Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Equipment Failure

Train between Beijing and Xi'an

This is a bit of a nerdy rant about our troubles with cameras. You may want to skip it if you are not into nerds, rants, or cameras. Some of this has also been covered in other articles.

All our troubles started about the time we went to see Julie and Patrick. The still camera started starting putting large spots on images. This was worse in some lighting conditions and when using the zoom. By the time we reached Japan, the effect on our pictures was very pronounced. Unable to get it repaired, we bought a new one in Tokyo and put the old aside as backup.

The climb up Fuji was very hard on our toys. The video camera was rendered nearly useless when the ejection mechanism stopped working. The new still camera started having the same spotting issue and also displayed a few new eccentricities. Volcanic dust reduced us to one semi-functioning still camera.

Our first task in Beijing was to attempt repair. There is a block of camera stores near Xidan, and we now know it very well. I found a video shop that claimed they could fix our little Panasonic. Jason found a camera shop that would clean the Sony. We walked out with promises that repair would be complete the next day. I was very uneasy about leaving the cameras with potentially dodgy technicians in a foreign land, but we had little option.

Back the next day, there was some good news and some bad news. The Sony still camera was back in tip-top shape. The video shop managed to eject the stuck tape from the video, but could not repair the mechanism. The man was genuinely embarrassed and apologetic about not being able to finish the job and charged nothing for his effort. I felt bad about doubting his honesty.

Later that night, we lost the new still camera in a club. It was either stolen or fell out of Jason's pocket into some dark corner. Ugh. Back to where we started from.

Rather than repair the (spotty) backup Sony still camera, we opted to buy yet another (our third in so many months) and hope that it would be stronger than its brothers. As for the video camera, our options were: 1) wait at least 6 weeks for Panasonic to maybe repair it; or 2) buy a replacement. Six weeks is a lot of video to miss. Time to go shopping.

But first, research! We checked the internet to see if there were newer video models available that might be better suited to the rigors of world travel. Specifically, we looked into cameras that use hard disks or solid state memory rather than mini DV tapes. JVC has a line of high-ish capacity (30 GB - 7 hours) hard disk cameras coming out. We >might< have been able to get one from Japan. They also have an older line of low-ish capacity (4 GB - 1 hour) units that use removable minidisk or compact flash. While it would be nice to have a camera with less moving parts and not have to worry about media, moving away from mini DV would leave us with about 10 hours of footage and no way to import it. We decided to just replace the broken camera with a new one of the same model.

Back in Xidan for the 3rd day in a row, we found a twin brother for our little Panasonic. One problem, though, it is PAL and all our recordings to date are NTSC. Blast. At best, we may be able to capture the NTSC tapes using the PAL camera. This may require some whack-ass hackery. At worst, we will have to transmit the tapes to someone, have them do the capture, and send us back the data on DVD or similar media. Yuck. We bought the PAL camera and crossed our fingers.

Preliminary tests are inconclusive. I can view and capture the NTSC tapes, but the video is very "blocky". It is not yet clear if the problem is getting the bits from the camera or the video file that gets produced. When we are hooked into the matrix again, I will see if anyone else has tried this before. Fingers crossed that there is some utility available that will magically fix everything.


Blogger jason said...

If this third Cybershot dies, I will cry.

Then I will smash.

8/06/2005 12:03 PM gmt


Post a Comment

<< Home