Should your New Camera use Tape or Hard Drive?

2 min

One question that should arise when purchasing a new camera is whether to choose one that uses tape (as in HD tape) or go for the current technological advancement of hard drive recording? While on the surface, going with a new camera that uses tape may seem to be a limitation, there are many experts in the industry who advocate for tape usage over hard drive.

A minor inconvenience

Young, enthusiastic producers and directors are eager, driven, and want the best that technology has to offer. It is a simple and understandable desire to have the best equipment at one’s fingertips in order to get the job done to its best possible finish. When talking about recording equipment, such as a new camera, then it might seem obvious which one to choose. Both internal drives and HD tapes record digital signals, so quality of picture isn’t a major factor. The camera itself may have different features and capabilities, but that has nothing to do with the recording mechanism itself.

Some professionals find that to be able to store the original recording on tape is a more convenient factor, whereas those images that are captured within the camera’s memory will need to be backed up onto another device for safe keeping, or some external source, much like backing a computer’s hard drive to avoid losing valuable information.

There’s a myth that a transfer from a tape source into an editing system is simply less than ideal quality, but this is not true. Of course, there are a number of different new camera tape options, as there are many different manufacturers that one can choose from, so that will certainly play a factor in whether you choose a new camera that uses tape or hard drive. This article isn’t about comparing different manufacturers or brands of cameras. It is about which type suits your needs best.

Different HD formats

Whether you choose a tape or hard drive recording camera, you will be faced with a variety of options. At the moment, there are roughly two dozen different formats to choose from. Given enough time and sampling, you will find that there are some tapeless formats that are better than tape as well as some tape formats that work best. If you have a limitless budget, then you may want to consider a DVCPRO HD camera, but those cameras are priced in the $45,000 and up range – a bit out of the realm of possibility for most eager up-and-comers.

The debate here shouldn’t be about technological advancement, but about quality. When digital recording became popular and affordable within the music industry, it was a revolution. Comparing the quality of analog tape versus a digital format was a no-brainer, or so many of them thought. It wasn’t until the early nineteen-nineties when musicians began to notice a sterile quality to the sound. Many recording studios took to their old analog recording equipment for the initial recordings for some substance that was lacking.

The video world doesn’t quite have the same experiences, or limitations as both tape and hard drive record pure digital signals. What it comes down to is whether you believe that one camera, or format, offers better quality. With that being said, however, many industry experts –those professionals with years of experience under their belt- find that the convenience and security of having a tape, rather than requiring a second hard drive backup, more convenient and simply more reassuring.

Sample new cameras that use tape as well as hard drive recording technology for yourself and decide. It may really only come down to a personal preference about convenience, after all.


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Rick Davis


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