I remain a little sceptical that digital video cameras are worth what the price tags read. Here's why: a camera is basically made up of two parts - the CCD-lens assembly, which is the bit that actually makes the picture, and the video tape recorder, which is what records the image on to tape. The digital video cameras have replaced the tape deck, but it is still the same old CCD and lens making the picture. The fact is simply this - a cheap camera with a lousy CCD and lens is not going to see much benefit from a digital tape recorder. This is especially true with the little Walkman-sized cameras. I would stack a good Hi-band 8mm camera up against one of those little gizmos any day. There is one thing that swings the whole digital versus analogue argument quickly and decisively in favour for digital cameras, no matter the quality of the images; if you want to edit videos, digital is the only way to go. It used to be that recording video on to your computer required a capture card. Capture cards are rather expensive pieces of hardware that sell for $4,000 to $10,000 depending on the model. These cards have processors that are able to convert each frame of an analogue video signal into a digital image and then compress it before writing it to disk. That is a task that not even the most expensive desktop computer can handle alone. Digital video cameras are another story. The images on tape are already digital. Transferring them to your hard disk is really no different from transferring a word-processor file from one disk to another, provided your hardware and software are compatible. The hardware you need is called a FireWire port or IEEE1394 connection. You will need to make sure that your camera has a FireWire out port and you need some camera-compatible video editing software to download the images from your camera. If you have a newer Mac, one of the funky-coloured models or a G3 notebook, you should already have a FireWire port. Not many Windows machines have this port, but cards can be purchased fairly cheaply. One of the more common reasons why people in Hong Kong want to edit video on their computers seem to be because they can e-mail clips to friends and relatives. Sending photos of your child's first steps back to the folks may seem like a neat idea, but it is not very realistic. A 320 x 240 pixel QuickTime video, which is barely big enough to see clearly, will eat up about 180 megabytes per minute if the video is uncompressed. MPEG can cut that minute down to a mere eight MB but that is still too big to e-mail practically. Cut the image down to a postage-stamp sized 128 x 96 pixels, compress the hell out of it and you will be down to just under three MB per minute. Three MB for one minute of postage-stamp sized video that looks like you shot it with a burlap sack over the lens and sounds like an answering machine recording made by someone calling from a cellphone going through the Cross-Harbour Tunnel is hardly worth the expense and effort. If you want to send video to friends and relatives do it the old fashioned way, edit the video on your computer, then copy it back to good old video tape and send the copies through the mail. Chris Walton is a freelance photographer and writer.