Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Pocket camcorder first impressions

Ever since Dean Shareski showed me his Sony GC1 Net-Sharing Cam (along with some other, similarly priced cameras) at NECC 2008 several weeks ago I’ve aspired to add a camera like this to my digital backpack. Yesterday at our local Ultimate Electronics store in Oklahoma City, I found a Sony GC1 display model for sale without a box, manual, cables or charger, for just $50. This was too good of a bargain to pass up.

Sony GC1 Net-Sharing Cam

Much to my delight, I’ve found the GC1 to be a joy to use today, and am only disappointed that this model has been discontinued by Sony and is no longer available for purchase. (Unless you buy one used or happen upon a remaining demo model, as I did yesterday.) I thought I would have to buy an AC charger from Sony or Radio Shack, but it turns out the same standard USB cable which is used to transfer photos and video from the camera can also be used to charge it. Sweet! Since I had a USB cable already, along with a 4 GB Sony memory card I picked up on sale in March at a ridiculously low price, I really don’t need anything else to fully utilize and enjoy the GC1.

Dean wrote the the post “Sony Net-Sharing Camcorder Review” back in January, and more recently (in June right before NECC) the post “Comparing little video cameras.” Generally cameras in this category cost $150 to $200, so picking one up for $50 really was a great deal. In his most recent post, Dean observed “The Sony definitely does not play nice with the Mac,” but this was not my impression. I wasn’t able to use the GC1 as a webcam with QuickTime Pro or Ustream, but it did mount fine on my Macbook’s desktop and allowed me to drag both 5 megapixel images as well as 320×240 MP4 videos right onto my hard drive where I uploaded them readily. This is the first “little video camera” I’ve ever used like this before, however, so my frame of comparison reference is admittedly more limited than Dean’s. If what I’ve experienced today is limited functionality, however, I can’t wait to see what a more fully featured camera will offer!

We recorded some short videos in the “Tinkering Garage” at the Oklahoma City Science museum today. I posted several to Flickr, since videos less than 90 seconds can be posted and shared there, and was very pleased with how fast and relatively painless this process was.

I also attempted to email a video up to a .Mac gallery I setup previously with iPhoto, but apparently that video is still being processed as it hasn’t shown up for me yet in the gallery.

MobileMe Gallery - Post via email

Some of the initial reviews of the Sony GC1 were less than enthusiastic last fall when this pocket camcorder first came out, and perhaps that is the reason Sony has discontinued it. I think the functionality and ease-of-use of this type of digital camera and camcorder is amazing, however, and I look forward to both using it more in the future as well as learning about other camera / pocket camcorder options like this which we may be able to start utilizing as standard equipment in the digital backpacks provided to participants in our Celebrate Oklahoma Voices oral history / digital storytelling project.

Of course, many cell phones now offer photo and video recording functionality which can rival pocket camcorders like the GC1. I do like the fact that the native recording format is MP4, and that I can record in 640×480 video resolution at 30 fps if desired. (The default setting is 320×240 at 30 fps.) Pocket camcorders like these are sure to provide continuing challenges for the ethical and responsible uses of digital technologies in our schools and communities. We need to be talking about digital citizenship much more than we currently are in many schools and classrooms.

Have you had positive or negative experiences with pocket camcorders? Do you have a model you recommend?

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