Summary. Faster importing to iMovie is possible with Standard Definition video hard-drive based cameras that record directly to MOV format rather than High Definition cameras that use the AVCHD format.
Explanation. The Sony DCR-SR85 Standard Definition hybrid video camera shown at right can record standard definition MOV files to Hard Drive or Memory Stick. A 45 minute video of about 2GB in file size takes only a few minutes to import into iMovie rather than about an hour required for converting the same video from AVCHD format. This is because the MOV file simply needs to be copied to the iMovie Events folder and renamed accordingly. No conversion of the video is necessary.
Standard Definition. Standard Definition (SD) video is actually quite adequate for recording most events. The quality of SD video exceeds previous video standards. When set to record in 16:9 (wide) mode, the resulting video has considerably more picture information on screen. The Sony DCR-SR85 Standard Definition hybrid video camera shown above is a good choice. As described above, the resulting MOV video files are immediately useable by iMovie. The Sony DCR-SR85 also includes an accessory attachment for an external microphone or other device.
High Definition. High Definition (HD) video provides a bit more sharpness for recording colorful and detailed nature scenery or sporting events, and most HD video cameras have the ability to capture fast motion better.
For those needing a nice High Definition camera, the Sony HDR-XR100 is a nice choice. However, it lacks an accessory connection for an external microphone. So, recording people at a distance can be an issue. To gain external microphone capabilities, the Canon VIXIA HF11 or the Sony HDR-SR11 (shown here) is a better choice.
Because AVCHD format is used for recording High Definition video, slower import times should be expected as a result of converting from AVCHD to the video format required by the software, such as MOV for iMovie.
It’s important to point out that High Definition video also requires more hard drive storage space for archiving.