We bought, after months of research and waiting for a good price, a Sony DVD 505. It replaces our old Sony Hi-8 tape camcorder. The DVD camcorder's biggest advantage by far is that each time you press and release the record button to record an event, that event becomes a "scene" or a "chapter". It is a seperate file on the disc, with it's own thumbnail when you go to see what's on the disc, similar to photos we put on CD's for our computer. When we want to view a specific event that we photographed, it is as simple as checking out the scene thumbnails and clicking on the one we want to see. No more winding and rewinding to find the section of tape we want to view! With a DVD camcorder the results are immediate.
The negative parts of our DVD 505 are that although it shoots scenes in fairly dim light and indoors without auxilliary lighting, unlike our old Hi-8, the picture quality still isn't quite as good in normal light. That's not to say it isn't acceptable. The ability to shoot in dim light helps offset the miniscule quality drop. The Hi-8 at the same quality level will shoot up to 2 hrs per tape, but the DVD can hold only 20 mins. at Max resolution. Both formats have other length choices, but why not shoot in maximum res all the time?
Be prepared to be switching out discs a lot, which makes you become a more discretionary film maker, a trait we would all be better served to develop anyway, and one our friends and family would certainly appreciate when it comes time to view our efforts.
Another negative to the DVD 505 we've found is that the audio isn't up to snuff. Most of the C-Net Forum commenters claimed they "just loved" the 505's Dolby digital or AC-3 sound, so I took that as one more reason to buy. Oops. Although it comes through upon playback on multiple speakers through our AC-3 home theater system, it certainly isn't the same sound as a commercial DVD movie you rent or buy. In fact my wife really hates the audio from our DVD camcorder recordings, so I have to turn the volume down. The Dolby microphone sequestered flat on the camcorder's top cannot realistically pick up 5 channel audio , so what it perports to do cannot be done, and the result is dissappointing; I don't know how all those people that wrote in to C-Net could say it was great sound. I should have listened to the few that chastised the sound on their 505's. And it tends to pick up wind noise bad. The solution may be to buy Sony's proprietary external Dolby mike attachment ($$$) with windguard to resolve all sound issues.
The Easy Cam feature of Sony's DVD camcorder line is nice; one press of one button and novice film makers can shoot whatever, wherever, with no worrying about camera settings. The Easy Cam sets everything to automatic and keeps the image stabilizer on, etc. But that reminds me that we don't think the newer stabilization technology works as well as that on our old Hi-8; more shakiness is noted in our DVD shot scenes. Of course we are 15 years older and more doddery, so that might contribute, HAHA.
One very nice feature of our DVD 505 is its big LCD screen, and for my old eyes that is a big plus! Some on this Forum don't like fingerprints on touchscreens, but I just don't see that as a significant issue, esp. when you use the touchscreen feature on the bigger screen and see how easy it is to control things. A few fingerprints, big deal. The bigger issue is the sun washing out the screen occasionally, but that is when you move to using the viewfinder, which, by the way, is adjustable on the 505, but not on a lot of others.
The Sony's come with computer editing software, but like others on this Forum have noted in other threads, it pretty much stinks. Be prepared to buy a Roxio or some other DVD editing/burning software program that will properly allow you to view and edit your movies with your computer if you get the DVD camcorder. I haven't tried that yet, as it uses time I can't find. Alternatively, I am just very discretionary with my scene shooting, though that can be difficult at the times when you don't know what's going to happen next in a shot and need to keep rolling in case something important occurs. You'll have that problem with either tape or disc format.
Some with more time than me say that tape is easier to bring up and edit on computer, that Sony's DVD-recorded audio won't transfer readily, etc., though I think, with the right software, DVD should work fine. Record onto DVD-RW minidiscs, transfer to the computer to edit, then burn onto a master standard DVD-R (or DVD+R) for storage or to send someone.
I have a new DVD player/recorder that replaces our old beginning-of-the-technology DVD player that, over the last year, wouldn't play a lot of our rented movies (some newer formats). The new machine will hopefully provide the means to transfer the home movies on my pile of DVD-RW minidiscs to standard DVD-R discs for permanent storage, so I don't need computer software yet, though I'll need it if I want to edit thoroughly. It has a hard drive and can record TV shows too, tho I haven't messed with that aspect yet; no time to read the huge, ambiguous manual and learn. I still use our old preset VCR for recording regular shows. The new machine has a VCR in it too, so I can eventually, supposedly with one button, transfer our decades of VHS tapes over to DVD discs. VHS tapes degrade with time, but then who's to say DVD's won't either.
You may find it confusing, as I did, when you have to decide which disc format to use, +R or -R. I guess one you can edit on camera, the other not. I've been using DVD-RW so I can reuse the discs and not have to buy more. But transfering to standard DVD using my new recorder may not be as easy as I thought, since there seems to be some problem with copying -RW to the recorder's hard drive first, which I have to do before burning from the hard drive to the standard disc. I still have to try and understand this technology to find a way around it; I could always direct copy to VHS, then from that to standard disc, but I'll likely lose quality in the process. Does this help convince you to stay with DV camcorders? It should. No confusion over formats. And most recorders/players, even new TVs, have DV inputs on them for direct hookup of the DV camcorder; DVD camcorders don't directly connect via any DV wire. Even tho my new player/recorder has a DV input, I have to use old AV component jacks to connect the DVD camcorder. Pain in the neck.
Back on topic, you can see that tho some say DVD camcorders are the future, they have a ways to go. I can't speak to HD; I personally don't see the extra money in the slight video improvement. We have a 32 inch HD LCD TV in our new RV, but because I don't think LCD has as good a picture as the old standard "tube" TV provides, the HD part becomes mute and not worth the extra money. Just my opinion, and it will differ from others'. If you are used to DV, understand it, like it, and don't mind winding and rewinding tape to view and edit, then I'd stick with what you know; just upgrade to some improved features, such as a more capable lens or bigger screen, higher resolution technology, etc. Just don't be taken in by units that proclaim a large digital zoom; it is useless. Ignore digital zoom because your image goes to pot as soon as you use it. Buy a camcorder of any type by its optical zoom, not its digital zoom. The 505's optical zoom isn't as great as some, but that's a trait of the constraints dictated by the lens and the technology that tries to minimize the camera's size and weight, but still build in light-gathering and resolution capability.
Good luck, and hope I've adequately described pros and cons as you asked for.