A “little” knowledge is a dangerous thing.

“A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.”
~ Alexander Pope
~ Essay on Criticism/1709

The process of choosing cameras is simple if you don’t know anything. Just grab something bright and shiny in your price range. Oooooo…I’ll take that red camera!

Problems arise when you have a little knowledge. That’s when it can get confusing.

As part of the process of choosing a new camera, I’m checking the technology down to the last component. Right now taking a look at the technical aspects of CMOS v. CCD. And – unfortunately – reading some very raw arguments about which creates a superior image.

First let’s define what I’m talking about. Bot CMOS and CCDs are the light sensitive chips inside today’s video cameras. They are to the camera what your retina is to your eyeball. They translate the patterns of light and dark into digits.

CCDs were initially the more common of the two – invented in the 1969. CCD stands for “charge-coupled device.” Basically it is a chip that reacts to, or is charged by, light.

CMOS is a complimentary metal-oxide semiconductor – preceding the CCD by six years.

For a more information on the two, check out this VideoMaker article. There’s also a more technical article at the Dalsa website. Plus, check out this, written more from a camera user’s view.

My interest is primarily image quality and low light ability in a camera costing in the $2,700-$3,000 range. A non-tape camera shooting to SD cards, must have good manual controls and XLR mike inputs.
Why SD cards? I want a camera whose media is readily available…that can be handed off to the client or ingested into a computer by plugging in a card reader.
I want to control my images…not deal with a camera that flickers with changing lights and scenery or grabs sound when I want quiet. So manual iris, audio, and focus please.
And since I already have the pro XLR mikes, why change and step back to mini-jack?

So, here’s what I’ve learned:
Energy use – CMOS uses less power/CCD uses more power (something to consider is battery life when out on a job)
Low light – seems like a toss-up. Initially CCD was better, but CMOS is catching up.
Image quality – this is the one I’m stuck on. What we really need is a Consumer Reports website that does direct comparisons scientifically on cameras and other gear. Right now it is a jungle out there, with everyone having an opinion, generally supporting THEIR camera. Why? Because it’s the one they paid the big bucks for.

As co-author Larry Nance pointed out, though – all of the Professional (big P) cameras use CCDs because they are better. Well, they’re also, in the case of pro cameras, bigger too.

Thank goodness I can’t afford a camera for a few more months…plenty of time to conclude the research.

2 thoughts on “A “little” knowledge is a dangerous thing.

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