Do you need FireWire 800?
July 7, 2005
| || |I bought a Sony DCR-HC42 camcorder
and I can't find any info on if I really need to use FireWire 800, or if FireWire 400 is good enough as a connection. I have both a Mac and a PC on my network, and FireWire 800 requires a different connector than FireWire 400. Since the cables run around $40, I figured I might as well consolidate and have one cable that will allow me to import DV into both computers. For DV camcorders, does it really matter to have the speed of FireWire 800? And is USB 2.0 equivalent to FireWire 400?
Peter Johann Medina,
FireWire 400 is perfectly sufficient for transferring DV from your camcorder to your PC. A camcorder outputs the DV stream at a constant rate of 3.6MB per second; when converted into megabits per second, the standard unit for the cables under discussion, that's equal to 28.8Mbps. As you can see from the table below, both USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 have more than enough bandwidth for the task.
| ||Maximum |
|FireWire 400 |
|393Mbps ||4.5 meters/14.8 feet
|FireWire 800 |
|786Mbps ||100 meters/328 feet |
|USB 2.0 ||480Mbps ||5 meters/16.4 feet
However, in order to use USB transfer on the Mac, you have to upgrade to OS X 10.4 (Tiger)
with its Video Device Class support, which may not be practical for you. Furthermore, existing software requires some updating in order to support direct capture via FireWire 800, so you should check to see if your favorite program has made the necessary adjustment.
has been an avid photographer for almost 30 years. Her digital-imaging coverage has been referenced by academic journals and Web sites and published in all forms of media.