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Gear Post 2012: Zen Edition

Okay, okay, okay... I'll write the gear post before the year's over! One of the things that keeps me from writing all year is that it never really feels like the stuff in my pack has changed all that much. I switch one item at a time, never thinking I have much to write about. Then the end of the year comes, the citizenry demands a post, and I'm always surprised to see just how much has changed.

I called last year's gear post the Style Edition because although it was 100% functional, I also made a few choices to have slightly better looking clothing. That trend has continued a little bit this year, but I'm calling this one the Zen Edition because my already minimal packing list has become even shorter.

When I first started traveling, the minimalism aspect of it was pure coincidence. I had intended on buying a normal backpack, but Todd convinced me to go smaller. Our first 28L Deuter Futura backpacks seemed impossibly small at first, but after a year of learning what is and isn't necessary, space gradually opened up. My response was to fill it with new gadgets-- eventually I had a portable kettlebell, a full cot with silk sheets, and who knows what else.

As the years went on, Todd continued to get smaller backpacks, which influenced me to get smaller backpacks as well. I would always pack them completely full until recently. Last year I had some empty space, and now my pack is less than halfway full. If I could find a well organized and designed 12 liter pack, I would use it.

Part of the reason I have less stuff now is because technology keeps getting better. My laptop is tiny and light. The camera I have now couldn't exist five years ago when I started all this. Everything charges with the same cable. The other reason I've continued to reduce what I travel with, though, is because carry unnecessary items makes your trip worse. They weigh your pack down, clutter it up, and make it take longer to pack and unpack. The less I travel with, the better my experience is. At this point my pack weighs 10.7 pounds, which makes it trivial to carry it all day, even when climbing through the mountains.

Canon SD900 Video Sizes & YouTube

On DROdio

I've started doing a lot of YouTube video blogging and I've been working on finding the best video camera for the job.Since I post mostly to YouTube, I don't need a super high resolution camera.   I've been using a Canon SD900 for several years now and it's an excellent camera.  But when I take videos longer than 10 minutes or so, I've found it freezes my MacBook Pro up when i connect my camera to the laptop via USB cable, and I have to force-quit iPhoto.  So, I went in search for another camera.  I tried the Flip (Mino series) and the DXG 567V HD cameras.  They're both in the $100 - $150 range.

I would rate the DXG above the Flip Mino any day of the week.  It has a macro lens setting and is higher quality.  It uses rechargable AA batteries.  While both the DXG and Flip feel cheap compared to the Canon, they are good camcorders.  But after testing their video qualities, I decided they weren't any better than the Canon.  So, how to keep it from freezing up?

I ended up bying a $2 SD Micro USB flash card reader off eBay.  It just allows me to plug my flash card directly into my laptop via a USB port.  For whatever reason, I'm able to sync long movies using the flash card reader just fine when the cable fails & locks iPhoto up.

But I also wanted to test different camera resolutions to see if I could get away with using a lower resolution video setting on the Canon camera, since the movies are really large files on the 640x480 30 FPS (FPS = "Frames Per Second") setting.  For example, a 5 minute video is 325MB!

I've started doing a lot of YouTube video blogging and I've been working on finding the best video camera for the job.Since I post mostly to YouTube, I don't need a super high resolution camera.   I've been using a Canon SD900 for several years now and it's an excellent camera.  But when I take videos longer than 10 minutes or so, I've found it freezes my MacBook Pro up when i connect my camera to the laptop via USB cable, and I have to force-quit iPhoto.  So, I went in search for another camera.  I tried the Flip (Mino series) and the DXG 567V HD cameras.  They're both in the $100 - $150 range. I would rate the DXG above the Flip Mino any day of the week.  It has a macro lens setting and is higher quality.  It uses rechargable AA batteries.  While both the DXG and Flip feel cheap compared to the Canon, they are good camcorders.  But after testing their video qualities, I decided they weren't any better than the Canon.  So, how to keep it from freezing up? I ended up bying a $2 SD Micro USB flash card reader off eBay.  It just allows me to plug my flash card directly into my laptop via a USB port.  For whatever reason, I'm able to sync long movies using the flash card reader just fine when the cable fails & locks iPhoto up. But I also wanted to test different camera resolutions to see if I could get away with using a lower resolution video setting on the Canon camera, since the movies are really large files on the 640x480 30 FPS (FPS = "Frames Per Second") setting.  For example, a 5 minute video is 325MB! So I ran some tests, and you can judge the results for yourself.   What I found was that there was very little difference between the highest and lowest settings except for the "video via email" setting on the camera, which was too low.  So if you're just planning on doing YouTube videos, you might as well do the 320x240 at 15 FPS.  However I think I'll use the 640x480 at 15 FPS (the 2nd highest setting) just so I have the larger video size for repurposing the video later.  Doing 15 FPS instead of 30 FPS cuts the video size in half. The file size decreases by 50% for each setting.  They are ordered below from largest (highest quality on the camera) to smallest: Canon SD900 Testing Video Quality 640x480 + 30fps Canon SD900 Testing Video Quality 640x480 + 15fps Canon SD900 Testing Video Quality 320x240 + 30fps Canon SD900 Testing Video Quality 320x240 + 15fps Canon SD900 Testing Video Quality - Email setting

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