Over the past few weeks I’ve fallen in love with the Sony GC-1 Camera I picked up for $50 at a local electronics store after NECC “as is” without a box, cables, or instructions. I first wrote about this camera in my July 26th post, “Transformative power of flash-based video cameras.”

Sony GC1 MPEG4 Net Sharing Cam - Now discontinued

The camera shoots 5 megapixel still images and 30 fps 320×240 or 640×480 MPEG-4 video which imports right into iPhoto and iMovie. (I still haven’t made the jump to iMovie ’08, however, I used the free download of iMovie HD 6 for my most recent video project “72 Years of Free Barbeque.”) Unlike a traditional DV camera which records to tape, it is NOT necessary to import recorded videos on a 1:1 timeline, where 10 minutes of recorded video requires 10 minutes of importing time on the computer. This is a TRANSFORMATIONAL advance in terms of video editing and media file creation, in my view.

Two weeks ago I used the camera for photo and videos at the 72nd annual XIT Rodeo and Reunion in Dalhart, Texas (see my post “Storychasing the 2008 XIT Rodeo and Ranch” and Flickr photo and video sets for more info and media files.) This past weekend I shot still photos and videos to document a 3 night campout my son and I went on to Turner Falls Park in south-central Oklahoma. I haven’t edited or posted media files from that trip yet but will soon. I find that if I do NOT work with media files from a trip VERY soon afterwards, often life seems to race on and I don’t get back to working with those files and videos again. I find it’s important to be somewhat selective in what I publish and share, but also important that technology tools facilitate speedy editing and publishing. As Dean Shareski has commented here previously, there is likely a balance that needs to be reached. Certainly we live in a VERY different day when digital cameras effectively place far fewer limits on the number of images and videos which can be both captured and shared.

Remember the days of having a fixed number of exposures on a roll of film, and having to be very selective on a trip when you decided to take pictures because you could run out of film? My 10 year old son has never taken photos with an analog camera, he’s only “known digital.” The idea of having a full memory stick / memory card is something he understands, but with larger capacity cards now available even that limitation is getting foreign. The 4 GB memory card on my GC1 has been so big I haven’t come close to filling it up yet.

Unfortunately, Sony has discontinued sales of the GC1, but a variety of other cameras with similar still image and video functionality are now available. Derek Baird told me about the Kodak Xi6 Pocket Video Camera last week, which is capable of shooting HD or VGA video (up to 720p at 60 fps with 16:9 aspect ratio) AND runs on two AA batteries.

Kodak Xi6 Pocket Video Camera

According to the specifications page the Xi6 can only shoot 3 megapixel “interpolated” still images, so that is less than the 5 MP the Sony GC1 shoots, but that is still a reasonably large still image resolution for small prints and web publication/sharing. The zoom is only 2x, which is unfortunate (the GC1 is 4x) but the fact it is battery operated is a HUGE bonus. Both Friday and Saturday nights at the XIT rodeo my GC1 ran out of power, and since the batteries are not removable/replaceable I was simply finished taking photos and videos at that point. We’ve settled on the Olympus WS-110 portable audio recorder for our statewide “Celebrate Oklahoma Voices” digital storytelling project in large part because it is powered by a AAA battery. Removable and replaceable batteries are VERY important for StoryChasers who are frequently making audio and video recordings “out in the field” away from a classroom or home AC power supply. Cross-platform compatibility is important as well, and like the Sony GC1 the Kodak Xi6 is compatible with both Windows and Macintosh computers. Like the GC1, the Xi6 captures video natively in MPEG4 format.

Is the Kodak Xi6 an “ideal” camera for Storychasers? I haven’t tested it personally, but the specs look impressive and acceptably comparable to the discontinued Sony GC1. I’d like a larger optical zoom and perhaps more megapixels for still images, but the HD recording capability in a handheld videocam is impressive as is the AA battery requirement.

What sub-$200 still image and video camera would you say is “ideal” for Storychasers?

If you’re interested in the StoryChaser’s project this year, incidentally, we’re having another online meetup this Thursday, August 21st at 8 pm US Central time. Check out the post on StoryChasers for more details and links. (We’re not meeting this evening since it’s my birthday and I’ve got a family dinner date!) I’m also pleased to report that I successfully installed and configured (at least initially) a MediaWiki installation for StoryChasers. Check that out and contribute to resources/ideas on wiki.storychasers.org. My hope is that the wiki (along with ALL the resources participants share in the StoryChasers project) will be more accessible and therefore useable/relevant if they are accessible from the Storychasers.org domain. That way, if a teacher wants to request “whitelisting” of a website to participate in StoryChasers, s/he can request that storychasers.org be whitelisted and hopefully be able to access most of the project resources.

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  • Been looking into flash based video cameras myself this summer and bought a Flash Mino. Was extremely convenient in Disney World with the grandbabies, but the USB recharging, built-in battery and fixed memory capacity could be a problem for extended field use and there’s no still capability. I have also taken just cursory looks at the soon to be released Kodak Zi6 and Costco’s DXG-567V.

  • I picked up a Creative Vado from B and H Photo for $90 with shipping. The audio is not great, but it is smaller and feels better in my hand than a flip camera does. It is perfect for me to carry around to take video of things going on around my school. I think it would work well for Story Chasers if the quality of the video is not very important. You can see a couple videos I shot in class on my blog. I used Google Uploader so the quality on the blog is not as good as the raw video.

  • That Sony was the camera I was letting you play with at NECC during the Ribfest. I absolutely love it. I should tell you, though, that you can still get them. It is kind of hidden on Sony’s site, but they are available in refurb: http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10551&langId=-1&productId=8198552921665246485&storeId=10151

    Only $119 right now. Worth every penny.

  • Thanks for the tip Scott. I agree, I love this camera! I wish Sony was still making it. I haven’t used a Flip Video yet but I don’t like the fact that it doesn’t take high res stills. This is very important to me, and a big reason I love the Sony. I shot my first video at 640×480 30fps this weekend for a skit my daughter was in at church. It is amazing to have so much video power in such a small package.

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