Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Cameras In Tablets Question

A  bunch of new tablet devices are coming out in the next few weeks.  The quality is up on the new tablets and the prices are dropping on the older models. I'm seeing a lot of tablets hit the third tier stores and closeout vendors.

Should be a good time to make a purchase. But what about those of us that want to record video using tablets? How do we get the information we need to make a good decision?

I've read the Tech-boys yammer about how silly it is to want to record video using a tablet.  I got to tell you that there are very good reasons why people to want to using a tablet:
  • Teachers love affordable multifunctional devices that allow them to create instructional videos and projects.
  • There are proprietary military tablets that record video and can withstand a gun shot to its flank.
  • Other users such as insurance adjusters, folks documenting their property and people that occasionally want to record video.
Sure a dedicated camcorder would do it better. Not the point. For many people the camera in their tablet will be their camcorder.

Hard to Make an Informed Purchase

I keep telling people to look at the tech specification before you buy equipment. Manufactures will tell you that there is a camera in the tablet. They might tell you how many megapixels the camera can record. That is about it. Here is what you don't know and probably will not find out at a vendor's web site:
  • Is the lens glass or plastic?
  • What is the sensor size?
  • Video Capture? Not all vendors will tell you.
  • Is the microphone omnidirectional or unidirectional?
  • Monaural or stereo?
  • Is there an external mic jack? A dual purpose mic/headphone jack?

These are really basic questions that I should be able to find the answers on a vendor's tech spec page. I have to tell you it is has been an executive level PITA.

I have some preliminary data but it was a hard slog. Even sticking to major manufactures web sites was frustrating is how much they don't say about the recording feature.

As a baseline:
  • 0.3 Megapixels Crap, not even good enough for modern web browsing images let alone video.
  • 1.3 Megapixels camera in tablets are good for web chats, hangouts, Skype calls, Internet conferencing and, if you are into it, experimental art video.
  • 3.5 Megapixels and above are good for simple recording, demonstration videos, some types of citizen journalism, and what ever else you can think of.
  • 5 Megapixels and above - explore the possibilities 
Certainly buying a tablet is more than looking at the recording capabilities. In the next couple of posts, I want to look specifically at what is out in the marketplace for people that want to record video with tablets.

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