Buying Guide at CNet
Portable Video Players (PVP)

Reviews at PC Mag
Digital Camcorders Reviews
Camcorder HQ

Dealers Prices a/o May 2004
ZR85 EL 60 HC40 TRV80 PC109
Beach $385 $469 $870
B&H $499 $495 $699 $750
Ckt City $475 $540 $664
Best Buy $500 * $600 $700 $1,500 $900
CompUSA $500 $600 $700
* Best Buy store price was $475, web page price was $500
Note: B&H, Circuit City, Best Buy and CompUSA listed respectively 25, 11, 21, and 6 Sony Camcorders, but only 5 models (HC30, 40; DVD101, 201; and TRV460) were listed at all 4 stores.

AppleStore: Sony HC30 - $600, Canon ZR80 - $400, Canon Elura 60 - $600, JVC DX77 - $500
Ckt City: ZR80 - $380, EL 60 - $540
Make - Model Price PC
Sony DCR-HC40 MiniDV Handycam 4
Sony DCR-TRV 14-33 EC 5
Sony DCR-PC330 $1,045 3 5
Sony DCR-PC101 625 5 5700K
Sony DCR-PC5 4
Sony DCR-TRV MiniDV Handycam $840 4
Canon Optura Xi $800 4
Canon Elura 50, Optura 20 $460 EC
Canon Elura 40MC $400 4
Canon MV600 5
JVC GR-D200US $379 4
JVC GR-DV800 $370 3 4
Panasonic VVGS 5
Panasonic PV-DV701 4 EC
Panasocic PV-DV600 4 EC

PC Specs for handling Digital Video

Hard Disk
7200 RPM 120GB min.
70 GB/hr - Analog
14 GB/hr - DV or Digital 8

Analog to Ditital Conversion
Media Types:
Type Format Resol File sz (1 Hr.) Cost Notes
MiniDV DV 400-520 12G $7.00 6 mm. tapes
Digital 8 DV 400-500 $6.50 Can also play Hi8 tapes
Hi8 Analog 380-440 $6.50
SVHS Analog 320-400 $3.50
VHS Analog 240
MicroMV MPEG-2500 2.4G $13
MPEG-4 256M $13
Movie on
still camera
MPEG-1 1.5M 300-
DVD-RAM MPEG-2 250-400 2.2G $25 Re-writable but not compatable with many players
Mini DVD-R MPEG-2 250-400 $3.50Write once (usually MPEG-2 Format)
See example of Hi8 vs Digital (from
A Single Sided single layer (standard) DVD-R holds 4.4 G
DVD-RAM - 2.5G, DVD-18 (Dual sided, Dual Layer) 15.9G

Formats (Codecs)
# Container formats: 3GP, AVI, ASF, FLV, Matroska, MOV (QuickTime), MP4, NUT, Ogg, OGM, RealMedia
# Video formats: Cinepak, DV, H.263, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, HuffYUV, Indeo, MJPEG, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Part 2, RealVideo, Sorenson, Theora, WMV

  • AVI (.avi)- Audio Visual Interleave - (Windows Video )
    Video codecs that are frequently used in .avi files:
    DivX codec, Cinepak codec, Indeo codec, DV codec, MJPEG codec, Uncompressed RGB or YUY2 codec.
  • Blu-ray (.m2ts) video
  • DivX - MPEG-4 Digital Video Express
  • Digital-8 cameras also use the DV data format, but use a tape that is physically the same as Video-8 .
  • DV - A standard for digital camcorders describing the size of the (mini-DV) tape and format for digital video. It is stored in .avi files (MS Windows) or .mov (quicktime on the Mac).
  • DVD - MPEG-2 - Digital Video Disc 720:480p resolution,
    MiniDV - (Similar to MPEG-2)
    Can do 4:3 aspect ratio or high resolution 16:9 widescreen mode.
    There are three tape formats that are known as DV formats: MiniDV, DVCAM, and DVCPRO. All three utilize the same compression method called DV25 (which is sometimes just referred to as DV compression).
    DV25's 5:1 compression is about comparable to 3:1 Motion-JPEG quality.
  • MicroDV -
  • MicorMV
  • MPEG-2 - DVD 4-6 Mbps, MiniMV 12 Mbs (5:1 compression)
  •   MPEG-2 TS - Transport Stream - Format for packaging video intended for transmitting data.
  •   MPEG-2 PS - Program Stream - Format for packaging and storing video and audio in files.
  • MPEG-1/VCD (.mpg, .mpeg, .m1v, .mpa, .mpe) - used for memory cards
  • MPEG-2/DVD (.mp2, .mpv2)
  • MPEG-4 - used for memory cards
  • MICROMV&tm; Sony's first tape based consumer MPEG2 recording format
  • ProVideo
  • Quicktime (.mov) - Apples equivalent of .avi
  • RealMedia (.rm, .rm, .ram) from
  • VCD - MPEG-1 - Video CD
  • VOB
  • wmv (.wmv, .asf) Windows Media Video
  • Mobil Formats:
  • 3GPP2
  • AMC
File type format player 1 resol size win mac .avi DV wm, qt, rp, qt, rp .mov DV .swf mp3 fp 1. Players: wm - Windows Media, qt - Quicktime, rp - Real Player, fp - flash player See:
Video File Types
Information about the Multimedia file types that Windows Media Player supports

Note: MiniDV format is easier for editing software to handle. Some software will not work with MPEG-2.

It usually takes a long time for standalone video players to begin to include support for the latest video codecs. As a result, most only support MPEG-1 (like VCD, XVCD and KVCD), MPEG-2 (like DVD, SVCD and KVCD) and MPEG-4 ASP (like DivX, libavcodec's LMP4 and Xvid) (Beware: Usually, not all MPEG-4 ASP features are supported)

See Other Terms below

(the NTSC DV format gives a resolution of 720 x 486, or 349,920 pixels). In theory, a 500,000-pixel sensor should be enough, but this would not allow for the digital image stabilizer in some cameras (see Stabilization below), which requires nearly 400,000 pixels to operate. This is why camcorders have sensors of at least 800,000 pixels: half for the image and half for the stabilizer.

High Definition TV (HDTV) is basically the equivalent of a 2MP digital camera outputting 30 full frames every second.

NTSC DV format gives a resolution of 720 x 486 and requires a 680K CCD, PAL DV format gives an on-screen resolution of 720 x 576 and requires a 800K CCD.

CCD Pixels Size 1.3M 1/3" 850 1/3.3 660 1/4" 630 1/4.2"

The 'Type' designation given to toady's CCD sensors is that it harks back to a set of standard sizes given to TV camera tubes in the 50's. These sizes were typically 1/2", 2/3" etc. The size designation does not define the diagonal of the sensor area but rather the outer diameter of the long glass envelope of the tube. Engineers soon discovered that for various reasons the usable area of this imaging plane was approximately two thirds of the designated size. This designation has clearly stuck (although it should have been thrown out long ago).

See: CCD Object Size Calculator,
Video Resolution,


  • BT.601 - Rec. 601 - (former name, CCIR 601,) - ITU-R Recommendation for encoding interlaced analogue video signals in digital form.
  • H.264 is a ITU-T standard for video compression, and is equivalent to MPEG-4 Part 10, or MPEG-4 AVC (for Advanced Video Coding)
  • ISO - International Standards Organization.
  • IEC - International Electrotechnical Commission. - Standards organization for electrotechnology.
  • MPEG ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group formed by the ISO to set standards for audio and video compression and transmission.
  • OHCI - Open Host Controller Interface - Interface for firewire.
  • PTP - Picture Transfer Protocol - USB interface for accessing memory cards in digigal cameras.
    VIC - VIdeo Conferencing Tool (LBL)
  • SIF - Source Input Format - Defined in MPEG-1, is a video format that was developed to allow the storage and transmission of digital video.
  • TVL - TV Lines of resolution. Way of measuring Video relolution rather than pixels.
  • VIC - Video IC Canon LSI chip which processes both audio/video input and output.
  • VAP - Vari-Angle Prism used for image stabilizer.

A CCD with a 1.3 Mp capacity will produce effective pixels of 690K on tape and 1.2Mp on card. per Canon.

At magnifications of 10X and higher normal shaking of the camera is exaggerated.

Image stabilization compensates for shaky hands or other movements, and this is an important feature for the smaller camcorders because they tend to be more difficult to hold steady. If the camera you buy has image stabilization, make sure that you can turn it off if you like. There are three types of image stabilization: digital, electronic, and optical.

Digital image stabilization (aka. Time Base Correction)
Digital image stabilization is the most common and, unfortunately, least effective stabilization technology in today's consumer-quality digital camcorders. With digital image stabilization, the image is magnified slightly and only a subset of the actual picture is recorded as the extra movements are subtracted from the image; as a result, the quality of the video (the resolution) can be compromised-bringing a listed 650,000 pixel resolution down to a true resolution of as low as 400,000 pixels, which is still far superior to most 8mm and all VHS video.

Electronic image stabilization
With electronic stabilization motion sensors recognize and help the camera to compensate for camera movement, and as a result auto focus functions can be significantly slower.

Optical image stabilization
Optical stabilization is accomplished by a prism assembly that moves opposite the shaking camera. Of the three, optical is the best because the image itself is not compromised.
Canon uses both a Vari-Angle Prism (VAP) and a shift-method. The VAP is an epochal unit to instantly correct the camera shake by changing the shape to meet the vibration. The shift type corrects the vibration of an image by moving part of the optical system in the direction perpendicular to the optical axis to refract the rays. There is no difference in image-stabilizing performance between the VAP and lens-shift methods,

How To:

Import into iMovie.
Canon ZR90 Support


Model Price Capacity Recording Time
BP-508 (suppied) 800 mAh 45 m - 1 hr
BP-511 (Canon) $70 1350 mAh 1.5-2.5 hr.
BP-522 (Canon) $100 2600 mAh 3-5 hr.
BP-522 (Digital Concepts) $30 2400 mAh
See:, Canon Cameras at, -

Information See:

Nov. 2003 Consumer Reports

Editing Software

Adobe Premiere Pro - $700

Final Cut Pro - $800
Final Cut Express - $295
iMovie -
See: Premiere vs Final Cut at eMedia Business Bible iMovie - Included with OS X, iLife

FCP (and premiere) does things like handle time code (only useful if you want to re edit the same thing later from the original tapes) and advanced color correction and 16 tracks of sound editing and real-time playback of certain video effects. Also it's harder to learn. If you are comfortable on imovie, stick with that by all means.

Keep in mind when shooting with your DVCam Cam corder: the pictures will look great, but they will look much better if you stay away from high contrast shots i.e. where there is something lit by sun and something under a tree in the same shot. The range of contrast that the videotape can handle is very limited. Avoid shooting on very sunny days and in the middle of the day (hm. that puts a baseball game right out of the picture!) OK so avoid shooting on sunny days in the middle of the day when there are any areas in shadow that you want to be able to see...And for audio: good rule of thumb is that the closer the mic is to the person talking, the better the sound. 6 inches away is optimum and it degrades from there. There you go, now you are a pro!

See Also:
About Audio - Video in Technology
Tom's Hardware Guide
Glossary at
Digital Video Information at ePanorama
Portable Video Players (PVP)
Digital Video Formats
Making a high quality MPEG-4 ("DivX") rip of a DVD movie
How to Convert DIVX, DVD, MPEG4, MPEG2 to MPEG?
Digital conversion software at: YASASoft | ALsoft | Xilisoft
Conversion Software links at ZDNet for MPEG-4 | MPEG-2

last updated 24 Apr 2009