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  1. #1
    Freakazoid's Avatar
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    Good 300 dollar HD camcorder for filming flying aircraft?

    Dear Photogenic Fliers,

    Ive been breaking my head over this for quite some time now,
    so I'm gonna take my chances and just ask it here.

    I have 300 dollars to blow and I was hoping to get at least a fairly decent HD camcorder.

    Personally I am leaning towards the Toshiba Camileo X100,
    a camcorder capable of filming full 1080p on 30FPS, and even 1080i on 60fps.
    It also sports 10x optical zoom and built in 4gb of memory for at least an hour of recording (plus SDHC expansion slot).

    To give a taste of its quality: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IacHamI7c1M

    The only problem is, its hard to find examples that resemble situations in our hobby.
    In other words how will it do trying to follow small things going fast and high in the sky.
    Mainly im worried about wobble when panning fast in zoomed mode,
    and trouble focusing since most of these only have auto focus.

    Can anyone recommend a camera?
    Any advice and/or tips would be more then welcome!


    Have a good one,
    - Sven
    http://rc.kicks-ass.net <- Videos, Pictures, Reviews!

  2. #2
    MinnFlyer's Avatar
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    RE: Good 300 dollar HD camcorder for filming flying aircraft?

    A few things I have observed are:

    I try to avoid tiny cameras. I don't have BIG hands, but even my hands have trouble working all of the tiny buttons on those little cameras (Like the zoom switch).

    Also, little cameras are more subject to wobble. You can help this by buying or making a shoulder rest that can screw on to the bottom of the camera. I have even seen guys tape a piece of broomstick to the camera to help stabilize and it works well.

    But one thing I DO NOT like about the Toshiba Camileo X100 is that it has no viewfinder. This is a MUST-HAVE item (to me anyway). You can not see those LCD screens on a sunny day!
    Mike B. AMA# 42400 www.gettingairborne.com
    Ultra Sport Brotherhood #2 - Waco Brother #188 - Cub Brother #2

    \"Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.\" - Groucho Marx

  3. #3
    Freakazoid's Avatar
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    RE: Good 300 dollar HD camcorder for filming flying aircraft?

    Im ok with small buttons, ive been using tiny gadgets for all my life. But I can see your point.
    The X100 has a zoom button thats a bit more comfortable but the viewfinder is a good observation.
    Although I caught myself using the screen rather then the viewfinder while filming with my friends DV cam a couple times.
    Maybe its because I wear glasses or because the viewfinder is black and white, but using the screen isnt a huge issue for me.
    I just make an L-shape with my hand and wedge the screen in there for a makeshift sun hood.

    Also I think you'll find yourself hard pressed to find a cheap camcorder with a useful viewfinder for some reason.
    Some have a simple look-through hole but more often then not using that will offset the actual recording frame a bit.
    The ones with actual mini LCD viewfinders are usually well up in the 500 dollar range.
    Id love to have this feature, but if I have to make it a must, pickings will be extremely slim.

    Ive heard of a trick to stabilize the cam without bogging it down to much.
    The recipe is simple, 3ft of string, a little stick and a bolt.
    Tie the stick and bolt to each end, screw it in your cams tripod hole and step on the stick.
    Pull tight and there ya go, huge shake reduction. A tripod that fits in your camera bag.
    Ive used this only for pictures so far but I imagine it would help for filming too?
    http://rc.kicks-ass.net <- Videos, Pictures, Reviews!

  4. #4
    MinnFlyer's Avatar
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    RE: Good 300 dollar HD camcorder for filming flying aircraft?

    Having a tripod alone will eliminate shake, but when shooting airplanes, you can't use a tripod.

    I shoot video for all of my reviews plus I cover flying events for RCU Magazine, so... I've done it a few times

    A tripod will not allow you the freedom you need to follow a plane around.

    So if that's your price range and you can deal with the LCD, it looks like a good deal.
    Mike B. AMA# 42400 www.gettingairborne.com
    Ultra Sport Brotherhood #2 - Waco Brother #188 - Cub Brother #2

    \"Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.\" - Groucho Marx

  5. #5
    Freakazoid's Avatar
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    RE: Good 300 dollar HD camcorder for filming flying aircraft?

    Yeah I figured the tripod would falter when having to shoot at +45' angles.
    Still might be usefull for take off and landing shots though.
    Perhaps the string method gives you slightly more freedom?
    An actual shoulder strap for such a halfpint camera, id never hear the end of it at my clubfield. [&:]
    I do have plans to mess with one of those gorilla tripods for a mount on my TX pult for solo flying/filming though.

    One thing that might be a complete deal breaker though,
    its got autofocus and thats it. No manual focus at all.
    You think that camera can cope with an airplane on its own?
    Not sure if manually focusing would do a better job even if I could though.

    I found a sample shot from this camera in more or less our usual situation:

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ol8zqXoSsp8[/youtube]

    It seems a little wonky, it skips a little in the middle and goes out of focus after leaving the ground,
    but the person who made the video admitted he messed up the shot a little in the video comments.

    Hows your opinion on the camera after seeing that shot?

    Theres also this video showing how it handles normal shots:

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yF__RvqGhcg[/youtube]

    This one is making it hard to say no to the camera, the pigeons look so sharp.
    http://rc.kicks-ass.net <- Videos, Pictures, Reviews!

  6. #6
    MinnFlyer's Avatar
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    RE: Good 300 dollar HD camcorder for filming flying aircraft?

    The picture quality seems to be very good.

    As for autofocus, you'd be hard-pressed to find a camera that doesn't use it.

    My camera has auto and manual, but while the auto will go out occasionally, it does a much better job than I can do manually - And I have always been a manual user - but it's just damn-near impossible to do with these newer cameras
    Mike B. AMA# 42400 www.gettingairborne.com
    Ultra Sport Brotherhood #2 - Waco Brother #188 - Cub Brother #2

    \"Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.\" - Groucho Marx

  7. #7
    Freakazoid's Avatar
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    RE: Good 300 dollar HD camcorder for filming flying aircraft?

    The fact that it can do 60 frames in interpolated 1080 resolution makes this cam pretty much my best shot I think (pun intended).
    And the fact that someone who is doing this on a professional scale is approving of this cam is worth a lot to me aswell.

    And what you said about manual focus is what I suspected.
    Theres probably a reason manual focus has been phased out,
    the processors are now simply doing a better job of it in any circumstance.

    That tears it, im ordering.
    http://rc.kicks-ass.net <- Videos, Pictures, Reviews!

  8. #8
    MinnFlyer's Avatar
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    RE: Good 300 dollar HD camcorder for filming flying aircraft?

    Manual focus used to be pretty easy to use. If you set a tight aperture, you could focus to infinity and always stay focused on a distant object like an airplane. But today's technology is somehow different. Anytime you touch the zoom, you need to re-focus which makes using manual damn near impossible.

    And as for the shoulder mount, this is what my partner Ken and I use. He made one of these for each of us for about $8, and for this kind of shooting, they come in very handy!

    If anyone gives you any crap about it looking silly, just say, "I don't care how it looks, it gives me good results!"
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    Mike B. AMA# 42400 www.gettingairborne.com
    Ultra Sport Brotherhood #2 - Waco Brother #188 - Cub Brother #2

    \"Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.\" - Groucho Marx

  9. #9
    Freakazoid's Avatar
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    RE: Good 300 dollar HD camcorder for filming flying aircraft?

    Oh.. oh! A bazookastyle mount! Thats actually pretty damn good! Don't mind if I steal that idea.
    I thought you meant some silly kind of gun holster mount, strapping a camera to your chest like a testdummy.
    Thats just a simple pivot brace that looks like its very effective at dampening the shakes.
    I can probably butcher some umbrella boom to make myself a pretty nice gungrip frame.

    Fortunately this camera produces avi files (macs be damned),
    which means it allows me to use virtualdub plus deshaker plugin made by Gunnar Thalin.

    Heres an extreme sample of how fantastically effective it is:

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaPNf2Rk4qQ[/youtube]

    I think I might be needing this ability alot, since the camera disables its internal "steadyshot" in 1080p mode.
    It probably sacrifices the bleed edges it uses to stabilize in 720p to go fullblown 1080p.
    Thanks to that plugin it probably wont be a biggy, post processing cleans it up nicely.
    The plugin can even deal with screen wobble you get from most rolling shutter CMOS apertures,
    but I havent been able to test that yet since my canon camera has a global shutter.

    I just ordered it, ill see how it goes and post results here.
    Others might be lurking at this newfangled HD era too.

    Thanks Mike!
    http://rc.kicks-ass.net <- Videos, Pictures, Reviews!

  10. #10

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    RE: Good 300 dollar HD camcorder for filming flying aircraft?

    I have the same problem my old DV analogue cam packed in so I bought a full hd slimline vid camera from Maplins UK fantastic picture quaulity very small and easy to use but it just can't handle following a little rc plane about its forever going in and out of focus trying to pick up the plane even when its close up and if you use the zoom it goes in and out of focus also I find the 3" LCD almost impossible to see through on even a moderatly sunny day.

    To cut a long story short I think I've made a mistake with this camera.

    Dave.

  11. #11

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    RE: Good 300 dollar HD camcorder for filming flying aircraft?

    Freakazoid,

    The ability to turn off steadyshot and manually set focus at infinity is critical to shooting good video of things that fly. It was true when I shot stills and movies at air shows and remains true with video. Relying on autofocus while trying to track a hummingbird or a helicopter will only lead to disappointment because the scene that you want is always the one that goes out of focus.

    A viewfinder is very necessary. When things are moving fast, I shoot with both eyes open - one looks thru the viewfinder, while the other looks past the camera to anticipate changes in what will appear in the viewfinder.

    A gunstock mount is useful if everything you plan to shoot is moving fast, but it gets to be a pain in proportion to its size and weight if you have to carry it all day. Keep it simple - When the action is overhead, lie down - If it is in front of you, lean on something to stabilize your torso - Make a tripod out of your elbows and face to support your camera.

    AH-64 D

    5/24/10 addendum - Actually took a look at the cameras they sell these days - viewfinders and manual focus are hard to find on anything that costs less than 4 times the price of the camera you are considering. If you want that camera, go for it, and figure out how to deal with its shortcomings. You can put up with a lot of irritation for $900.

  12. #12

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    RE: Good 300 dollar HD camcorder for filming flying aircraft?

    I met a guy in Florida at a Full scale airshow that had it all figured out & it worked great. He had a aluminum frame that had a place to attach any camera with the standard 1/4 x20 internal threads on the botton of most cameras. It had a good pistal grip and above camera was a rectangle with cross hairs in it. You did not look through or at camera screen much at all...but through the cross hairs. He let me try it on a fast moving airplane...then he played it back....perfect video.
    I am going to make such a item...but add a large battery pack to power camera on it also. Too, I will make it long enough to have a sholder pad. A person could even have a "shade box" made and use that soyou could see the lcd screen to tell how much zoom you was at. Time to make it. Best Regards Capt,n P.S My Grandson bought a Cannon camera for about $ 110. & it takes very good video Model 1300 I think!
    I never met a engine I did not like !

  13. #13
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    RE: Good 300 dollar HD camcorder for filming flying aircraft?


    ORIGINAL: Freakazoid

    Ive heard of a trick to stabilize the cam without bogging it down to much.
    The recipe is simple, 3ft of string, a little stick and a bolt.
    Tie the stick and bolt to each end, screw it in your cams tripod hole and step on the stick.
    Pull tight and there ya go, huge shake reduction.
    That works very well. I've done it to record video, with great of success. Instead of a stick, you can also simply hook the other end of the string to your belt/belt loop.
    I've used this method a couple of times to record rc car races... mostly side-to-side movement. I'm not sure if this would make up and down movement difficult or not.
    Tim Sanderson
    http://tsanrc.com/


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