Digital camcorders that record directly to DVD discs are called DVD camcorders. Rather than recording to mini DV tapes, these models burn video to 8-centimeter DVD-RAM, DVD-R or DVD-RW discs. DVD-R and DVD-RW media can be read in most home DVD players, but DVD-RAMs are readable only in a few home players.
Reviewers say there are some drawbacks to recording straight to DVDs. Because of frustrating incompatibilities between the various DVD formats and DVD editing software, reviews say you shouldn't plan to do much editing on your computer. In addition, although you can select different quality levels to maximize storage on a mini DVD disc, you'll only be able to record about twenty minutes of top-quality footage.
There's no question that digital camcorders will eventually be the only camcorders available. Still, reviewers express surprise at the resilience of analog models, which still fit the bill for those who don't own computers and just want a simple, inexpensive VHS-compatible camera.
This Sony digital camcorder records to miniature DVD discs, and once finalized, the discs are immediately playable in most home DVD players. Reviews say the Sony DVR-DVD403 is easily the best DVD camcorder, with image quality that competes with the best mini DV camcorders, such as the Panasonic PV-GS250 below.
While recording to mini DVDs is convenient, it's not as easy to edit footage on a computer, so the Sony is best for those who don't care much about editing their video. Since the Sony doesn't have many manual features, the Panasonic is better for those who like to fiddle with settings.
Reviews say image quality is comparable between this Panasonic mini DV camcorder and the Sony DVD camcorder above. Both get high scores in reviews, but the Panasonic records to inexpensive mini DV tapes, and the DV format is much easier to edit on a computer than the Sony's MPEG -2 format.
Plus, the Panasonic has a bunch of features missing on the Sony, like a remote control, manual focus ring, an accessory shoe for an external flash unit, optical image stabilization and a voice recorder for narration. The whole package is comfortable to hold, with well-placed controls.
Canon isn't known for making big innovations when it comes to camcorders; rather, reviews say Canon consistently and quietly offers sturdy, reliable, consistently good video cameras. The Canon Elura 90 gets high scores for image quality (though it falls a bit behind the Sony and Panasonic above), and has a bunch of useful, basic features, like a 20X optical zoom, digital image stabilization, responsive autofocus and intuitive menus. If you want something more than the very cheapest camcorder, but don't need something as cutting edge as the Sony or Panasonic above, the Canon Elura 90 is a great value.
This is one of the cheapest miniDV digital camcorders you can buy, and reviewers say the Panasonic outclasses similarly priced camcorders from Sony and JVC. It performs much better in low light than its budget competition. Included are a handful of manual controls. Although reviews say the Panasonic camcorder's menus can be a bit clunky, this is the best cheap digital camcorder you'll find, with better features and performance than its competitors.
The majority of digital camcorders are 'DV' camcorders, which record video to widely available DV tapes. Some new models, however, are looking to push tape into obsolescence. A small handful of digital video cameras can record to memory cards or an internal hard drive. Still others record to miniature DVD discs called mini DVD.