New DVD camcorders make filming easier
May 20, 2004
BERLIN — For some people, parties and barbecues are synonymous with
pulling out the video camera. Following the success of analogue
formats like Super 8 and VHS, home video enthusiasts now have
several options in using a digital format to film friends and
relatives for posterity.
DVD camcorders can write directly to eight-centimetre diameter
blank DVDs. The advantage of these systems: the films are
immediately archived onto DVD and can be viewed on a standard DVD
player hooked up to a television.
"Anyone looking to pick up a camcorder nowadays should
definitely choose a digital device," advises Markus Bautsch,
project leader for entertainment electronics at the German consumer
testing organisation Stiftung Warentest.
"The quality is significantly better than for analogue models,"
There are a variety of systems from which to choose. In addition
to DVD devices, there are also digital camcorders that record onto
digital video cassettes (DV), mini-DVs and micro-MVs, or onto
The most widely available devices are those using mini-DVs. DVD
camcorders are currently offered only from three manufacturers:
Sony, Panasonic and Hitachi.
The major advantage of the DVD devices is direct access to the
recordings, Bautsch indicates.
"You can simply insert the DVD disc into a player or computer."
When working with other systems, the signal must be transmitted
from camera to the computer or television via a cable or Bluetooth
Additionally, viewing and editing a film is done directly on the
appropriate part of the DVD. "There's no need to erase the tape,"
"This means that there is almost no degradation or loss of
quality," confirms Carsten Landshoeft, product and marketing
manager at Hitachi.
Hitachi has brought two new models onto the market this year:
the DZ-MV550E and the DZ-MV580E.
Both cameras allow amateur filmmakers to swap faceplates for a
different look, as with cell phones, and are distinguishable from
one another largely through the built-in video chips that convert
the images into digital signals.
The 580E model offers a million pixels, the 550E only 800,000.
The cameras from Sony and Panasonic offer roughly this same
As with DVD recorders, different cameras offer different writing
formats. The camcorders from Hitachi and Panasonic record in RAM-
and in -R-format, while the devices from Sony use the -r- and -RW-
standard. RAM-and -RW- DVDs can be rerecorded several times, unlike
the -R- blanks.
"The advantage of DVD-RAM is its 'fragmental recording," says
Landshoeft. This means that new recordings are put onto free space
on the DVD as if onto a hard drive.
"Long recordings can be cut into pieces without creating
problems when playing them back later," he says. This means that
there is more space on the blank.
"The relatively short recording times are a big knock on DVD
camcorders," says Warentest's Bautsch.
"After 15 or 20 minutes, the DVD has to be turned over or
swapped out." Those willing to record at a low quality can achieve
as much as 60 minutes from most of the cameras.
The recordings can be edited directly on the camera. This
doesn't necessarily mean that the original is changed.
"As a general rule, you are creating play lists," says Philipp
Heintzenberg, product manager for Panasonic.
The manufacturer's VDR-M50EG-S and VDR-M70EG-S models, due to
hit the market in June, represent the second generation of DVD
camcorder. The play list is used to establish the order of scenes
"Scenes can also be split up, moved around, or deleted," says
Heintzenberg. This means that one full capture of a family event
can be converted into dozens of different personalised films.
For the Sony machines, this means that amateur filmmakers must
decide before starting the recording whether they will want to edit
the film right there on the camera.
"This only works with the video recording mode and a -RW- DVD,"
says Sony's Markus Nierhaus. Sony is introducing three new models:
DCR-DVD91, DCR-DVD101, and DCR-DVD201.
Among the expected improvements is an increased picture quality
on the monitor: "The images will be visible even in strong
sunlight, and there is an additional recording button on the
As with current DVD camcorders from other manufacturers, the
Sony models can be connected to a computer using a speedy USB 2.0
The films can then be further edited using software that comes
with the camera.
"This is much more comfortable than editing right on the
camera," says Warentest's Bautsch.
"If the DVD camcorder is connected to a computer, it can also
serve as an external DVD drive and burner," says Heintzenberg.
Other data from the computer can be stored alongside edited films
on the DVD blanks.
All DVD camcorders can take snapshots alongside the moving
pictures. The Sony models allow them to be recorded on DVD, while
the Hitachi and Panasonic machines record them onto SD storage
The quality of pictures taken using a camcorder are not
comparable to those from a digital camera, indicates Warentest's
Bautsch. They are a big step up from cell-phone pictures, though.
For a first purchase, Bautsch recommends that newcomers check
out mini DV cameras. However, they have one major disadvantage
compared to DVD camcorders: The cassettes can only be played on the
camera, and then transferred to a television or computer. –Sapa-DPA
Google rankings scorned [30/03/2004]