Camcorders use different recording formats which can affect size, battery life and price so it's an important consideration when deciding what to buy.
Hard disc drive (HDD)
Currently one of the most popular camcorders on the market, HDD recorders store videos on an internal hard drive similar to the way we store on our computers or MP3 players. You can fit hours of footage onto the drive before you have to transfer it to a computer, and clips can also be deleted and moved around within the camcorder so you can easily organize your videos.
- You don't need to carry spare discs, tapes or memory cards
- Very high recording storage capacity
- Memory can be re-used thousands of times
- Can be more expensive than other camcorders
- They have moving parts which means jostling the device can disrupt recording
- Battery can drain more quickly than other camcorders
As with HDD's, flash memory is built into the camcorder making it possible to record without having to insert a disc or memory card although you do often have the choice of using a memory card to get more recording time.
- Camcorders are generally lightweight and compact as flash memory is lighter than a hard disc drive or tape
- No moving parts so not as much potential to get damaged or for recording to be interrupted
- Typically a longer battery life than other camcorders
- Normally offers smaller storage capacity to what you'll get with a HDD. Some HDD camcorders have more than 200GB of storage space, while the largest flash memory camcorder has around 64GB.
Camcorders that record directly to memory card are great for choice – as you get to decide the storage size of the card and how many spares you have. When you run out of space you can just use a new memory card. The most popular cards are SD cards or Memory Sticks.
- Camcorders are normally small and lightweight as the memory cards are so small
- Easy to share video clips online as you pop the card into a memory card reader or a card slot on your laptop
- Large capacity memory cards can be expensive
Mini-DV camcorders record to Mini-DV tapes – although the popularity of this technology is being taken over by built-in memory and memory cards camcorders.
- Good value for money with tapes cheap and easy to find
- You can use them for detailed, precise editing as they let you do frame:by:frame edits
- Some create an audible disturbance when recording, which you can hear when playing back your videos
- You need to carry extra blank tapes if you want to do lots of recording
- Transferring data to a computer is done in real time – so an hour of footage takes an hour to transfer
DVD camcorders record directly to discs, are smaller than normal DVDs, although they can be played on most standard players.
- You can instantly watch your video after recording by playing it on a DVD player
- Blank DVDs are fairly inexpensive and easy to find
- Can be bulkier and heavier than other camcorders
- Shorter battery life as the disc is constantly spinning
- Recording can be disrupted by jostling
- Mini DVDs are limited in the amount of footage they can hold and in their lifespan
Its clear there's lots to think about when choosing a camcorder format, but HDD, flash memory and memory card devices are currently the most popular. Some camcorders do combine an internal hard drive and memory card or give you the ability to transfer from a hard drive to a DVD and are worth considering if you want more than one formatting option.
To find out more, read our article What to look for when buying a camcorder