New generation of camcorders

Camcorders have come a long way since the early days of VHS tape-based analog units. Until recently, modern units are high-definition miniDV tape-based models that produce great quality, easy to work with video. Consumers selected one by picking a favorite brand or by comparing the multitude of features.

A new generation of digital camcorders has all but replaced the miniDV tape-based units with features like hard drive or flash memory storage and technology that produces even higher quality video and audio. With new features like these, is it worth upgrading to a new model?

The answer lies in consideration of at least two key areas. First, the frame rates achieved by the first tapeless models were no better than some tape-based models which means compared video quality is the same. Frame rates are directly related to bit rates - the higher the better. While some tapeless models advertised 24Mbps bit rates, actual testing revealed top sustained rates of only 17Mbps which is equivalent to good tape-based models.

Secondly, consider the video format. New models commonly use Advanced Video Codec High Definition where the tape-based units often used High Definition Video. AVCHD requires more computer processing power and is generally more difficult to work with due to either the limited software bundled with the unit or the need to convert to another format. Conversely, HDV format requires less processing power and works fine with a number of common video editing programs.

Upgrading from a tape-based model will certainly eliminate the cost of tapes. If upgrading, I would recommend going with a model that achieves the higher bit rates and ensure the editing PC can both support the processing demands of AVCHD editing and it has ample storage space to hold those large video files.

Ron Poland is a professor in the Computer Information Systems AAS program at Clinton Community College. Poland is certified in company repair and networking by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). He is also a Cisco certified network assistant. Questions may be sent to him via e-mail at ron@ronpoland.com.

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