Though some may write them off as obsolete, HD-capable MiniDV camcorders can actually be of great value to the amateur Youtuber and videographer.
Professional iterations of these camcorders can be found for much cheaper than their flash-based brethren.
There’s four main reasons why I continue to use MiniDV cameras in my work. MiniDV cameras typically cost less, the format isn’t all that annoying to use, the format delivers sufficient quality, and perhaps most importantly, the format is still around.
Take this camera for instance. With 3 CMOS sensors, dual XLR inputs, tons of manual options and room for an oversized battery, this Sony HVR-V1U is no meager contestant. Formally costing over four thousand dollars according to CNET, I picked up this camera for a cool 300 bucks in a gently used condition.
Other camcorders I noticed during my recent purchase included am HVR-Z5U at $579, and a Canon XL-H1A for $510. Original MSRP of these babies? $3999 for the Sony and a whopping $5999 for the Canon.
Now, what’s the number one aspect of MiniDV that filmmakers really don’t miss at all? Real-time capture. For those not in the know, although that term sounds fancy, it means that if you recorded six hours of footage, you’ll have to wait six hours for all the footage to be dumped onto the machine.
However, the reality is that for amateur Youtubers and filmmakers just starting out, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever have to dump that much footage at once. Those working under tight deadlines, look away.
What about the quality though? Well, if you’re expecting 4K level clarity with DSLR level depth of field, look somewhere else. These cameras, even when new, simply didn’t produce that level of quality. But as Youtubers and filmmakers continue to make successful films on units like GoPros and Galaxy smartphones, it’s clear that HD MiniDV cameras can produce good-looking video that’s on par with HD video on the Internet.
Of course, our discussion here excludes standard definition MiniDV cameras, even professional ones like the Canon GL2 (one of my favorites) and the Sony PD170.
A moment of silence for obsolete technology.
Finally, what about the medium itself? Are MiniDV tapes still around? The answer is yes! Though they may not be for sale at your local Walgreens or Rite-Aid, a pack of five of these bad boys will only set you back 20 dollars on Amazon, with two day shipping for Prime users.
However, depending on how much footage you shoot regularly, this might drive the cost of a MiniDV camcorder up considerably.
Though they are re-usable, the magnetic strip on DV tapes wears out with constant use, which means recording onto used tape more than two or three times can cause glitches or dropouts during the capture process.
At normal settings, one MiniDV tape is good for about 60 minutes of 1080i video. Meanwhile, a 16GB SD card will provide 80 minutes of video recorded at 24 megabits per second. Cost of a 16GB card? A meager $7.99 – with two-day shipping – and a license to format and re-use the same card forever.
The trade-off is higher initial camera cost.
A Canon XC10 with 4K recording will run you $2000 while a Sony PXW-180 XDCAM will run you a steep $3992.54.
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