Before the introduction of DSLR cameras enabled with adequate video processing power, HDV cameras were a must-have item for professional and amateur filmmakers alike. Camcorders and DSLRs are both big-ticket items, so it is important to select a camera that will fit your needs for several years to come. This guide will help you determine which camera, between the Canon HV30 and the Canon T2i, is better for your specific shooting needs.

Which camera is cheaper? Which is the better value?

The first aspect that you should consider in your camera purchase is sheer monetary value. Depending on your budget, one camera might be more ideal than the other. The Canon HV30, replaced by the HV40 in 2009, has been significantly lowered in price, selling brand new for $699, and even less if you decide to go the route of purchasing a used camera. When the camcorder was in its prime, it cost upwards of $799.

The Canon T2i is a relatively new camera to the marketplace, having been available since the end of March 2010. It's current retail value is $899 (with included kit lens). Already, it appears as if the HV30 is the better value, ringing up at $200 less than a brand new T2i. Hold on a moment, because we must further examine the cameras to determine which one is truly the better value.

Which camera has a better build quality?

Both camera bodies are constructed mainly of plastic, though by comparing the two side-by-side, you can notice clear differences in their handling. To begin, we'll take a look at the weaknesses of the HV30. The plastic hot shoe cover cannot be removed from the camera, as it is attached by a small rubbery band. This is an inconvenience when attaching accessories such as the Rode VideoMic. I would not advise cutting the rubber band to free the hot shoe cover, because the band will fall into the camera's interior, which is a potential cause of damage.

Another thing to watch out for on the HV30 is the flip-out LCD screen. This must be handled with care at all times. By pushing or pulling the screen with too much force, you can easily rip it off. The product of this incident would be a useless investment of $700.
The T2i, on the other hand, doesn't have the same issues as the HV30. It's LCD screen is built-in, so there is no worry of breaking it off. The downside to this is that it is more difficult and costly to replace the T2i's LCD than that of the HV30. The T2i's built-in flash feels a bit flimsy; do not impact any objects while it is open, or a situation will occur similar to that with the HV30's screen as stated above.

Though not directly a part of the T2i's body itself, you must be very careful with its included kit lens (and any other lenses you purchase for the T2i. Depending on the lenses you are working with, the build qualities can range from poor to exceptional. In the case of the kit lens, I must warn you not to attempt manually focusing while the lens is switched in autofocus mode.

Which camera is more ergonomic?

In terms of ergonomics, the HV30 wins by a slight lead. Why? The HV30's light weight and small size allows for it to be easily handheld. These aspects also come at an advantage when shooting with a tripod or steadicam. The HV30 does not require the use of several differently-weighted interchangeable lenses as the T2i does.

Where, ergonomically, does the T2i beat out the HV30? The T2i is able to transfer its files in mere seconds, opposed to the HV30's real-time capturing process (a huge plus for filmmakers with tight schedules). If time is not an issue, and you are looking for a simple run-and-gun camera to operate by yourself, then the HV30 will be a great asset to you.

Which camera records better quality video?

Both cameras record in similar resolutions and frame rates. The HV30's maximum resolution is 1440 by 1080 (not truly widescreen, which can be a problem in editing software). The T2i's maximum resolution is a true 1920 by 1080 widescreen format. The HV30 records at the frame rates of 30p, 60i, and 24p*. The T2i records at the frame rates of 24p, 30p, and 60p**. The T2i's expanded frame rate capabilities, as well as the fact that all frame rates are recorded natively, is an important aspect geared towards professional filmmakers. The HV30's lack thereof is an unfortunate result of its consumer-oriented feature set. In addition to frame rate and resolution, another key image quality factor you must consider is low-light recording capabilities. The T2i clearly wins in that category of quality as well, with manually-controllable ISO speeds (rather than the HV30's automatic gain that adds unsightly grain to your otherwise quality footage).

Which camera records better quality audio?

Contrary to video quality, the T2i, surprisingly, does not have as good options for audio recording as the HV30 does. Both cameras support external audio inputs, but it is manual gain control that the HV30 has over the T2i. The T2i, regardless of the quality of the microphone being input in the audio jack, will not produce satisfactory results. It is a smarter idea to record audio entirely separate from the camera, and then syncing the files in postproduction.

So, overall, which camera should I be investing in?

From my personal experience, the Canon T2i has proved to be a very useful tool in the creation of cinematic short films and advertisements. It's recording format is, as some would say, the way of the future. This is true, in a sense, as DV tapes will become obsolete years before SD cards.

For the casual user, or filmmaker who just does not have the extra money to invest in the the T2i (plus its nifty accessories), then the HV30 is still a viable option. While both cameras have their pros and their cons, I will leave it up to you to decide which best fits your personal needs based on the above information.

If you are leaning towards the T2i, or are just generally interested in DSLR filmmaking, I highly suggest reading this article as well: Should I Purchase The Canon T2i Or The Canon 7D?