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Monday, May 4, 2009

The camcorder question...

So J and I have been discussing the pros and cons of getting a camcorder of some sort to further document our impending offspring. We've found this question to be frightfully difficult, so I'll post a brief history of the conundrum, along with the options we are investigating, and ask you, my loyal viewer(s), to comment and help me pick something out.

First, a little back story. Janie has many amazing powers, amongst them the ability to win door prizes and raffles. She has a long history of this sort of behavior, and I no longer question it, I just try to take her to events featuring such games of 'chance' in expectation of the loot to follow. At a work event, she walked out with a copy of Avid DV, a more than one thousand dollar software package for editing digital video. Well, with such a fancy piece of software, we felt obliged to obtain a camcorder up to the task. After much research, we spent upwards of a thousand dollars on a Sony Mini-DV camcorder. It was small, when compared to what I was used to when it came to camcorders, which in my mind were large, shoulder fired rigs, but by no means pocketable.

Unfortunately, this left it in an awkward position. Our dreams of taking it with us on vacations to add a new media to our trip documentation were soon smashed, when lugging around yet another bag of gear just felt too touristy for me to deal with. That, and Avid practically requires some specialized skills to use with anything approaching proficiency. Easy, it is not. Between those two issues, the camcorder was rarely used, until we lost track of it. It may be in our house right now. We just don't know. It's been years since we've seen it.

Now, with the baby due in not much more than a month, our interest in camcorder tech has waxed full once more. And with a baby comes diaper bags. And since we'll be lugging diaper bags everywhere anyway, we've suddenly got a spot to store the camcorder where it will be available where and when we need it. In addition, with flash memory cheap and effective, camcorder sizes have dropped. No more must one deal with magnetic tapes, a technology that feels dated despite it's advantages. So, here are the camcorder's we're looking at.

First, we have the Flip MinoHD and Flip UltraHD. Both are pocketable, not even requiring space in the diaper bag. Both record to internal flash memory at 720p resolution. They're cheap. These are all pros. The big con for me is the lack of image stabilization. These are basically webcams that have been put into a portable housing. Great for shooting quick and easy videos, but the quality will always lag behind more dedicated hardware. Pictures of both devices are below.

So, that leaves us with something a bit more substantial, both in features and cost. And the device I keep coming back to is the Canon Vixia HF10.

Obviously, this model is a much more traditional camcorder, but it's still flash memory based. It comes with 16 gigs of internal memory, twice any of the Flips, plus an SDHC slot, allowing us to expand upon that easily. It is probably overkill for us, but the the gadget freak in me would rather have unused features than to ever be disappointed in their lack. It's considerably larger than the other options, and pricier to boot. But it records in full HD (1080), includes a real optical zoom, image stabilization, etc. It's a real camcorder. But here's where I get stuck. Do I need a real camcorder?

And finally, there's the cheapest option of all. The movie mode function on my five year old Canon still digicam. It's not HD, but it works, and it's cheap.

So, for the few of you who've lasted through what's undoubtedly the longest post this blog has ever seen, what do you think? Please comment below and let me know. Lord knows, I need the help.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

My own experience:

I have a nice 3-chip mini DV camcorder. It takes great pictures and I rarely use it.

Why? Because A) I have to edit any lengthy video; B) I have to transfer it to my Mac at 1:1 speed (not a problem with flash camcorders) and C) it only shows up at events where I'm PLANNING on taking a movie. (i.e. birthday parties)

What do I have videos from? My iphone (jailbroken with Cycorder for recording). Also a few from my digicam, which takes quite nice videos. (The same is true of still pics -- increasingly, I have phone pics and no camera pics, since I just use what's on me)

Although I also have an AWESOME video of Torlis jumping in her jumperoo, time-lapsed through her first year and a half of life. I love that it's all in great quality.

Not to say you wouldn't have use for a "real" camcorder, you very well might. The quality's hard to beat, and you can zoom, get real sound, etc. It's just an investment in time, energy and money that you may not want to put in when you have a new kid.

A flip might be a nice middle ground. Stays easily in your geek vest and takes reasonably good pictures. (tho my digicam does better videos, so ymmv)

Tara said...

I vote for the flippy thing. You can buy a cool camcorder when your daughter wants to start making Iraq war movies.

Scott Ledet said...

After a long discussion, I think we've now settled on a different camcorder than any presented here. The Kodak Zi6 is an older model, but does 720p, uses SDHC for storage instead of internal memory like the Flips, and uses AA's for power, allowing us the option of just buying some if we're on the road without time to recharge. It's also cheaper than any of the other options. I think that ease of use is going to win out over features. I'd rather have lower quality video but more of it, than super high quality video that we never actually take.

Aaron said...

I vote for smaller and fewer features as well. But, then again, I can't even be bothered to take still pictures.

Bex said...

Scott, we have the Canon HG10 and love it. Very versatile and easy to use. Nice picture quality, and a good battery life.

Amy O'Rear Stewart said...

I think we have that sony camcorder...bought it on vacay to take film of our son and hate to say have not taken nearly as much of our daughter because as you pointed out...I'm not packing another thing.

I will say that as a mom of two I no longer carry a purse. I put a wallet in the diaper bag or backpack that I am using for the day. If it does not fit in the single bag it does not go.

I am going to check out the cam you just bought since I am in the market for an easy to use, not so many gadgets electronic myself.

~Amy

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