The main problem with the HDD based camcorders, or with backing up flash memory on HDD is that if your hard drive breaks you've just lost everything. So you'd have to have a minimum of 2 hard drives to keep a backup of everything... that's a lot of gear to haul around. 1 60-minute tape = 12 GB. So 20 tapes = 240 GB. Instead of 20 mini-DV tapes you'd have to carry at least 2 300-GB drives for backup. Plus a laptop for the transfer..
Of course it depends if you're doing a trans-america on highway or if you're mostly off-road and crashing here and there.
And I only taped 20 hours, that's not a lot. A friend of mine had already 50 hours after 6 months only!
For my 1 1/2 year tour I took an HDV camcorder - that is, recording on tape. The advantages are:
- tapes are cheap (just regular mini DV tapes). You can buy them virtually anywhere in the world.
- tapes take space but they're light.
- tapes can deteriorate without losing everything. This is known as "drop outs", it happens to me not very often (unless you're recording to HDV specific tapes which cost $$$). In most cases the drop-out can be hidden during editing by a cut. If a HDD loses one sector, chances are you lose everything. Only in one case did I lose half a tape because of bad quality.
- tapes can be sent home as you go, by courier at least that's a good way to secure them.
- HDV is easier to edit than AVC/H264. DV is even easier.
Advantages of solid state / HDD:
- tape transport mechanism is a moving part and can break. Sand can get inside during tape load-unloading. I had to fix my camcorder mid-way in the middle of India. But at the end of the day I could do it and my previous footage wa snot affected. Solid state cameras are inherently much more reliable.
- HDD/solid state is easier to transfer to your PC/Mac for editing.
- solid state (flash) is extremely reliable, it can sustain extreme abuse.
With tapes you can be sure you come back with something usable. With hard drives you never know..
Please comment on your experience when you come back.
A ride to Asia