One of the most important things to decide when considering a new camcorder is the recording media that it will use. DVDs, flash memory and tape all have their advantages and disadvantages. Here we're going to consider some different camcorders that record footage to an internal hard drive.
This simply means that the memory is built in to the camcorder, like the memory in your computer, rather than removable, like a memory card in a camera. The biggest advantage of this method is that you can potentially capture and store much more than on removable media, in a smaller physical size. The 100GB of data stashed by the Sony HDR-SR8 dwarfs even the 60GB of dual-layer HD DVDs. That said, hard drive sizes are generally closer to the 30GB mark, like on the Sony Handycam DCR-SR40, with its 20x zoom.
The smaller size of hard drives also throws up the possibility of hybrid recording methods. A true hybrid is a model that can record to either of two media, and also copy footage from one to another. The Panasonic SDR-H250 packs a 30GB hard drive and also takes SD cards, allowing you to copy footage from hard drive to removable media on the fly, extending the capacity of the internal memory at crucial junctures.
Potentially, though, a hard drive camcorder may mean that you never need to buy recording media again. No more fiddly memory cards to keep track of or spend your money on. This means that you'll often pay a little more for hard-drive camcorders, but the long-term saving make better-specced models competitive on price.
Should you wish to expand the capacity of your camcorder, some hard drives, known as microdrives, can be physically removed from the camcorder and replaced with a spare. This is the case with the JVC Everio GZ-MC500. Although this camera's 4GB microdrives can be matched by dual-layer mini-DVD, the GZ-MC500 crams that 4GB into a frame the size of a can of pop.