What Camera Should I Buy: Holidays 2011

What digital camera should I buy? It’s a question I get a lot, so I’ve identified some favorites with the help of Consumer Reports.

If you’re gonna buy one, follow the links, eh? They’re affiliate links so I get a small percent and you pay the same price you’d pay going on Amazon directly. ūüôā

Best digital camera december 2011
  1. Looking for a low-priced but highly rated slim camera? The Panasonic DMC-FH25K tops the ratings on Amazon. It’s $146 bucks.
  2. Looking for a mid-priced advanced feature “point and shoot”? The Canon Powershot G12 tops the list. It’s a steal at $379 with top ratings by Consumer Reports and high consumer ratings on Amazon.
  3. Looking for a smaller, lighter camera that still allows you to change the lense? That’s either the Sony SLT-A55VL¬†($799) or the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 (also $799) that I own. It takes great pictures and video, and I like the depth of field with the lense.
  4. Finally, looking for an SLR with more advanced features? Check the Canon EOS 60D ($1119) or Nikon D7000¬†($1499). These are obviously for advanced users as they’re not cheap. If you feel like buying me a Christmas present either one would be fabulous.

Then there’s this option if you’re in debt like me, and are feeling¬†nostalgic.

Is a $1,000 Video Camera Worth It?

These bright tropical birds would probably look like ghetto pigeons on your camera.

I almost always argue on the side of budget, and frequently write about how to get professional looks on amateur equipment. In the pursuit of “balance” (and to make another futile attempt at affiliate links), here are some reasons to spend more on a video camera. You don’t always get what you pay (very often you pay too much, or can get a deal on last year’s falling star). But here are some features that you don’t always see in the $300-$500 range.

  1. Image sensor (provides quality of image under various lighting conditions)
  2. Manual controls (customize lense ring to do white balance instead of focus)
  3. Rich touch-screen display and menu options
  4. Optical image stabilization
  5. Color peaking
  6. External audio/mic input
  7. HD video onto hard drive (internal memory) or memory cards
So for most people, these things aren’t worth the x2 and x3 premium. But if you’re more than a hobbiest, these cameras can offer quality that surpasses the average amateur vid. Here’s B&H photos picks on three higher-end video cameras, and the Sony ($1298)¬†appears to lead the pack based on higher photo file size and internal memory. But the Canon Vixia is $1099 (and I’ve been using Canon for most of my YouTube stint). The Panasonic is under $1000, and the company seems to have recaptured its place in video equipment. B&H usually beats other retailers on price, and my “invisible hand” suggests these are competitive if not the lowest prices. But check.
Read the features below, and watch the video if you want to feel worse about your camera. Then click my damned affiliate links. Ghees. Or use comments to “rationalize” and convince us (and yourself) that your camera is good enough. Whatev.

1) Sony HDR-CX700V Camcorder


  • 96 GB of internal memory (plus cards)
  • 12 MP still frame photography
  • Surround sound audio built in
  • Geotag of photos
  • Built in USB cable for charging and file sharing

2) Canon VIXIA HF S30 Flash Memory Camcorder

  • 32 GB internal memory and dual SD card slots
  • Color bars for reference
  • Zebra patterns
  • Remote controllers
  • 8 MP photos
  • Built in flash and LED light

3) Panasonic HDC-TM900 High Definition Camcorder

  • 32 GB internal memory and card slots
  • 3 3.05 MP sensors (3 chips, one for each primary color)
  • 5.1 surround sound
  • 14 MP photos
  • 3D videos (snore)

Tips for Filmmakers and Video Production

Nice piece in indie wire featuring Edwards Burn, where he talks about the beauty of low-cost production. No booms, lights, or film. Just a Canon 5D and a small budget. And the ideas? Crowdsourced.

P.S. My birthday is May 12 in case you wanted to buy me a Canon 5D. It’s less than $3500. If all of my susbcribers chipped in, it’d be a fraction of a penny. If all of my active viewers chipped in it would be just $35 each. If all of the readers of WillVideoForFood chipped in, it’d only be $3500 each.

what digital camera does edward eddy burns use
Edwards Burn uses a consumer SLR still camera to film his low-budget movies

One of Top 25 Most Innovative Digital Publishers

Congratulations, dear reader. We’ve made the cut. We’re one of the top 25 most digital publishers (David Garland “Rise to the Top”). Scoble made it too, so we have some good company.

I use “we” in a collective sense, since I probably wouldn’t be in my 5th or 6th year of publishing without you. Yeah I’m pretty sure without your intellectual comments I’d grow weary. And I’m certain that if I didn’t see some of the mindless and humorous ones I’d have long since regressed to a newsletter only my mama reads.

Have a glass of champagne, or celebrate in whatever way you see fit. Heck, while you’re here… how will you celebrate your victory?

You and I made the cut, baby. Barely, but we made it.

Barbie Sees You When You’re Sleeping (FBI Alert)

The FBI issued an alert for “Barbie Video Girl” (see Barbiecam on Amazon), according to MyFoxPhoenix. Barbie has a camera on her chest (right above her size Ds) and a small LCD on her back. The controversy (see NBC) concerns how pedophiles might use the camera. Mattel isn’t planning on changing her. Would you?

Speaking of video equipment, I launched a new blog about digital video camcorders and cameras. It’s called “ShootLikePro” and will focus on decent gear for enthusiasts without big budgets or time for manuals. Click for a visit. It’s an interim blog unless people interact and I don’t get bored. I was researching options and figured I’d share my learnings so far.

Click to see my spinoff blog (experiment) focusing on video/photography production without breaking budget

The BiPolar Agency

Corporate work can be slow and boring, so agencies are refreshingly energetic by contrast. Fast… sometimes too fast but that’s better than sitting still, right?

I just read an interesting piece about the “creative exodus” in adland. It actually contradicted my past 3 days, where I realized that three online-video enthusiasts had moved into three companies (an agency, a mobile company and an agency). Until recently they were brands by themselves… publishers, consultants, studios, etc.

Did they see something I’m missing? Each said they received “an offer I couldn’t refuse,” but also probably gave away some level of freedom and diversity… hopefully none will be the “online video monkey” as the “online monkeys” of the early 2000. Those guys had P&L responsibility for a web shop of specialists who would have rather work at a digital agency. And they held in the same regard that an account executive holds the traffic coordinator… whatshername.

So this article by Matthew Creamer was well timed, and I found this part most fascinating:

“I recently had separate chats with two ad guys in their 20s who have good strategic jobs that keep them close to the work at growing digitally-focused shops with full client lists and strong case studies. These are smart, ambitious thinkers with the right understanding of where the business needs to go. Each has already flirted with the idea of taking important roles at big agencies and the future will probably be relatively kind to them, but instead of focusing on that, they echo the same complaints associated with these senior folks: the limits of client-service models, difficulty to find the time or buy-in for innovation. Neither can really imagine long careers in this or any other client-service business — not when there are Facebooks to be built. Platform and product-development is where it’s at in their minds, the kind of work that allows you to make money while asleep. And advertising will pay the bills until the right idea — and the right deal with the right backer — comes along.”

Interesting. Not sure I’d hold my breath for the next facebook, but who isn’t intrigued with the idea of scaling something that’s big… that’s an annuity stream. Something that requires time and effort, but eventually can be a source of recurring monthly revenue. Oh I’m not talking Amway. I’m talking about “4-hour workweek” (a book well worth reading with a grain of salt).

I’ve made it my mission to never get too comfortable on the client or agency side. Climbing a ladder in a corporation has always struck me as fun as working at the post office (would you like extra stamps with that? how about a PO box? how about tracking and some frenchfries).

For those of you facing corporate versus agency gigs I can tell you that they vary greatly… the agencies are especially bi-polar. On one hand you’re surrounded by a bunch of creative and intelligent people, so it’s energetic, dynamic and keeps you growing. On the other hand, you’re the client’s bitch, you’ll work long unpredictable hours, and deal with managers that may not know how to (or want) to manage.

To demonstrate the bi-polar moment, let me share my “high” and “low.”

Low: As a recent college graduate, I took an unpaid internship at Earle Palmer Brown (he’s one dude), who I guess got bought by Arnold and doesn’t exist anymore. It was depressing as hell and I worked in “traffic” (the idiot who moves shit from one department to another). At happy hours after work, people would encourage me to pursue another impression… and indeed it would be years before I took anything resembling an agency role.¬†Parenthetically¬†I had no business working on creative, but it didn’t stop me from making storyboards and videos for the Arby’s account that had just been secured. The creative director, a big ass Australian named John Doig, would dash past me like I was a homeless guy asking for change.

High: Working with Frontier Media Group, bought by Ikon, which was bought by Qwest. We were creating digital marketing, and educating product directors that really didn’t know how to market. So I’d immerse myself on a topic (Seth Godin’s latest book) and proclaim myself an expert. I had the MBA in marketing and a passion for digital so people would generally write big checks. That was so much fun I dreamed about it last night… only in the dream it wasn’t an agency it was CIA. Covert Ops. And I had a kickass boat that doubled as a plane. Didn’t know how to slow it down, so I just focused on turning at the right moments. I somehow avoided crashing it, and finally learned to¬†maneuver¬†it pretty well.

Except I never did figure out how to slow it down.

Andy Samberg Digital Shorts Parody

Brilliant parody of SNL Shorts and Andy Samberg from Landline.tv (who I found via barely political). It’s been out for three months, but I just discovered it. The weekly schedule is hysterical and it hooked me at “I’m not sure if it’s effort, or…”

The Future of Book Publishing (or “what I found while procrastinating writing my book”)

Holy crap. Check out this former editor who’s gone all foaming-mouth, Huffington-like crazy about the digital impact on traditional media and publishing. Now sit down and read this, because you might just learn something important. Sit. Sittttt. Good boy.

Richard Nash is the kind of guy that would either enthrall you over a 2nd martini or bore you to terminal, self-induced intoxication. There can be no middle ground. I suppose for me, I’d be leaning over listening with violent interest until the third martini, at which point I’d use the gesture my kids adopted from a recent Warner Brothers classic: Bugs Bunny is confronted by a poor sap that says, “pardon me, can you help out a fellow American who’s down on his luck?” Bugs reaches into his pocket, pulls out his thumb, and shouts “hitt daaaa rooooadddd.”

Some excerpts from his “Book Publishing 10 Years in the Future” are so profound I need another cup of coffee to understand them. I added some quotes because otherwise it’s as hard to understand as a Dennis Miller rant, boasting obscure references that make you feel smart if you bat 20% (which is not how the sporting kids are scoring these days).

  • In 2020 we will look back on the last days of publishing and realize that it was not a surfeit of capitalism that killed it, but rather an addiction-to-a-mishmash of Industrial Revolution practices that killed it, including a Fordist “any color so long as it is black” attitude to packaging the product, a Sloanist “hierarchical management approach to decision making,” and a GM-esque “continual rearranging of divisions like deck chairs on the Titanic based on internal management preferences rather than consumer preferences.”
  • In 2020 some people will still look back on recent decades as a Golden Age, just as some now look back on the 1950’s as a Golden Age, notwithstanding that the Age was golden largely for white men in tweed jackets who got to edit and review one another and congratulate one another for permitting a few women and the occasional Black man into the club.
  • In 2020 the disaffected twentysomethings of the burgeoning middle classes of India, China, Brazil, Indonesia will be producing novels faster than any of us can possibly imagine.

So there’s Nash’s Dystopian third phase of publishing evolution (the first two I lift from “The Last Lecture“):

  1. Buy an Encyclopedia, written by invite-only guests and largely unedited.
  2. Democracy takes over with Wikipedia. Turns out it’s more accurate and self-healing than Britannica.
  3. Whoops. Wikipedia forgot that profit thing, but the pleas from the founder are charming. Along come the $5 per hour researchers that mass produce content, QA it on the cheap, and dollar-store dispense it (or fund it with porn ads).

I almost feel like it’s treason for me to reference his power puke on publishing since I’m working on a book with a major publisher. But what else am I going to do to entertain myself while I procrastinate? Geez I hope they don’t read this.

So here’s the thing, though. Any sap could write “Beyond Viral Video” like I am, but don’t we factor in the author when we buy content? Would I have purchased Randy Pausch’s book-on-tape without the story behind him, his death, his hope, his dreams and his family?

Damnit, Nash. I’m not going to buy a self-help book written by a guy that used to answer the phones for Dell am I?

Maybe he’d encourage me to find my inner Buddha, which conflicts with my religion-du-jour: “listen to the voice of your inner African American grandmother.”

Small & Easy Camcorder for $89

Woot.com (a bargain site) is listing the Pure Digital Flip Ultra Series F260 $89 plus shipping. It’s a good buy if you need an affordable, portable video camera. These won’t give you great resolution, but they’re small and sufficient for most online-video. More importantly, they’re very easy to use — from shooting to drag/drop to desktop for uploading. I like hiding them in a paper cup (with a small hole) as a hidden camera.

Just try not to have too much movement when you record. I have a few of these floating around for moments where I need a quick shot or vlog. My recent rant about the Mac Shuffle used one, although it was a more recent model.

Pure Digital Flip Ultra Series f260 camcorder

Example of me using the newer generation Flip (pretty close to what you’ll get), while I whine about the Mac Shuffle:

Statistics and Ethnography of YouTube

Have you discovered Mediated Cultures (Digital Ethnography by Kansas State University)? Professor Michael Wesch spoke at the Library of Congress, and posted his video of the presentation here. I haven’t been through the whole thing because I didn’t see Nalts in the index. Hah. It’s funny because it’s true. But I did see that Bnessel does appear.

I ran into the blog while trying to research some recent stats about YouTube. While on the crapper this morning, I read in Streaming Media that YouTube streamed 3.8 billion videos and was trying to compute the “market share” my ~1.6 monthly million views. The math confused me and my calculator, so I decided instead to take solace that I represent more than 1% of what Hulu got that month.

Welsch also writes about something called Aethetic Arrest, which is a tricky concept that I won’t even try to summarize. But you know I arrest you with my aesthetics, don’t you? Especially when I find out my daughter just got ear rings yesterday without my having a say in it (video below).

I really like it when people use literary or philosophical terms to describe YouTube videos. It’s such a weird mix. I had someone approach me after my presentation at a Yahoo conference in Toronto and characterize my videos, and now I can’t even remember the words she used (something about bringing absurdity to the benine, but benine isn’t even a word… Maryland, what did she mean?). It reminded me of when we used to study literature in school and I was pretty convinced we were thinking way deeper about the work than the author ever did.

Then she explained to me that the art and the analysis of the art are two different things. And that made sense to me at the time. Except for the fact that she referred to my crap as art. Sorry I’m still in shock about the ear rings.