Differences among Digital 8 / MiniDV / Hi8
June 11, 2005 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Looking to buy a digital camcorder: what really are the differences between the formats of Mini DV, Digital 8, Hi 8? Leaning towards Digital 8 because the models seem the cheapest.
posted by xmutex to Technology (9 answers total)
Hi-8 isn't digital.

The difference between MiniDV and Digital-8 is the type of tape they use. The actual video format is DV in both cases.

If you think you'll ever need to exchange tape with someone, go with MiniDV.
posted by kindall at 1:08 PM on June 11, 2005

Response by poster: Argh.. wish I could edit the question. Also: any recommendations on entry level DV cameras? Trying to decide between some Sony and Canon models.
posted by xmutex at 1:13 PM on June 11, 2005

i just bought a canon zr200 about 3 weeks ago. i havent been happier. great picture, pretty easy to use. downside kinda crappy lcd screen, not "oh my god" crappy, but it washes out easy.

the diffrence between the zr 100/200/300 is not very much, but the 200/300 have a better ccd chip.
posted by ShawnString at 1:27 PM on June 11, 2005

The Sony HC32 is an excellent mini-DV camcorder for consumer use. You can generally find it for $400 - $500.

It's decent enough that, with a $40 wide angle adaptor, we use it as 3rd camera for the ("reality") television series on which I currently work.
posted by dersins at 1:54 PM on June 11, 2005

Go with DV. The breadth of the installed base of users means the technology is more likely to be supported with backwards-compatible technologies in the future, and the media are much more widely available in everyday locations (like chain drugstores).

The choices at the low end are all decent. But they have different strengths and weaknesses. You could spend a long time reading reviews online of the basic $350-$900 choices, which largely focus on Canon and Sony for good reasons. One of the single biggest factors is how you physically interact with the machine, and reading reviews won't help. We've just bought new Sonys (203s I think) as checkout gear for students, the great innovation of which is a side-car tape compartment that *finally* means a consumer DVcam on which you change the tape without removing the camera from a tripod midshoot -- amazing design flaw in the vast majority of consumer handhelds since DV emerged. That one feature also adds real heft to the camera's grip, making it much easier to hold the camera steady when you're not on a tripod. These features alone tilted the balance against comparable Canons since my students mostly shoot live music with tripods.

Point of the story is, you'll get decent video from any of them, though reviewers definitely discern video quality differences among the various kinds of sensors, lenses, and microphones (there's an issue to consider, since all of the lower end cameras have inadequate mics for many purposes, with Sony's being the best by a notch.) With video quality, you largely get what you pay for, but the baseline is already really good in consumer DV, and constantly improving. But it is imperative to get a real one in your hand and imagine shooting with it -- ergonomics, how the menus are organized, what it's like to change batteries and tapes under pressure, lcd visibility under the light conditions you will work in most, and whether it has a hotshoe for adding better mics or lights if you decide to push the envelope a bit. You can't go wrong, but you can go more right.
posted by realcountrymusic at 2:01 PM on June 11, 2005

If you can, you'll tend to get a better picture with a 3 CCD camera.

Also know that video is fairly low resolution - 720x480 in this case...stills from your video won't look great. If you get one that also has the ability to take stills you might be happier.
posted by filmgeek at 4:25 PM on June 11, 2005

What do you plan on using a camcorder for?

I ask because the video capabilities of some of the latest digital cameras is quite good. You can get 640x480 progressive by 30fps, which is pretty much TV quality, and the clip length is only limited by the size of your storage card. The advances may make them suitable for some camcorder scenarios.

There are a number of downsides: More compression noise than a camcorder, less storage, worse audio, more limited optical zoom, reduced low-light ability, form factor that may not be as well suited for shooting moving pictures.

On the other hand, there is a huge upside: Convenience. With a smaller camera like the Canon SD series, you can carry it pretty much anywhere, which means that you are in a better position to get a lot of unplanned shots, and you are more likely to end up with them on your computer where you can share them with people because the transfer process is easier and quicker.

This isn't just a theoretical advantage either, I've seen it play out. My brother has had a decent DV cam for more than two years. In that time, I've seen exactly one video of his kids taken using it. He's had a Canon PowerShot SD500 for less than two weeks, and I've already received two clips.

Also add the ability to also take high-resolution stills with the same small device.
posted by Good Brain at 7:32 PM on June 11, 2005

The decision basically comes down to MiniDV vs. Digital8, and here are the pros/cons of Digital8 that I found somewhere:

DV quality pictures using compression ie. 500 lines resolution
Uses cheap 8mm and Hi8 tape
Can play back old 8mm and Hi8 tapes

It's a Sony technology so you have to buy a Sony camera

My gut would say that the (theoretically) cheaper tapes aren't worth the likely chance that you'll have nothing to play them with in 20 years.
posted by smackfu at 8:46 AM on June 12, 2005

When deciding on a digital camcorder I read through CamcorderInfo and DVSpot; eventually settling on a 3-CCD Panasonic model. From what I've heard, going with any of Canon, Panasonic, JVC, or Sony is recommended.
posted by jtron at 11:44 AM on June 12, 2005

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