Is tape a "dead" medium in the consumer/prosumer camera world?

MatthiasClaflin Website User Posts: 674 Just Starting Out
edited April 2012 in Practical Filmmaking
I know that many filmmakers have been making the jump to DSLRs, which use SD or some other form of digital media. Back when I first got into film I was warned over and over not to buy any camera that was HDD or SD based. Things have now changed, and in my opinion, SD and HDD camcorders have become equal if not surpassed the miniDV/HDV camcorders. As far as I know there are no more MiniDV/HDV tape based camcorders still in production in the consumer/prosumer market.
I'm looking at getting a new camcorder, but a DSLR won't do, simply because of the recording length limitations. I love live event filming and want to head in that direction while doing short films on the side. That being my focus I need something that records more than just ten-twenty minutes.
My budget for a camcorder at this point is $800 or less.
This is my thought. I can get a Canon HV30 (which in my opinion is just as good as the HV40) for under $400 easy, giving me the possibility to get two, which would be ideal at this point. I also plan on upgrading my tripod and microphone shortly as well.
1) Is a tape based camcorder too old to be utilized in this time?
2) How does a camera such as the HV20/30/40 match up to the newer camcorders?
3) Is tape based media in the consumer/prosumer range dead?


  • NullUnit
    NullUnit Website User Posts: 791 Just Starting Out
    I use an HV30 currently. Tape is easy to find and buy. I get mine from B&H of course, but in a pinch I recently ran into my local Radio Shack and bought mini dv tape off the shelf (walgreens, bestbuy and any good electronics store will still carry mini dv tape). The only downside to tape is that you are transferring it to your computer in real time. Not a problem for me, but it might be for others. And a lot of people, myself included, feel that tape is a more reliable back-up/storage medium than hard drives or memory cards. Tape will be around for a very long time. You can still buy brand new vhs tape, for example.
    As for the camera, I love it. The sensor size is not as big as modern cameras (no rolling shutter!), but the images look great and the camera has a "film mode" that records the image with neutral color/brightness/contrast to facilitate color grading later. It shoots in 60i/30p or 24p in a 60i wrapper (its easy to render to actual 24p if you want). Lots of examples of HV30 footage up on youtube. There is a reason why HV20/30s still sell for $400-$500 bucks.
    I recommend it. Great value for the money. I think you would get many years of use out of an HV30.
  • MatthiasClaflin
    MatthiasClaflin Website User Posts: 674 Just Starting Out
    edited April 2012
    Thanks Darth_ill.
    I've had a Canon ZR800 since like 2008 so I'm very familiar with tape based recording and transfer. I don't mind the real time transfer, as I've been doing it for so long. Another thing, as you mentioned, that I'd like is that tapes do store very well and can be kept for years, freeing up HDD space on my computer, since I won't have to keep my raw footage.
    I see the idea of getting an HV30 as my best option at the moment, and an option I'm very happy with I might add, I just wanted to get some second opinions before dropping the cash on a camcorder.
  • jax_rox
    jax_rox Website User Posts: 19
    Tape is somewhat dead in as much as you there are very few cameras being made anymore that record onto tape. That said, tape is still around and can still be bought. I'd much rather buy a secondhand Sony Z1 recording than a consumer-grade handycam recording onto SD card for example.
    If you're looking for something without record length limitations, have a look at the Panasonic GH2, It records to AVCHD and so its record length is limited only by the card size.
    Whilst tape may be on its eventual way out in the lower end market, it is still used quite a lot, especially considering most prosumers who aren't necessarily new to the game have slightly older tape-based cameras. As well, even television stations tend to have cameras that record onto DVCPRO tapes, one of my local stations only moved up from Betamax tapes a couple years ago. It's too difficult, and to oexpensive and the technology changes too often to update constantly so if you can use tape until you it a point where you find you simply have to change, then why not do it?
  • MatthiasClaflin
    MatthiasClaflin Website User Posts: 674 Just Starting Out
    edited April 2012
    @Jax_rox according to B&H the GH2 is limited to 140 minutes, a little more than two hours, which in most cases would be fine, however you can get tape that goes 184, 196, and even 276 minutes long. Realistically not many live events will last longer than 2-3 hours (120-180 minutes) but it would be nice to not be limited by the 140 minutes the GH2 has which is why I am looking at something like the HV30 which is almost half the price of a GH2 as it is.
  • jax_rox
    jax_rox Website User Posts: 19
    Record time on a GH2 is limited only by the capacity of the card. In normal use you can get upwards of 3+ hours on a 32GB card, though I've heard of tests getting up to 7 hours record time in 1080p. The good thing about cards is you can get lots of them, if you find yourself needing another one (ie you forgot to transfer footage or forgot to load a card in the camera) you can run to the closest electronics store and buy one, and their swapover time is a matter of seconds as opposed to the 30+ seconds that used to happen on consumer and low-end prosumer tape-based cameras. Plus, with the GH2 hacks you can get great looking stuff. And it records to AVCHD which is easier to work with than H.246
    All depends on what you want/need and your budget though.
  • Froi
    Froi Website User Posts: 966
    Just my quick opinion.
    Tape is outdated, it can be damaged easily and it's competition (HDD/ cards) have beaten it, as they are easier to use when downloading footage to PC, they are lighter and take up less space, and most of all you can keep deleting stuff off of cards, but if you keep recording over your tape the footages quality decreases over time, I learnt with my old tape camera.
    Also cards are easier to store, cheaper for the amount of use you get out of them compared to tapes, (or actually you can argue that one).
    And I have many more opinions, but I'd rather say that when I have got a clear argue ent for them :P
    So basically, I feel that HDD/SD are better than tape.
    Sorry if I mentioned something someone else said, I didn't have enough time to read through all the posts
  • budwzr
    budwzr Website User Posts: 655
    edited April 2012
    ...with the GH2 hacks you can get great looking stuff. And it records to AVCHD which is easier to work with than H.246
    Yeah, we all know around here how easy it is to work with AVCHD. And it's not currently supported by HF.
    AVCHD is a proprietary codec co-developed by Panasonic/Sony, and is a special variation of H.264, what Sony calls "Consumer BluRay", so don't expect it to be supported as widely as X264.
  • MatthiasClaflin
    MatthiasClaflin Website User Posts: 674 Just Starting Out
    Actually because it records AVCHD and my version of Sony Vegas doesn't natively work with it, I wouldn't buy it without a Vegas upgrade which really isn't my priority at the moment, not to mention the price tag is a bit more than I'm willing to spend at this point.
  • SimonKJones
    SimonKJones Moderator Website User, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 4,450 Enthusiast
    Just wanted to chip in to say that the HV30 is still one of my all-time favourite cameras. Lovely little thing.
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