With the birth of my twins just over a year ago, we've been taking a lot more photos and video. Keeping all of that data organized is now becoming more important than ever. In the same way that people track genealogy and pass it down, I feel like the photographs and videos that we record are important pieces of our history and should be preserved for future generations to see. In this digital age, there's no reason for us to be passing down faded photographs, negatives, blurry video tapes or camcorder tapes that have no device to play them back with.
This blog covers my experiences with collection, conversion and storage of this important data. Hopefully you'll find something here useful in your own mission to preserve your memories.
Collecting Data for the Future
Before you start worrying about converting and archiving old data you should take inventory of your current collection methods. Obviously digital photography has been around for a long time and the quality you can achieve from a relatively inexpensive digital camera is pretty amazing. Almost all of the newer digital still cameras can also take really high quality 1080p video. Your choice of equipment really comes down to budget and how you want to use it. Even today's cell phones have amazing quality but I wouldn't rely on them as my primary method for documenting your kids' birthdays, holidays, etc.
I primarily use 4 pieces of equipment for taking photos and video. Each one has it's own time and place.
This camcorder takes video using the AVCHD format in full 1920x1080. It's very compact and has 32gb of built in memory. It also has an SD card slot for longer trips when you need more storage space. A typical camcorder like this one is very easy to use. Everything is automatic including focus, shutter speed, exposure, etc. It has the capability to take still pictures but I've just never been a fan of using a digital camcorder for stills. The video quality is great and because this is so easy to use, its hard to screw up the video. Lately I've used this around the house to capture Christmas morning with the kids and other things where I've wanted quick, easy video.
My Canon Digital SLR is my primary piece of equipment for photographs. Lately I've become more and more interested in photography and have set out to learn as much as I can and improve my photography skills. I've invested quite a bit in lenses and accessories to allow me to use the T3i in just about any situation. I really enjoy using the Canon for video because it allows you to be very creative. Unfortunately everything is manual and it takes a lot of practice to get great video. But when you get it right, it looks amazing. I take the Canon everywhere we go where we want to have great photos. It's a larger camera, but pretty easy to carry around so its worth the trouble in most cases. I have quite a few lenses, but typically just bring the one lens that gives me the most flexibility. Below is a list of various lenses I use and when I use them.
Canon 17-55mm f/2.8
Canon 50mm f/1.8
Canon 70-300mm IS USM
For video, I also use a few other pieces of equipment such as a GlideCam HD-2000, Revolve camera dolly, Rode video mic, LED lights, etc. These are mainly just to get creative shots because I enjoy shooting and editing videos for fun.
My wife wanted a digital point-and-shoot that she could easily carry in her purse. For her, size was important so I decided on this model and we've been very happy with it. Not only does it take great photos but the HD video also looks very good. There are times when we don't have the Canon T3i with us and this camera does a great job of still allowing us to collect great pictures and video.
Last but not least, both of us use the Apple iPhone. This would never be our primary piece of gear for collecting images and video, but we are never anywhere without our cellphones and if there's something we need to capture, this is better than missing the opportunity altogether.
Whatever equipment you decide to use, think about where and how you want to use it. Will you be comfortable dragging around a larger camera with extra batteries, lenses, etc? Pick a device that fits your needs and that you won't leave home because its just too much of a pain. You'll regret it when you want to take that picture or capture that video and you don't have something with you. A good point-and-shoot is definitely worth investing in. I'm also really interested in the newer mirror-less cameras like the Sony NEX series. These cameras are a little more expensive, but get you near the quality of a DSLR with the size of a point-and-shoot and the flexibility of interchangeable lenses.
In "Part 2" I'll talk about my quest for the perfect data storage device and how to make sure your data is backed up and secure.