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From the author of Pocket Camcorders

Pocket Camcorders

If you're shooting solo, or you just need a quick-and-dirty way to get your ideas onscreen, a webcam or a fixed focal-length camcorder may be right for you. Because you're more likely to keep these small cameras with you, you'll be able to get shots on the fly. (When Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch was offered a first look at the TweetDeck iPhone app, he pulled out his Flip and captured it on the spot.) Also, with a consumer camera no one will stop you from shooting on the street—a big plus.

The Sanyo Xacti and the Flip (shown in Figures 5 and 6, respectively) are favorites among podcasters. The Kodak ZX1-Z16 is another popular model (see Figure 7). Pocket camcorders attach to your computer via a USB jack or cable, and claim drag-and-drop transfer without video capture.

Figure 5 Sanyo Xacti VPC HD1010.

Figure 6 Flip Video Mino.

Figure 7 Kodak ZX1-Z16.

If you see a podcaster shooting with one of these cameras, ask about it. You'll often find that these people own more than one camera. A better strategy is to look at the podcast's website, which often indicates what cameras they use for shooting. (If this information reads like a love song, though, ask whether they got the equipment for free.)

Webcams

Many laptops have built-in cameras, but their small wide-angle lenses can create notoriously unflattering images. Take some time to compose an attractive shot. The closer you get, the larger the subject's nose is likely to look, due to lens optics.

If you're using a webcam, consider investing in a lavalier microphone that you can clip onto your shirt and plug into your computer for better-quality sound.

Here's the downside. Small cameras have small lenses, they can be difficult to stabilize, and they have fewer manual controls. Recording sensors also tend to be smaller, compromising the quality of the images.

Capturing Video from Still Cameras

Many still cameras also shoot video. My Canon G9 still camera shoots really good video. The tiny pinhole microphone adds lots of noise along with the good stuff, though. You also can't zoom while you're shooting.

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