Today I went shopping for video cameras to use in the school. I had been looking around for suitable ones for a little while. People were telling me Sony, others were telling me Panasonic or JVC.
We had a few requirements:
- Runs on SD Cards so that kids can record video, take the card out, plug it straight into a laptop and off they go.
- Not too Expensive, we’re talking about using it with kids here. Accidents happen, lets make them not too expensive accidents.
- Easy to use, we want kids to be able to grab the camera, turn it on, point at something and record.
- Must work with Windows Movie Maker
Movie Maker is the real deal breaker with all the cameras I got a look at.
I contacted the local Camera House shop with my set of requirements and got a reply back later that day with a set of recommended cameras and an invitation to come check them all out. I didn’t think to bring an SD card with me so I could take some footage back to check it with Movie Maker. Instead the sales guy loaned me a 2gig card with some footage on it so I could test it out with Movie Maker (what a nice chap).
Note, I tested the cameras with movie maker (standard install) then installed the K-Lite Mega Codec Pack and tried again (no camera worked straight out of the box with Windows Movie Maker).
Camera 1: Panasonic SDR-7
This camera felt really small and light. It focused pretty quickly, which is a good thing for kids and moving the camera about a lot. Very easy to use and deals with low light alright too.
The camera was recommended to me by the ICT support group for my school.
While it was great in terms of usage, it was an Standard Definition camera and that really showed on the test footage.
As you can see from this picture, there’s interlacing going on, it looks a lot worse when you pan too quickly too. Also note, to get my computer to even read the file, I had to rename it from .MOD to .MPEG, Windows Movie Maker accepted the file but wouldn’t display any video. After I installed the Codec Pack… Still no video 🙁
Camera 2: The Sanyo CG9 (See Edit)
This camera was nice, it has a nice feel to it, held more like a gun than a camera. Super easy to use, takes photos as well as video. The focus time was a bit slower, however that’s mainly because of the bigger lens, so it takes higher resolution shots with the downside that it takes a little longer to focus.
In terms of image quality, this camera is great. It records into MP4 format. I attempted to get it into Movie Maker and it wouldn’t accept the file at all. After installing codecs… No Change. There was a program that would let me change the file format to AVI (it wasn’t converting, merely changing the file container) and it worked, imported it into movie maker just fine. Is it an ideal solution? Well.. No. It’s a bit of a hassle to get kids to do that.
So, my next step is to find appropriate video editing software, free would be great. The cameras come with a copy of Pinnacle Studio, so I’m downloading an evaluation copy of that to test out now. Of course, I could just get the school a Mac 😉
I’ll update this post as I do more testing.
EDIT: After downloading the Pinnacle Studio Trial version and giving it a whirl, the process seems fairly simple, a little harder than iMovie, WAY more stable and more features than Windows Movie Maker. It accepted both movie files without a problem.
Has a great little button to grab the media off the inserted memory card (even if I could get it to work with Windows Movie Maker, I’d have to find the media on the card first).
Some buttons are a little hard to find.. I’d create a title, look at if for 20seconds going “Now what?” then I see this little button in the corner saying “OK”. It’s a tad slow, came up with “Not Responding” a few times (cleared up after 5-10seconds) and seems to like to render the video a lot (it re-rendered the same scene like 3 times for no reason).
On my gaming PC (2.2ghz Core2Duo with 4gigs of ram and a beefy video card) it did seem to take a little bit when swapping modes (Transitions to Video Clips to Titles for example). Hopefully it’s not too much slower on the HP550 Laptops…
EDIT2: The CG9 is actually the cost effective version of the CG10. The one I actually used was the CG10. The CG10 offers better video quality than the CG9 and only takes 10MP Photos compared to the CG9 that takes 9MP photos.