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14 June 2009

Simplifying the Trip

Our vacation starts soon.  We're going some place far away by way of jet. 

We've had a Sony MiniDV camcorder for almost 10 years.  It still functions perfectly, but with four children in tow, it has started to feel more like an anchor than anything else.  The bug bit last summer and I bought a smallish camcorder that recorded directly to a hard drive.  Two days later with a bit of buyers remorse and the utter realization that the camera was completely incompatible with the MacOS (even though the box claimed otherwise) I returned it.

I decided to be a bit more pragmatic about it this year.  After some reasearch I realized that I didn't want to spend good money on a small SD camcorder knowing that I would probably want a HD recorder in the next 5 years.  But I'm not ready for an HD recorder yet either (I don't have the storage capacity).

So what do I do?

It didn't take long for me to come across the Sony Webbie and the Flip Ultra HD.  These are small devices that record directly to flash in HD mpeg-4 format, priced in the $150-$200 range.  Now don't be fooled by the "HD" in the product names.  While both devices do record HD video, they do so using a codec that his highly compressed and lossy (think youtube HD quality).  They don't do well in low-light situations either.

All this got me to wondering what the video quality on my digital camera, a two year-old Sony DSC-T20, was like.  Turns out, it records 640x480 mpeg-4 at 30fps.  This falls in the range of "good enough for me" and it's technically HD like the Sony anf Flip.  After all, I'm not going to use it to record piano recitals, awards ceremonies or new babies.  I just need something good enough to capture the cute moments that I want to remember when I'm on a trip.  And let's face it--Nicole and I only ever go back and watch these videos once or twice a year anyway.  (Maybe they will become more important as we age.)

So it's settled--I'm going to use my digital camera to record video on this trip.  I did decide to spring for a larger memory stick though--8GB where there were only 2GB before, and a second battery for hot swapping.

Side question: I wonder how long before these devices converge?  Tangential jab: And will it include a cell phone and app store as well?


Jonathan Ellis said...

I have an N97 phone pre-ordered which does 5MP still and 640x480x30. If the camera is point-and-shoot decent (i.e. much much better than iphone) then I will consider it converged.

I was using the iphone anyway for snapshots outdoors even though the quality was ass because of the convenience factor. Indoors no matter how convenient it was, the photos were just unusable.

Gary Dusbabek said...

@jonathan: yeah, low-light capabilities is what separates the men from the boys (real camcorders vs phones/cameras/etc.). And to a lesser extent: image stabilization.

I have to wonder though: does it boil down to cost (larger CCDs) or size of hardware? Many would be willing to pay for a phone with an upgraded CCD (for snapshots or video). Nicole tried this (Samsung Behold). The camera took decent pictures, but unfortunately waited until about 1.5 seconds after pressing the shutter button to do so. Had to take it back. If it had worked out, our Sony would probably be gathering dust and we'd be in the market for a Flip or Webbie.