. When I am ready to edit, I connect the camcorder to the computer using firewire, put a tape in the camcorder, rewind, import the digital video stream, take the tape out and store it in a cool dry place, edit the video on the computer, export the project back out to the camcorder (it is fun to watch in high definition by connecting the camcorder to a HDTV), burn a standard definition DVD if I want to share with others or export to a video data file (720p high definition) for upload to or YouTube. A year or three or five or more, I can pull digital miniDV tapes from the archive and use or re-use footage for another project if I want.


When I am in a Hard disk drive (HDD) environment, I shoot video, fill the hard drive after several hours (depends on the video quality selected, but shooting in highest quality is always recommended). In the unlikely event that I fill the hard drive before transferring any video, I either stop capturing video or start deleting things that have not yet transferred to a computer. When I am ready to edit, I connect the camcorder to the computer using USB (some JVC HDDs use firewire), mount the drive like any other mass storage device, copy the video files to the computer hard drive, and copy the files to yet another hard drive on the computer or start burning data DVDs for back-up. Optical discs are not considered an appropriate archival media. Edit the video on the computer. While it is apparently now possible to export the finished project back out to the camcorder (I believe Sony now allows for this) and use the camcorder as the playback device, that file will be "transient" - that is, the camcorder is not a place you want to store that file because it will be using room you would normally want to use for video capture activities... then, burn a standard definition DVD if I want to share with others or export to a video data file for upload to or YouTube. If I saved the DVD discs or the hard drive with the data file copies, then a year or three or five or more, I can pull digital data files from the archive and use footage that was cut from the original edit for another project if I want. If I decided that making a backup was not necessary and there is no archive, then the footage is gone forever. Hopefully the discs are OK and the hard drive has not failed. The time I thought I saved because copying over USB is faster than real-time transfer over firewire will mostly get eaten by the file copying activity. With a 60 minute miniDV tape at ~13 gig per hour of standard definition video or 44 gig per hour of high definition video, it continues to be a very inexpensive storage solution. The known issues with vibration and altitude with HDD cams have already been stated, so no repeat here.

Flash memory has a similar process flow to HDD. Since the file types and compression used by HDD and flash memory camcorders is the same, the video quality will be the same (and not as good as miniDV tape). While flash memory has the advantage of being a removable media, the memory cards are not recommended for a long-term storage/archive media and the $/gig is still expensive when compared to miniDV tape. Yes, flash memory cards are smaller than miniDV tape.


For consumer flash memory, high definition, camcorders, the list is pretty short. The Canon HF "family", Sony HDR-CX12 and Panasonic HDC-SD100. You mentioned the Sony HDR-UX20 in your first post - I would not touch a DVD based consumer camcorder and suggest you drop this from your short list.

In any case, all the consumer camcorders in this range regardless of the storage media used, have lenses and imaging chips that are larger than the consumer camcorders that are less $ - so that is the good news... but their imaging chips and lenses are still not as large as the next step up in the prosumer or low-end pro range.

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Canon or Sony
by lakersfreak24 / November 4, 2008 3:29 AM PST
In reply to: welllllllllllll...

Thank you for your analysis. Who has the better camcorder; SONY or CANON?

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I've used both
by boya84 / November 4, 2008 3:33 AM PST
In reply to: Canon or Sony

Both are fine.

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elaborate please
by lakersfreak24 / November 4, 2008 4:54 AM PST
In reply to: I've used both

can you be more specific please. Which has better options, reliability, and so on....

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Uh... they are competitors.
by boya84 / November 4, 2008 5:24 AM PST
In reply to: elaborate please

For the most part, the video from their HDD and flash memory camcorders will be similar when approximately equal $ camcorders are compared. Both companies have been around for a long time. Both companies make consumer and professional products. Sony has a bigger selection of professional camcorder products that are irrelevant in this discussion. The warranties of the camcorders are similar. I have purchased and used products from both companies. Their products have always worked fine for my needs.

Some people like one over the other. There's not much more to elaborate on... for you to make a selection, at this point, flip a coin.

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How about Panasonic?
by ithos / November 10, 2008 1:44 PM PST
In reply to: Canon or Sony

Panasonic recently introduced the HDC-HS100, which is a hybrid SD/HDD camcorder. If you can't make up your mind between HDD and SD, you can have both.

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What changed in the past 10 years?
by mikeoconwarp / November 14, 2008 9:18 PM PST
In reply to: welllllllllllll...

"While it is apparently now possible to export the finished project back out to the camcorder (I believe Sony now allows for this)"

In 1999, I was doing exactly that (plus converting from NTSC to PAL**) with my VAIO notebook (PCG-F190-then top of the range), the first notebook with DV-editing etc., 18 months ahead of Apple's introduction of "World's First DV-editing on a Notebook" - using Firewire (iLink) from/to my Digital-8 Sony Camcorder (~TVR-310?).

Also despite the nominal 480mbps of USB2 vs. Firewire's 400 mbps, every tech review I've ever seen put actual throughput on Firewire as significantly faster.

** Sony Australia (who swore there would be no Sony computers coming out here, at all, when I asked prior to going to US/Canada!) wouldn't give out that information (on my return 3 months later)- but Sony Europe in Belgium told me what settings to change in the Windows registry to do so.


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Agree - but in the context of the statement you quoted
by boya84 / November 15, 2008 4:32 AM PST

I was referring to hard drive based camcorders. The ability to export from computer back to (a Digital8 or MiniDV) tape based camcorder over firewire has always been possible. This has not been the case for hard drive based camcorders until *very* recently.

I also agree with the firewire vs USB2 statement. That firewire is much better at streaming is likely the reason for its superior throughput. USB, by design, is a bursty protocol and it does not stream well.

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Firewire - forever!
by mikeoconwarp / November 15, 2008 5:03 AM PST

OK we're in agreement then! I haven't had any updates to my video equipment in the interim - having now been "retired" for 13 years (on medical grounds, pre-retirement age) and not having the wherewithal these days, on just the Age Pension.

I gather that the upcoming USB 3 also won't have Firewire's device-2-device peering without the assistance of any intermediary computer!

Have a good day, from Australia


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Buying Hi-Def.
by Papa Echo / November 10, 2008 2:26 PM PST

When you go for Hard Drive or flash memory drive, you are getting away from Hi-Def. ...downwards. Go for miniDV tapes or HDV tapes....the pros do. There are other issues too....There is no need to duplicate the reasons here....but this is only IMHO.

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