Camcorders: Standard Definition (SD) vs. High Definition (HD)

by Jane on April 11, 2016

Camcorders: Standard Definition (SD) vs. High Definition (HD)

For the most part, the vast majority of the camcorders on the market in 2016 and beyond are HD resolution, well, at least until 4K resolution technology drops in price. OK but what if you find a great deal ($$$) on a standard definition camcorder. should you buy it? Here we will tell you a few differences you should be aware of before buying that SD camcorder

Although there are a few other differences, SD vs. HD is mainly about differences in resolution levels. The following is on the subject of camcorders but can also pretty much be applied to any device that plays video. There’s a video on this page that explains the differences between SD vs. HD but we will also give you an answer in our own words.

Can you guess which one provides overall better picture quality? Compared to stand definition, high definition resolution provides much better picture quality. Basically the picture will look cleaner and more detailed. This because high definition (HD) provides a greater level of resolution due to the increased number of pixels displayed on the screen.


Why do we call it “standard definition (SD)? Basically, this was the first video resolution format (or longest lived) on TV’s and other video devices found in homes, existing before high definition (HD).  You may have seen the acronym SDTV before?

SD vs. HD camcorders other differences

Aspect Ratio – On some of the devices you own you may have seen the option to play video in full screen or wide screen. Full screen is the older option and look much like a square (4:3) which means for ever 4 inches in width the screen image needs to be 3 inches tall. This is a requirement of standard definition.

However, the widescreen option (16:9) for every 16 inches in width the image will be 9 inches tall. While each apsect ration has certain advantages, for watching movies and videos the vast majority of people do prefer the 16:9 aspect ratio. This is produced by high definition video devices.

Interlace vs. progressive – When reading the specifications or product description of a camcorder when you come to the part defining the resolution level you may come across 480i, 720i, 720p or 1080p. The “i” stands for interlaced and the “p” stands for progressive.

Not to go into too much detail but as for interlace (i) part of the picture is missing but the image flashes so quick that in the next frame the missing part are present. So this sort of fools the eyes. This is what standard definition. It works fine but starts to become more noticeable in fast moving scenes and video games.

On the other hand, progressive (p) draws the entire image this greatly benefits resolution and picture quality.

If you need help choosing the best camcorder to fit your needs, visit our buyer’s guide or look at the choices we have laid out in different price ranges:

  • under $100
  • under $200
  • under $300
  • under $400
  • under $500
  • under $1000
  • The most expensive models
  • Best camcorders for the money

While you may be able to find a SD Camcorder very cheap (under $100) we would recommend spending a bit more in order to buy a HD camcorder. The differences in picture quality are significant.

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