As I prepare for my Christmas break, I am surprised at the number of teachers who drop by to ask my opinion about purchasing cameras for Christmas. So I have responded with the following information. Of course I am by no means an expert, so if you have knowledge above and beyond what I have to share, please feel free to comment, and I’ll pass on your tips.
Teachers, Several of you have inquired about cameras to purchase for Christmas.
The flip cameras offer fine video quality for small home projects or taping kids in class, but not for LONGER projects. They are reasonably priced too, ranging from $125-$160. If you are considering one, I would ask the sales person to demonstrate getting video off the camera and judging the quality for your self. You might not be so impressed when you see the quality—I like to call it YouTube quality. But it’s decent enough.
There are many brands and types of video camera. I myself have been questioning whether a “hard drive” camera was a worthy investment. This website will talk about all the various types of cameras available to help you make a knowledgeable decision (even though it appears to be an instructional type site.) I confirmed what I had heard a good while back about the hard drive cameras, in that the video is not in a format that most “editors” can handle, and so must be converted first, which may degrade the quality of the film. If you don’t intend to edit any video, this is a fine purchase. These cameras have upwards of 30 to fifty gigabytes, and you will pay a pretty penny for them, anywhere from $450-$1000.
If I were buying a video camera, I would purchase one that takes mini-dv tapes. They are the least expensive for the QUALITY you get. The video file is in a format that can be recognized by most video editors, including the industry standard Apple program Final Cut Pro all the way down to the freebie on your Windows XP workstation (Windows Movie Maker) (NOTE: ALL the school videos shown on the news program have been created here at school with Windows moviemaker—and they were taped using a Sony mini-dv camera.) Yes, you’ll have to buy mini-dv tapes, but for the quality and considering most of us are “novice” videographers, you will be pleased as punch with this or other similar video cameras.
Another note about the mini-dv cameras—they will take still photos too, but check to make sure you are getting 3mp or higher. 2mp or less will not offer the quality to print out.
STILL PICTURE CAMERAS:
Still Image cameras—most of us want a point and shoot camera, as we are not necessarily interested in professional cameras that have lots of bells and whistles. There are many of these in the stores right now too. If you are considering a santa gift in the guise of a digital camera, Santa should look for this:
1) optical/digital zoom: You want the optical zoom to be higher than 3X. I typically disregard how high the digital zoom is, since all it does is crop and pixellate pictures—they will print out looking fuzzy and unfocused—that’s what the digital zoom does. Also, if you plan to use the digital zoom, get a tripod, because it is virtually impossible to be still enough to take pictures using digital zoom—no matter how still you think you are, camera shake will effect the pix –remember you breathe, therefore the camera will detect even this slightest movement.
2) Pixels. Get at least 3 –and in the stores right now, you almost cannot find a digital camera that does not at least have 5 megapixels. 3MP will print out great 8X10 pictures to frame and display. Also know that downloading the pictures from these cameras will require lots of memory, and you can absolutely fill up your harddrive with useless photos you will never use. Consider JUST downloading the ones that are good enough, or get an external drive (there are 160GB external harddrives for as low as $79, and they resemble an ipod. Small, portable. Cool.
3) LCD Display – if you have older eyes, you will want a fairly large LCD display. Many people don’t even look through the viewfinder anymore, but instead rely on the LCD Display to frame up a shot. You want menus to have readability too, so having a bigger LCD screen will help.
4) Memory cards. Cameras have almost stopped making the smaller ones, and lately the smallest I’ve seen is 512 mb, which translates to roughly 400 average pictures. WOW. (Remember you can fill up your harddrive—can anyone spell c-r-a-s-h?) Most memory cards available are now upwards of 1-2gb. 1600 pictures. Don’t forget you could crash your computer b/c you want to keep all those photos. If you like all your photos, get an external drive. Save pix to it.
If you want a quick and dirty tutorial on using your video camera or still camera, I don’t profess to know all, but I can offer some tips that will make you happier with your final product. Let me know.
Image: ‘Anyone Have a Flip Video Camera?‘
Image: ‘WD-H43 .7x wide angle lens‘