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 I’m waiting still for something with good quality, small size and not crazy expensive (because I know it will get outdated quickly).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):
- Fits in a pocket (a real pocket)
- Full NTSC video (720×480) at 30 fps with GOOD compression
- Real CD Quality audio (44 MHz, 16 bit STEREO)
- Mic input
- Replaceable storage media (anything but Memory stick)
- Replaceable Battery or Add on adapter that takes a STANDARD battery set (AA, AAA, etc)
- 2 Mega-pixel still camera
- Viewer/screen (small is ok)
- Under $500
Sure, I’m probably not gonna get it for Chanukah this year, but I bet it might be available for next year.