Using A Camcorder With The MacBook Air

I was meddling with my Sony camcorder (it’s a Handycam HDR-CX160) and Macbook Air the other day. As I powered up my MacBook Air, while waiting for the home screen to appear, a thought suddenly struck me:

Is the MacBook Air compatible with all camcorders? I know that my Handycam HDR-CX160 has no problems, and I’ve been using it for ages to shoot video on the go. But what about other camcorders?

Well, I sought to find out more and this article describes what I found.

Factors To Consider

First up, you should realize that the MacBook Air is not compatible with all camcorders. The reason is it has no FireWire port, only USB ports. Let understand this in more detail.

Mini-DV Camcorders

Any camcorder that is Mini-DV based will have a problem working with the MacBook Air. For Mini-DV camcorders, you usually need a FireWire connection to transfer video to your desktop or laptop. If you try transferring using USB, you will find that the captured video can be choppy.

Mini-DV camcorders are unlikely to work with the MacBook Air

Hard-Disk Camcorders

A few years ago these hard-disk camcorders were quite popular. I owned a Canon (can’t remember the model) and I recall it had huge amounts of space.

When I wanted to capture it to my laptop, I simply transferred the video using the USB port. For the MacBook Air, it’s the same - you can easily transfer video from your camcorder’s hard-disk to the laptop. However, these days, hard-disk camcorders are being replaced by SD cards.

SD Card Camcorders

The newer camcorders out there have SD card support. This makes recording the video, then transferring it to your computer extremely easy.

For the MacBook Air, I simply shoot a clip on my Sony HDR-CX160, take out the SD card, then insert it into the MacBook Air’s SD card slot. The video can be used directly in any program (e.g. iMovie) for post-production edits.

Recommended Models

The above being said, I’d say that if you own a MacBook Air and are looking for a camcorder, go for a newer one with SD card support. Here are three models I’ve impressed with.

Sony HDR-CX160

This is an entry-level HD camcorder from Sony and is the gadget I currently use. It is very affordable, takes great quality video in 1080i AVCHD-format. Still pictures can be shot at 3 megapixel resolution. It supports SD memory cards so it’s a good choice if you want to use it with your MacBook Air.

The Sony HDR-CX160 HD camcorder

Canon Vixia HF R20

Canon's Vixia HF R20 full HD camcorder is an all round solid performer. This machine takes great videos and is very intuitive to use. There’s 8 GB of built-in flash memory and it has two slots that accomodate SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards. Perfect for using with the MacBook Air.

The Canon Vixia HF R20 HD camcorder

JVC Everio GZ-HM650

The JVC Everio GZ-HM650 is a mid-range HD camcorder - several of my videographer friends speak volumes about it. You can capture 1080p video in AVCHD format and the 40x zoom lens is a nice touch (most other camcorders in this price range do up till 30x maximum). You can easily record to SD/SDHC memory cards, for easy transfer to any laptop.

The JVC Everio GZ-HM650 HD camcorder

Wrapping Up ...

If you’re a MacBook Air user thinking of buying a camcorder, I hope the above thoughts will help you out somewhat.

Another point to remember is that the MacBook Air is sleek and sexy, but if you’re doing heavy video editing work, you may want to consider upgrading to a MacBook Pro. MacBook Pros do come with Firewire support, so you’ll be able to use those older Mini-DV camcorders without issue.

Thanks for reading and have fun shooting your videos!