Gearing up

Forgive the lack of posting in the last 10 hours or so, but Detroit is only 2.5 months away and I’ve been checking out some options with regards to the gear I’m going to have to get.

On top of the usual mountains of text, I’m aiming to provide video, daily podcast style interviews as well as the obligatory photographs.

I made an investment earlier this year in a really good HD video camera, so that’s covered. The next items on the list are a decent DSLR camera and some sort of audio recording device.

On cameras, I’m yet to decide whether to go Nikon or Canon. I have, and love, a Nikon film SLR and I was going to with Nikon again simply to be able to use the lens off the film camera. The lens will work, but after speaking with some camera guys I found out that it’s not really optomised for digital, so I may as well open up the field and assess the Canon as well.

For audio, I’m thinking of picking up a cheap Minidisc recorder. I’m a little confused as to their capabilities though. One base-level Sony one that I’m looking at doesn’t have a microphone input, but does have a line-in input. Aren’t these the same things? Or when they say there’s no microphone input do they mean a dedicated multi-pin input?

If the line-in is a standard 1/8-inch stereo plug, then I’m sure I can find a suitable mic to use for it, such as this one.

Suggestions welcome. Back to Saab stuff in a moment.

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  1. Swade,
    With the microphone, if you own an Ipod, which I think you have said you do, their are numerous microphone adaptors for it, and some are suppost to be pretty good, for around the $100 mark. It is a cheaper alternative and one less item you need to carry. Also when you sync with Itunes the recording are stored there on your computer automatically. no messing around with other equipment.

  2. Canon 30D has been superseded by the 40D and so will be discounted BIG time.

    Beyond that though Swade, I’d be lining it up to purchase in the US as you’ll get a 5D for the price of a 30D here. Just find a shop, get them to hold it for you and away you go!

  3. Trent, I do have one and I didn’t know that. Another case of RDFM, Swade! I’m looking at one of those Belkin Tunetalk thingies now. I think it’ll do just what I need.

    Richo, does that mean I’d get a 30D there for the price of a 400 here? I don’t think I need the 5.

  4. Just bought one of the Belkin iPod recorder units. Assuming that I’d go with Minidisc, I also bought a Sony 2.5mm plugin mic (the one linked in the article above) but it’s all good, as the Belkin unit has a jack to take the mic, whoch should provide for better sound quality.

    I’m buying the Belkin from a shop in Arizona and it’ll be around $30 or so cheaper than walking down the street and buying it here. And that includes postage!

    I think I’ll most likely be limited to the 400D as far as cameras are concerned. Can’t justify the extra expense and the 400 is now 10.1MP anyway. I’ll miss a few features, but still, it’s better than the DSLR I’ve got now, which is none at all.

  5. Swade,

    I don’t know too much about camera/audio equipment; just make sure you pack some warm clothes for your trip to Michigan. January around this region can sometimes be a bit brutal when it comes to cold weather. I am dreading it already.

    Hopefully it is not too bad so you can enjoy yourself a bit as well as get some good information from the show.

    The GM tech center as well as the Detroit GMSTC training center is in the area – curious what else you will get to see as Saab is inviting you to the event. Saab training for dealer technicians is done up in the Chicago region, but maybe there will be some technical sessions for the media in the Detroit region that week. I am keeping my eye on the schedule should there be any opportunities for travel around that timeframe.

  6. I’m no expert, but this is what I know about audio recording inputs:
    Line in and mic in usually have different input levels. The line in requires a strong signal, while the mic in is amplified. Sometimes the mic in even has gain adjustment. So using the line in may result in a barely audible recording, and if you crank up the volume, it will only lead to lots of noise. So a mic in is recommended.

  7. Arild, that’s all in line with what I found out this afternoon. I’ve taken Trent’s suggestion about the iPod, but there’s also a mic-in Minidisc recorder on Ebay at the moment for $50. Looks tempting. Better battery life than the iPod, I think, and maybe better quality too.

  8. Swade,

    The problem with Minidisc is that Sony makes it very difficult to extract the sound files once you have recorded them.

    If I were you, I would simply record sound with the video camera (keeping the ipod as a backup). Make sure that you test this out before leaving.

    You don’t need much of a DSLR for web purposes. Any of the big brands should be fine (the two that you mention, plus Olympus, Pentax and Sony). 6MP is enough, so you may get a deal on a previous generation model. Make sure that the camera you get has an international charger (many cameras sold in the US do not).

  9. Swade –

    I shoot Canon … and you simply can’t beat their “L” series lenses (they arecostly, but you can really see the difference in the images.)

    That said, depending on how much glass you have, and how good it is, sticking with Nikon may keep your costs down if the lenses will work with the SLR body. “Optimized for digital” often just means that the lenses are stepped back in length to compensate for the “multiplier” built into most digital SLRs. If you aren’t worried about slotting your lenses into the traditional ranges then you’ll be fine with what you have … althougth you probably will want a wider lens at the bottom of your range if you don’t already have something in the teens. (I shoot a lot of sports & outdoors, so the multiplier actually helps me.)

    However, I have read that some of the Nikon bodies have dropped their on-board autofocus motor, which makes them incompatible with older AF lenses. If your lenses won’t work with the body you want … then Nikon loses their big advantage.

    If you are only shooting for the site, I have been very impressed with the performace of the Canon digital elph I bought for my wife. It does well in low(er) light and has a strong set of features and controls for a “point and shoot.” It’s not a versatile as an SLR and a bag full of lenses, but for the convenience and size, it can’t be beat … and did I mention it weighs less than most of my lenses?

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