Monday, November 19, 2007

Tape is dead

Reviews of the latest HD video cameras confirm te fact that tape is dead, the JVC GZ-HD7 takes the now typical route of using a hard drive. Meanwhile Sony and Panasonic have introduced the AVCHD standard which makes use of the more efficient H.264 codec which would allow recording of HD to tape but cameras like the SD1 actually use SD flash memory instead.

Its hard to see how tape can compete at this point. Flash memory is cheap and getting cheaper. The higher media cost is more than set off by the increased convenience. The tape is pretty much a transfer medium rather than a storage medium in any case. A DV tape stores 10Gb and costs about $3 in Costco. A 250 Gb portable hard drive costs $140. Thats 56 cents a gig versus 30 cents. And a 250 Gb portable drive is a whole heap easier to carry about.

As disk drive manufacturers continue to try to climb the value chain they will produce mass battery powered portable media stores for backing up memory chips in the field. At the moment these are a niche gadget for serious professionals. Within a short time they will be mainstream.

All of which means that keping track of which bits have been recorded and where they are stored is going to become more and more of a challenge. I think that we are going to see more manufacturers recognizing the value of recording GPS tracking data on cameras. But who wants to bulk up their camera with a GPS chip even if its useful?

Better solution by far would be to have a reliable and robust means for linking your cell phone / GPS unit to your camera. I know that phones have cameras too these days but there is no way that a phone format camera can compete for quality with a purpose designed DSLR. Whatever technology you put in the compact phone form factor can work better in a dedicated form factor, even if the laws of physics and diffraction did not limit what a phone camera can do in any case.

So it all comes down to integration as the key issue.

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