Flash Camcorders vs Hard Drive Camcorders
Hard Drive Camcorders
Hard disk camcorders generally offer the most built-in recording capacity, which at first glance sounds like a good thing. Unfortunately the hard disks in current camcorders don’t offer a lot more storage than the largest memory cards (40-60GB vs 16-32GB). For that little extra space you make some significant tradeoffs.
- Maximum Recording Capacity: Once the hard drive is full, you are stuck. You need to delete, download, or just stop recording. The hard drive capacity is a fixed limit on how much you can record. Unlike with tapes and memory cards, if you run out of space on vacation, you can’t just buy more.
- Physical Size: That hard drive has to fit somewhere, so you usually get a big lump on the side of your camcorder to hold the hard drive. This generally increases the size of the camcorder 25-35%. If you have small hands, this might make the camcorder more difficult to hold.
- Weight: The hard drive increases the weight of the camcorder, not just the size. A typical hard drive can add 20-25% additonal weight to the camcorder.
- Battery Life: Writing video to the hard drive consumes a lot more power than just writing to flash memory. Remember that hard drives are physical devices that have to spin at very high RPMs. The result is either less battery life or more weight because of a bigger battery.
- Cost: A hard drive costs a lot more as a component than a memory card reader, so hard disk camcorders are often $100+ more expensive than their flash siblings.
- Durability: The more moving parts a devices has, the more likely one of those components will break. A spinning hard drive is more likely to fail when dropped than a memory card with no moving parts.
- Environmental Factors: Hard drives may not operate correctly when subjected to significant vibrations (such as a loud concert), or at very high altitude due to air pressure (typically above 10,00ft).
- Maximum Recording Capacity: Even though the maximum flash card size is about 16GB, once that flash card is full you can swap it out for an empty one. Alternatively you can copy the card onto a portable video storage device with up to 500GB of storage space, then reuse the same flash card again.
- Physical Size & Weight: An SDHC is significantly smaller than a hard drive (32 mm × 24 mm × 2.1 mm). You definately won’t notice any extra space or weight taken up by the card reader.
- Battery Life: Writing video to a flash card does not require any mechanical energy, and so it consumes a lot less power.
- Cost: A flash card reader costs a dollar or two as a component, much less than an expensive hard drive.
- Durability: Flash cards are solid state devices, and have no moving parts, so they are not likely to break over time.
If you plan on using the camcorder around town, and will be able to download the video fairly soon after you record it, then you might not run out of space. For some people 16GB of memory will be enough, but if you want to record more than an hour or two of video, then you should think about getting additional memory cards or a portable video storage device. If you are planning on taking the camcorder with you on a long vacation, then you will need to consider a portable video storage device.