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Old Jun 22, 2011, 12:15 AM   #1
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Default pocket video cams and fixed focus...n00b question

Hi all,

I've read through a bunch of the more recent posts in this forum, particularly concerning the autofocus cams (Kodak zx5, etc). I've never owned a pocket cam and I'm wondering what to expect from a fixed focus cam. I understand most of these cams state their focal range is ~3 feet to infinity, but what does that really mean in terms of video clarity say about 1 foot away from the cam? I tried an older flip model and an older sony bloggie in a tech store and holding my hand 1 foot away the focus looked fine on the small LCD. Am I missing something? Would the actual recorded video look really poor compared to what I was seeing on the camera LCD? I want a pocket cam that can capture peoples faces somewhat nicely. Does this restrict me to autofocus cams?

Thanks in advance
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Old Jun 22, 2011, 9:25 AM   #2
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i honestly dont get the purpose of autofocus cams. some cams have a macro function where u flip a switch that lets you shoot under 3' away. dont know why youd want anything else
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Old Jun 22, 2011, 1:10 PM   #3
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hmmm...maybe just marketing then? It seems like many new video pocket cams are autofocus and none will have user replaceable batteries.

Probably trying to secure a nich given the ability of regular digicams/cellphones/other to record HD now.
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Old Jun 23, 2011, 4:14 PM   #4
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Ok this is just regular photographic physics.

Most of these pocket HD camcorders are focused at the hyperfocal distance for their lens (focal length and max/widest aperture - so that everything from 1/2 the hyperfocal distance to infinity will be acceptably sharp.

As for distances closer than the 40" or so - it really depends on one's tolerance. For example I see plenty of videos on YouTube that plainly show footage that's significantly closer than 40" with fixed focal camcorders - but I can tell they are not in focus - especially since it was on my larger PC screen - this probably would annoy me and I would have simply shot the footage again - but hey those people were probably reasonably satisfied with their results to show it in public (I wouldn't).

The best way to determine your own tolerance is to use your own SD/HC card and take it to the shop with the prospective camcorder that do take SD cards like the Kodaks, and shoot a short section with parts that are within the focus range and others where it is obviously closer - use a tape measure if necessary. Go home and view it on your computer screen and see what is acceptable and what is not to you.

Fixed focus lens on pocket camcorders absolutely make sense - as AF (auto focus) unless very good will tend to hunt - which makes things go in and out of focus - whereas with fixed focus everything from about 40" to infinity is in focus - not focus hunting.

See this thread: Sticky: Kodak ZX5 auto focus and draw your own conclusions.
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Old Jun 23, 2011, 4:47 PM   #5
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Ok this is just regular photographic physics.



The best way to determine your own tolerance is to use your own SD/HC card and take it to the shop with the prospective camcorder that do take SD cards like the Kodaks, and shoot a short section with parts that are within the focus range and others where it is obviously closer - use a tape measure if necessary. Go home and view it on your computer screen and see what is acceptable and what is not to you.
Thanks for the reply. Admittedly, I'm trying to decide between getting a zx3 and zx5 so I read through all the threads here and some user reviews at amazon. Thanks for your comment concerning how things might appear when shown on a monitor/LCD. I kind of suspected that. Guessing your zx3 then is a bit blurry at 20"?

Your above suggestion is in fact a great idea. Lol! I should have thought of that, though zx3 isn't really on display anywhere these days.................................still a great idea for picking out future cams!
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Old Jun 23, 2011, 5:09 PM   #6
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I'm trying to decide between getting a zx3 and zx5
.... Guessing your zx3 then is a bit blurry at 20"?
As I said it depends on one's tolerance - I do still photography and out of focus is out of focus and it's obvious to me - it probably is not completely blurry - but it is definitely not as sharp as things that are in focus range.

There are some ways to get closer focus - but using supplementary lenses - either a standard close up lens, or a wide angle converter lens.

see the starting post #1380 in Sticky: Kodak Zi8 Full review: series

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Your above suggestion is in fact a great idea. Lol! I should have thought of that, though zx3 isn't really on display anywhere these days...
Not being able to try out the Zx3 is a shame - although one can simply look for videos on YouTube shot with Zx3 and some of them are closer than 40" and judge for yourself.

The question comes down to whether you are shooting with the majority closer than 40" or only occasionally and are now fixated on this "shortcoming" - that may not be a big deal in real usage. For example I have Zi8 and it has macro mode and stereo mic input which are definite feature advantages over the Zx3 -
so how many videos have I shot with macro other than initial tests? 0
how many times have I used the stereo mic input other than testing? 0

Check out the videos on YouTube for the Zi8 - there are some - but very few use stereo mic inputs - however it's a big deal when it comes to comparisons and purchase decisions - same with macro.
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Old Jun 23, 2011, 7:35 PM   #7
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Well, in addition to shooting "family adventure" type movies, I'd like to be able to get footage of my kids close up talking into the camera. Since I've no experience with these cams, I don't exactly know what that entails. For instance, if it means putting the cam within a foot of their face with a macro mode to get a sharp image so that most of the screen is face, then that's not exactly an attractive feature, right? I'll have to try and see.

This may be a loaded statement, but, I also ponder the utility of a macro lens in general on a camera without optical zoom. I could be wrong, but if you want to image something like butterflies or whatever, something small and moving, you have to be right on top of it to get a nice movie since you can not zoom and maintain pixel count/resolution.
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Old Jun 23, 2011, 7:50 PM   #8
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so that most of the screen is face, then that's not exactly an attractive feature, right?
Did you just answer your own question?

Take your kid(s) to a shop and try that out with almost any pocket camcorder - preferably with the Zx5 and see for yourself if framing that close makes any sense.

Failing that, buy whatever model from somewhere with a no fuss return policy and try it out at home.

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Originally Posted by echonerd View Post
This may be a loaded statement, but, I also ponder the utility of a macro lens in general on a camera without optical zoom. I could be wrong, but if you want to image something like butterflies or whatever, something small and moving, you have to be right on top of it to get a nice movie since you can not zoom and maintain pixel count/resolution.
If you really intend to do insect shooting - then a pocket camcorder probably is not the way to go -
or if this is just being posed so that Zx5 is favored....
in which case buy the Zx5 and be happy.
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Old Jun 23, 2011, 9:23 PM   #9
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no, no......no insect shooting for me. I was just wondering what medium it would make sense to film with a macro pocket cam w/o optical zoom.
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Old Jun 24, 2011, 3:37 AM   #10
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no, no......no insect shooting for me. I was just wondering what medium it would make sense to film with a macro pocket cam w/o optical zoom.
6 to 8 inchs there is no medium, anything between 38.4-8 inchs will become out of correct focus.

when given time I shall demo, but thought others could join in on it lol
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