Find a Camcorder that’s Compatible with Mac’s iMovie ‘11 - dummies

Find a Camcorder that’s Compatible with Mac’s iMovie ‘11

By Edward C. Baig

iMovie ’11 supports a wide range of digital camcorders, with various levels of quality and resolution. The type of camcorder you’ll want to purchase for iMovie depends on the type of videos you’re trying to create with it and how much money you’re willing to spend.

iMovie can exploit only video footage in digital form. The good news for consumers is that prices for most digital camcorders have plummeted in recent years. The most common type of digital camcorder made use of matchbook-sized, 60-minute MiniDV tapes. But tape is losing ground to tapeless models.

Not all digital camcorders sold today are simpatico with iMovie. Most MiniDV camcorders using HDV formats make nice with Apple. These compact models, from such leading manufacturers as Sony, JVC, Panasonic, Canon, and Samsung, now start at less than $200; DV camcorders cost under $100 in some cases. Meanwhile, the MiniDV cassettes that you record onto cost less than $2.

Along with MiniDV tape, the latest iMovie works with increasingly popular tapeless models that record onto hard drives and flash memory. Some MiniDVD camcorders work too, but they don’t always include USB or FireWire connectivity, and the disks aren’t usable in Macs with slot-loading drives, and for that matter fewer Macs have those drives anyway.

In scary movie techspeak, the latest iMovie accepts imported video in the high-definition formats. You’ll see terms such as AVCHD, MPEG-4, AVC, and HDV. In standard definition, iMovie handles MPEG-2 and DV formats, and supports cinematic 16:9 widescreen and standard 4:3 video. If you don’t know whether your video-recording device is supported, Apple can help.

Start by searching online for camcorder options and prices. Apple will be happy to sell you models at the store on its website. You can generally find excellent prices and a wide selection at B&H Photo. Be sure to visit to, a terrific resource for reviews.

When you purchase a camcorder, make sure that you also get the proper USB or FireWire cable to connect to your Mac (or perhaps by the time you read this, a cable that is compatible with the latest Thunderbolt ports).

Just keep in mind that cables vary. FireWire-equipped Macs (and there are fewer and fewer of them) may have FireWire 800 ports, and many camcorders are FireWire 400, so you’ll probably also need an adapter cable. Just to confuse you, FireWire also sometimes goes by the name iLink or IEEE 1394.

Even if you haven’t gone out and purchased a camcorder, you may well have one. And that’s because the latest smartphones − including Apple’s own iPhones − double as camcorders, as do state-of-the-art Android phones, Windows phones, and others.