My dream gadget

Mini-summary of small multi-function video/photo cameras

I’m a documenter. Or rather, I’d like to be. I’m always seeing (or hearing) something and wishing I had my camera or mini-disc recorder with me. I’ve got a digital camera, a mini-DV camera, and a mini-disc recorder and microphone. So, I’m set, sort of. Except that they are too big to carry around. I want something I can slip into a pocket, the size of a cell phone or smaller. Luckily, technology has come to the rescue, although not completely. I’m waiting still for something with good quality, small size and not crazy expensive (because I know it will get outdated quickly). So still I wait. The outlook is getting better though. Here’s the current crop of portable devices I’m eyeing:

The Philips GoGear Digital Camcorder – This looks good, good enough that I actually visited a few stores this weekend to see if I could find one and see it up close. Unfortunately, the only place to actually buy one is on-line, which I’m not too happy about. I’d like to see it before I plunk down cash for it. I’m also a little suspicious because there aren’t any clips of captured video from it on the web. I know that it is QVGA MPEG-4 and I might be willing to accept that, but I’d like to see what the quality of the video actually is. Other cons are the fact that it is PC-only and my main machines are all macs. Also, it says that it records audio with the video, but I have no idea what the quality is. I’m willing to deal with no mic-in and having to record audio with video when I only want audio, but the audio better not suck. With this, I have no idea. Also, you can’t expand its memory through an SD slot. A big pro is that you can use AAs to extend its battery life (No more proprietary non-replacable batteries ever!)

The Fisher FVD-C1 – Feature-wise this looks pretty awesome. It addresses some of the things I don’t like about the Philips, it has an audio-only mode, for example. It uses Li-ion batteries, but you can buy extras and switch them if you run out. The cons: I can’t get any real specs off their website. They claim DVD quality video and CD quality audio, but then again so does everyone. I want sampling and data rates please. Also, I actually got to check one out at the Apple store and the form factor didn’t blow me away. Also, it is crazy expensive.

The Panasonic D-Snap Line – Panasonic has got a bunch of different cameras at different price points. There must be something wrong with their specs pages though, because their top of the line video camera, the AV-100 doesn’t seem to have a Microphone or a way of adding audio to its MPEG 2 video which seems moronic in a $1000 video camera, especially since their $400 models have them. I need to track these down in person and check out their boxes to make sure. Their AV-50 models make more sense, but tempted with MPEG2 in the AV-100, I don’t know if I want to settle for MPEG4 in a larger form-factor even if it does cost less than half.

Samsung just announced their Miniket, which might be the one for me if I could get some real specs or street price estimates on them. Right now they just have a tantalizing flash demo. I’m going to keep a watch on them for more info though.

Aiptek is the king of the inexpensive SD photo/video recorders. Unfortunately, I had one of their earlier models and had to replace it twice in two months because it kept falling apart. I gave up after the third time. I’m never buying from them again.

Mustek has the DV5500, which is too big and just doesn’t blow me away. After my Aiptek, I’m a little scared of anything in a plastic shell.

I was on a plane to LA with a well-known animator (name drop omitted) who swore by his Archos. It is true that with attachments, the Archos AV300 does almost everything I want, plus it is a decent media player too. The cons: it isn’t meant to do what I want to do, so with the attachments I’ll be spending a big chunk of change. With the attachments, I’m still only taking QVGA video. Also, it is big, bigger than I want.

Believe me, I’m watching this market, so when I see something new I’ll post it to the blog and if I can get more details, I’ll post ’em.

Here is my wish-list (in order):

  1. Fits in a pocket (a real pocket)
  2. Full NTSC video (720×480) at 30 fps with GOOD compression
  3. Real CD Quality audio (44 MHz, 16 bit STEREO)
  4. Mic input
  5. Replaceable storage media (anything but Memory stick)
  6. Replaceable Battery or Add on adapter that takes a STANDARD battery set (AA, AAA, etc)
  7. 2 Mega-pixel still camera
  8. Flash
  9. Viewer/screen (small is ok)
  10. Under $500

Sure, I’m probably not gonna get it for Chanukah this year, but I bet it might be available for next year.

Hey podcasters!

a few tips for the podcasters of the world

I’ve been checking out a bunch of podcasts and am enjoying many, there are a few things that are driving me insane however. I realize that podcasts are an excellent DIY technology enabling the rest of us to add our voices to the mix. Yet nothing annoys me more than having to ride the volume knob while listening. There a couple simple tricks that the amateurs can learn from the pros.

1) EDITING: Edit out your coughs, wheezes, long pauses, etc… There are a million freeware audio editors in the world, pick one and spend a couple minutes fixing this kind of stuff. It will make me, your audience, A LOT happier.

2) COMPRESSION: You talk quiet, you talk loud. I strain to hear and then I pull the headphones off my head in pain. Your freeware editor has compression, I’m sure. If not, there are excellent free VST, DirectX or Audio Unit plug-ins for you to use. Spend the 5 minutes it takes to learn about compression and then USE IT. It will help you get a consistent level for your content, it will help you avoid compression artifacts, it will make the compression more efficient and I won’t hate you for hurting my ears.

Posted: Wed – November 3, 2004 at 01:27 PM