By Thomas Krehbiel
· Monday, Sep 11, 2006, 1:26 PM · 424 words
Once again I find myself pondering how to cost effectively transfer 8mm films to a digital format, for genealogical and archival purposes. Here are some notes so I don't forget them.
I have read of a method where you could project the film onto a small area of white screen, tightly focused, and then videotape the projection with a digital camcorder sitting next to the projector. At the time I read that, I thought it was probably the best way to go for my needs. Unfortunately, the expense of a good digital camcorder is somewhat prohibitive for me right now.
Yesterday, however, it occurred to me that I didn't need a good camcorder, and in fact, may not even need a digital camcorder. In fact, I wondered if I needed recording capability in the device at all -- could I get away with using, say, a color security camera plugged into my computer's video capture card?
I did some research on security cameras and found that they aren't quite as cheap as I thought, and they usually don't even come with a lens. It would probably cost about $150-$200 for the camera and a suitable lens.
Analog camcorders are pretty rare to find anymore. I see there's one JVC VHS-C model on NewEgg for $219. An NTSC recording of the film projection would probably be suitable for my purposes.
Digital camcorders are everywhere. The cheapest digital camcorder on NewEgg is a Canon ZR500 Mini-DV camcorder for $255. The advantage of a digital recording is that I could transfer it directly into the computer without having to re-sample it like I would for an analog recording.
At first glance, it looks like I might as well spend the extra money and get the cheap digital camcorder. But wait, let's take a look at those security cameras again.
This camera has a 1/3" CCD, which sounds to me like it would provide a better quality picture than the 1/6" CCD in the camcorder. Cursory research tells me that larger area CCDs provide better dynamic range and less noise in the picture. The camera even comes with a varifocus lens (3.8-9.5mm), and it's only $150.
Right now I'm leaning toward the security camera solution, but there is substantial benefit in getting a cheap digital camcorder for only another $100. For one thing, I could use it for other applications besides just transferring my films to DVD, whereas with the security camera it's pretty much useless after I finish the transfers.
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