So how difficult can it be?

I wonder who, amongst my longer-term visitors, remembers this…

Flickr and Video

(And, I have to say, that’s a pretty crap picture. Wonder if I thought so at the time?)

Now me and video, we don’t really seem to get on well together. Anyway, here’s the story…

Many moons ago (not long after I first got into all this digital photography lark I do believe) a certain mate starting brandishing his camcorder in front of me (no doubt having recognised my inherent weakness for gadgets) and casually mentioned that such is a useful addition to a photographer’s kit.

If I say that this was one and the same mate who was responsible for setting me off on the photographic path in the first place, with all the woes headaches and travails (to say nothing of parting with loadsa dosh that could have been much better spent… on booze for example) that has attended thereon, his utter and perverse determination to bring about my permanent state of depression will be well appreciated.

Anyway, some time after that I stupidly went and acquired the bit of kit pictured above.
Not before asking mate his recommendation though. Mainly in terms of the format to go for. Cos I was a total ignoramus on such things. Still am for that matter.
My inclination would have been to go for something dead easy… like a hard drive- or DVD-based camcorder.
But oh no! Not according to mate. “The format to go for” sez he, “is miniDV. Its what all the pros use.”

“Righto” sez I. You’d think I would have learned, having already been suckered into this stupid photography caper by him. Wouldn’t you?
But not me. Ever the gullible fool.

So in due course I get this ‘ere Sony DCR-HC35 miniDV camcorder. Nice bit of kit it is too, I have to admit.

Only one snag… I can’t bloody use the damn thing!

Well, that’s not strictly true. I’ve sussed out how to bung the tape in, take the lens cap off, point it in the right general direction, and press the record button thingy. And how to zoom in and out. And even how to play the recording back on the camcorder. Great.

But then what? Well, presumably tranfer the content of the tape to a computer so that various editing jobbies can be done with the stuff that’s been recorded.

And there I hit my first snag. Not the editing, believe it or not. Oh dear me no. Successfully transferring the damn stuff to the sodding computer! I’ve not yet managed it, and I doubt I ever will. Sure, I can get bits of it, but that’s all. Just bits. Useless!
Why? Don’t ask me. If I knew that I’d probably be able to sus out how to do it, wouldn’t I?

However, getting the kit wasn’t a total waste as its been pressed into service a number of times since. Not by me though.
The organisers of certain events of which I take piccies also require video footage. So, like the helpful little soul I am, I drag along me camcorder and an extra tripod then delegate someone else to “do the business”. And at the end of such sessions they have it away with the tapes and work some sort of magic with them that enables them to produce the footage they need. Well, bully for them.

A perfectly satisfactory arrangement and one that pleases me no end for I really have very little interest in shooting video anyway.

Now we come to Part Two of this little tale…

Discussions have been had recently amongst certain of my acquaintances in terms of where we’re (as in that little photographers’ collective I’m a sort of part of) going from here.
And occasionally video has popped up in those discussions. “Not a chance” thinks I. “Don’t wanna know.”

But the gadget freak in me can’t help speculating, and mulling over the issues with video that really beset me. And thanks to some bizarre quirk in my nature I manage to kid myself that the real problem I’ve had with video is all down to the format I’ve been using. Or rather, haven’t. Cos I couldn’t.

“What’d be dead easy?” thinks I. Dead easy in terms of transferring the stuff onto the infernal machine so I can then tackle whatever other problems I’m likely to encounter. Ever the optimist, that’s me.

Now not being a total Luddite I’m well aware that some camcorders nowadays can actually record onto SD card. Sounds just the ticket really. Dead easy. All you need is a card-reader. Um. And a computer of course. How difficult can it be?
But I manage to resist the temptations inherent in such thoughts… right up until one of these new-fangled SD-enabled camcorder thingies finds its way into my grubby little mitts.

A Samsung HMX-R10 to be precise.

Samsung HMX-R10 Camcorder _G201344

One of those weird-looking gizmos that has the lens pointing up at an angle. Aparently designed to make the holding of the thing more comfortable for longer periods of time. More of this shortly.

Samsung HMX-R10 Camcorder _G201346

So I’ve now got this neat little bit of kit to play with and, after having played with it for a coupla weeks or so, thought it was about time to share my impressions.

This isn’t a review you understand in the sense of going into all the technical detail and the specs and so forth. No doubt all that nonsense can easily be found elsewhere. And its all beyond my comprehension anyway. No. This is purely my own personal impressions mainly addressing matters of usability as a virtual novice at this video caper.

First off then, its quite neat-looking. Stylish, one might almost say. And very compact. Discrete, sort of thing. Could come in very handy when the cops start getting paranoid about me taking their pics.

In terms of actual mass there’s obviously some difference between it and a more conventionally-styled camcorder but not as much as one may initially think, just that the volume’s distributed differently. It’s probably a tad lighter as well.

Samsung HMX-R10 Camcorder _G201360

Then there’s that weirdly-angled lens which means that, instead of holding the camera straight, one holds it as though it were pointing downwards slightly.
According to the manufacturers’ blurb theoretically this is supposed to make it more comfortable to hold, especially if shooting for longer periods.

Well, not as far as I’m concerned! If anything I find it more difficult to hold, and certainly more difficult to hold steady.
Another mate of mine (yep, a different one!) suggested that could be because I’ve become accustomed to holding a conventional camera.
Um… I don’t think so somehow. That’s like saying to a person who always uses a hammer that they’ll find difficulty holding a screwdriver. Doesn’t figure. Not in my book anyway.

And its certainly not because I’m more accustomed to holding the Sony. Hell, I’ve only personally used the thing about three or four times!

So, I don’t find it comfortable (or easy) to hold.

And talking of which, neither did I find it as easy to hold as steady as I found the Sony to be on the few occasions I have used it.

Then there’s no strap (like a conventional camcorder has) to hold it snugly into your palm.
Yeah, there’s some sort of a strap, but its more like a wrist-loop really. The only advantage I can see of that is to enable one to have the thing dangling from one’s wrist (ready to grab at a moment’s notice) whilst using the stills camera. I must confess, that could come in a bit handy.

Samsung HMX-R10 Camcorder _G201352

Talking of stills, it’ll shoot them as well. Either on their own or whilst actually shooting video (though in reduced size). Having tried out the stand-alone stills feature I didn’t even bother with the “in-video” mode…

According to the specs the stills it produces should be quite respectable. Yeah. Right.
Well, I shot a few at the highest resolution and best quality and basically they’re… um… rubbish. Detail resolution at full size is… um… well, if I were to be charitable then I’d have to say “markedly absent”. Likely get better from shots taken with the newer generation of mobile phone. So one has to ask, what’s the point of being able to produce those whacking great files (12M 4000×3000 according to the specs)? Though as mate #1 commented, they’d probably be ok for web usage. In a fairly small size. Max about 450px along the longest edge sorta thing.
Big disappointment there then.

R10 test shots CAM_0014

R10 test shots CAM_0013

R10 test shots CAM_0015

Also, the dedicated stills button is on top of the camcorder. Maybe its cos I have fairly smallish hands but I found it difficult to comfortably click this to take a picture unless I used the other hand to do so. And every single time it seemed hellishly difficult to not jerk the camera.
(There’s also an option to shoot via the LCD touch screen but again there seemed a significant risk of inadvertently jerking the camera at the critical moment.)

Returning for a moment to the issue of holding the camcorder… the manual recommends using both hands! I tried it and found it even more awkward than holding the damn thing with just the one hand! And it seemed to increase the risk of camera shake.

What else? Hmm. The tripod thread. Appears to be made of plastic. Though it could be a metal insert that just looks like plastic. Oh well.

Samsung HMX-R10 Camcorder _G201351

Batteries! Takes a lithium ion battery pack (comes with the camcorder of course). First thing I did on acquiring this bit of kit was think about getting some spare batteries for “just in case”. D’you think I could track any down? Could I hell! Must be only available from Samsung at the moment. So yet another “not good” mark against it.

And there’s a really fiddly little cover for the DC input and various output sockets. I can just see that being broken off before too long!

Samsung HMX-R10 Camcorder _G201348

Finally then we come to the quality of the actual video recording. Well, I’ve shot a bit of test footage and when played back on-camera or indeed on a computer (yep. I was right… its a doddle to transfer the files to the infernal machine. At least that’s a plus!) it looks fine to me. But then, what the hell would I know?

For anyone who’s interested I’ve uploaded a couple of examples to YouTube… exactly the same footage but one in high definition and the other with maximum compression (and even I can see the latter is pretty naff!).
Source shot in high-def of course… all other settings on idiot mode… er… “Auto”.
If you’re that interested email me and I’ll send you the links, cos I’ve set them to “private”.

Not that there’s anything dodgy about them. Just that I’m so damned ashamed of my utter incompetence and inability to shoot decent video that I haven’t got the nerve to make them public!

Basically its just four clips strung together. Of stuff on the river. Happened to be by the river yesterday (as mentioned in this post) and it struck me there could be some really good opportunities to test the camcorder out… filming rowers from the local rowing club and stuff.
But like so many of my good ideas what I ended up with was something completely different. Hardly any rowers to be seen at all… but loads of swans! Ho hum.

And on the second of the four clips there’s a clunk and the video jerks… which is me dropping my camera! No, not the camcorder; the GX20 which I’d had slung over my shoulder.
Well, at least I discovered its robust enough to withstand a drop onto a concrete step!
And on the final clip there’s the distinct sound of me saying “hello” to the swans, bloody idiot that I am.

Still, they’re on YouTube if you really wanna risk checking them out, though I think one needs an account to access them, and probably need to have me marked as a contact or something. Dunno. I’ll wait for feedback to find out.

In summary however, I have to say that this is the third bit of Samsung kit that’s left me completely underimpressed. First there was the GX20 with its bizarre colour balance (shoulda stuck with the Pentax sensor. And which, incidentally, I think I’ve now just about sussed… entailing creating a preset in Lightroom of tweaks to the camera calibration settings. What a performance!); then there was the super laptop with its crap graphics. And now this camcorder that, if anything, has put me off the idea of shooting video even more.

Pity they stopped making the GX10 really cos without any hesitation I’d definitely get another one of those.

(The complete set of R10 pics are here on Flickr. Complete with dust. One day I really should do a bit of housekeeping I s’pose. But there’s just so many other, much more interesting, things to keep me amused.)

Update 16.07.09 02:38 – One thing I forgot to mention, and arguably the most positive thing about the camcorder. Hmm… how could I have been so remiss?
Anyway, the gadget comes with its own editing/transfer software already loaded onto the camcorder itself (named “Intelli-studio”). Connecting to the computer’s easy; just plug in a USB cable, switch on the camcorder (needs powering from the AC mains for this apparently) and, after the PC or laptop’s gone through its normal “what the hell’s this you’ve just plugged into me” setup routine, up pops the Intelli-studio software. Dead easy.
There’s also an option to install the app onto the computer which is great cos it means that, once having transferred all the clips, you can work with the camcorder disconnected.
Has to be said the software seems pretty basic in terms of editing features, though it allows for adding a few effects or text, or sound, stitch clips together, compressing to different resolutions, aspect ratios etc. There’s also options to tweak the video in terms of contrast, brightness, and saturation. But I think anything more sophisticated would require a third party app (providing you can find one that handles the format… I get the impression its Samsung’s own particular version of MP4).
Where it really comes into its own however is uploading the clips. Options presently available seem to be restricted to YouTube, Flickr, or email (though I seem to recollect seeing an option to define/add your own). And its a real doddle to use as well. Seems relatively quick too.
So you can transfer a clip from the camcorder, compress and upload in what is virtually one seamless operation. Neat!

Update 16.07.09 03:09 – And another coupla things (hell, how much more am I gonna remember?)!
The zoom: well, basically pretty naff. Its got something named “Intelli-zoom” (they do seem to like that word “Intelli” don’t they?). From what I can gather its a sort of combination of optical and digital zoom. And only 8x. Doesn’t really stack up too well against the 20x optical zoom that my Sony has.
Sound: this is something I’d pretty much forgotten about, but a mate reminded me. Forgotten mainly cos I’ve been more concerned about the visual side of shooting video. If I can’t get that sussed then the sound really is a bit of an irrelevancy. Anyway, although (according to the manual at least… from what I can recollect… but I wasn’t paying that section too much attention) there’s an option to adjust the mic sensitivity from within the onboard menu system (three settings… something like high, medium, and low), there’s no facility for attaching an external mic. Personally I doubt if I’d find that especially critical, but whatever rocks your boat I guess.

About fotdmike

Occasional photographer; occasional writer/blogger; occasional activist; occasional computer-geek. Bit of a fool really.
This entry was posted in Kit, Photography Chat and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to So how difficult can it be?

  1. forkboy says:

    Mr. No Video has himself a Samsung camcorder. What ever is the world coming to? I’m not really certain I’m prepared for this video-making excursion of yours. I may need some time to digest such…

    My first camcorder was a Sony MiniDV, which you may recall from a long ago conversation. I still have it, but no longer use it to record video. I keep it so that I might transfer tapes to my computer for conversion and movie creation. For a while I really got into making movies….edited, credits, menus with direct access to scenes…the whole thing. I would then burn them to DVD and ship them off to family, friends, etc. Loads of fun except for the real-time transfer of video from the camcorder to the computer. But, of course, one can always walk away and do other things while waiting.

    A handful of months ago I purchased the Panasonic SDR-S7k standard def, flash-based camcorder. I’ve been very happy with it; my only disappointment the battery being a bit too quick to deplete. Flash is clearly the way to go. While the quality of SD video on MiniDV is certainly the best, I’ll take the convenience of flash media any day of the week.

  2. fotdmike says:

    Problem with video is, I can see the potential of it. And it looks very much as though the little bunch of photojournos I mix with will increasingly move in this direction.
    One thing that has come out of my experience with the R10 is that its tempted me to invest in a rather more conventionally shaped Flash camcorder, cos I think the biggest issue I have with this is the way its actually held. Just doesn’t feel at all comfortable (unlike what’s claimed for it).

  3. forkboy says:

    You might want to take a look at the Sanyo VPC-CG10EBK. It utilizes a pistol grip design that may (or may not) be more comfortable to hold. I found it on a UK site here:

    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/Sanyo-GC10-Black-High-Definition-(720p)-Camcorder-30x-optical-zoom-10MP-camera

    I read a review of it (by someone who’s blog I follow) here:

    http://psland.lightshedder.com/2009/07/21/sanyo-dual-camera-vpc-cg10/

    I don’t imagine you’re looking for a high def machine, but it works in SD as well.

  4. fotdmike says:

    Thanks for that. Yeah, I have seen them, but can’t say I was particularly tempted. Its not so much that I particularly want a camcorder but rather that I suspect circumstances are gonna make it almost mandatory to have one.

    I think if I did get another one though it’d have to be something rather more conventionally shaped… bit like my Sony if that were possible. And of course recording onto SD.

    Re HiDef, well, actually yes. Given that there’s a strong possibility that stuff I record (bearing in mind the sort of things I’d likely use it for) may end up as evidence then HiDef is much preferable. (I can’t imagine the cops giving up their evil ways just yet!)

    That’s one area where this stupid R10 actually does seem to score. The quality of its highest resolution doesn’t appear to be too bad at all… to my eyes at least, and given that I know bugger all about video.
    😉

  5. Pingback: This is not the camera its meant to be | Adventures of an Idiot – occasional ramblings of a photography freak

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