I should trademark HD^2: High Definition on Hard Drive.

SD MiniDV has been a very good market for many years: solid performance, good usability, affordable prices, dirt-cheap media. The only problem? It’s anything but HD^2.

Everybody feels the HD wind blows. Take Canon Elura 100, camcorderinfo.com’s Best Camcorder of 2006, and it’s already a goner. You can only find refurbished ones on eBay. I salute those lucky people who got hold of SD MiniDV’s last best offer.

And it can only get better in this new era of HD^2 with 1080i/720p (I’m not dreaming 1080p since my cheap HDTV doesn’t have it), MPEG4 (H.264 AVC), and the incredibly shrinking HDD. Or does it?

First there’s HDV (Sony HDR-HD*, Canon HV10/20), which is HD MPEG2 on MiniDV. Check one. Wait, you mean just one check mark?

Yep, and it’s all even more downhill from here. Except for the price, from $800 going up, up, and away…

Here comes the spanking new AVCHD (Sony HDR-UX*, Panasonic HDC-SD1/DX1, JVC GZ-HD7), some models checking all 3. Alright!

Hold on to your cheers for another year, will ya? Current models only offer 60% theoretical bitrate of MPEG4 (15Mbps/24Mbps), so compression quality is worse than MPEG2 with 25Mbps. Bit is king in the game of compression. Unless someone comes up with a revolutionary codec (which my previous company purported to do for audio, and I left 1.5 years ago, so go figure), there’s simply no way on earth you can maintain the same quality with 40% less bits. And no 3rd-party video editing software can deal with the format yet (that’s the easiest thing to fix, though). And I’m not even complaining about the stupid HD/BlueRay DVD war.

Actually the only AVCHD model that records on HD is Sony’s SR1. All other models use DVD or flash memory. The largest SDHC available now is 8GB for $60, which will take about 70 minutes of HD. That number looks familiar, doesn’t it?

Then there’s the pitiful bunch of SD on HDD models (Sony DCR-SR*, JVC Everio GZ-MG*). They also manage to check one mark, but it’s the wrong one. They’re more expensive than SD MiniDV, with worse quality and control.

And lest us forget the slimy Sanyo slums, who put a still CDD into a camcorder (VPC-HD1) shell and call it HD–let them burn in gadget hell!

I just want a $600 HD^2 camcorder that doesn’t suck in video quality, and I can easily import and edit the footage and leave it on the yet-to-be-purchased 1TB external drive from here to eternity. Is that such an outrageous wish?

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