Discuss gear and techniques for recording and stage performance
By EvanP
#21373
I'm looking for input and advice on the best way to capture photos, video, and audio of an upcoming trip to W. Africa. I'd like to get a few good quality photos that can be blown up to ~8x10 (I'd love to do things similar to what James did on the calendar shots, but I'm not sure I have the skill for that). I want to have audio recordings for future reference of the rhythms I'm learning, and I'd like to have some video just to capture the memories and maybe post.

I think I'm pretty well set on the audio, although I haven't tried it outdoors yet. I have a Sony PCM-M10 recorder that works really well for recording classes and workshops. I've just ordered an Audio Technica 822 stereo mic that should make things even better, or at least give me some recording options. Should I bring a tripod or mic stand? Is a foam windscreen adequate, or do I need one of those "dead animal fluffy things" to cut down on wind noise with the 822?

My dilemma is the photography/video. With cameras taking video and camcorders taking pics, it gets a bit confusing. I have a Sony DSC-W70 point-and-shoot that takes decent pictures and videos (it has a 7.2 M pixel CCD), but I don't think it's high enough quality to blow up beyond 5x7, plus the sound quality leaves quite a bit to be desired. The new video cameras supposedly take decent pictures, but I haven't gotten the impression that they're good enough to enlarge very big. Also, it doesn't have a mic input.

I'm leaning toward picking up a Nikon P7000 which has decent video (much better than my Sony, but not as good as some), is fairly small (although not easy to slip into a pocket), and seems to be an excellent fixed-lens camera. I don't know whether it is good enough, especially without an external flash, to take the quality of pictures I'm hoping for. Plus it has an input for an external mic.

What about stepping up to a dSLR? I don't like the idea of schlepping around that much hardware, being a target for thieves, etc. Plus I'd think that as heavy as they are it would be a drag to use one for much more than a couple minutes of video without putting it on a tripod, which adds that much more to carry. Same thing for the micro 4/3s new cameras--while smaller and lighter than a dSLR, they're still a lot to carry. That being said, the larger cameras do everything better (pics, video, and audio).

What are the features that you've wanted but didn't have on your trips? What did you have that worked great? How big of a deal is it to carry a decent sized bag of recording gear around for 4 weeks (and all of the batteries and chargers)?

I realize a lot of this boils down to personal preferences and choices, but I'm thinking there are probably some things that are better ideas than others.

Thanks,
Evan
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By Dugafola
#21376
a mini tripod would be nice. i'm talking really small...6" or so...

an SLR may be overkill but the new ones take sweet video.

i'm assuming most of this is for personal use only, so the portable type devices should suffice.

i have a lowe pro nova 5 bag for sale just for you ...i give you good friend price. haha.
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By michi
#21381
If you want a camera that does it all at reasonable price and size, check out the Canon SX30 IS. 14.1 megapixels and a 35x zoom lens (24-820mm equivalent) which is ultra-wide angle to extreme telephoto. Also has image stabilization that works a treat. For still photos, it rivals much more expensive SLRs and it is very easy and intuitive to use.

It also does 1280 x 720p video with stereo sound. That's not quite the 1080p you can get from a dedicated video camera, but it is still phenomenally nice video, way better than DVD quality. To do better than that, you need a dedicated video camera.

You can buy this camera for around $380, which is outstanding value for money.

If you really need better video than that, check out the Canon VIXIA HF R21 camcorder. 28x zoom with 1920x1080i at 60fps, or 1920x1080p at 30fps. Also has an image stabilizer and a bunch of other nice features. It's very compact and light, and you can take still images with it. (Still images at only 2.41 megapixel, which any mobile phone can beat these days.) Cost is around $500 at the moment.

In summary, if you want really nice still images and really nice video, you need to take a dedicated camera and a dedicated camcorder. If you want to take only a single device, you are better off with a still camera that also can shoot video than the other way around.

To get decent sound for your videos, you have to record the sound separately with your Sony recorder. There is no video camera at affordable price that will cope with the high sound pressure you get with drumming. It's not too hard to add MP3 sound from your recorder to a video clip with something like iMovie. You have to synchronize image and sound by hand, but that is fairly easy with a bit of practice.

Like Duga said, a small tripod is definitely a good idea. If you record outside in windy conditions, the hairy windshields do a better job than a foam windshield.

Having said all that, keep in mind that you are going to Africa to experience it, not to record it! It's easy to get so carried away with the need to capture everything with your camera, camcorder, or sound recorder that, before you know it, you end up stressing out about recording it all instead of experiencing it! The two times I was in Africa, I recorded my classes and took the occasional shot and video clip but, mostly, I didn't bother because, as soon as I'm holding a video camera, I'm no longer able to actually immerse myself in the performance and truly experience it.

So, make sure you don't miss the real thing because your recordings won't ever do it justice, no matter what you do!

Cheers,

Michi.
By EvanP
#21384
Duga, Michi,
Excellent advice, as always, especially the "don't lose the memory trying to capture the memory" piece! Also, I hadn't thought about the SPL issues with a video camera--the Sony handles them pretty gracefully, but I doubt a camera will.

I tried out video on both the Canon G12 and Nikon P7000 at lunch today, and was severely disappointed with the Nikon's performance. I was pleasantly surprised that the Canon now allows zoom and focus shooting video. The fact that I don't need a mic input (based on the fact that the audio will likely be saturated anyway), however, may lead me back to the Canon S95, which is a sweet little (albeit spendy) camera.

Cheers,
Evan
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By michi
#21390
Hmmm... The S95 is nice but, for $15 more, you can buy the SX30 IS, which is a much better camera. The S95 wins only if you are keen on the compact form factor. Otherwise, I'd take the SX30 IS.

Cheers,

Michi.
By EvanP
#21393
Michi,
From what I found (at dpreview), the opinions seemed to be the opposite, i.e. while both are great cameras the sx30 has a smaller sensor with higher pixel count and a longer lens making for a little lower quality shots than the s95 or g12. The consensus there seemed to be that the sx30 was great if you wanted a longer telephoto lens, but that the larger sensor cameras took better low light pics and movies (I think that will be important in Africa?). It would be pretty cool to have an 820 mm zoom, although would definitely need a tripod! I guess that's why there's a gazillion different cameras! I hadn't really looked at the "super zooms" like the s30, because if I get a camera that large, I figure I might as well go with an SLR. I realize they're smaller than an SLR, but I would like something that is low profile that I can at least "palm" if not put in a pocket to stay a little less obtrusive. I haven't gotten a chance to check out the sx30 yet. I'll try to do it this weekend.

I do like the idea of the s95 being small enough to slip into a pocket, although I like the longer zoom and external mic input on the g12 and I can always use my Sony W70 if I'm out and about and don't want a camera dangling from my wrist. Both the s95 and g12 record in stereo at 720p.

Evan
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By michi
#21403
To me, the large zoom range and the flip-out screen of the SX30 are killer arguments. In terms of effective resolution, the two come out nearly identical (10MP for the S95, 9.8MP for the SX30). The extra f-stop on the S95 is neither here nor there, in my opinion, and the higher ISO of the S95 doesn't really buy you anything because the images get very noisy at higher gain anyway.)

Because of the image stabilisation, the SX30 can actually shoot at 820mm without a tripod in daylight and still gets a good quality image most of the time. And, certainly, at 500mm, the image stabiliser works wonders.

In terms of image quality, the two are very nearly identical, so it comes down to size vs zoom range. If you want something compact, take the S95. If you want something more versatile, take the SX30 IS.

Cheers,

Michi.
By EvanP
#21406
Michi,
As usual you've got it dialed in. Right now I'm leaning toward small but I will definitely check out the sx30. It looks like a great cam.

Just eBay'd a dead fuzzy thing that should work on my PCM-M10 and 822. :D

Evan