audio perspective, I have not seen specific dB cited - and I expect audio frequency is a contributor. We have had posts here of people complaining about car races/engine rev noise and close proximity to the camcorder having impact and loud crowd cheering at a large parade causing "buffer full" messages and no recording allowed. I will guess in the 110-115 dB range and higher would start to impact the HDD camcorder's sensors.
The noise (dB) of sky diving will probably be within limits - but the wind buffeting could cause the drop-sensor in the camcorder to engage resulting in the same head parking behavior. In this case, disabling the drop sensor *might* work, but the violent shaking from the wind/air during the drop (with the drop sensor disabled) could cause the hard drive heads to hit the platters and cause a really head crash. The camcorder HDDs are essentially as the same as those used in laptop computers - personally, I don't trust them as I have had to recover data from too many of them through DriveSavers.
The altitude item is described in HDD camcorder manuals in the Specifications (Operating Requirements) area - for the most part, anything higher than 9,700-9,800 feet.
Ordinary "carry about" activities are not a big deal - the HDD camcorders have a bit of RAM that can buffer the video - so when the vibration stops, that information is written to the hard drive - but it is only a few seconds. When the camcorder is off, the heads park.
"Easy hard drive replacement"? I will defer to whizkid or others who use hard drive based camcorders or hack such things. There may be a reason why there aren't many "replacement drive kits" on the market - but others can comment. There was a post earlier this year about a hack that replaced the hard drive with a "flash memory drive"... but the last time I checked, filling the internal drive was one of the downsides to consumer internal hard drive camcorders (what to do with captured - but not yet transferred to computer - video?
Using a flash memory or miniDV tape based camcorder eliminates the vibration and altitude issues. And carrying extra tapes or cards is not a big deal - they are small and lightweight and readily available in most large towns and cities.
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