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March 25, 2007

What a gem

I've been waiting a couple of years for the prices of digital cameras to fall enough to make them really cheap. By that I mean cheap enough that I wouldn't mind very much if I lost one; almost disposable in other words. When I saw the first multi-megapixel cameras selling for around $50 last year, I figured the time was getting ripe. Then I ran across Billy Beck raving about the Sanyo C40 and how Radio Shack was letting them go for only $200. While that price moved it out of the "disposable" category, its video capability made it too attractive to pass up.

I was too busy that week to make it to Radio Shack so I missed out. They didn't stay in stock very long at that price. When I finally had a little time to do some searching, I found a used one ("like new, in the box") for sale by an Amazon reseller and bought it for $225. It may not be the best $200 I've ever spent, but it's certainly the best in the tech toys category. This camera is a very fine piece of work.

Here's what it looks like. After you get the view screen up, the lens cap off and you turn it on, you can operate this thing with your thumb.

C40_side.jpg

C40_side.jpg

With the view screen folded down, it's just a bit larger than a cigarette pack and weighs only 5.5 ounces. So it fits easily into most pockets.

It takes 4 megapixel still images. Here's a still image (pop-up) that I took at a friend's house last night.

Or it takes video at a variety of sizes and frame rates, up to 640 x 480 at 30 frames-per-second. Or it will do both at the same time. Or you can use it as webcam for your PC, if you're running Windows XP or later.

In the HQ recording mode, which is touted as "television quality", you can record up to 2 hours of video on a 2 GB card. If you use SHQ mode (the best), you can record about 85 minutes of video on the same card. The TV quality recordings are not high-def. But they look good - well, as good as TV looks - when played back on a television monitor.

This cam also featues video trimming on the camera and digital stabilization for recording. The stabilization works well: I took a few minutes of video while riding in a car (no, I wasn't driving) and I was amazed at how steady the playback looked.

Since I spent a couple of days on my agricultural project this week, here's 30 seconds of someone getting a lesson in how to drive a John Deere. I trimmed this clip on the camera and then used Sorenson's Squeeze to convert the MPEG4 into this Flash clip.

But wait... there's more. Sanyo ships this thing with a couple of utility programs: Ulead's DVD MovieFactory and a program of their own called MotionDirector. I haven't played with the Ulead software yet, but the MotionDirector program will make a panoramic JPEG or a QuickTime VR 'movie' out of a video clip.

For example, if you pan the camera over a landscape, MotionDirector can generate a panoramic image from a series of frames in the movie. Click in the QuickTime movie below to pan over the landscape.

Whether you're looking for an inexpensive tool so you can hang out your shingle as a Citizen Journalist - or you're just a hobbyist like me - you can do a lot worse than to pick up this cam. I've been very impressed with it.

Posted by joke du jour at March 25, 2007 10:58 AM

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