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Camcorder media: What’s what for recording video?

By The Vann’s Editorial Team
Last revised October 12th, 2009

Just a few short years ago, virtually all camcorders recorded to tape. Things have changed a lot since then. Today, there are a wide variety of options for recording your videos. And while you can still buy camcorders that record to tapes at some places, those are now the exception instead of the rule. Check out the guide below to find out which type of media is the best fit for you.


MiniDV, though rare, are still used today. This is a small tape that can record digital video. This type of media will probably slowly be phased out of use in favor of newer types that store more using less space.


DVD camcorders started appearing a year or two after DVD players become popular. These camcorders record video to a DVD disc, smaller than a standard DVD. This disc will play in virtually any standard DVD player. While they are still in use and will likely continue to be prominent for the next several years, DVD camcorders are less future-proof than most media in this line-up for several reasons. One, they take up more space than most types, and two, they can't record HD video.

Memory card

Memory cards are cards about the size of postage stamps that can be used to record up to 64GB of information, depending on the model. They are the standard for digital cameras, and are used in many modern camcorders too. The most common format is SD/SDHC, and the smaller mini and micro versions. Other common memory cards include Sony’come very inexpensive compared to traditional media. Memory cards are capable of recording video up to 1080p. These cameras are very future-proof, since memory card is a current standard, and no emerging technology is even challenging it yet.

Built-in (internal)

On many camcorders today, you’ll see an amount of internal, or built-in memory. There are two types of built-in memory. The first is a typical hard drive, or hard disk drive. This is a hard drive like that found in computers, classic iPods, or external hard drives. The other type of built in memory is the Solid State Drive (SSD). This type of internal memory uses flash memory for safer, although more expensive recording. Either type of memory is convenient because you don’t have to buy external memory devices. Most models offer plenty of storage, varying from 2GB to 240GB. It’s important to remember that since size of the recording will vary based on factors like resolution and sound, the difference isn’t as much as it sounds like. At their best, a 2GB Flip camcorder can record an hour while the 240GB Sony model can record 30 hours, not 120 hours like the math would suggest. This is because the Sony can record Full HD and 5.1 surround sound. Many hard drive cameras, despite having large internal capacities, also offer additional storage via memory card. Camcorders with internal memory are also very future-proof, at least until a new video format is standardized, which won't likely be soon.

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