Recording direct is always better than recording to tape.
There are a few reasons why:
The picture quality of digital video (DV) recorded on a Mini DV cassette is basically identical or better to the quality of DV recorded on a Hi8 or 8mm cassette by a Digital8 camcorder. Mini DV can have up to 530 lines of video resolution for some camcorder models.
Your recording time is limited: Mini DV tapes are available in lengths of 30 and 60 minutes (plus, recording in LP mode lets you extend total recording time with a 60-minute tape to 90 minutes).
The advantage of mini DV tape is that you can have plenty of these with you if you are going to be a long time away from your computer in remote places.
Recording direct to a hard drive is also limited. Some hold 30-40 GB of video- what are you going to do when they fill up?
My issue with these units is with the use of MPEG2, which was meant as a distribution medium rather than a capture/edit medium. The interframe compression of MPEG makes frame-accurate editing difficult (to answer Mtn Biker's question above). If these units recorded DV files, a 20GB drive would be able to record over 1.5 hours (better than DV tape) before downloading to a computer; the 30GB drive would record over 2.5 hours.
Last update: 05:45 PM Tuesday, August 8, 2006