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No cards, no cables, just camcord it

No cards, no cables, just camcord it
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First Published: Sun, Feb 15 2009. 09 17 PM IST

Updated: Sun, Feb 15 2009. 09 17 PM IST
Two good things are happening with capturing video on mobile phones. First, it’s introducing millions of newbies to the joys of shooting and sharing video. Second, it’s making ordinary folks thirst for and appreciate the value of, and quality available in, a real camcorder. If nothing else, at least a camcorder won’t suddenly ring in the middle of a shoot. Plus, the almost broadcast-quality video looks smooth and sharp on a big television screen or projector.
Go back just about a decade when all you could do was shoot some home videos on analogue tape, then invite friends and family over to watch mostly unedited and often boring sequences on your television set. Today you can start your own TV-style channel on YouTube.com or blip.tv with slickly edited videos that could potentially reach a global audience. You can also direct your own independent films and documentaries on DVD. The tech intrepid could also tinker with giss.tv to create experimental live programmes to broadcast to a global Web audience.
In transition
The technology for camcorders is undergoing dramatic changes. The new breed has discarded the old rewind-and-play analogue tapes or even mini DV tapes. The mini-DVD format camcorders are also slowly fading to black.
Instead, new generation camcorders directly record video to built-in hard disk drives (HDDs), or alternatively, to memory cards and flash disks. With capacities from 30GB to 60GB, HDD camcorders offer an astonishing 20 to almost 50 hours of recording on a single medium. Upcoming models touch about 100 hours of recording with 120GB or more of HDD space. Contrast with the one or one-and-a-half-hour recordings available on mini DV tapes.
HDD camcorders display individual video segments automatically on the built-in LCD screen so you can find any footage instantly. Edit or organize sequences into folders, all in the camera. You can also grab pristine-quality still photographs from the segments.
The impressive capacities and capabilities of HDD camcorders are only outclassed by their small size. Don’t be fooled by the images published here. Walk into a gadget shop and pick one of these up to admire their astonishingly small and compact size. You could just as well imagine them as hard disks with video lenses. Remember TV crews with their large shoulder-mounted cameras? Some home HDD camcorders exceed conventional broadcast quality, as they can manage high definition (HD) format, though at a “prosumer” (a contraction of the words “professional” and “consumer”) and not strictly professional standard.
HDD camcorders do have some drawbacks. The most obvious is that all your footage is locked in the solitary and inbuilt hard disk. You need a secondary backup to archive as well as to free up space for more shoots on the camera. This requires access to a laptop or desktop with a generous amount of available storage space.
Perhaps you will find it more prudent to connect an external and dedicated hard disk to your PC to back up files from the camcorder. You could also make and burn DVDs on the PC. For the software challenged, some vendors provide an ingenious solution: a special DVD burner that directly connects to the camcorder and burns ready-to-use DVDs with one push of a button.
The camera controls can also produce sophisticated DVDs complete with menus and full navigation that are ready to burn on these optional DVD burners.
The second disadvantage of HDD camcorders is that since they are essentially mechanical, they can’t be as resilient as the more expensive solid-state flash memory.
At least 92 models of HDD camcorders are currently available worldwide. Disappointingly, only two vendors in India, Sony and Canon, stock and promote a total of just five models between them. Prices range from Rs9,990 for a Sony DVDirect VRD-MC5 to Rs13,183 for a Canon DW-100 Burner.
Unconfirmed reports since the previous quarter have talked about the entry of more vendors and models in the Indian market. Reassuringly, most vendors have announced even newer models globally through the first few weeks of January. At least something is hotting up while the world waits for the global crisis to end.
30GB, up to 20 hours of video recording.
800K pixel CCD. 40x optical (2000x digital) zoom.
Price: Rs22,990
Sony DCR-SR65E
40GB, up to 27 hours of video recording.
1 megapixel CCD. 25x optical (2000x digital) zoom.
Price: Rs27,990
Sony DCR-SR85E
60GB, up to 47 hours of video recording.
1 megapixel CCD. 25x optical (2000x digital) zoom.
Price: Rs32,990
Sony HDR-SR10
1920x1080 full HD recording.
40GB. Up to 15 hours of HD video recording. 4-megapixel still photography.
15x optical (180x digital) zoom.
Price: Rs39,990
Sony HDR-SR12
1920x1080 full HD recording.
120 GB, 5.08-megapixel still photography. 150x digital zoom.
Price: $1,299, from various online stores
Canon HG10
Full HD 1920x1080 recording.
40GB, up to 15 hours of video recording.
3-megapixel still photography.
10x optical zoom.
Price: Rs89,995
Canon HG 20
Full HD 1920x1080 recording.
60GB. 12x HD video lens.
Price: $899, from the Canon eStore
Canon HG 21
Full HD 1920x1080 recording.
120GB. 12x HD video lens.
3.3-megapixel image sensor.
Price: $1,299, from the Canon eStore
1920x1080 HD recording.
60GB. 10x optical (200x digital) zoom.
2.1-megapixel image sensor.
Price: $1,999, from various online stores
1920x1080 HD recording.
120GB. 10x optical (200x digital) zoom.
0.53-megapixel effective image sensor.
Price: $1,169, from various online stores
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Sun, Feb 15 2009. 09 17 PM IST