Which Camera Is Best For Shooting Juggling Videos?

After Juggling Club on Monday Caspar and I chatted for quite a while about which type of camcorder would be best for juggling videos, mainly cos he wants to buy one.  It got a bit technical and geeky but after a while we settled on some good ideas.  Basically there are a few aspects or features that are specifically important for good juggling videos.  I’ll out line them below, then look at a camera from all the major players in the market and come up with my top recommendations.

These recommendations would be suitable for yoyo videos, diabablo videos, cup stacking videos and kendema videos, etc.  Anything with smaller fast moving objects I suppose.

Must Have Features:

Proper Frame Capture

The tiny Flip HD, iPhone, camera phones and most compact cameras shoot video in a weird way.  They don’t capture a full frame of video all at once but take the top line, then the next and so on until the bottom.  They then start again at the top for the next frame.  Although the resolution may be quite high the fact that the top and bottom of each frame is captured a different times causes distortion effects when objects move across the screen.  There’s a good blog post and example video here.

For this reason (and the fact the don’t have optical zooms, etc.) we’re only looking at “proper” camcorders. 

Progressive not Interlaced

If you’re not sure what this means here is a really good description video with examples.

Because of the high-speed movement within the frame which juggling produces, shooting interlaced video causes so many problems that I think it would be better to shoot in 720p than 1080i.  Any increase of resolution of 1080i would be lost when correcting the interlacing artifacts, even if your editing program can sort it out, which most can’t!

Wide Angle Lens

Because juggling is often very high (or very wide when passing) after market wide angle lenses are ideal.  They give you much more scope to shoot in smaller spaces and get those interesting angles.

Can I Juggle The Camera?  (Or juggle with it in my pocket?)

My professional camera is great and has all the quality and features you will ever need.  Unfortunately I need a large bag to carry it around and often have to decide between my camera or clubs.  We are looking for a pocket-sized camera which can be chucked (gently) into your props bag and wont weigh us down.

Large Lens and Sensor Chip

The reason my professional camera is so big is that it has a massive lens and three 1/3 inch sensors, one each for blue, red and green.  Small cameras only ever have one chip and (simplistically) the larger the better.  A 1/6” sensor is only 107mm2 whereas a 1/3” is 215mm2 so can potentially capture twice as much light.  Same with the lens but as it is a circle, twice the radius is much more than twice area.

4 More Features (nice but not essential):

  • Large extra batteries – handy at a camping convention or anywhere where charging every hour is a problem.
  • Slow Motion – capture those fast tricks so non-jugglers can actually see what’s happening.
  • High Resolution Still Images – it would be nice to only have one camera for video and stills, not two.
  • Optical (not digital) Image Stabilisation – smother shots without loosing resolution.

 Features we don’t want:

  • 200x zoom.
  • 5.1 Surround Sound.
  • Internal Spinning Hard Drive.

 

Caspar and I found the following five cameras.  Click on the make to see the product website for full specs and photos, etc.

Sony HDR-CX105E

Good: Quality camera. Well built with good lens. Can buy larger batteries. Can fit wide-angle lens.

Bad: Does not shoot in 1080p or even 720p!  Not good stills photos.  Very small sensor chip - only 1/5” sensor.  Beware the Sony Memory Stick! They are very expensive compared to SD cards.

JVC GZ-HM200R

Good: Another good camera.  Shoots in 1080p.  2 SD memory card slots.  Can buy larger batteries and wide angle lens. 1/4 inch sensor.

Bad: Not much really.

Panasonic HDC-SD20K

Good: Very good optical image stabilisation! Good lens. Good zoom. Wide angle recording. bigger battery available.

Bad: Tiny 1/6 inch sensor, image stabilisation will help but probably not enough. Can't see if it records in progressive or interlaced. No wide-angle lens or filters.

Samsung HMX-H104

Good: High resolution stills. Large 1/4 inch sensor. Shoots in 720p and 1080i. Slow motion. Headphone jack (good for interviews). Wide angle lens available. 

Bad: battery held internally so you can buy spares but not larger ones.

Sanyo Xacti HD700

Good: Shoots at 720p. Huge 1/2 inch sensor. Excellent 7mp stills. Water resistant version available. Wide angle lens available.

Bad: Harder to hold steady than the standard camcorder form factor.  No larger battery.

Using the criteria set out above I would probably order them something like this:

1. JVC GZ-HM200R

2. Sanyo Xacti HD700

3. Samsung HMX-H104

4. Sony HDR-CX105E 

5. Panasonic HDC-SD20K

I have personally shop tested the Sanyo and the Sony but not the other three so I’m just going on the listed features on the manufacturers websites. Before getting out you credit card you shold read other reviews, took at test footage on the interwebs and always try before you buy!  Go to Curry’s or Jessup’s and if you don’t like the feel of a camera, don’t buy it, get something else.  There are many, many other good cameras out there with similar features in the same price range but I can’t look at them all.  This good website has most of them though.

Oh, by the way, I’ve not looked for the best price so that's up to you!

Hope that helps!

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Have I missed anything?  Do you have any killer features on your camera you couldn’t live without?  Do you have a specific camera you would recommend?  Please leave your comments below!


Advice, Disclaimers and Warnings!

All these cameras have solid-state memory not tapes.  Once the data is on your computer and you reuse the SD card YOU HAVE NO BACK UP!  Remember: To be backed up you need at least two copies of any data, if not three.
You’ll need to buy a PAL version for Europe.
Check that your computer editing program can handle the codec that the camera records in.  If you don’t know what this means, google it.

Good juggling videos can be made with crap equipment as long as you use it well and are creative with how you shoot.  I'll be posting more about this in the future.