Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What I Have Learned Lately

A lot of it is shopping.

I want a video camera to make Youtube videos of my house to supplement my VRBO ad.  I was unwilling to spend more than $500 and reluctant to spend more than $400.    

I learned that there are several flavors of video cameras with the flavor depending on how the movie is stored on the camera.   One kind stores the movie by writing it to a DVD disk in the camera.  A variation stores data on a mini-DVD disk in the camera.  Another kind stores data on a small hard disk drive in the camera.  A third kind stores the movie to flash memory in the camera.  

The third kind is the newest.  It has no moving parts except the lens and buttons.   Which makes it the most durable and reliable.  It has become practical because of the continued fall in price of ever larger memory modules.   Because of the ever-shrinking size of memory, flash memory video cameras are also smaller and lighter than DVD and hard disk drive cameras.   Since there are no disk drive motors in them, they have the best battery life of the three.  Because of the continuing fall in prices of flash memory,  flash memory cameras are becoming the cheapest as well. 

A 16 GB flash memory can hold more data than a DVD,  more than a mini-DVD,  but less than a hard disk drive.  It can record for hours and costs $37 mail order from New York.

There continues to be marketing hype for the other two kinds, but the companies selling them are just unloading obsolete inventoriy.

Pursuing the particulars, and staying under $500 and preferably lower, I narrowed down to three cameras -- the Sony Webby, the Canon FS10, and the Panasonic little tiny camera whatever its name is.  

I read a user review of the Webby and read that while it is fine while one points it steadily at the subject, moving it around is disastrous.  It gives a sea of blur until the camera is held in a fixed position again.  Reading over the specifications again, sure enough, no image stabilization.  Which makes the thing all but unusable.  I was astonished to find such a damning review on Sony's own website.  That suggests either they didn't read it or they have some serious commitment to consumer sovereignty.  Sony deserves our praise and admiration for that, just don't buy their camera.

The Panasonic was appealing because it is so small.  all these cameras are small, but the Panasonic is tiny.   But its zoom is a relatively limited 10x.  Given all the creative screwing around one can do with a long zoom that seemed to outweigh its tiny size and light weight.

Though I am getting the camera for making Youtube videos of my house to assist in renting it - Wowie Zowie!  That makes it tax deductible! - I will of course use it recreationally as well.  Birds and animals rarely sit still for long so the Webby won't be of much use.  They are seldom up close either, so the Panasonic's short zoom will rarely suffice.  

That leaves the Canon FS10.  Which turns out to be two models, the FS10 and the FS100.  For the life of me I could not figure out the difference.  They appear to be identical and their specifications are identical.  Both have 37x zoom, image stabilizaiton, and on and on.  Finally I found a user discussion forum where the question was discussed.  Somebody with the same confusion called Canon and asked what the difference was other than $80 in price.   The FS10 has an 8 GB memory chip built in and a slot in which to insert additional memory.  The FS100 has only the slot.   Since the camera was first marketed, the price of memory has continued to fall but the price spread between the two models has not shrunk.  As I mentioned before, 16 GB of class 6 (the fastest class)  memory now costs $37. 

So that is my solution -- the Canon FS100 with a 16 GB memory flash card.  Available from B&H Photovideo in New York for $250 and $37 respectively, free shipping and no sales tax because it's out of state.   If it matters to you, they are the blackest of black hats and their website shuts down its shopping cart from  Frday afternoon until Saturday evening.


  1. It might be to late, but I have heard good things about the Sanyo Xacti video cameras. Just noticed they now have a waterproof model. Might be good for biking trips.

  2. To Album --
    Thanks. I will look more closely at that. Sanyo is Korean and Korean goods used to have a reputation for poor quality. But now that I think of it, that was twenty years ago.

  3. To Album --
    I looked at Sanyo Xacti on Amazon per your suggestion.

    According to the user reviews the best features seems to be small-and-light, waterproof, inexpensive. Worst features are short zoom range (5x) and short battery life.

    So the Canon FS100 still looks good to me.