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Digital Video Question

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I am tired of taking still frame pictures of myself and my friends skiing. They just do not convey the action well enough. For the upcoming season I would like to get into using a digital video recorder to record some of the action.

I am new to this market and was wondering if anyone had suggestions on video cameras to look at. What kind of features hsould I be looking for in a camera to record this kind of footage? I looked at a Consumer's Reports a couple of months ago that had an article on some cameras, and remembered it saying that different cameras use different recording processes. Some of these processes record motion a lot better than others.

Basically, here is what I am looking for:

1) It needs to be small. I would like to fashion a carying device to it that would protect it from the elements, and that I could strap to the shoulder harness of my pack for easy access. I am tired of digging through my pack every time I take a picture.

2) Durable. As mentioned above I would like to ski with it attached to my shoulder strap, so it can't fall appart with the slightest jostle.

3) Needs to be able to take still frame pictures. I would still like to be able to take photographs of the surrounding scenery without having to record it onto video.

4) Not to expensive. I realize that to get a small durable camera, it is probably going to cost me, but I would still like to keep it as inexpensive as possible. As long as the camera has an easy to use interface, and can download the video to computers easily, I can do without a lot of the other bells and whistles.

Any comments, suggestions or features to look for are greatly appreciated.

Owens, if you read this, I have noticed that in a lot of the new ski videos, that riders and skiers are starting to use small video recording devices that look like something I might like to use. What kind of cameras are they using, and about how much do they run for?

Thanks a lot everyone!
post #2 of 9
You might want to look at a late model digital still camera. Lots of them now have the ability to record multiple clips of 10 - 60 secs of video, with sound. Quality and zoom power wont be like a dedicated video camera - but they meet all your other requirements, and you'll get awesome stills.

post #3 of 9
If you want stills that can be printed out in photo quality and you want video that can be played back at TV resolutions and edited then you are best to keep your cameras separate rather then try and converge them. It may be little more expensive to have two cameras but your quality will be much much better.

I have a digital elph that is tiny(put it in my front ski pant pocket) and takes great stills and also takes short video clips. The video quality is ok but they aren't tv resolution and the camera won't record clips longer than 8 seconds. A DV camera records in 720x480 and my elph records at 640x480. Additionally, I can't easily edit clips together and output them to VHS, DVD, VCD.

I put some samples of video and stills taken from my camera at it's highest settings here: http://www.bradstewart.com/misc/epic/

Basically, it depends on what you want to do with said video and pictures after you take it.



[ July 22, 2002, 09:59 PM: Message edited by: Ski Monkey ]
post #4 of 9
I have got both a digital still and a digital video.

Digital video - Panasonic DVS?

Bought my camera late 1999 so would now be classed as old technology but it still takes very clear video, TV quality, no complaints. It has a 'photo shot' button which freezes the frame for 7 seconds, but you can also take stills off any sequence. The quality of the stills is not good compared to my digital still, but it allows you to get a still shot that you may have missed out on.

With my video I got free software to take stills off the camera but have not got the software to take video clips onto the PC. My sister bought that capability with her camera, and two years ago cost her about $400 USD which included the interface card for the PC. I don't think my camera can download video to a PC, does not have a connection so that is something to look out for. I thought when I bought the digital video I would not need a still camera, but it is a hassle getting stills off my video and I did not like the quality, so recently bought a still camera.

My video has a reasonable sized LCD screen but is hard to see in bright light so I usually use the view finder when skiing. Saves on batteries too.

I have compared my digital video with my sisters Sanyo. My Panasonic is lighter, and the difference is that I have a separate component that the camera locks into to play it thru the TC, whereas hers plugs directly from the camera. So Panasonic have kept the weight down by keeping replay components separate.

Digital Still - I bought a FujiFilm Finepix 2800zoom (6 x optical zoom), and just love this camera. Is a bit bigger than some of the smaller digital stills, I preferred the extra size because some are too small to handle, especially with cold hands when skiing. I can take up to 60 seconds avi's with this camera, and the number of avi's you can take depends on your storage card. I think the 60 second limitation is because it stores it somewhere else before writing to the media card. When you finish recording it says 'storing' for a few seconds. You can then take another clip. 60 seconds is a long time, I took two sequences of grum skiing last week and he had disappeared from sight after about 40 seconds, so 60 seconds is plenty for ski sequences. Quality is nothing like my digital video but it is easy and compact to use. The avi's were both about 6MB each, so too big to email. I zipped the avi's up to copy the files to grum's PC and it did not work when unzipped, so I had to send him an unzipped file. This is fine when you work for the same company and are on a local LAN, but might be a bit tedious over a dial up. I used a CD writer to cut a CD to bring my photos and avis from home to work.

In NZ, a good digital video camera cost 2 to 3 times what my 2 megapixel still camera cost. So unless you want the quality, I'd get a still with avi capability.
post #5 of 9
I love technology! I just hate owning it. I encourage everyone to reply with your camera experience and knowledge to this thread.

We have 3 digital8 Handycams and a good digital still. All Sony. I don't think Sony has the outstanding quality anymore but they do a great job of making the technology easy to use when you pair it with a Sony laptop and all the camera software they include. We use the cameras for video analysis and promotional purposes and put a lot of wear and tear on them. Here is some general observations about our equipment:
First let me state that I'm not a photog or anything close to it, I would be classified as a novice when it comes to this technology.

#1 None of our cameras, nor any that I have seen, do both functions well - shoot quality video and stills. The still has jerky video and the handycams shoot decent stills when viewed on a monitor but the resolution is not print quality at all.

#2 We bought the Digital 8mm technolgy verses the DV format because we had a lot of old Sony 8mm tapes and equipment that you can still use. If I could start over I think I would switch to DV. The stills seem to be better (not sure if this is true) and the smaller tapes are much easier to store, transport etc... but they are more expensive.

#3 All of our cameras have been very durable. But the last two handycams we bought (TRV130) have been plagued by condensation problems. ($60-80 repairs) Sony reccomends storing your camera in a zip-lock bag for an hour when going from inside to outdoors (and vice-versa) during the winter. That won't work! Our older cameras never had this problem.

#4 Don't expect to use the flip-out viewfinder screen in the winter, not unless you want to keep a small tent over your head! They work nice for instant analysis once you're back inside but worthless on the hill.

#5 A lot of adventure/action folks are using a "Bullet Cam". A lens that can be strapped to a helmet or something and connects to your video camera in your backpack through the rca connectors. Around $100-150 US I think.

#6 Don't be tempted by the great deals on regular 8mm camcorders. The difference in slow motion alone is worth the money!

Hope this helps some.
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Seems as though most people don't like the ability to use the still frame shots on the digital video recorder. That's OK, I guess it is a feature I could do without. My digital camera is pretty good, it just can't film anything.

Also, I would use the camera for disecting my skiing ability, and my friends. As well as putting together DVD's of our trips once we are done, so the camera has to be able to download to the computer.

I appreciate all the help, keep it coming!
post #7 of 9
This may be assumed, but I haven't seen it pointed out yet. If you want to download video to the computer, make sure it's a DV camera with a Firewire(aka iLink, IEEE1394) connector. That will enable easy transfer of the video quickly.

post #8 of 9
We tend to gravitate towards Sony DV of several different varieties. For us, a lot of the question is about durability and the Sony's seem to take a beating pretty well. They also integrate with helmet cams pretty easily (check out http://www.customvideocameras.com for good helmet cams).

Owens Never Sleeps
post #9 of 9
Hi JH--

You should probably define "not too expensive" if you want more specific advice here. The price range of digital still and digital video cameras is enormous--under $100 to over $10,000 (and more, if you get into high-end pro stuff).

If you want video, and you've got $1000-$2000 to spend, you'll find all kinds of great camcorders. I've used a Sony TRV-900 MiniDV camcorder for several years, and used it hard. If you look through the EpicSki site, you'll find lots of still photos and photo sequences that I've posted, and almost all of them came from that camera. (Here's a sample.) It's been thrashed, snowed on, rained on, driven into the snow, fallen on, frozen solid, and cooked in a hot car in the summer, and it's never whimpered.

Features that I would look for, and that you can get into for this price range, include 3 separate CCD chips, for a sharper image and improved color, switchable "Progressive Scan" mode, which produces somewhat jerky video, but each individual frame is MUCH improved over standard "interlaced" video mode, optical image stabilization, which is superior to the digital stabilization of lesser cameras, at least 10x OPTICAL zoom (ignore the "digital zoom" range if image quality is important), IEEE connectivity ("Firewire" or "I-Link"), which allows you to connect directly to a computer for editing video and downloading stills, and in many cases (including the TRV-900) a separate still-camera mode that shoots images onto a memory chip.

The TRV-900 is small enough to ski all day with it around your neck, but you will DEFINITELY know it's there. Some of the newer cameras are much smaller, including the new Sony TRV-950, which includes most (if not all) of the 900's features, plus a few more, and even better still capability. It will probably set you back around $2000.

Too expensive? The 900, which originally listed for over $2500, is probably heavily discounted now that it has finally been succeeded by the 950. And for half the price or even less, you can find very capable MiniDV/Firewire camcorders that take excellent video, but lack some of the professional manual capabilities, and some of the still-photo qualities.

You do get what you pay for. If these cameras are still too expensive, check out the features, and decide what you can live without. As others have mentioned, digital still cameras have come way down in price, and way up in resolution. The higher end cameras rival conventional film now in resolution, but if you don't need to make big enlargements, a 2-3 megapixel still camera can take great pictures. Many of these are truly tiny--shirt-pocket size--and most can take brief, lower-quality video clips as well. And you can get them for $100-$500 dollars, depending on quality and features.

Good luck! Keep us posted with your research--it's been a while since I've really looked into the latest gear, so others may have more reliable, specific recommendations.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

[ July 25, 2002, 08:02 PM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]
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