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What is your budget, and what type of capabilities are you looking for? It sounds like you’re a beginner looking to shoot simple video for family.
“i am confused about all of the options, do i want dvd, mimi dv, hard drive, high def, flash memory”
These are the different recording mediums for different convenience purposes. For the most part, it’s a personal preference. Here’s a short summary of each. MiniDV is the original digital recording (tape) that offers the least convenience, but is considered the “wisest” way to go by professionals, since it records in the DV-AVI format. It’s also been the first consumer digital recording format. DVD camcorders record to miniature-sized DVD discs that store video in the original MPEG-2 (DVD codec) format. Personally, I wouldn’t go with DVD, as it offers short recording times in the highest quality and is often slow to operate, due to the nature of optical drives. Also, your player/editing software must support the proprietary MPEG-2 format. With hard disk camcorders, you have a slightly broader recording capability and usually more time at the highest quality. It operates faster than DVD, and usually offers more stability and convenience. It also requires the support of the MPEG-2 format for playing or importing. Check your editor’s help index for “MPEG-2” support. And last but not least, the flash memory camcorder records to an internal memory and/or removable flash memory (SDHC) card. It also requires support of the MPEG-2 (DVD) codec for importing video.
Another format is AVCHD, which has dominated and served as the recording format for HD camcorders on hardriveand solid state (flash) memory. It uses more effecient compression, usually allowing longer recording times. Like MPEG-2, it has not been supported by the majority of players, editors, and pro NLEs (Non-linear editors) available. Nearly 85% of video software available supports it now, so it probably won’t bemuch of a worry. Just to note, Windows Movie Maker does not support these formats without special software for converting video.
Have you looked at cheap MiniDV camcorders (e.g. eBay) for around $250-$600, or JVC’s Everio line of HDD and Flash camcorders – http://camcorder.jvc.com/index.jsp
Free videosoftware – http://www.avsmedia.com/