I may buy one from Semsons & Co. Inc. for $680.98, which includes the Xacti for $549.99 plus a 1GB SD memory card for $90, extra battery for $15.99, and $25 for shipping. I hope this company is reputable. I'll report more when I get it.
UPDATE: I went with a Hong Kong dealer on eBay for $515 including shipping. Highly recommended. Ordered on a Sunday, arrived Tuesday morning.
It looks like camcorders of the future will take advantage of video blogging by appealing to people who want to record videos directly onto a hard drive or memory card. Video tape will go away much like audio tape has, as it is simply easier to record directly to digital to edit. Pretty soon, in camera editing will become much easier to do, with software like iMovie installed right on the camera so you can edit on the LCD, or when you plug in to a TV. The pros are already using cameras that record to directly to hard drive. By this time next year, hardware manufacturers will be selling a lot more of these. But I can't wait... I need one now. If you are interested in my research, here's what I found out about some other cameras that record directly onto memory card or mini-hard drive.
The Xacti was released on Aug 23, 2004. Here's a google translation of the Japanese press release. (Be patient, it took about 5 minutes for it to work for me) If you can read Japanese, here's the original press release.
This seems like the perfect videoblogging device. It is small, it can record Mpeg4 video, which is standard for most vlogs these days. It can record an hour's worth of video on a 1 GB card. It has image stabalizer technology, which was one criticism of the Fisher camcorder (it didn't). It records up to 30fps in a 640 by 480 pixel resolution.
Please understand, this is all in my opinion and not a professional review of any of these cameras. I'm simply writing up my notes for geeks like me who like research. I'd like to update this page, so watch for updates if I have time.
- Panasonic SVAV50 MPEG-4 SD Video Camera. $300-400. Reviewers say this is not good in low light. The camera also does not look very ergonomic.
- Panasonic SVAV50S MPEG-4 SD Video Camera.
- Panasonic SVAV100 D-Snap MPEG4 Digital Video Recorder w/10x Optical Zoom.
- Panasonic PVDC252 MiniDV. This got good reviews, but it is minidv.
- Canon Powershot S400. Steve Garfield uses this. Reviews said the camera has some noise issues.
- Fisher FVDC1. Jakob from Vimeo uses this. Check out his videos to see the quality. It records to mp4, which is great for posting to the web. Released Nov. 13, 2003 for around $800. This past November Sanyo dropped the price a couple hundred dollars for the holidays. I am sure they are ready to release another version, but I haven't seen any news about it. However, I looked around some more and found the Xacti. You can get the Fisher on Amazon for 569.99.
- JVC Everio GZMC100 2MP Digital Media Camera with 4 GB Microdrive & 10x Optical Zoom. $1000 new. This is the camera with microdrive technology. However, the drives are expensive. One reviewer says it cost him $567.33 on the JVC site, so instead he "found the same Hitachi 4GB drive on Amazon for $219.88." JVC sells batteries for $73.12, but this same industrious reviewer found one on eBay for $22.80. Reviewers complain about the zoom noise, pale colors in weak light, how both units take 8 seconds to turn on, the microdrive can overheat, it was hard to handle, and there was weak image-stabilizing. However, this looks to be the direction the manufacturers are going. There's also a horizontal version but I don't see what that adds. They were announced in the New York Times on November 25, 2004, and released in December 2004. (FYI-- The Times requires that you register to view the article, I find it easier to use Bugmenot)
With a lot of these cameras, the software isn't very good, for instance with the Panasonic cameras, the output is a non-standard .MOD file that you have to manually change to .MPG if you want to edit it using most other editing software.