MiniDV is the venerable old man of the camcorder industry, and is quickly being ushered out, despite many adherents. Though the term MiniDV has become almost synonomous among consumers with the DV compression format, more specifically it refers to a specific size of tape cassette. DV-compressed video is recorded onto MiniDV cassettes. MiniDV also became the recording media for the first consumer high definition format, HDV. MiniDV tapes can fit 60 minutes of video in both DV and HDV, or 90 minutes of DV in the lower quality LP setting.
While there is no doubt that MiniDV is being eclipsed by newer formats like DVD, hard disk drive (HDD), and flash memory cards, it does offer a number of advantages. MiniDV is cheap and widely accessible. It's relatively durable, though many users have experienced the frustration of a faulty tape mechanism that spills out the lengths of tape. Cassettes make for easy archiving and the capture process for editing DV is more widely available than any other media.
Most crucial, perhaps, is that DV compression generally offers better quality video than the other formats. Standard definition DVD, HDD, and flash memory camcorders all employ MPEG-2 compression, which has a much lower data rate than DV - almost 1/3 the speed (8.5Mbps versus 25Mbps). Data speed is only one component of video quality, but it is important.
MiniDV's flaw, however, is its linear nature. In the same way that DVDs surpassed VHS, people want the ability to skip around a random access set of files rather than fast forwarding and rewinding to get to a specific section on a tape. The camcorder manufacturers banked on the public's willingness to sacrifice quality for that convenience, and it paid off.
A MiniDV camcorder remains a viable investment, however, for a number of reasons. While little innovation can be expected in the medium, hardware and software manufacturers will continue support it for some time to come. Prices have dropped dramatically in the last few years, making it extremely affordable. And while the DV format may fade, HDV camcorders are just picking up steam and will continue to use MiniDV tape, ensuring a continued legacy of support well into the future.
Top MiniDV Camcorders
- Sony - The largest camcorder manufacturer offers a number of standard def MiniDV models. The best of 2006 was surely the DCR-DVD96, which scored well in our performance tests. It will be carried into their 2007 line, and notably is the only model left to offer analog input. Their entry-level models rank high in ease of use, but low in image quality.
- Panasonic - Panasonic once made the most coveted consumer camcorders on the market, including the PV-S400, which commands high prices even years after it was discontinued. The best years of Panasonic MiniDV are still in the past, and are worth searching out on the used market, particularly the PV-GS250, which was released in 2005.
- Canon - Canon too has scaled back on their standard definition MiniDV line, and opted not to renew their high-end Optura line in 2006, though the Optura 60 is a good value is one can be found used. Their mid-level series, the Elura, saw only one release last year - the Elura 100 - but managed to win our Camcorder of the Year award for outstanding value and superb quality for the price. The entry-level series, the ZR line, makes up their largest DV line, with three models in 2006 and thre models in 2007. The lowest-end models, the ZR500 (2006) and the ZR800 (to be released January 2007), both feature mic inputs.
- JVC - JVC, like Canon, has receeded from high-end DV, and now only offers entry-level models, a tight market in which JVC can hold its own. These camcorders have a higher profile in the European and Asian markets moreso than the US. The GR-D395 held some charm for our reviewers, with a long-life battery and huge 32x zoom.
- Samsung - Samsung fares less well when it competes in the entry-level DV market, if only because the bigger manufacturers are able to take their years of expertise on making higher-end and professional models and carrying features down to the line. The SC-D365 is a good example of an entry-level that scored moderately in every category, but when added together can't match the stronger features of the competition.
If you have a Mini Camcorder, you can deal with the video from Mini DV Camcorder to DVD or other video format by following these articles.
- How to convert and burn DV to DVD disc for playback on home DVD player (Windows & Mac)
- How to download and transfer Mini DVD to computer?
1Click DV to DVD can convert and transfer Mini DV to DVD, DV to DVD, DV to DVD-Video disc including DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, etc. just with one click. Before burning, you can choose to burn all DV content, or burn a segment of Mini DV, DV.
- Burn DV to DVD disc
- Backup DV to DVD folder
- Backup DV to ISO file