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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I need your help to find the perfect video solution for anthropological fieldworkers. At our company, Antropologerne, we create insights and change for a broad range of private and public costumers through design-anthropological methods. As an integral part of this endeavour we use video – both as a research method, as a component of analysis and as a medium for conveying realities and insights to our customers. The combination of moving images and sound is an intriguing medium to use for business anthropologist because of its inherent complexity and openness to interpretation. For the very same reasons, when applied consciously, it can be an incredibly powerful tool for communicating complex insights and giving customers that valuable sense of the reality “out there”. How often haven’t we felt - when presenting the results of our research and projects - that it was that short well-timed video clip that really changed the mind-set of a customer more than all the clever words and concepts we brought along with it.

Our technical enquiry: At Antropologerne we still use our beloved old Flip Cams from Cisco (Mino HD 3rd gen.) for practically all our in-house video production (for technically more demanding products we use hired guns). Besides sturdiness and decent video and audio quality they have one outstanding quality: they are dead easy to use. They fit discretely in one palm and have a big red physical record button you can’t miss – and practically nothing else. And this ease of handling is paramount when the ethnographer is at the thick of things – conducting an interview while moving around, meeting and interacting with people, keeping track of the research design, making mental notes, taking pictures – and simultaneously have to capture that revealing moment on video. In this situation, you need your video recording device to become an extension of your body – and the Flip Cam becomes just that. Furthermore, in our company we have a steady flow of people coming in and out, student workers and interns, and it is often these less experienced people who get the video recording job, sometimes with room for minimal prior training. So for this reason alone, the device have to be intuitive like nothing else - like the Flip Cam.

The problem: Cisco’s Flip Cam was discontinued in early 2011, coinciding roughly with the rising popularity of the iPhone 4. In the age of the smartphone everyone have a decent pocket camera in their pocket, and few or no companies want to sustain and develop a dedicated device that can only record video. But we need just that. And even though we hate to admit it - in mid 2014 the Flip Cam no longer have up-to-standard video and audio quality. So we have seen ourselves starting to use our smartphones in stead because of their superior video quality. But this is not a viable solution for us. We are about to replace a whole park of Flip Cams and smartphones are still too expensive to just buy a bunch and put them through the harsh handling of business ethnography. Secondly, the touch screen with the amount of possible errors it allows for, is simply not user-friendly enough. We really need that red physical rec button you can’t miss. Thirdly, the form-factor of smartphones makes an awkward fit in the palm, especially when used in the obligatory landscape-mode, and we need it to become that discrete extension of our body. And finally, the video and audio quality of smartphones is still not sufficient for the standard we seek.

So, what are the present viable alternatives? The desired features are: Easy as the Flip Cam – including flip-out usb connection for direct transfer to computer, automatic everything from focus to whitebalance, good image stabilization, recording in standard file-format suitable for editing in iMovie and mini jack input for external microphone plus preferably support for microports.

The best compromises we have come up with so far are:

iPod Touch 5th gen.: Have all the same drawbacks as the smartphone except the price. Released in 2012 and maybe a new version is coming in the fall?

Samsung HMX-W300: Drawbacks include poor video and audio quality, no input for external mic.

Kodak PlayFull Dual (Zi12): Drawbacks – already discontinued?

Zoom Q2HD: Drawbacks are poor video quality, omnidirectional microphone

Panasonic HX-DC3: Drawbacks - the flip out screen is too obtrusive

We're also considering the vast range of regular camcorders and point and shoot cameras, but they all seem either too obtrusive or not easy enough to handle.

So we call out to you: Let’s co-create the perfect video solution for business anthropologists and ethnographers! What are your experiences? What are the best compromises you have come up with? Tell us about that new invention that is cheap and solves all our problems. Google Glass…? No!

Yours sincerely
 

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Welcome to the forum.

I took a look at your website. You do interesting work!

With all due respect, you are over working this and looking at tools with too much cleverness. Each looks cute or clever, but they are not particularly good at taking quality video.

All current and ordinary looking cameras and camcorders have an obvious record button. Usually it is red! All of them have an automatic mode, or dial setting, that makes them simple to use. It can be called things like "Intellegent Auto" or "iA".

With any of them, the only "training" would be to show the staff how to select the automatic mode.

By way of example, I'll explain how I solved the same problem.

My 43 year old son, a technical engineer in his work, was trying to take videos of his school age children. He was using his smartphone. In some circumstances, it worked well enough. He wanted better. His requirements were small, easy to use, some telephoto zoom range and better image quality. I gave him a popular "point and shoot" camera that that I knew to have exceptional video performance. When I gave it to him, I insisted he never take it off the automatic setting, to hold still and press the red button. His results have been very good.

The camera has a good lens, records in the best of the current standards, has a good internal "processing engine" and uses exceptional image stabilization. It uses standard cheap media for easy transfer to computers. Compared to the cameras on your list, his looks like a boring tourist camera.

I would be happy to give you the make and model if you are serious about a simple camera that is simple to operate.

Good luck. Buying tools for others to use is always a challenge.

Bill
 

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I agree with bsprague. You seem to be overhyping a simple tool, the result is the important part not the means.
Looking at the choices you have listed, you seem to be considering "specialist" units instead of a conventional camera. Smartphones are fun but I suspect you want to present a professional front.

I would suggest one of the higher end consumer camcorders. I will use my own as an example:-
The Panasonic HC-V750 works in lowish light conditions so is suitable for inside shots. It has an external microphone socket and would allow you to connect a conference mic or shotgun (depending on location) The normal microphones are excellent for indoor work and have a "zoom" facility to match the video zoom. The wide angle of the lens would encompass most groups in one shot. You may not be aware that flip-out screens can be rotated and hinged back into the camera body so giving a smooth outline along with the video being visible to the operator. PLUS most modern camcorders can be controlled via Wi-Fi with the video and simple controls being shown on the "smartphone" screen. (therefore remote viewing and control is possible)
 

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The OP has not returned!

I agree with the HC-V750 reccomemdation except that the OP seemed to prefer a more pocket sized form factor.

Had the OP come back and asked, my suggestion would have been the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60. In the USA it is called the DMC Lumix-ZS40. Except for the mic port, it seemed to match "The desired features are: Easy as the Flip Cam – including flip-out usb connection for direct transfer to computer, automatic everything from focus to whitebalance, good image stabilization, recording in standard file-format suitable for editing in iMovie and mini jack input for external microphone plus preferably support for microports. "

Bill
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hi Guys, Thanks for you great input:)

I agree with you that something along either HC-V750 or Lumix DMC-TZ60 might be the best alternatives to the Flip cam for us. But it's still not the ideal solution. My challenge is that I have to record good video, in a situation where the primary task is doing a good interview and being focused on the interaction with a person I have never met before. I would like the video device to fit in my back pocket, so I easily can snap it up and record a part of the conversation when needed, and without disturbing the conversation or making the person I talk with feel intimidated. While offering great quality and features, the HC-V750 would be too obtrusive - and bulky in my back pocket. The Lumix DMC-TZ60 comes closer, but its still not as user-friendly and discrete as the flip cam. Another good thing about the flip cam was the price. It was focused on just doing decent video recording and nothing else, and could therefore maintain a really low price per unit. And we need to buy a bunch, so this is quite important too. That being said, quality and ease of use is our main criteria, price is less important. Ill attach a picture of a typical situation in which we use the flip cam.

Do you have any other good ideas for the best compromise?
 

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