John Beale Jan. 21 2001
This page lists a lot of auxiliary equipment you can use with your TRV900 (or other camcorder). Some of these are very basic accessories, while others are less common or used mostly by professionals.
If you're just starting, I'd suggest that a UV filter to protect the lens is very cheap insurance, and you'll want a camera bag, or possibly hard case if you travel much. A tripod is important if you're the least little bit serious, and a PCMCIA flash card, compact flash, or memory stick is very handy if you use the camera for stills. Get other things when and if you find the need. My TRV900 survey lists the accessories that other people felt were important here.
I have put in links to various manufacturers for convenience, but I don't have any relationship with them other than as a customer. For Sony brand items, if you don't see them locally, you can always just order them direct: 1-888-308-7669 or go to Sony Direct Accessories and Parts Center. Simon Plint has some photos of his accessories on his TRV900 page. For a wide range of pro film and video production needs look at StudioDepot.com. The widest overall gear and accessory selection is probably B&H Photo in New York. I order almost all my gear online because it's cheaper, but for a camera bag I like to get a local hands-on look to judge if it will conveniently fit everything.
Accessories:Tripod/Monopod. Zoom ctrl. Stabilizer. Handle Bracket. Light/Flash. RM-95. Remote Pan/Tilt.
Sony's steadyshot feature works well, especially at wide angles, but for the most rock steady professional look you still need a tripod. Tripods made for video cameras usually have a "fluid head" for smooth pan and tilt action. A tripod designed for still cameras, without a fluid head, will work for fixed shots, but you cannot get a really smooth pan with them. In general, the larger and heavier the tripod, the less problem with possible jarring or vibration when panning or adjusting focus or other camera controls.
My first video tripod was a "Promaster 6700" with built-in level and adjustable resistance on pan & tilt. It is a bit bulky, weighs 7 pounds, but is comfortably solid. As I recall it was about $120. Later I got the Bogen 3221W tripod legs plus Bogen 3433 (501) pan head. (Bogen is the US distributor for Manfrotto.) The tripod head + legs weigh about 10 pounds and is very solid. The pan head alone is over 3 pounds and needs a fairly heavy touch to operate. I got this head for my Sony VX2000, and I would suggest a lighter fluid head for a TRV900-sized camera, like the Bogen 3126, 3130, or 3160. Others recommend the Matthews Libec TH-M20 tripod, which includes a claw-ball type leveller (no need to separately adjust tripod feet for proper levelling). I also have the Manfrotto/Bogen 3181 tripod legs + 75mm half-ball leveller rated for 44 pounds. This is somewhat ridiculous for a 2 pound camera, but larger tripods are useful if you plan to use a jib arm like the Studio1 Superjib or one of the Skycrane models. Sachtler and Vinten make very professional tripods, with prices to match. The Vinten Vision 3 is rated to support cameras from 2-20 lbs (list price US$2000). When travelling I sometimes carry a Velbon MTP-1 which is a very sturdy pocket-sized tripod for tabletop use.
Sony offers several tripods with a remote control mounted on the pan arm. The VCT-570RM ($80), VCT-670RM ($100) and VCT-1170RM (not available in US?) have a wired remote (LANC) on the handle which operates the TRV900 or other camera with a LANC jack (including all Sony models, and most Canon models). It features a single-speed zoom, plus on/off and a record/standby button. (Note that you could also buy an aftermarket LANC zoom controller and attach it to the pan handle on any tripod; I like Canon's ZR1000 myself.)
From: Mike Price (sandyprice at msn com) Date: Fri, 18 Jun 1999 13:55:32 -0700The old Sony VCT-R630RM Tripod with the ROTARY zoom switch on the handle (pan bar) is no longer available, but the handle itself including remote controls can still be had from Sony parts (800-488-7669). Its rotary switch zoom control is much superior to a zoom rocker. To order the correct pan lever from Sony, insist on getting part number A-6776-097-A, which is listed as "Remote Control Assy, Pan Bar".
From: "R. Kalstein" (rkal at snip net):Just got in the new Sony model 870 tripod! Apparently goes higher (64") than the model 670. Has a very smooth pan and tilt. [one odd thing...] to zoom IN, you have to pull BACK on the zoom control lever, and to go to wide angle, you have to push the control forward! The zoom is variable speed; the farther to either end you push it, the faster it goes; it allows pretty smooth control. From "Adorama" in NY.
Bogen Clamp: Bogen (Manfrotto) sells a Super Clamp, Mini Clamp, Magic Arm and other accessories for affixing a camera, light, scrim etc. to nearly anything, and positioning it any which-way. You can mount a tripod head on the clamp, like the Bogen 3025 3-D head, 3028 Super 3-D head, or many pan-tilt heads. If you need to hard-mount your camcorder to a motorcycle for example, these items can help. They are sold by Warehouse Photo, HelixPhoto, Rue.com, and B&H Photo among others.
Sometimes you have to move often, or the crowd keeps bumping into/tripping over your tripod legs- both are usually true at a wedding reception. Some venues don't even allow tripods. In this case, a monopod can be very useful. I have a 3-section Bogen / Manfrotto 682B (very sturdy) with three small legs that can also be stowed inside the monopod (there is also a 679B without legs.) When attached, the legs provide additional stability and the monopod can even stand up (rather precariously) by itself. This monopod is just a pole, you need a head also. I use the Manfrotto 3232 head which tilts only front-back. It works but I would like a more fluid tilt motion.
Dolgin Engineering sells the Director which is a monopod side-handle for better stability and overhead shots.Before owning the Bogen, I used the Velbon UP-4DX II "Video Unipod" (under $50). It has 4 sections, is 65.4" extended, 22.5" stowed, 1.06" wide D-section body, 1.55 lbs. in all. Most monopods seem intended for still cameras, but this one has a one axis (fwd/back tilt) head with 10" lever handle and a quick-release mount and works well with my video cameras. The medium-weight aluminum and plastic construction isn't the most rugged possible, but it is easy to carry and adequate to the task.
Subject: Varizoom LANC controller for Sony TRV-900Date: Sat, 24 Jul 1999 21:54:33 -0400 From: "Ira A. Wilner" (bdcst at sover net)I've been using the new Varizoom controller for the past three weeks and am very impressed with it. I've been shooting theater performances from the rear of the house. This has required lots of wide and closeup shots with panning and tilting. I had a TRV-900 cranked up high on a quality fluid head tripod while I sat in front of a sound mixing console used to provide ambient mic mixes for the filming and wireless mic sound reinforcement for the house. This kept my left hand busy on the faders leaving only my right hand for camera control! I had a 13 inch Sony professional monitor plugged into the Y-C port (s-video) of the camcorder in lieu of the viewfinder and swing out LCD display both of which were not easy to view from my position.
At first look the Varizoom unit seems a bit clunky. It is very solid. The controller case is made of thick walled aluminum and includes its own large diameter rubberized grip which you use in place of the tripod handle to which it is clamped. This puts your thumb in the correct position to access the zoom rocker switch while your first finger cradles the zoom speed control knob. Also within reach are pushbuttons for controlling record, focusing and a fourth button to wake up the camcorder if it goes into standby off mode. There is a red LED which lights when in record mode and flashes when there is an alarm condition such as when almost at the end of tape. The controller receives all of its power through the LANC cable.
Zooming while panning and following action is naturally and easily executed. Zoom speed may be continuously changed by sliding the first finger across the speed potentiometer knob in a motion similar to bowing a string. This provides very stable zoom action at any fixed or variable rate from an extremely slow crawl to a fast rack.
The controls have been laid out to be quite intuitive. The rocker switch when moved forward, away from you, zooms in. Rocking it towards you, pulls out. Sliding your speed control finger to the left slows the zoom rate while sliding your finger towards the right speeds it up. Note that if you face the potentiometer knob it will seem backwards as counter-clockwise rotation will speed it up!
The only negatives are that the controller is designed for use with only the right hand. Lefties have no choice. And it is quite heavy, thus easily unbalancing the camera weight towards the rear. I had to increase the tilt friction clutch significantly to prevent the camcorder from tilting up on its own. You may have to add counterweights to the front of your camcorder if you cannot shift its position forward on its head mount.
--Ira A. Wilner
There are a few different types of stabilizers sold for video cameras. These devices allow you to walk around freely, unlike a tripod, but keep the camera more steady than you could simply holding it in your hands. On the simpler side are braces as listed here. The more complicated stabilizers have a gimble or pivot on a handle, and a counterweight which puts the center of mass of the camera+support at or beneath the support point, making the camera quite insensitive to small hand trembles. The first(?) and best known is Steadicam who makes the big systems for film cameras, but their Steadicam JR ($430 B&H) is designed for small video cameras. Glidecam makes the Glidecam 1000 Pro ($200 B&H) which doesn't look as elegant, but does work on the same principle. Each of these can be handheld, or supported by an optional vest/body pod. Ron Peperkamp has made his own arm and vest for the Steadicam JR. Carroll Lam wrote about SteadicamJR balancing with the TRV900. The Handyman 1000 is another similar device sold in Germany.
There is also the SteadyTracker, with what appears to be a flexible pad instead of a gimble. The now-discontinued "Flyingpod" was similar. If you've used these or similar devices with the TRV900 let me know what you think. The Easyrig and MARzPAK are examples of a quite different design: the camera hangs from an overhead hook which is mounted on a backpack-type frame.
Some people have built their own stabilizers, see Charles King's site. Thanh Le built a fancy stabilizer as a senior project. There are a collection of useful stabilizer, support and dolly articles here including a note from Thanh Le mentioning how difficult a fully machined Steadicam (tm) is to make. You can very simply add a counterweight to a monopod, or use a tripod as-is with the central column slightly extended, and hold the monopod or column at the balance point loosely with one hand- this works better than you'd guess, although it isn't comfortable for very long.
Subject:Steadicam JR and the TRV-900Date: Tue, 11 May 1999 16:23:02 -0400 From: Michael KaplanI'm writing to inform you and your readers of the problems that they might encounter with a Steadicam JR and TRV-900 match-up. The JR is a great unit but the 900 requires some careful attention. To begin with, the Steadicam setup instructions list configurations for a number of different cameras but this list has not been updated in quite some time, so you are pretty much on your own when it comes to the 900. It can be done, however, with some careful calculations, etc. Secondly, and this is perhaps the most crucial, the 900 is severly front heavy (even without the lens shade) and the Steadicam does not support a mounting hole that allows positioning the camera further back on the "stage" of the stabilizer. A heavier battery in the back helps a bit but not to the degree that was required. I finally had to construct a plate that interfaces the TRV-900 and the Steadicam JR that positions the 900 further back to allow for proper balancing. This was a bit of a pain and if you want to detach the camera from the Steadicam frequently, it can get rather cumbersome. Finally, you will need to make an short RCA to Mini or RCA to "S" to accomodate the video output of the 900 to the onboard LCD screen attached to the Steadicam. Once all this is accomplished and you balanced out the camera, you have a wonderful package that offers some very exciting shooting posibilities and scenarios. Be forewarned, however, there is some time involved in getting to this point. Lots of trial and error.
Michael Kaplan AVID Editor MMG Corporate Communications (digitize at one.net)
There are a number of handle brackets for compact camcorders, and many offer an extra accessory shoe for mounting a light, microphone or other device. By mounting a handle below or to the side of the camera, and for some models a shoulder brace, you can make the camera noticibly more steady. Remember, even if the optical steadyshot does compensate for slight up/down or sideways motion, it can't fix "tilt" motion which is usually present as well. Also, note that the TRV900 hotshoe is designed only for lightweight mics or lights. If you want to use anything heavier (any real shotgun mic, or light over a few watts) you should use a more rugged mount. These are available as flash brackets (like the "Stroboframe" in the photo at the top of the page) in 35mm camera stores, as well as many of the brackets listed below (see individual web pages for details.)
The $40 Grip2 from NRG Research, the "Steddi-Eddi" ($60 from EliteVideo), the $60 Mini-Rover from videosmith.com, and the $140 Brace Classic are handle brackets. The inexpensive Spider Brace, Video Innovators S100, F200 and S800 shoulder rests (under $100 from B&H), the $130 Shoulder Support from Habbycam, the $230 Mightywondercam Classic from Videosmith and the Sony VCT-GP1 Shoulder Rest Bracket ($250, now discontinued?) are shoulder brackets. The VariZoom VZ-LSP ($350) looks very stable with three support points. The DvRigPro from dvtec.tv looks even more stable (US$550). The $100 Dolgin Director is a side-handle for stabilizing a monopod.
I have tried only the Habbycam brace myself, which works pretty well (see this note.) I also have a $40 chest monopod from Sima ("VideoProp" Model SVP-3): a short adjustable stick which is suspended from a strap around your neck, and runs from your midsection up to the camera near eye level. It is compact, lightweight, and better than nothing, but you still get some hand vibration, plus some motion when you breathe. I also have the $30 Velbon Videomate TP-1 compact folding tripod (fits in a pocket, barely) which apart from being a 4" high tripod, with side accessory shoe, can also fold into a compact below-camera handle bracket. Quite handy when anything else would be too large/heavy to carry.
FLASH - VIDEO LIGHT
For flash, AFAIK your only option is either a Sony flash or Sony combo 3W light/flash that mounts on the camera "intelligent" hotshoe. I have the Sony HVL-FDH2 combo light/flash unit (renamed the HVL-FDH3); as I mentioned in the mini-review on my web page, the flash works well but the 3W video light is underpowered. At $150 it seems pricey.
On Sony's accessories web page they (used to) mention the HVL-F7 Photo Flash "Control L cable Synchronize with Photo Mode on Digital Handycam(R) camcorders Automatically adjusts aperture, shutter speed and white balance" which sounds like it communicates using the control-L cable, not the hotshoe. If so, you would have the freedom to move it higher, to the side, use bounce flash, etc. Nelson Torres reports that the HVL-F7 Flash works fine with the TRV900. (looks like, and may be same as new model HVL-F10)
RM-95 WIRED REMOTE
The RM-95 is a LANC wired remote, similar to the standard IR remote, though with some other functions too. There was an older version that Sony marketed to the general public, now discontinued, and I'm told if you call Sony Parts they will claim the RM-95 hasn't been sold for years. Well, yes and no. There is a current RM-95, which is intended for sale to service technicians and not the general public; nevertheless, anyone in the USA can order it, just go to servicesales.sel.sony.com and enter part # J6082053B. You can order it online directly through that page. Sorry, no overseas shipping. Fox International at 800-321-6993 used to carry it, but apparently no more.
The RM-95 wired remote looks a little like the standard IR remote, but it has a LCD display and comes with a 16 foot long LANC cable. No batteries, it's powered from the camera. The LCD display shows timecode as H:MM:SS (no frame number). In addition to the normal record/pause and tape transport functions you can control zoom and focus with it. The focus is manual-mode only, there is no push-to-autofocus feature on the remote. Focusing and zoom have only a single speed (fairly slow). You can also turn the camera off and on (unless the physical camera switch is "off"). The RM-95 is not specific to the TRV900 but can be used with any Sony or Canon camcorders with a LANC jack. It also works with my GV-D900 MiniDV VCR. It can be useful if you want to use the camera mounted remotely, eg. mounted on a tilt/pan head. If you're planning that, also check out Fred Wilharm's page. You can also use the RM-95 to read out internal camera data such as the number of hours on the video head, as described here.
REMOTE PAN/TILT/CONTROL SYSTEM
There are several pan-tilt heads available on the market: the Sunpak AP-200 has a 30' cord, optional 50', can control zoom and rec/pause. $100 from B&H. The Bescor MP-101 ($90 from B&H) has an optional 20' extension cord. There is also a more complete system from Video Direct they call a Wireless Camcorder Control Kit for $360. This gives you pan, tilt, zoom, and start/stop functions as well as a microwave video link so you can monitor the scene as its recorded. I know nothing more about the system, but it sounds useful. It seems similar in capability to the combination of one of the above pan/tilt platforms with the Radio Shack Wireless A/V Link system (a 2.4 GHz A/V transmitter, RS#15-1971, $100), and IR remote extender (RS#15-1959, $50).
The stock viewfinder eyepiece may not fit snugly against your face, so the image becomes washed out from ambient light. It's helpful to use a larger eyecup. Norm Weiler writes: "Call TriTronics, Inc., at (800) 638-3328. Order Hitachi part# 6014322 -rubber eye cap for model VM5200A. Cost is $5.31 plus $3.50 for first class shipping via U.S.Mail. They accept credit cards and have no minimum order policies. I received mine in 2 days." The part is also available from Andrews Electronics. When you get it, remove the flexible rubber cup from hard clear plastic window, and slip the cup over your existing eyepiece (see this illustration. Don't remove the existing rubber eyecup, just stretch the new one over it). It will fit over either a TRV900 or Digital 8 viewfinder. The optional larger eyecup for the Sony VX1000 will also fit over the TRV900 eyepiece. You may want something even larger if you wear glasses; for example the $100 I-Cuff from Raider Productions.
Hoodman LCD View Screen Hood
Glasses or not, the viewscreen is quite washed out in outdoor light, so if you want to use it outside, you'll find a shade of some sort useful. You could make one, or buy a commercial solution like the Hoodman (several models available).
The Hoodman company was kind enough to send me samples of their screen shading product for my review. I tried out the H400, which fits the TRV900's 4" fold-out LCD screen, as well as the H300 which fits 3" screens (VX2000 and GL1). I found a small but noticible improvement in screen visibility using the hood in outdoor shady, diffuse, and direct-sun environments with TRV900 and VX2000 cameras. I conclude that if you can use the viewscreen now without a shade, then the Hoodman will improve the contrast, and is worth using. However if the screen is simply unusable from glare in your lighting environment, you probably still need to use the eyepiece, as the viewscreen improvement with the shade is not dramatic enough to change "not at all visible" into "easily visible". I think the only practical way to use a screen in direct sun is to have a totally enclosed path from screen to eye (eg. a viewfinder). I found a good indoor use for the screen shade while filming a dance concert. In a darkened theater, the LCD screen is very bright and distracting to audience members. The Hoodman gives your camera a much more professional, discreet look.
If you do get a flash PC Card, you will probably want a PC Card reader to transfer the data to and from your PC. (If you have a firewire interface on your computer, you could also just manually grab still frames from the camera as they are displayed in "memory playback" mode, via the firewire connection, but this is slower and more labor-intensive. You cannot directly access the card via firewire, only grab stills during manual still playback or using the "slide show" mode. A card reader is more efficient.) Almost all notebook computers come with two PC Card slots, but if you don't have a notebook you'll want to outfit your desktop PC with a card drive. I bought an Antec PhotoChute (USB interface) reader. It didn't always work under Win98 but worked ok with Win2000. I now use a Comotron "6-in-1" USB card reader that takes Compact Flash, Microdrives, SmartMedia, SD/MMC, and Memory Sticks. It works fine with Win2k.
For the TRV900, you want the standard PC-Card (aka PCMCIA card) Flash memory. Type I, II and III are three thicknesses: Type I is the thinnest at 3.3 mm. Type II is 5.0 mm. Type III is larger, typically a disk drive. You can use either Type I or Type II cards in the TRV900, but not Type III. The smaller "compact flash" in a Type II adaptor also works fine. If you need a lot of storage, C.W. Holtham reports the 260 MB, $300 Type II PCMCIA hard disk MoveIT works fine with the TRV900, storing nearly 1400 super-fine mode stills. (You have to run the TRV900's "format" function before use.)
[7/20/01] According to Changsu Go, who tried it, the 340 MB IBM Microdrive is NOT compatible with the TRV900, and furthermore Sony, IBM, and the vendor Microtech all agree that it is not compatible. My webpage earlier claimed that it was, and I apologize for the error. I can only assume that the 1 GB IBM Microdrive is also incompatible. I have tested a 512 MB Mr.Flash card which is incompatible with the TRV900 (but works fine in my Canon D30 digital SLR).
Chris Reijnen has a list of which Flash brands have been demonstrated to work with the TRV900.
First and foremost, a UV filter (which looks like a clear piece of glass) does almost nothing visible to your image (possibly cuts glare a tiny bit outdoors) but is very cheap protection for your lens from finger smudges, bits of debris etc. I always keep a filter on all my film and video cameras. The TRV900's hood does afford some protection but I use the filter (threaded onto the hood, not the camera) as well. If I'm using other filters or adaptor lenses, I'll leave the UV off. If you swap filters much, consider an aftermarket folding rubber hood in the 52mm thread size, as made for 35mm still film cameras ($5 or so).
You can use a polarizing filter to darken the sky and reduce glare from shiny objects or water. This doesn't happen automatically, you must rotate the filter to the best angle. The sky can be made considerably darker relative to other things in the field of view, if you are shooting at right angles to the sun. Directly into or away from the sun there is no contrast effect of the polarizing filter (it still does make the scene somewhat darker overall, of course). Normally, you will see only a very slight difference in the apparent lightness of the sky as you rotate the filter, due to the camera's automatic exposure compensation. You can, however see the contrast between the sky and the foreground objects change.
I have both a "linear" and a "circular" polarizing filter and they work identically as far as I can see. Both reduce diffuse (randomly polarized) light by 2 stops (measured by placing the filter over a photographic incident light meter). The "circular" polarizer is in fact just a linear polarizer with a "quarter-wave plate" (thin film of birefringent material) on the side next to the lens, which converts linear to circular polarization. Some cameras are said to not work properly with linear polarized light, but as far as I can tell the TRV900 works well either way. Don't confuse "circular" with "rotatable" by the way- both these filters have a rotatable mount so you can change their angle for the best effect. I got the circular polarizer from a local camera shop and the linear one from Edmund Scientific (P/N F36441). Linear polarizers tend to be cheaper. If you stack two linear polarizers together and rotate one, you have a continuously-variable attenuator- I measured the range to be 3.4 up to 5.3 stops, but at maximum attenuation the image has a strong blue/purple cast.
You can also use a neutral-density filter or ND filter, which is usually grey in appearance, to cut down bright sunlight. I have one made by Tiffen which is unmarked but turns out (just like a polarizer) to reduce light by 2 stops. With this filter, plus the camera's internal 3 stop ND filter, a bright white house in full noonday sun sets the auto-exposure to f/11 at 1/60 second, interlaced video. Implying, if you didn't have this external filter, the house would be overexposed unless you increased shutter speed above 1/60th. You can get ND filters in several strengths, and you can even stack several ND filters together. Many people report getting better color quality when using an external ND filter for sunny outdoor shots (in addition to the camera's internal ND).
You can soften the image and reduce contrast with a "mist", soft, or diffusing filter. Many people claim this makes the resulting video image look more like film. I believe portrait photographers sometimes use them to smooth out wrinkles and skin blemishes. The effect of soft filters depends strongly on the aperture (f/stop) setting of the camera; if you change apertures you may also need to change filters.
Often catagorized as a filter, perhaps since you thread it on like one, the diopter filter or close-up adaptor is simply a magnifying lens. It permits very close-up shots of small objects. They are often sold in sets of +1, +2, and +4 diopters, which means respectively 100 cm, 50 cm, and 25 cm focal length, positive (converging or magnifying) lenses. Recommended if your subject is coins, insects, small flowers, or the like; if not, you'll do fine without them. The Filter Connection has a good collection of all sorts of filters, plus step-rings and screw-on hoods. B&H Photo-Video also has a good assortment.
Most people use the standard, SLR camera style, round filters that screw directly on to the camera's 52 mm filter threads, but for ease of changing them in and out, you can use square filters that slot into a lens-mounted holder. Notably, the Cokin system, available in several sizes and many different types. Cokin Filters is based in the UK. In the US, B&H carries them among others.
The system is modular - you can add to it at any time. Seems to me that working with square filters that you add and remove is easier that ring filters which you have to screw on and screw off. --Victor
Subject: Wide angle lenses and Cokin filters From: Peter McLennan (peter at vfs com) >> How do I get the filter in front of my wide angle lens?I've attached a Cokin "P" series filter holder to my Sony 0.7X adaptor and it works beautifully. I never take it off the camera except when I want long telephoto shots. (see photos of filter.)
I got a Cokin filter holder designed for Betacam lenses - it screws directly into Fujinon lenses about 3" in diameter. Its inside diameter is not threaded and is *nearly* big enough to slip right over the Sony wide. A few minutes work with some emory paper enlarged its inside diameter enough that it slip-fits nicely. The Sony lens is rubber covered on its outside diameter and so it's held quite securely.
Now I can mount any Cokin series "P" filter in front of the wide lens. I can even rotate the holder 90 degrees so I can use grads when shooting verticals. The filter holder takes three filters and I use two of them (grad and pola) quite often. I got one of the square plastic matte boxes, too. It doesn't really do much except protect the filters from damage, but it does provide a good anchor for french flags, etc.
Peter McLennan, Vancouver Cokin1.jpg Cokin2.jpg
>Where might be a good place to purchase a Cokin "P" series
>and what might be a good price to pay?
A big camera store. Lens and Shutter here in Vancouver is where I got this stuff, but any large urban camera store should have it. I think the holder was about $30US, matte box thingie less than ten. I originally bought it for Betacam lens use, there are a couple of diameters available, but I don't know what they are. This is ancient history, probably ten years ago.
If you shoot indoors much you will find the camera's 12x zoom is biased a bit too much toward telephoto. Even at full wide angle, it's hard to get far enough away to get your whole subject in the frame. That's why I got the Kenko KVC 0.5x PRO wide-angle lens attachment, which is plenty. At maximum wide with this 0.5x, the image has a somewhat fish-eyed look, and it's actually wider than I'd probably ever use. A 0.6 or 0.75x lens might have covered most cases as well. The KVC 0.5 PRO model I have is no longer made: the two current Kenko 0.5x lenses with 52 mm mounting threads are the KNW-05PRO and KNW-05 Hi. Of these, the PRO model is heavier, but they are essentially the same size; both have 82mm front filter threads. Apparently the PRO model has multi-coated elements for fewer stray reflections. I tried a Sony 0.5x lens on my TRV900 in a camera store; the picture looked the same through the viewfinder as with the Kenko, but it cost more, and didn't have a front filter thread (unlikely I'd use that, though). By the way, both these lenses are somewhat sizeable and make the camera more impressive/imposing (and front-heavy). I have sample stills shot with the Kenko KNW05Hi WA, Sony .7 adapter, and Century 2x tele lenses by Carroll Lam here. Paul Nix posted some samples from the Canon C-8 Wide 0.65x (29065) here. Thomas Scheffer has some samples from the Vivanco VC95W 0.5x on his page. Tom Hardwick reports that the Raynox Digital HD-6600 PRO (0.66x) lens is free of barrel distortion (beyond what is present already in the built-in camera lens). The Raynox homepage has sample images from each of their lenses. Raynox lenses are sold in the USA by digitaletc.com, superior-cameras.com and bugeyedigital.com. Century Optics sells a 0.3x ultrawide fisheye lens popular with extreme sports shooters. There is a very useful, separately maintained list of wide-angle adaptors called the W/A LongList.
From: Mike Price (sandyprice at msn com) Date: Fri, 18 Jun 1999 13:55:32 -0700The Sony inexpensive 0752 wide angle lens which would not work on the VX-1000, due to vignetting, necessitating the purchase of the more expensive 0752H Sony wide angle lens, WORKS FINE on the TRV900 WITHOUT vignetting! I purchased a 58mm rubber lens hood, separated it from the plastic threaded piece and hot-melt glued it to the lens housing far enough back on the lens body that I can still use the push-on lens cap that came with the lens. I did, however, have to trim the "depth" of the lens cap in half so that it would go on without hitting the rubber lens hood.
Hood 305284901 $70.95 Wide Angle Lense 305285901 $268.16 (only part in stock as of 6/30/99) Lense cap. Narrow end. 58.5 Dia. 305354901 $17.86 Lense cap. Wide end. 85 Dia. 305355001 $22.25 Total: $379.92 + tax + shipping.
Date: Sat, 1 May 1999 14:15:40 -0700 From: bk277 at lafn dot org (Charlie Diaz) Subject: Century Optics wide-angle lensI just got a Century Optics Digital Series .55 reversible wide angle to use with my TRV-900. Model # is DS-55WA-58 (58mm thread) List is $325, I got for $280 at tri-state (B&H price $292) (www.centuryoptics.com - I think)
One side is standard .55 wide angle, you unscrew lens element flip and rescrew, and it is now a fisheye, with lots of barrel distortion, a nice dream/music video/comedy effect. The field of view on the fisheye is not tremendously wider, but it has a pronounced effect.
There is no vignetting (I always kill that word) on either side, which is nice compared to the under $100 tunra/satter .5 wide I was using previously. The Tundra went a bit wider, but as I mentioned there was vignetting (due to the step up ring) forcing you to tighten up The Century is wider compared to the zoomed in tundra.
The century is not zoom through, but gives you probably the outer 30-40% of the zoom range, while the larger, heavier Tundra is zoom through, having more elements in the lens.
The Century's color rendition and sharpness is excellent compared to the Tundra, which warms things up, and is softer. The century looks as sharp as the trv's lens, and on the camera the size and weight fits the trv well. The century looks to be a single piece of glass, probably why it looks so good.
As to the issue of bowing vertical lines at the edge of frame, yes it does. It doesn't seem horrible but there is some, which I wouldn't normally object to, except seeing someone's recent post about the RedEye wide angle for the XL1 - where he showed images on his homepage, and noted that the bowing was unnaceptable. Is there a .6 wide angle adaptor or wider that doesn't bow?
Another issue I think is the tiny size of the trv's lens. It is much smaller than the vx1000 - would this make it more prone to bowing? It seems using the black promist filters on a lens this small has the effect or making the diffusion more dense since each black spec takes up more of the frame.
I'm using a #1 (equiv to 1/8- the lightest available) in a P Cokin mount and it seems almost too heavy an effect for some shots. I'd like to get a .5 (which doesn't exist) maybe Tiffen will figure out tiny lenses needs lighter density effects. Pulling the filter a few inches away seems to make the effect more correct- anyone know of a matte box I could mount on the trv? The one at Global DVC for the vx1000 may be adaptable for the trv900 but it doesn't hold Cokin P size filters.
The 12x telephoto setting on the TRV900 is long enough for most general-purpose video shooting. I don't use the 48x digital zoom because the resulting image quality is lower than I want. However, if you are doing wildlife shots or other very long-distance shooting you'll want a telephoto extender. I got the Kenko KVC-200Hi 2.0x lens from B&H, which works for me. (Note: B&H's June '98 catalog lists this lens as having a 52mm thread and a 72mm front filter thread. Wrong; it has a 49 mm mounting thread, plus a 49-52mm converter ring, and no front filter thread. The front lens element is about 75 mm, the front aperture about 77 mm). I used it for the bird pictures on my TRV900 sample images page. Note that this, and most other 2x lenses will vignette on the wide end, which means if you zoom all the way out, you'll see a black circle around the image as if you were shooting through a pipe. If you want to have the full 12x range you may have to use a 1.5x lens. Also, the 49-52 mm step-ring supplied with my lens always seems about to strip the threads on the camera.
The Sony VCL-FS1K and FS2K look like a rebranded Nikon Field Scope III ED (60mm straight spotting scope), coupled with a camera adaptor ring and camera/scope support mount, and possibly a custom 10x eyepiece. astronomics.com can sell you just the Nikon spotting scope, without the adaptor ring or mount.
Since the TRV900 does not have true 16:9 format CCDs, using the 16:9 mode will throw away some vertical resolution (the camera internally masks off some pixels at the top and bottom, and regenerates the 480 scan lines using interpolation, which makes the image more fuzzy). If you attach an external cylidrical ("anamorphic") lens, you can squeeze a 16:9 format image onto the 4:3 format CCDs, without loosing any resolution. Century Optics offers just such a 16:9 anamorphic lens for the TRV900 and similar cameras. It is not cheap. There is a similar (and allegedly better) lens, OTDV52ANA being sold by OpTex in the UK. Ben Syverson's page has more information on widescreen lenses and widescreen production.
A matte (or matt) box is a holder in front of the lens for square filters. It normally has a large square lens hood or shade, and perhaps movable "French flag" shade elements as well. As a side effect, this accessory makes your camera look larger and more "professional". The Lindahl Bell-o-shade, intended for still cameras, should work and is less expensive than most others. www.bhphotovideo.com sells them, B&H catalog # LIBOS, Mfg. cat# 311320. I know of a few matte boxes intended for MiniDV-type cameras, the DS-FA00 and DS-FH44-00 from Century Optics, the FM100 from formatt.co.uk and two models from cavision.com. There are several matte boxes for the Canon XL1 reviewed at videography.com and most of these could be used with other MiniDV cameras. The Chrosziel matteboxes (sold eg. by Bandpro and Birns and Sawyer) appear to be designed for film and large video cameras, but Paul Vander Heyden said he found the Chrosziel 3x3 to work well on his TRV900 + Canon WD55 wide adaptor. He even sent photos of the side and front view, and a view of the custom-machined support for the lens (second view). The Cokin A and P filter holders, and the Lee Professsional System for still film cameras are similar in principle. Here are some photos of one. See any professional film camera supplier for these, for example gassers.com.
If you are concerned about your audio (and you probably should be :-) headphones are important to monitor what you're recording. This enables you to address sound problems as they occur. Background, interfering noises always seem more obvious on recordings than when heard directly- refrigerators, air conditioners, traffic, and wind noise to name a few. Closed-back headphones allow you to focus on what the camera's hearing. You can spend as much as you like on headphones- I like my $30 Sony MDR-CD160 set, but really any model should work [Sony headphones from MGH]. The standard professional model that everyone seems to recommend is the Sony MDR-7506 (about $100).
XLR AUDIO ADAPTOR
Professional audio people use XLR connectors for many reasons. Stereo miniplugs are fragile, and also electrically noisy if jostled. The XLR connector (mono) has three lines (two balanced signal lines + shield): balanced, shielded cable reduces interference on long cable runs, relative to the unbalanced cable ending in a miniplug that you often find on a consumer microphone. Most high-quality pro mics, mixers etc. use XLR connectors. There are some useful details in this article about audio for camcorders from Equipment Emporium. They also sell a simple XLR adaptor cable if you don't need separate volume controls.
BeachTek makes a dual XLR adaptor which mounts on the bottom of the camera like a tripod plate, with a short cable connecting to the camera's stereo minijack mic input. They make models for many cameras; the DXA-4S is listed specifically for the TRV900. Input connectors are dual female XLR, balanced; levels are switchable between MIC and LINE settings, and there's a ten-step level adjustment on each channel. It goes for about $200. They also have a DXA-6 model which includes 48V phantom power.
Studio 1 Productions sells several XLR adaptors, each mounting on your belt. They no longer have the camera-mounted XLR-PRO, but you can still get it from the manufacturer, Sign Video. I have an XLR-PRO and found it works fine with the TRV900 and also the TR7000 Digital 8 and Canon GL1. It has a switch selecting two grounding options, and as long as it's in the correct position (quite obvious, listening to the headphone jack), I've had no problems with audio noise.
I have seen several complaints by TRV900 owners of noisy audio using Beachtek adaptors, and none with the XLR-PRO, but it may well be there are a lot more Beachteks in use. Harry Kaufmann from Beachtek ascribes this to the law of averages, writing that these customers haven't contacted them, and he believes there is no problem with their hardware. He explained that Beachtek prides themselves on personal service, and they've never had a customer situation which they couldn't quickly and easily resolve. He mentioned that the TRV900 chassis ground and audio ground are separate, leading to RF interference potential: he explains the solution is to add a ground jumper from the XLR adaptor to the TRV900 chassis. (Among Sony cameras, this is apparently unique to the TRV900.) Harry sent me a DXA-4S to review, and I did not get any more noise from it than from the Studio1 box using my TRV900 and an XLR mic. Unfortunately I do not have a facility for EMI and conducted interference testing, which is probably the definitive way to resolve the question.
The TecNec IM-2 ($175) is similar to the others but mounts on your belt, not the camera. I have no information if it is compatible with the TRV900. There is a different belt-mounted XLR adaptor also called the IM2 from cevl.com ($289) which includes 18V phantom power and a switchable low-pass filter. All of these adaptors have separate level controls for Left and Right channel audio, but they maintain the signals separately into the stereo mic input so they are not actually mixers (unless you select "mono" mode, which does mix the two channels together. The first three XLR adaptors mentioned above have a mono/stereo switch.)
If you need an XLR adaptor that also offers audio gain and audio limiting, try the Glensound GSTN1. It is compact and mounts beneath the camera like the Studio1 or Beachtek, and is powered by the LANC socket, avoiding the need for a battery. The dual-XLR-input PeachTek.com device runs on internal 9V batteries and has phantom power, 2-channel preamp, compressor and limiting.
The PD100 (the DVCAM version of the TRV900) comes standard with a mono-only XLR adaptor which mounts on the hotshoe. This adaptor has an internal circuit (powered by the camera) to provide +48Vdc phantom power as used in some professional condensor mics (vs. the TRV900 minijack mic input, with +2.5 V bias as used in cheap electret mics). You could call Sony Professional Parts at 800-488-7669 and ask for the PD100 XLR assembly, part # A7094044A ($181.95).
If you have a line-level or speaker output you'd like to make into a mic-level output, you can use the AV-1 Direct box from procosound.com to do it.
MIC/LINE AUDIO MIXER
Not a camera accessory per se, but a small battery-powered mixer can be useful for event videography and dramatic productions. For instance, for a 4-channel mixer with XLR mic inputs, RCA line inputs and pan/fade controls (no EQ) try the Studiomaster Diamond Compact XLR (42DC-XLR from Markertek) for $100. The ultra-compact Glensound GSTN1 is designed for cameras like the TRV900: it mounts beneath the camera and is powered by the LANC socket (in the EU, about GBP 260 plus tax). Precision Audio Products has a small battery-powered mic preamp, dual XLR in/out, phantom power, lowpass, -120dBu input noise, under $500. The Samson Mixpad 4 (also from Markertek) has two XLR mic inputs, plus another stereo input and has 3 band EQ, $160. Markertek has a lot of other mixers and pro video gear too. Equipment Emporium has a lot of pro sound equipment, and information.
On the higher end, the very compact NGS X2-2 from Klay (about $1000) includes two XLR mic inputs, low-cut filters, limiter, +48V phantom and 12V T power, line outputs and a mic-level output for the TRV900. Or, the $1300 Shure FP33A with 3 XLR mic inputs, limiter action, +48V and 12V phantom and 12V T power (T power is used in some film production mics- if you have to ask, you probably don't need it).
For all these mixers (except the Klay) you may also need an attenuator if you want to connect it to the TRV900's mic input. The XLR adaptors mentioned above will act as an attenuator if you set the input selector to "line". Optionally you can just use the headphone jack or main mixer output directly to the mic input. You must set the mixer headphone or master volume quite low (probably 1 or 2 setting out of 10) to avoid overloading the mic input. Either way, to minimize preamp noise, set the TRV900 manual audio input level at 2 or 3 clicks above minimum, then adjust the mixer output for correct levels.
48V PHANTOM POWER
Most professional studio "true condenser" microphones require +48V "phantom power" supplied to them via the XLR connector. If you are not using a professional mixing console with this feature built-in, you can use a separate power supply (many small mixers have some phantom power but at a lower voltage, for example +32V from the Samson Mixpad 4 when using AC power, or +18V when running from internal batteries). The Stewart BPS-1 is one option: it runs off two 9V batteries, and John Shelton reports it is about $80 at www.fullcompass.com (800-356-5844). Or, the Denecke PS-1A uses one 9V battery and is about $135. They also have the PS-2, for two XLR mics. Audio Technica makes a one-channel, AC-line powered 48V phantom supply, model AT8801 (list $75) and a 4-channel model CP8506 (list $180); zzounds.com sells them somewhat cheaper. The Beachtek DXA-6 runs on batteries, has two inputs but offers +48V on left channel only, $275. Location Sound offers several mic preamps with phantom power, from Radio Design Labs' STM-1 ($99) to Grace Design's Lunatec V2 ($1500).
The Studio One Vu Pro is a dual 2-color LED bargraph that mounts on the hotshoe and shows you audio levels for both channels separately. (It would also work for a MiniDisk recorder, or any audio device with a stereo minjack output.) This is useful since the TRV900's on-screen bar graph is displayed only if you're in manual audio level mode, and anyway it is mono (L+R sum). I have a similar unit (Vuit Plus) once sold by Beachtec. I have never used it in a "real" situation; since I do live event video I have too many things to do at once to also ride audio gain, so I just leave the camera in auto-gain mode. However, if you use external mics, it is helpful to have confirmation that your mic is working (turned on, battery, cable and connector ok).
A number of people are using MiniDisc (MD) recorders in addition to, or instead of, the camera's built-in sound system. This means you have the additional hassle of transferring the audio separately to the computer NLE and aligning it with the video, but you have the key advantage of being able to place a microphone next to the subject without trailing wires, and without the expense and potential radio interference involved with a wireless mic system. Also you can avoid the camera's mic amp, which may be noisy. MD recorders typically offer line input, for use with an external mixer or preamp. They often have mic input too, although their preamp may not be better than the camera's. Unlike tape recorders, the MD is stable, so you can record quite a while without the audio and video slipping out of synch. Sony, Aiwa, Sharp and others make MD recorders that fit easily in a pocket: see Minidisc.Org for a comprehensive list of models and features.
At 04:48 PM 10/18/01, Kelci Williams wrote: >I have used a minidisk recorder for my video productions for years - going >back to my linear editing (pre-computer) days. I now have a NLE system but >have not been able to figure out the best way to input the audio from my >minidisk to my computer. Do you use the "line in" connection?
My solution is a fantastic box called the Roland UA-30 USB audio interface. It's like an external pro audio card on a USB cable. Inputs include: Line, Mic/Guitar, Optical, Coaxial.
I bought it from Edirol. They seem to have a similar product now under the name Edirol UA-3 (Roland owns Edirol). It looks like that one has separate mic and guitar inputs, but no coaxial digital input. They also have cheaper analog-only and digital-only USB input devices.
At 02:16 AM 10/18/01, JAMES HEITMAN wrote: >I use a stereo lapel mic and record both channels so that I have redundancy >in case something goes wrong on one of the channels. Otherwise mono, too, >is a good way to increase recording time significantly over the one hour >limit.
I have not yet had a shoot where the second channel did not save my butt in some way. Funny thing is, sometimes they bang the stand mic with a gesture, so the lapel mic saves the day. Other times they are looking away from the stand mic when they bark, so the lapel mic overdrives but the stand mic gets good audio. Sometimes I have to switch back and forth between channels during one sentence, because each one has a problem somewhere. Having the two channels is invaluable.
STUDIO LIGHTS To really get the best picture quality the camera is capable of, you want a lot of light. Outdoors during the day is generally not a problem (in fact you may want a ND filter) but if you're shooting indoors you might use the large, AC line powered, halogen flood- or spot-lights on stands. B&H Photo has a print catalog with a few pages of such lights- pro tools at pro prices (the compact and brilliant HMI lights can be $4000 or more!) To start off cheaply, I got two 100W halogen floods (standard screw-in socket mounts) and utility light socket/shades with spring clamp, from the hardware store for $30, and a 1000-watt, dual-fixture halogen worklight with its own tripod, about 5' high, for $40, also at the hardware store. It's an ugly yellow; they are sold as utility work lights for your garage- but they light up an interior for video quite well. Be careful: they get very hot! One reader recommends the Regent PHL300 "painter's light" over a standard worklight: it has a special color-corrected halogen bulb and a diffusing glass face for a softer light effect. They are available at Menards, Home Depot, and Do It Best.
Pro Studio Lighting: if you become more serious about video, you'll find that the unavoidably broad beam from a floodlight doesn't give you the control you want, and different manufacturer's bulbs may have a different color temperature. You may prefer the more focused beam from a reflector or fresnel instrument, with adjustable "barndoor" flaps to shade a particular area.
I found the lighting overview by John Jackman has a very useful summary of video lighting. He has written a well-recommended book titled "Lighting for Digital Video & Television". The first and second Digital Journalist lighting articles by Steve Smith describe the lights and some basic applications. Lowel makes a popular line of video lights and accessories, available separately or in kits. NRG Research sells some as well. Lighting is available from Birns and Sawyer, the B&H Photo and Markertek catalogs among others.
The camera comes with a fairly small NP-F330 battery, good for perhaps 45 minutes of shooting, and a wall adapter which runs the camera if it's on, or charges the battery if it's not. I got a larger NP-F750 battery ($100), and it runs for five hours (using the viewfinder, maybe 4 hours with LCD screen). Usually I don't have that much shooting in one session to do. Sony lists the DC-V700 ($150) which plugs into your car's 12V cigarette lighter socket and will either run the camera or charge a battery (but not both at once). At this price, you might prefer to use the standard wall adapter that comes with the camera, along with a 12V(DC) -> 120 V(AC) inverter.
I think Sony's "InfoLithium" battery technology is the market leader in performance, by a significant margin, and I haven't found a reason to use other batteries. However Lenmar makes substitute batteries and chargers, see for example Audio Etcetera and 123av.com.
12VDC MOBILE OPERATION
I have a 140W inverter from Radio Shack (RS#22-132 $100) which easily powers the camera's wall adapter, and lets you run a small monitor/TV or other equipment too. (I've since discovered a similar unit at half the price, cat.# 980-0321 from Tech America.) I once filmed a dance routine and ran my VCR off the inverter in my car to give the performer a VHS copy on the spot (the VCR only uses 24 watts). I used the TRV900's still playback feature to add a fancy title and end screen which I'd prepared beforehand on my computer and saved on the PC flash card in the camera. She was impressed at the professional-appearing tape segment prepared on-the-fly, in the parking lot!
I have a 70 A-h 12V marine deep-cycle battery ($60) which together with the inverter could (for instance) run a 100W halogen lamp for 7 hours. However it weighs about 40 lb. so you don't carry it around casually. It's definitely overkill for just a few hours of VCR/Monitor use.
NLE digital video editing with firewire cards is getting very popular now. This is a large enough topic to need its own page, found here. You can also do limited cuts-only editing with a DV VCR, which is possible with the "video walkman", my review is here. I have a list of many DV and MiniDV tape decks here.
There are three types of cable you can use for carrying signals to and from the TRV900. The S-Video cable, the A/V cable, and the firewire cable. The S-Video cable (4 pins in a round socket) is not included with the camera, but can be purchased from almost any video store, including Radio Shack. RS#15-1510 (6' cable, $14) and RS#15-1503 (12' cable, $18). Remember the S-video cable carries video only, not sound (you still need the A/V cable for sound). Radio Shack also carries the 3/32" stereo to 1/8" stereo adaptors (RS#274-397, RS#274-373) and stereo extension cord (#42-2462) useful for extension LANC cabling.
TRV900 A/V cable: The A/V cable (comes with the camera) has a special miniplug on the camera end, standard red/white/yellow RCA plugs (R+L stereo sound + video) on the other. Replacements can be obtained from Sony, or a variety of lengths can be had much cheaper elsewhere as mentioned below.
Sony at 1-800-222-7669 carries the TRV900 A/V cable, part #176508011. calrad.com makes it in 3, 6 and 12 foot lengths, all of them cheaper than Sony, and it is actually better made. Calrad makes Mono XLR to stereo mini and other such adaptors; they are a wholesaler, so I ordered from Pacific Radio at 323-969-2035. TecNec makes a similar cable, sold by markertek. Firewire cables: You will note there are several connector combinations possible on firewire cables. The more common one on computers has six pins: four pins for data and two for carrying power to remote devices. Most firewire cards for PCs use this 6-pin connector.
However, the TRV900 uses a 4-pin firewire connector, in common with every other MiniDV camera and deck I know of. This connector has just the four data wires, and omits the power connection. It is considerably smaller than the 6-pin format. The Canopus DVRaptor card uses this connector also, as do the Sony VAIO laptops with firewire.
Firewire cards sold for video editing typically ship with the appropriate cable: eg, a 6/4 firewire cable to connect 4-pin DV equipment to the 6-pin Bravado DV2000, and a 4/4 cable with the DVRaptor. If you want to edit between two DV cameras, you'll want a 4/4 cable.
atbatt.com and cwol.com sell firewire cables. markertek.com has a selection. cablemax and cablemakers have 6 and 15 foot cables at reasonable prices. l-com.com carries some; note they call the 6-pin style "Type 1" and the smaller, 4-pin connector for DV cameras "Type 2". Firewirestuff has lots of cables but they aren't the cheapest. Sony at xtrasdirect.sel.sony.com offers the VMC-IL4415 (1.5 meter firewire, 4-pin to 4-pin) for $50. If you have two DV cameras, or a camera and deck and want to digitally record from a remote camera, Videonics sells a DistanceDV firewire cable in lengths up to 50 meters (164 feet) long.
This may be too obvious to mention, but you want a good TV or monitor to view your video with. To see all the TRV900 image detail you want 550 lines of resolution or better, which is better than the majority of home TV sets (broadcast TV resolves about 330 lines). I previously had a JVC 27" TV with fairly poor resolution. When I tried a friend's Panasonic CT-32SF35 TV I was impressed by the wonderful image quality. (This 32" TV is about $800 street). I then got a Pansonic CT-27SF36A (27" screen) which is certainly better than the JVC, but when viewing MiniDV tapes I see a distinct "processed" look; a bit like Photoshop "unsharp mask" for still images. Adjusting the "sharpness" control doesn't affect this. It makes VHS tapes look better than usual, and MiniDV tapes look worse than they might.
If you are trying to do pro-quality work, you probably want a monitor rather than a TV. Most TVs, including mine, have automatic circuits that may change the image in different ways (perhaps for the better) but each TV is different, and what looks good on your TV may play less well on your client's or friend's set. When you're editing video you want to see the true original, so you can fix problems before anyone else sees them. There is an excellent article about monitors at videoexpert.home.att.net. There are three main manufacturers of video monitors; in order of increasing reputation and price they are JVC, Panasonic, and Sony. Very few local stores carry real video monitors, but you can see some online at B&H, ggvideo.com, and desperado-video.com. I have an inexpensive Panasonic CT-1384Y, which has awkward controls and modest resolution. I suspect the later models CT-1386Y and CT-1387 are similar. I like the specs on the 16" JVC TM-1650SU (list $930) but I haven't actually seen one. Based on its specs, the JVC TM-H1375SU looks like a bargain (haven't seen it, either).
Small LCD monitor: sometimes you want a small portable display, for example to monitor a signal at a remote VCR. Elite Video sells a 5.5-inch LCD monitor which would do well in that application, check under "hard to find items". These are not as hard to find as they used to be. You see similar sized LCD displays sold for automotive use at good prices, for example Parts Express or AVDeals under "Mobile Video".
Sony, Panasonic, TDK, JVC (Victor), Fuji, and Maxell all produce MiniDV tape. For a long time I always used the cheapest grade of Panasonic tape myself, and stuck with that brand. I do occasionally see a dropout on my tapes, but not regularly. Recently I switched to the more expensive Panasonic MQ ("Master Quality") tape which has a number of improvements claimed to reduce wear and dropouts. I have not seen enough dropouts to have real statistics, but I can say at least it isn't any worse. MQ tape uses a "dry" type surface lubricant different from all other Panasonic tapes and also from all other brands on the market, so run a head cleaner tape before switching to or from this tape.
The MiniDV Tape FAQ at zenera.com explains some differences between tape grades, and other good information. In theory, I would expect higher grade tape to have fewer dropouts. I also have some comments on tape in my TRV900 FAQ.
Prices are always changing but the cheapest source for 60-minute MiniDV tape I know of is currently tapestockonline.com and Pro-Tape.com. Confusingly, this is a different company from protape.com also in this market. Others include ggvideo.com, A&A Discount, Adorama, taperesources.com, B&H Photo, tapewarehouse.com, tapeandmedia.com, TapeOnline. A few people like the in-camera titling and index feature available with the memory chip type tape, but I have never felt it's worth the added cost. CameraWorld or your local Fry's Electronics are other possibly inexpensive tape vendors. thetapecompany.com deals mostly in pro formats (DigiBeta, DVCPRO, Digital S etc.) but last I checked, does offer JVC MiniDV 10-packs. terrshop.com is a Toronto-based web site that will ship MiniDV direct from Japan (watch out for shipping costs).
There are several MiniDV rewinders on the market, but according to this note this note one of them (Maxell brand) tended to mangle tapes, so I advise caution. Sima sells rewinders for various tape formats including the SRW-62 for 6-mm (DV, MiniDV) tape. Catherine on the TRV900 mailing list reports that it uses 4 AAA batteries and rewinds a 60 minute tape in about 2 minutes (same as TRV900).
There are some MiniDV cassette tape labels available from professionallabel.com. Here is a Word template for some MiniDV labels (not necessarily those above).
Although your camera is digital, inevitably you'll be making VHS copies for friends and clients. If you need VHS tape, labels, sleeves, boxes, or mailers, I've found that CamAudio.com has decent prices. They also sell shorter blank casettes like 15 and 20 minutes. Polyline Corp has VHS and other media plus mailers, sleeves, labels, etc. and their catalog is online in PDF format. neato.com makes VHS labels, and also VHS cassette sleeves you can print on an inkjet. tapeworld.com has some cheap VHS tape also. Many of the vendors who sell MiniDV tape, listed in the item above, also sell VHS and SVHS tape. If you use Microsoft Publisher there are useful templates at mvps.org for printing VHS labels, also CD/DVD case inserts.
By the way, many people who own a DV camera are disappointed when they see their VHS dubs, since the image quality is so poor by comparison to the digital original. I have some suggestions here, but don't expect miracles. In my experiments with several different brands I didn't see much visible difference, except that some cheaper tapes had more dropouts (but not consistently).
Curious fact: there is a thermo-magnetic machine that copies a full 2-hour VHS tape in 24 seconds. Similar but slightly slower, you can buy your very own Sony Sprinter (HSP800C) for a mere quarter-million (US$282,450.00).
The reports I've read (2006) indicate both DVD-R and DVD+R are widely compatible on all recent DVD players, but this holds true only for "good quality" media. In other words, the bargain-bin stuff may be worth less than you paid for it. I normally use Taiyo-Yuden brand 8x inkjet-printable DVD-R from rima.com which has served me well.
Sooner or later, if you use your camera enough, you will confront the issue of organizing your many MiniDV tapes. Bryco makes many types of racks including the MDV-24 for 24 MiniDV tapes. Tapewarehouse carries the MDV-24 for about $14 each and Digital Origin is also selling them.
You might want to print still frames from your DV camera, probably with a color printer. I have owned the Epson Stylus 600, Stylus Photo and Stylus Photo EX color inkjet printers, the last two being 5-color (+ black) printers designed for color photos. I have had head-clog problems with each Epson printer, but admittedly after using non-Epson inks in them (Epson brand ink is remarkably expensive). A friend who always uses Epson inks has not had clogs. When they work, the Epson dye-based inkjets produce very nice prints on glossy paper or film-type (expensive) inkjet media. Those who have the competing pigment-based HP photo printers also report good results. The TRV900 still images do not have enough resolution to print clearly larger than about 3x5 or possibly 4x6" size, although some people report good results using fractal-based scaling software ( Altamira Genuine Fractals ) for somewhat larger images. If you are printing a collage or stitched panorama of course you have more pixels and can usefully go to larger sizes. There are a number of online websites offering to print digital photos for you using traditional photographic paper, for example shutterfly.com. These are intended for digital still cameras; I don't know if it's worth it for the limited resolution of a video still.
Quality color printing for the home user is a rapidly evolving field. The modern "photo quality" inkjet printers from Canon and Epson do rival the quality of traditional wet-process photographs when used with high-quality coated papers. Note that the Epson Stylus Photo 900 and 960 model photo inkjets can also print directly on CDs and DVDs. You do need to buy the special blank white media labelled "inkjet printable", available eg. from rima.com, taperesources.com, supermediastore.com, tapeandmedia.com, and meritline.com.
Microphones now have their own
Waterproof housings now have their own page.