100 Days 48 States - The Gear

CANON ELURA
DV Camcorder


The world of video recording equipment has changed quite rapidly with the recent advent and acceptance of the DV (or Digital Video) format.  Very high quality video, nearing broadcast quality, can now be captured in a unit that fits in the palm of your hand.   Something that is small and does a great job of capturing what you see and experience makes for a perfect motorcycling compliment.

Canon Elura I've worked for some time in television, but my first hands-on experience with DV and the Mini-DV format came in March of 1999 while working on a short film starring Bill Murray and Alec Baldwin.  "Scout's Honor" was directed by my old boss Neil Leifer, the famous still photographer.  The set was lit like a 35mm motion picture film shoot, with big-time lighting equipment.  But the movie was captured on Canon XL-1 video cameras which record onto Mini-DV tape.  These tapes are about half the size of a deck of playing cards, but they can hold 90 minutes of video.

I was amazed at the quality of this format.  The resulting footage looked like it had been shot on Panavision film cameras!  Of course, the XL-1 is a professional camera with interchangeable lenses, and the excellent lighting crew made all the difference, but the experience convinced me that a revolution is going on here.  DV is a great alternative to film, at a fraction of the cost.  And because the format is digital you can easily edit what you shoot and then throw it back to tape without losing any quality, unlike earlier analog video formats.

When a friend who works in the Promotion and Advertising department at the Travel Channel heard about my upcoming 100 DAYS trip, he jumped on the idea of me collecting footage for their library.  First he suggested I strap a 16mm film camera to my motorcycle.  That wasn't going to happen but I convinced him that DV was the way to go.  After all, I couldn't lug film equipment and lenses all over the country, and I knew that DV was up to the task.

With some direction and advice from Michael Zorich, the Product Marketing Manager at Canon's video division, I decided the Canon Elura was the best choice for this task.  This camera has excellent features designed into an incredibly small package. It is small enough to fit in a jacket pocket yet the image quality is superb.  Size is the most important criteria to me when picking gear for the motorcycle, and often it means a compromise in features.  Not so with the Canon Elura.  Besides capturing video and audio extremely well, the unit doubles as a digital still camera.  Most of the images on this site were created with the Elura.

As my journey progressed, I became more comfortable with the Elura, using my still camera less and less. I can even use it safely and comfortably while moving on the motorcycle, albeit with the right traffiic and road conditions.  In all, I captured almost 30 hours of footage. The amazing Elura is quite a show stopper.  Throughout my entire trip, the camera got more attention from people than anything else, including the GPS and the fact that I had ridden all the way from New York.  At the time of this writing, the Canon Elura can be purchased for around $1200.

After 52 days of bouncing the Elura around the country, I managed to break the tape loading mechanism of the camera.  My resulting story of trying to find another one in northern California is somewhat humorously recounted in DAY 54 of my journals. I honestly believe this was not the fault of the camera, as I had been subjecting it to unusual abuse.  Remember, these things are highly advanced electronic devices.  There are limits involved.

Canon has a great lineup of DV camcorders and there are also some good cameras available from other manufactures, including Sony.  I've tried some of them out and have been pleased with the results.  But I think Canon offers advantages in image stabilization, lens optics, and bang for the buck.  I can't wait to see what the folks at Canon come up with next.

RELATED LINKS:

CANON'S DV WEB SITE


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