A Treatise On My Utter Hatred Of CMOS Cameras :-P

In my most recent RadioStyle segment on YouTube I mentioned my current camera predicament.  The only viable camera I have for recording any videos now is my Fuji F50fd digital camera from 2007 because my Samsung SMX that was not even 2 years old yet went into the drink.  =(  Yeah.  I was filming a video about cheap food from Ocean State Job Lot with the camera on a spider tripod in front of a Shin bowl of spicy Korean ramen noodles and bumped the tripod, sending the camera head first into the soup.  Oops.  =(  What I should have done was use a regular tripod with the legs near the floor and the giraffe-neck extended way up over the table so if I bumped the tripod the camera would’ve just moved forward a bit and stop as the tripod hit the table rather than tumbling forward tripod-and-all into the soup.  I’m really bummed out about that.  I liked that camera, and to lose it to something so stupid when I’m supposed to be a multimedia geek here was just humiliating.  I know my old AV friends from college would be laughing their you-know-whats off.  =(

I finally decided on a cheap SD Sony Handycam from B&H Photo and Video just to have something besides a digital camera to record YouTube videos with for largely one big reason.  The Handycam had a CCD instead of a CMOS sensor.  CMOS sensors are taking over the world right now, but I happen to be one of the fanatical rebels who utterly despises them and will avoid them like the plague as much as I possibly can.  Why?  Keep reading.  😛

“Tube It Tube It Everybody’s Doin’ It”

This old Renetto video from the heydays of “Celebrity Video Bloggers” on YouTube really sums up the effects of YouTube on the sort of stuff I’ll be talking about here.  😛

Sadly, one of the side effects of the YouTube era has been that everybody and their mother’s uncle grabs the cheapest crappiest camera they can find (usually in their smartphone these days), shoots the cheapest crappiest “guerilla filming” stuff they can manage, and thinks they’re going to be the big Internet equivalent of a huge Hollywood star, then often whines and cries when they aren’t.  😛  I’ve never really been too big of a fan of the whole video blogging craze that took off along with YouTube and made the site what it is today.  I tried generic vlogging a few times, even did a few different video blog series in the late 2000s, then finally saw the fad for the waste of bandwidth that it was, started text blogging instead (much easier and quicker than messing with videos, as this blog has shown this year versus my YouTube activity), and saved my video uploads for more interesting stuff, especially when AT&T slapped their customers with bandwidth caps a few years back for the first time ever, destroying one of the edges their DSL and U-Verse services had over cable companies, but that’s another old rant for another old day.  Let’s just say that nowadays if I do a video that consists entirely of myself sitting in front of the camera talking, something’s not right.  😛

…Then The March Towards Cheap “Craperas” Began…  😛

All of this YouTubing though (as this vlogging is called that of course made YouTube a verb in some cases) has had the nasty side effect of putting downward pressure on camera makers to make cheaper cameras that were only a little less complete crap than the cheap cameras of yesteryear.  When I was growing up, video cameras were for people with money to burn.  They were expensive, bulky, clunky, and rarely seen in the circles I grew up in unless they were secondhand.  😛  Same thing with digital cameras when they first started taking off.  It was cool when my school was able to afford a single Sony Digital Mavica camera in the late 1990s that used floppy disks for storage and my InfoTech teacher used to joke about “hold on I gotta get some more film” when going to the computer room to get more floppies for pictures.  😛  Over time of course the technology matured and things got cheaper, but even when I was first getting into YouTube as it was taking off you were looking at around $300 for a decent palm cam and many of us (myself included) were using crappy video features on sub-$300 digital cameras to make videos with.

This was back during the days when “YouTube video” was synonymous with “crappy video from someone’s cheap digital camera” instead of the commercial high-production-value stuff we see from those generic at-least-quasi-commercial channels these days that beg people to like, favorite, comment, and subscribe every single video.  😛  I started out with a cheap Kodak digital camera, then took the plunge with a Canon Elura DV Tape camcorder ($300) in late 2006 when I wanted to try chroma-keying and when YouTubing had become a regular hobby for me, but even that 1CCD camera was $300.  Nowadays thanks to a deluge of cheap CMOS sensors instead of decent camcorders getting cheaper, crappy webcams are getting more and more upscale and eating up the low end in the camcorder world.  To finish off the history bit, I later upgraded to a Fuji Finepix F50fd on the digital camera front which I recorded all my videos with after the Elura’s tape mechanism broke in 2008, until finally getting a new camcorder with the now-recently-deceased Samsung SMX in February of 2011.

I fear what’s happening with cameras will parallel what happened with computers, similar to how the Megapixel Myth eerily resembled the Megahertz Myth.  All this cheap stuff will become so common and so popular that people will be suckered into thinking the technology’s cheaper when in reality they’re just surrounded by so much crap that said crap becomes the new normal.  😛  Computers used to have price tags around $1000 for a decent system.  Today, $1000 is still the price of a decent system, but most folks don’t notice it because they can make do with $300 crap machines that do the basics for them instead of building a decent gaming PC that’s fast, stable, in a solid metal case instead of a cheap plastic thing, etc.  Likewise, decent CCD camcorders can still be found, at least for now, but these CMOS cameras can go much lower and chew up all that market share, meaning there’s not much reason left to make decent CCD camcorders cheaper because as we’ve seen with other format wars or equipment wars in the world of multimedia, the ignorant mainstream crowd always wins out over the informed enthusiast crowd even if the enthusiasts have a better pulse on what’s the best.  😛

When CMOS Comes To Town…

A quick browse around B&H Photo & Video’s site reveals this malady of CMOS cameras taking over the world.  CCD cameras continue their vanishing act while CMOS cameras take over the scene, slowly but surely eliminating consumer choice in image sensors at various price points, especially on the low end.  The ongoing demise of 3CCD shows this in no uncertain terms.  Once the creme de la creme of video cameras, 3CCD once made its way from the professional video world down to us regular folks’ territory via $400 3CCD camcorders several years ago.  Today, if I want 3CCD, I have to spend $2000 on a low-end JVC professional camera.  😛  3CCD still holds out on cameras with 5-digit price tags though, in case I ever want to have a camera that costs more than some folks’ cars.  😛

So why do I hate CMOS so much?  Because to the untrained masses out there engaging in the aforementioned “YouTubing”, CMOS cameras see differently than CCD cameras or even our own eyes.  They don’t have a global shutter so in situations where the camera is vibrating or even MOVING, you get this ugly rolling shutter “Jello effect” that makes the videos you’re shooting with your camera look like crappy wobbly webcam footage even on more expensive cameras that you didn’t pick up at your pharmacy for $20.  😛  Basically, here’s a nice comparison video.

CCDs, venerable as the technology is in terms of age and power-efficiency, are immune to this crap.  Unfortunately, it’s CMOS that’s on the rise.  Now combine this technobabble with the YouTubing phenomenon I mentioned earlier and try to think of it from an AV Geek’s perspective.  Yeah.  Not good.  😛  Like sloppy pigs, people will be so used to wallowing around in utter crap that they’ll no longer give a darn about whether they can produce anything of decent quality without buying studio equipment.  😛

The Future Of “YouTubing” Is Bleak Indeed

I mentioned Renetto earlier, one of the former hot shot “celebrity video bloggers” from the heydays of such “celebrity video blogging” on YouTube before all this commercial stuff took over.  You know, back when the “You” was still somewhat in “YouTube” and the “Broadcast Yourself” motto was still taken literally by many people as well as actually displayed on their logo?   😛  Has Renetto’s formula changed much?  Not exactly, and he’s completely playing into all the stuff I was worried about earlier, like in this vlog he did earlier this year.  😛

Yes, this was shot in 2012, on a contemporary digital camera with a CMOS sensor.  Get Yo Wobble On every time the darn thing moves!  😛  Oh, but at least it’s “IN HDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!”  😛  This is almost as laughable as HD webcams were when I first heard about them given webcams’ long reputation for crappy internet video quality.  “HD Webcam” for me was synonymous with “Sporty Ford Focus” or something like that.  The two just don’t go together very well.  😛  Well now I can rejoice, because with CMOS sensors taking over the world, soon everybody will have a nice wobbly jiggly “HD Webcam” look to their videos.  Woohoo!!!  😛

Sad.  Just sad.  I’m just wondering when the day’s going to come when I’m going to have to hold my nose and make the switch to wobbly CMOS cameras because there’s nothing else left.  :-\  Right now a major deterrent is that even my digital camera still has a CCD, since the Fuji Finepix F-series from those days had the SuperCCD technology in them which led to video quality on YouTube that was about on par with DV tape camcorders at the time, previously unheard of in a digital camera, which is why I wound up getting one.  🙂

When that camera finally dies….  yeah.  I’ll try not to think about it.  =(  I just hope some other technology comes along that brings back a global shutter look to cameras and kills off CMOS sensors.  Hmmm…  Maybe QuantumFilm?  🙂

The Beginning Of The End For Kodak?

Kodak amidst its Chapter 11 issues recently landed in The Consumerist after their latest move to get out of the situation that they’re in.

The Consumerist – Kodak Gets Out Of The Digital Camera Business

Apparently Kodak wants to focus mostly on printers and inkjet printing and essentially become a printer company.  I’m not so sure that this move will be enough to turn the company around though.  Technically it IS returning to their roots because Kodak was originally about film and printing photos.  I practically grew up with all their Kodak Colorwatch commercials with Bill Cosby like this one:

Still though, I think Kodak might be living in the past here.  Photo printing was cool in the mid-2000s when printer companies started making photo printers that specialized in printing on photo paper but I think even photo printers have gotten long in the tooth compared to just passing the pictures around on storage media, digital photo frames, or even on social media sites like Facebook.  All kinds of stuff nowadays will read photos off of a flash drive.  Even my 3-year-old LCD TV would do that.  😛  There’s really not much of a reason to print photos anymore.

I actually still have an Epson inkjet printer that I picked up at a Staples photo printing event way back in 2005.  It still works.  Basically the promo was if you bought a digital camera they’d give you an inkjet printer for free, so I went for it.  I now have to take that printer apart if I ever want to use it again because all the ink dried in the cartridges and on the printheads so even if I get new cartridges the print quality is still complete crap.  Oops.  😛  Technically I could fix that but the last time I printed photos was many years ago and the last time I printed anything in color was when I made some Powerpoint refrigerator magnets at the end of 2006.  If anything, photo-wise rather than printing digital photos to have physical prints I’d be heading in the other direction and scanning printed photos in to make them digital since prints can yellow or deteriorate over time, etc.

Things aren’t going to get any better for ink printers in their race to the bottom either.  I’ve been seeing people adopting my approach to printing that I’ve had since 2003 and getting a cheap laser printer for black and white while saving a cheap ink printer exclusively for anything in color since toner is usually far more cost-effective for black and white than ink.  This assumes one even gets an ink printer for color to begin with.  The last advice I read that was going around various blogs and forums was to buy a cheap laser printer for black and white and just print pictures at Walmart for a couple cents per print.  😛  That would make more sense too since the Walmart equipment would be used more regularly and maintained on a regular basis unlike my ink printer which had all the ink dry up after a few years.  😛

Even the Walmart thing for color might be changing shortly though as color laser printers continue falling like rocks in price.  Samsung’s been leading the way in cheap laser printers for individuals – even giving longtime frontrunner HP a run for its money.  Samsung’s black and white laser printers cleared the $100 mark awhile back and now color laser printers are headed towards the $100 mark.  Laser printers have come a long way from the days when they were only for businesses or people with money to burn back in the 1990s.  Even just a year or two ago a color laser was a guaranteed several-hundred-dollar investment.  The next hurdle for them to clear will be black and white costs per page.  Color lasers used for black and white printouts have traditionally been less cost-effective than a black and white machine in terms of cost per page but the first printer that closes that gap may not only give color laser a boost, but really turn up the heat on black and white laser as well when someone can just have one printer for everything.  I’ll bust out some spreadsheets later and crunch the numbers on these new Samsung printers that are less than $100 on Newegg.  This must be why HP has a color inkjet on Newegg around $30, so cheap it’s not worth replacing the ink because the ink costs $30 too, so the only reason to replace the ink is because you’re conscious of eWaste which would be very good in my book.  🙂

Kodak therefore has a lot of hurdles to clear if they want to just be a printer company.  As far as their digital cameras go though, there’s one thing I’ll miss about them.  They were the only digital cameras I knew of that would actually take real batteries so in a pinch even though it would destroy most AAs very quickly you could pop regular batteries in if your main batteries were dead and pop a few pictures off of them whereas with all these proprietary batteries out there you’d either need a spare battery or to charge yours back up.  My first digital camera was a Kodak, and I daresay it actually took better pictures than the Fuji I have now that I’ve had since 2007.  I’m guessing things went downhill though because today’s reviews of Kodak digital cameras basically hammer on them for bad photo quality.  That’s a shame.  :-\  I liked the normal batteries thing since I could just get a set of 15 minute rechargeables and just use those in the camera alongside everything else I use them in these days.  I guess proprietary batteries have won this fight though.  A shame since proprietary stuff’s usually less cost-effective.  :-\  Maybe I’ll run the numbers on that too.

At the very least though, you have to give Kodak an A for effort.  Their entire industry completely changed right in front of them and pulled the rug out from under their feet.  At least they’ve been trying to catch up with how things are nowadays.  One has to wonder though, will Kodak be the next “film photography” brand name that ends up as a zombie brand showing up on all kinds of products not related to film?  (I’m looking at you Polaroid.  :-P)  This should be interesting…  🙂