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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...

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Old March 12th, 2010, 08:06 PM   #1
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Fair wear and tear ???

Hi Guys

I was wondering, from a business model point of view, what the reliable life of card based cameras are now given?? Two seasons ago I was still on tape and I used to figure that based on around 30-40 shoots a season my drives and head wear would have been around or approaching the 500 hour mark so I used to replace my cams every 24 months based on that. The resale value was still fairly good so my operating costs were quite small (deducting the new cam price less what you got from the old ones)

With the "no moving parts" technology of SDHC based cameras..has anyone have any idea of when a camera would start to become un-reliable and one would need to look at replacing it?? There must be a certain amount of wear on the zoom motor and even cards going in and out the slot must create some sort of wear????

Any ideas ????

While we on on the "wear" subject, what sort of re-use or replace frequency do you look at with SDHC cards ??? Technically they are rated for thousands of cycles but is there a practical or suggested change period. I currently alternate weddings with 2 sets of cards and so far this season I haven't yet changed them ..that would be around 20 odd weddings so each card would have been formattted 10 times I would guess. I got used to just using brand new tapes on my old cameras ..pro quality and they were only used once!

Comments would be appreciated

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Old March 12th, 2010, 08:46 PM   #2
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I'm a wedding photographer, my wife is the videographer though I help her and do most of the equipment research & purchase. I can say that with DSLR cameras, the main wear issue is with the shutters. That said, I've never really worn out a DSLR, because they came out with a new model I wanted before I could wear out the old ones. I've had some for many years, still have a 20D that must be 6 years old now that works as good as the day I bought it, however I only use it for certain projects now, it doesn't get near the use it used to.

My guess is, there's very little to worry about with the new breed of memory card based camcorders in terms of wearing them out. Like you, I was worried about how long our tape based camcorders would last, and when we might see problems with the heads and transport. Now I'm pretty confident that unless we do something stupid with one of our SD card based camcorders, we should be able to use them for many years without worry. More likely, we'll be tempted to upgrade because of the features of a newer model than because of worry about the cameras we have failing.

As for memory cards, my experience is they are amazingly sturdy. My pattern with the DSLRs was every year or so I'd pick up some new ones, usually higher capacity cards as they got bigger and cheaper and my cameras got more megapixels, and start using them more often in the rotation than the older cards. I'd keep the older cards, just using them less and less often, until some of them just got put in the hardly ever used stack where they sit and wait for a day I might need them. It's not a very scientific method, but I've never had a problem in the 6+ years I've been shooting digitally, so it doesn't seem to me that it's a major issue to be overly cautious about. From what I've heard, SD cards are even more reliable than CF cards, although the stress on a card from being used for video is probably harder than still photography with the more constant write times (possibly generating more heat, the enemy of all electronics). The main thing is to write a date-of-purchase on the label of every new card you get so you always know how old it is, that's probably a good thing to do.

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Old March 12th, 2010, 11:09 PM   #3
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i have had SD cards in and out of slots 100+ times without any issues, i can see that the "gold" is worn , but looks like it would last another 100+.

a GOOD card should be able to be used over and over again more than 100 times, and still work 100 more in all ways.
A card that is capable of failing after the first initial full tests (meaning no obvious manufacture defects) will probably be a card from a manufacture that just doent care enough. anything else ANY of them could give out on you be it the 3rd time or the 300th time, if a teeny tiny section of it has a bad block it tries to log-out that area and move on. That alone could be bad enough.

meaning if it wasnt a BAD brand, and makes it through the first testing before use, then it should work fine, and WHEN it will have its first small bad block area will not be on a timeable. you could probably make more conclusions based on how HOT it got, it getting broken, and the contacts not making good contatact.

So then say your cam or reader or something scrapes the contacts , drags or wears them more, that would completly change everything. if dust and dirt are getting in, road films salt water. all the possible enviromental factors.

i really think it would be like everything from houses to ashfault, how it was treated in all ways will (just like tape) make a huge difference. along with its original quailty.

I have formatted and watched videos on a PDA , and data to tv devices using chips for a long time, other than a certian device (cell phone) they do not get corruptions or fail YET, after hundreds of in-out format clear re-load , add more data, back and forth. the cell phone that oft corrupts, just does Stupid stuff that causes FILE corruptions.

short run consumer photographers will take a few shots run the chip through, pop the chip back, over and over. i do that too for all sorts of pics.

The problem will be when there IS a problem :-) it will be a really bad problem. 2 seconds of dropout on a tape or 10minutes of a corrupted file that you cant fix or camera just STOPPED :-( because of an error or it fixing one.
and your really not going to know when the first one happens, but you can assume after the first one it is more likly to happen again.
Re-learning everything all over again, one more time.
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Old March 12th, 2010, 11:16 PM   #4
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Chris, bearing in mind I come from a Betacam background I asked my supplier - a Sony Main agent with whom I've dealt for 20+ years - how long I should expect to get out of the z1 heads - Betacam remember was 1000 hours. Also remember that his best interests (if he wants to be ruthless to an old, loyal customer) are in selling service/replacements and his reply was that the entire group hadn't replaced the heads in a Z1 - ever as yet.

We've now gone over to MRC1K recorders so head wear is now a thing of the past.

The other comment was from a Sony engineer who said that any non-card recorder was "daft" - anything moving (eg tape, HDD) is going to stop moving at some time - the laws of physics state it.

Of course there still remain many moving parts in our cameras with motors and servos to go wrong, but can you recall the last time you heard of a autofocus servo burning out?

Assuming that a complete failure of the moving bits we no longer use (tape transport, load etc) doesn't screw up the entire camera, the conclusion for us is that we shall move up from Z1s when there's an accident or when the features/performance of the alternatives demand it.
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Old March 13th, 2010, 12:58 AM   #5
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Thanks Guys

I must admit that I have had flawless operation from my set of cards this season so in theory they should last indefinately!! I must admit it has been a pleasure not to worry about whether I have enough tapes in the box for the next few weddings and remembering to order more.
The only camcorder issues I have ever had have been tape transport ones and that was on an old MiniDV camera where the loading motor started to fail. They are pretty reliable machines if you come to think of it!!!

Actually Philip, I read that Panasonic also quote 1000 hours on the DVX cameras as a recommended head replacement period..that's a lot of weddings!!!!

Just for interest I figure the only SDHC card failure you could have might be contact damage and as long as the card door is closed and you keep the cards clean, that's unlikely to occur. I have a very neat Pelican case that takes 8 SDHC cards and has the usual Pelican dust/water seals so they are kept is pristine condition. (The only genuine Pelican case that I own as it costs a mere $15!!!)

As already mentioned it seems that nowdays we change cameras mainly to get better ones rather than fear of the mechanisms becoming unreliable!!

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