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How to Choose a Mini-DV Camcorder

Updated on July 18, 2009

What is Mini-DV?

Mini-DV is a digital recording format that was introduced in 1995. It was the first digital video (DV) available to consumers where they could capture digital video on their own camcorder. The small tape cassettes that are used come in 60 minutes (SP-Standard Play) or 90 minute (EP/LP-Extended/Long Play) lengths. They are called "mini" because of their small size.

Due to the advent of DVDs, flash drives, and HDV, Mini-DV as a recording medium is becoming less popular among new camcorders. Yet, the Mini-DV camcorder has a large following due to a number of factors. First, the tape itself physically lasts longer and is more durable than the various DVD or flash recording mediums. Secondly, while both Mini-DV and DVD recorded material has generally the same quality, the Mini-DV format is easier to transfer and edit. Most Mini-DVs use IEEE-1394 Firewire ports and plugs, while DVDs tend to use USB ports and plugs. Check your current hardware for compatibility. Thirdly, the Mini-DV tapes are much less expensive than other types, and finally, more editing software programs and computers recognize Mini-DVs than any other type of recordable hardware. The vast majority of digital editing software recognizes it and uses its high-quality digital material.

So, What's Up with its Popularity?

Mini-DVs are cassette tapes. That means that you will have to physically wait while it rewinds or fast-forwards. The other recording mediums (DVDs, HD, flash) can momentarily move forward to new sections or chapters. Because of its declining popularity as a product, many of these types of camcorders are very cheap and the cassettes themselves are very affordable. As consumers update their home entertainment systems into HD, the newer HDV model camcorders will be the main type of camcorder preferred.

Different Types of Camcorders

Before you choose a Mini-DV camcorder, make sure that you are aware of the other alternatives. Here is a quick reference guide for you to use.

Mini-DV...Older camcorder technology, cheap, integrates with most computers, great with most editing software.

DVD or MiniDVD...These record onto DVDs or the mini versions. Larger than other cameras, many editing programs won't accept it, great for placing directly into DVD player.

HDD...Camcorders with a hard drive built it. Lots of memory, very expensive to buy and maintain, works well with computers, great for lots of photos.

HD(or HDV)...These camcorders record on most recording mediums like Mini-DV cassettes. They record at high levels of resolution and look great on your new HDTV. Very expensive and need state of the art computers for editing.

Flash...Camcorders that are small, great for action, but not the best quality picture.

Which Model is Right for You

Before purchasing, decide on which features are important to you. Do you need:

  • optical zoom (higher quality than digital)?
  • image stabilization?
  • shock proof casing?
  • extra battery length?
  • a large LCD screen?
  • a carrying bag?
  • a tripod?

As with most consumer products that you buy, you will pay for quality. Narrow down your choices to some of the famous name brands (Canon, Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, JVC), and then check the different models in that line for the one that has the features that you need. Another alternative is to choose your price range, and then compare the different models across brand names.


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    • Writer man profile image

      Writer man 8 years ago from Stone Mountain, Ga

      It seems as if you have got the ins' and outs' of this subject down. Love it! (Writer Man)

    • LeM22 profile image

      LeM22 8 years ago from Northern VA

      You are so cool Lee!