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The mini-DV Camcorder Wiki and Quick Buying Guide

Mini-DV Wiki and Buying Guide

Why Buy a mini-DV Camcorder?

In this HD video age, it would seem preposterous to buy a mini-DV camcorder. Why would anyone want to do so, when they’re already carrying powerful HD video cameras in their pockets in the form of smartphones?

Also, buying a mini-DV camcorder would also mean having to get hold of mini-DV tapes to work with it. You can’t just go down to your neighborhood electronics store to get hold of them.

Again the smartphone argument works. You can shoot tapeless and easily transfer footage to your computer. Or as is more popular these days, edit the shot video on your smartphone with a video editing app then share it to the cloud or video streaming services.

But then a mini-DV camcorder still has its uses. While an odd few want to shoot with mini-DV cameras for old times’ sake, most of us want it as a playback device.

Yes, we need a playback device for the mini-DV tapes we’ve collected in a past age. Maybe our existing mini-DV camcorder no longer works and we’re looking for a functioning unit.

But most importantly, we need mini-DV camcorders to play back mini-DV tapes to help us convert mini-DV footage to digital.

Do we really need a mini-DV camcorder to play back mini-DV tapes? No. You can convert mini-DV to digital without a camcorder. However, that option is expensive. If you don’t have the budget to do so, then settle for a mini-DV camcorder.

Also, it would be cheaper to purchase a mini-DV camcorder to digitize your mini-DV tapes if you have a big collection of them. If you’re to use a tape to digital service, it would cost you a fortune.

Mini-DV Camcorder History

Mini-DV is a variant of the DV format which was introduced in 1995.

The DV format was created to offer higher video quality to professionals and amateurs.

For the professionals, Sony rolled out DVCam while Panasonic introduced DVCPro. These two formats weren’t compatible with each other, however.

For the amateurs mini-DV was introduced.

The mini-DV’s tape size was 7cm x 5cm or 2 – 3/4 inches by 2 inches.

This tape size was instrumental in the production of compact mini-DV camcorders.
But size wasn’t the selling point of mini-DV.

Video quality was, too. Prior to the introduction of mini-DV camcorders, the highest resolution a consumer could record was 400 lines. This was if he/she used an S-VHS camcorder.

Mini-DV, however, offered 525 lines. The standout benefit, was, however, the availability of a Firewire connection.

Firewire provided lossless video transfer to the computer. You needed only a Firewire (IEEE 1394) card installed in your computer and a cable to connect your mini-DV camcorder to it.

Mac computers then were already equipped with Firewire and video editing software that supports it. So, it was just plug-and-play for them.

Also, with a Firewire connection, you didn’t have to use the camcorder buttons to control tape playing.

For example, if you want to rewind your tape, you can do it through your video capture software.

After editing, you can copy the edited video back to tape without any quality loss.

It must be noted that these mini-DV benefits also apply to Sony’s Digital8 format. The only difference between mini-DV and Digital8 is, the latter has a larger tape size compared to mini-DV’s tape size. The Digital8 tape size is the same as that of Video8 and Hi-8.

Do They Still Make Mini-DV Camcorders?

No. mini-DV camcorders have given way to HD camcorders which store video in memory cards that can be directly read by computers. Still, you can find reliable refurbished units serviced by qualified technicians for sale online.

That said, let’s look at some mini-DV camcorders for sale online if you can’t find one in working condition in your local thrift store.

Sony mini-DV Camcorders

Sony DCRTRV30 mini-DV Handycam Camcorder

This mini-DV camcorder boasts a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar lens.

When shooting with this camera, you don’t need to worry about shaky shots. The Super SteadyShot technology takes care of that.

Sony claims that the CCD it uses in the camcorder provides a resolution of 10 lines (530 lines) higher than the usual mini-DV spec (520 lines).

A 4MB Memory Stick is part of this camcorder package. It allows you to capture digital stills up to a resolution of 1360 x 1020 (not of much use these days).

There’s also a 3.5-inch LCD screen to preview your recordings and playback.

There are two standout features not available on other camcorders. A headphone jack and microphone input.

In case you decide to shoot video with it, it comes with a hot shoe for attaching lights or microphones.  

You can shoot in MPEG movie mode if you prefer and record it to the Memory Stick.

You can play back mini-DV tapes in SP and LP modes.

Check out the Sony DCRTRV30 Mini DV Handycam Camcorder.

Sony DCR-HC52 MiniDV Handycam Camcorder

This mini-DV camcorder comes with a 40x optical zoom. Ideal if you intend to shoot distant subjects.

This is the model to go for if you need a compact mini-DV camcorder. The 2.5-inch LCD screen does more than allowing you to preview what your camcorder captures.

You can use it to start recording and pause it. This is indeed convenient. It saves you the trouble of having to use the usual camcorder control buttons.

One feature that you get to enjoy with this mini-DV camcorder is Super NightShot. If you’re into wildlife photography after dark, this will benefit you.

Check out the Sony DCR – HC52 mini-DV camcorder.

Sony DCR TRV70 MiniDV 2MP Camcorder

This camcorder, released around 2003, stands apart from most other Sony camcorder models. It comes with networking features available through USB-PSTN or Ethernet connections.

There’s a 2.5-inch touch-panel color SwivelScreen LCD display to preview your shots and video playback.

This camcorder is equipped with a multicoated Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar lens that helps produce balanced images with clear contrast.

An 8 MB Memory Stick is thrown in to capture stills and in case you want to shoot video in the MPEG1 mode.

Another feature you should take note of is the NightShot 0 Lux. It allows you to shoot in total darkness in color mode.

Check out the Sony DCR TRV70 MiniDV 2MP Camcorder.

JVC mini-DV Camcorders

JVC is well-known as the creator of VHS. It has another feather to its cap. It is the creator of the JVC GR-DV1E, the first consumer mini-DV camcorder.

Here are some JVC camcorder models worth considering.

JVC GR-DVL520U MiniDV Digital Camcorder

This JVC mini-DV camcorder supports SD and MultiMedia cards.

It has a high-speed USB interface to transfer photos to your computer.

It has DV in/out, S-Video and RCA/Composite out.

Check out the JVC GR-DVL520U MiniDV Digital Camcorder.

Canon ZR65MC MiniDV Digital Camcorder

Canon a leader in photography cameras ventured into the production of min-DV camcorders, riding on their brand name.

Their mini-DV cameras emphasize the capturing of still images as evident in this odd-sized mini-DV camera.

It comes with a 20X optical zoom capability and takes still images at up to a resolution of 1024 x 768.

Images are stored on an 8MB SD (Secure Digital) memory card.

A Firewire connection is available to connect it your computer for lossless video capture.

Check out the Canon ZR65MC mini-DV Digital Camcorder.

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