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January 17 2011

04:53

A “little” knowledge is a dangerous thing.

“A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.”
~ Alexander Pope
~ Essay on Criticism/1709

The process of choosing cameras is simple if you don’t know anything. Just grab something bright and shiny in your price range. Oooooo…I’ll take that red camera!

Problems arise when you have a little knowledge. That’s when it can get confusing.

As part of the process of choosing a new camera, I’m checking the technology down to the last component. Right now taking a look at the technical aspects of CMOS v. CCD. And – unfortunately – reading some very raw arguments about which creates a superior image.

First let’s define what I’m talking about. Bot CMOS and CCDs are the light sensitive chips inside today’s video cameras. They are to the camera what your retina is to your eyeball. They translate the patterns of light and dark into digits.

CCDs were initially the more common of the two – invented in the 1969. CCD stands for “charge-coupled device.” Basically it is a chip that reacts to, or is charged by, light.

CMOS is a complimentary metal-oxide semiconductor – preceding the CCD by six years.

For a more information on the two, check out this VideoMaker article. There’s also a more technical article at the Dalsa website. Plus, check out this, written more from a camera user’s view.

My interest is primarily image quality and low light ability in a camera costing in the $2,700-$3,000 range. A non-tape camera shooting to SD cards, must have good manual controls and XLR mike inputs.
Why SD cards? I want a camera whose media is readily available…that can be handed off to the client or ingested into a computer by plugging in a card reader.
I want to control my images…not deal with a camera that flickers with changing lights and scenery or grabs sound when I want quiet. So manual iris, audio, and focus please.
And since I already have the pro XLR mikes, why change and step back to mini-jack?

So, here’s what I’ve learned:
Energy use – CMOS uses less power/CCD uses more power (something to consider is battery life when out on a job)
Low light – seems like a toss-up. Initially CCD was better, but CMOS is catching up.
Image quality – this is the one I’m stuck on. What we really need is a Consumer Reports website that does direct comparisons scientifically on cameras and other gear. Right now it is a jungle out there, with everyone having an opinion, generally supporting THEIR camera. Why? Because it’s the one they paid the big bucks for.

As co-author Larry Nance pointed out, though – all of the Professional (big P) cameras use CCDs because they are better. Well, they’re also, in the case of pro cameras, bigger too.

Thank goodness I can’t afford a camera for a few more months…plenty of time to conclude the research.


June 05 2010

16:13

The right camera…

…is a very personal choice. A few weeks back I had a posting where I discussed possibilities for my next camera.

And now I’m torn between three. Fortunately there is no reason to rush, so I’ll continue to study and may even change from the two front runners.

The HMC40 leads the pack right now for pricing and features. Only thing I don’t like are the mini-jack audio inputs. It does have three quarter-inch sensors.

Next up the HMC150 with three 1/3″ chips AND XLR audio ins. Sweet but more than $1300 more than the 40.

And my last choice is the granddaughter of my old JVC GY-DV300u – the GY-HM100u. It is priced halfway between the above two with a shorter 10x lens, XLR inputs, and three 1/4 inch sensors.

The problem is I’m familiar with the bodies of each of these cameras and love them equally. Since I’m on a budget I suspect the 40 may be my choice. It’s all about compromise. What I can afford – what I need – what I’m really comfortable with. Oh – and what I want. And I do want to move on to the next new thing – and get out of tape.

Alert to all of you out there on tighter budgets: sometime in the next three or four months I will be putting my old gear up on eBay. Not the mikes, but probably cameras, the Bogen tripod, and lots of other random stuff.

It’s time to live light and clean.


December 30 2009

16:18

The new decade approaches…


…and it’s time to look at cameras. Again. Sometimes looking for the right equipment is like trying to ride an avalanche. There is so much to look at and technology is changing so rapidly, it’s hard to stay on top.

Due to my ever shrinking budget, I bought two Flip cameras to fill in the holes created by old cameras going down. The students aren’t breaking them. They are wearing out. Three years of constant use can take down any consumer camcorder. Two worst offenders are the tape carriage and the tripod holes…the latter is a quick fix by cementing in new bushings and the former means I have still cameras.

Stand by for a quick overview of what’s out there today, December 29, 2009. As usual, my idea classroom camcorder would have:

Microphone input
Headset out
Manual iris, focus, white balance
Decent zoom (10x or more)
Metal tripod hole (Yeah – learned that one the hard way)
Removable media

As mentioned in other postings, my preferred method of research is on the B & H Photo site. Quick tip – go there and then click on Camcorders, then Camcorders a second time. Now you can choose your options.

I’m not brand loyal when searching, although I prefer to stick with Canon (since that is what I have now) if the accessories carry over to new models. Price and features are what drive me.

I do have six year old eMacs, so need to stick with standard def if possible…not too sure if the new high def will play smoothly on old slow computers.

For media – as mentioned above I prefer removable media so each student can keep their work separate from others – I’ll check both mini-dv and flash memory.

Leaving the Camcorder Type alone…I want to see what pops up. Optical zoom 10x or more. LCD display – not a biggie, so will leave that up to the search engine.

Price…hmmmmmm. As much as I would like the cheapest, I also need to check the possible range…so will choose $50 to $1000. Final click is to arrange choices from lowest price to highest…now let’s see what’s out there.

First shock – only five items to look at. Three Samsungs (2 models, one with two color options) and two Panasonics (same model, different colors). I may need to change the zoom option to widen the search….later on.

Here’s where you have to do the homework. Click on the Specs tab – this is where you look under the hood to see what you are actually getting for your money.

Samsung SMX C-10 prices in at $199.99/to be real – $200. 10x optical zoom (NEVER include digital zoom in your specs) and shoots to H.264/AVC (720 x 480/60i) format. Has the usual built-in mike and speaker, no inputs and no manual controls. Outputs through USB cord. A basic dumb camera for the masses…my students need more.

Next up the food chain is another Samsung – the SMX C-14 for $280. Main difference between this camera and the C-10 seems to be 16GB internal memory.

Now on to the Panasonic(s). The SDR SW-21 comes in at $306 and is waterproof to about six feet. Records to standard def with built-in speaker and mike. No manual controls/no mike jack. So back to searching.

By unclicking the zoom selection, I’ve widened my choices to sixty-three items. Will report back once I’ve checked them out.

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