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Thread: SD or HD - on a budget

  1. #1

    Default SD or HD - on a budget

    Hi all,

    Up to now I've been an amateur photographer not videographer. So camcorders are a little beyond me at the moment, and I'd like some advice...

    We're looking to get our first digital camcorder - mainly holiday stuff and motorsport events to start with, but probably will have kids in a couple of years, when I can see it getting a lot more indoor use.

    I can't decide whether to go for HD or SD. I'm happy with the HDD vs SDHC media-options (don't want Mini-DV or DVD media), but I'm unsure whether to save money now and go for SD as it'll be easier to process on my (older) PC, or whether to future-proof the camera and go straight for HD, upgrading my computer as I go along...

    I'd decided to save the money, but then realised that all my shortlisted SD camcorders lacked optical stabilisation. So I'm back thinking 'buy once' and get the HD now...but that'll give me a processing headache on an older PC until I get that upgraded (...and even then it'll take longer from what I'm told...).

    Budget up to 500, but less if possible, particularly if going for a std-def camera.
    Want to be able to watch the footage on TV, not just on a PC monitor.
    Don't need anything fancy, just good quality video and decent sound, plus a few manual controls to tweak.
    Compact size is a must.

    SD - Panasonic H40 / H280 and Sony SR210 seem to be the only ones with optical IS (Pana S7 apparently has a good elec system) - have I missed anything WITH optical stabilisation for less than the HD ones below???
    Liked the look of the Canon FS10/11/100 but not sure about lack of IS.

    HD - Canon HG10 / HF100, Panasonic SD9, Sony SR10

    Any/all advice gratefully received.


    Last edited by havoc; 08-28-2008 at 09:13 AM. Reason: Edited to correct shortlist

  2. #2


    Is there any particular reason (apart from convenience considerations) why you have discounted tape? Most people around here are still pretty much convinced by tape quality over Hard disk and Solid State (If you go for Standard Def then tape blows everything away. and in Hi Def, HDV uses significantly less compression than AVHCD.

    In the pro/semi-pro world (which I'm not in, I hasten to add!) tape is still pretty much still ubiquitous (Hmm... that appears to be my word for the day ) Sony XDCAM and Panasonic P2 solid-state are starting to make inroads in that part of the market, (and RED of course with their 4K cam that records direct to disk), but apart from that it's DVCAM, HDCAM all the way (both tape solutions) and you will find broadcasters accepting HDV material in some situations.

  3. #3


    Hi Mark (?),

    Ease of use, really, and the desire for a smaller machine (albeit I guess that will be relative):-
    - I spend too long processing RAW files to want to do the same again with video, so something 'plug-n-play' with regard to upload will be best;
    - We've an old analogue camcorder which hasn't been used in years because it's too big. Hand-held / 500g is our target.
    I have been told that tape will give better quality-per- than HDD or SDHC machines, but I think I'd rather a more user-friendly machine, to be honest.

    ...interestingly enough, because of PC limitations (and I don't know when I'll bother getting around to a HD TV), I've decided on SD. Which re: media format, probably seems odd. I'm now trying to decide whether to go budget for a year or two (Panasonic S7 maybe?), or go for something half-way decent (Panasonic H280 seems to be the best VFM).
    Can't see any Sony's that are any good without getting into HD money, and I can't find a Canon with good Image Stabilisation, let alone a CMOS sensor, without getting into HD money (I'm a big Canon fan, so that disappoints me...).

    Anything I've missed? Any other thoughts?

    Thanks again,


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    South Devon


    Some points based on your information I'd consider pertinent for your need:

    You say HDD because it's smaller, your shooting motorsports. Small light cameras are a stability nightmare, you'd be better with big and heavy.

    Image stabilisation will go to rats with panning shots of moving vehicles because of the way they work, i.e. if it's a stable image being framed, compensating for mild camera shake is achievable by these systems, turning it off is inevitable if you're going to be fliming widly moving subjects, in these instances image stabilisation can actually make the problem worse.

    Brand loyalty can be a big enemy to sensible decisions. I use Sony's, because for my use they are far tougher than the Canon equivalents, they even feel stronger, my two Canon HV20's were with me for a week before I tired of flexible plastic cases and loose fittings and they went back for two Sony HC5's, because my former two cameras were Sony's that I've beaten the living daylights out of and are still fully functioning. I've had too many friends have Canon video cameras go wrong, and I've had two allegedly professional SLR's go pear shaped on me in the past. We can only speak from our own experiences, but those are mine at least. I think they make good photocopiers though .

    Consider start up times. You're sat in the crowd at a motorsport event and the cars or whatever all charge off from the start line, you then get that pregnant pause as they disapear till they come around for the next pass, in the mean time, unless you've told it otherwise, the camera has gone into standby. Check out how long it takes for a HDD cam to fire back into life again, some of them are ridiculously long and will still be winding up as the subject goes past. At these sort of events, unless you're carrying a pocket full of batteries, a rapid initialisation type is a real advantage, tapes are the fastest.

    Future proofing on a two year time scale? Well, consider that if you really get into it, you'll be upgrading your camera anyway. So why not cut your teeth on SD to save the inevitable upgrade of all the peripheral stuff now as you say. Some say that you can shoot in HD and process in SD, so you can, but what's the point? If you plan to start fiddling with HD in a couple of years the camera could well be on the way to the end of its life, be under no illusions about how long a video camera will either last, or be simply upgraded into obsolescence. HD will be on mobile phones in a couple of years time I'll warrant.

    So at some point you've got to jump off the roundabout into a particular path laid out by the camera of your choice. From my experience a Sony MiniDV will suit you, but don't search for the smallest, as you'll soon be needing to make it lumpier to help following moving subjects. Only people with experience in other makes can give you qualified advice about which to go for.
    Last edited by Jerry Hill; 09-01-2008 at 09:20 PM. Reason: typos

  5. #5


    Thanks Jerry.

    As it happens, I ordered yesterday. I did go with SD not HD, but I went for a small, cheap, SDHC Canon (the FS100).

    Basically I decided that portability and ease of use were the key things, and I didn't want to spend loads at this point in time. No point in an all-singing, all-dancing Mini-DV if it sits at home because it's too big/heavy, and if the tapes never get uploaded because I need to fit a firewire socket to the PC and haven't got around to it yet...

    So it'll be a learning experience, and in a year or two I'll know:-
    - Whether I want to upgrade
    - What I want that's better / different
    ...and there'll be better kit at cheaper prices then!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    South Devon


    I hope it goes well for you mate, you can always tape a brick to it!

    Seriously though it would be good for me personally for you to keep in touch on your progress. Most of the video work on the net is 'film' based, you know, stories and narrative, but you're more into an area where I am, sort of getting the best out of the unpredictable through videoing a sport.

    Keep us posted.

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