Anyone working in visuals is likely to develop a voracious appetite for video footage. So even though a phone will never be the optimal device for capture, having an always-present, lightweight, low-cost gadget is still a good thing. The problem is, with the exception of gadgets like Nokia’s premium N95, most phone’s camera features have been lacking, too primitive to be any fun to use. Since I brought up the new iPhone, here’s what we know so far about its video and capture functionality (not much, but enough to put this model on your radar screen):

Apple promises a bigger, backlit sensor for capture. That’s all relative, however – it’s bigger than the previous iPhone, but still likely to be far inferior to dedicated cameras (naturally, as with any multi-functional device). Then again, the current model actually ain’t that bad, especially if you’re looking to capture something quick. Apple says the new model does well under low light, but that’s tough for all but the digital devices with big sensors.

Gizmodo digs into metadata in the sample images Apple posted, and discovers that the phone does do well in optimal lighting situations. That’s still images only, however, so we know nothing about video.

Video capture is up to 720p, though I think the big feature will be the improved sensor. Already, you can get pretty decent results out of the iPhone camera, so an improvement from that could make your phone a functional camera.

Apple also promises an iMovie app for the iPhone, as a $5 add-on; it’s nice to edit right on the phone, but while there are “1500 features” promised, the main application is quick edits and transitions.

Now, what I’d really like is if this camera popped up on the iPod touch, too, so you weren’t limited to a phone on a contract.

All in all, even though there are a lot of question marks, this remains promising. I still think a dedicated camera remains the best option; I’m in love with the Olympus PEN I just bought, and with both cheaper and more functional SLRs and now the micro 4/3 category (like the PEN), still cameras are becoming the option to beat for grabbing great-looking video footage and maximum bang for your buck.

More details from the mothership:
Apple iPhone HD Video Features

Let’s put it this way: you have ample sources for original video footage. Let’s bring the days of seeing only generic stock footage in VJ sets to a close, ‘kay? Photography is too much fun not to enjoy as part of the process.

Readers: how do you capture footage? What sorts of things have interested you? Thinking of upgrading to the new iPhone – or got a capture device of choice?

  • Wondering what the connector dock options are.
    A DSLR with HDMI out (the Canon 7D has this, I think) would look amazing as a video source (good lenses, good low-light sensor). If there were a way to get live video out of the phone, that'd be awesome.
    Good times! I'm getting one as soon as possible.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Allan: I'm guessing you won't be able to get live video, at least with the default app … but who knows? And if Apple doesn't provide it, it may be possible for someone to make an app that does the job.
    Actually, I need to check that on my girlf– uh,  new Olympus. πŸ™‚ But yeah, agreed, live video is a big deal. I'm still keeping my coupla DV cams around for just that purpose, for live FW input.

  • Veiss

    Let’s put it this way: you have ample sources for original video footage. Let’s bring the days of seeing only generic stock footage in VJ sets to a close, ‘kay? Photography is too much fun not to enjoy as part of the process.
    Well said. What's the point of being a stock footage VJ? Sooo lame. GTFO

  • Michael Una

    That reminds me, I've got a stack of VHS tapes I've been meaning to digitize.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Michael: ha, nice. Actually, what I *should* be asking is how to digitize super-8 films, especially with my parents moving house. And VHS.
    Knowing how VHS ages, I expect I won't have to run any of Anton's QC glitch filters to make it look degraded.  πŸ˜‰

  • Sampo

    How about a Nokia N8? At least the sample video (provided by Nokia though) is pretty amazing for a mobile phone. The phone also has HDMI output unlike the iPhone.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Sampo: <span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; line-height: normal; border-collapse: collapse;">Wow, that looks fantastic. I wonder how they managed to keep the phone </span><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; line-height: normal; border-collapse: collapse;">stable? (Tripod mounts on phones, anyone?)</span>

  • I'm seeing HEALTH live on 6/24 (you already know what's happening this day)
    2 questions:
    1. How much space will a full HD song take up?
    2. Will extremely high decibel levels damage the iPhone's internal speakers? (especially the second, "noise cancelling" one?)
    Hope to have the footage up on my Vimeo the day after. I'd do it during the show, but I think we're looking at GB of footage.

  • Peter Kirn

    Actually, sound is where I think a lot of these things fall apart. On the other hand, maybe an external mic will work, via the iPod adapter? (It's a problem with some, but not all, of the cameras, too.)

  • Well, my inspiration is Rob Sheridan/NIN (shocking, i know)
    Here's some videos he shot of NIN with his iPhone 3GS:
    He said he'd cover up the microphone with his finger to avoid overdriven audio. But now, with two microphones, do I cover them both? does one only kick in for calls?
    I guess I always could use the iMovie app and synch them with the originals from my iTunes library (hah!).

  • Joe

    Agreed! End to generic stock footage in VJ sets.

  • Low cost device? Are we talking about the iPhone here? Oh come one, you are looking for an excuse that justifies buying this thing, aren't you? Not sure if that excuse is good enough – I think they sell 720p HD video cameras for $80.

  • Peter Kirn

    I'm not buying one, Mario, but I did hear the discussion come up. It's potentially low-cost if you're already on, say, AT&T and have some old BlackBerry you want to replace, and can get the subsidized price. Otherwise, I agree with you.

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  • cat

    I had the mic broken on my canon HV20 by recording a gig, its always distorted now, luckily I hardly ever use the audio! Although the music was 8bit, there was a phenomenal amount of sub bass,  square waves rock!
    The nokia does look amazing, the stills are good too it seems, need a new phone soon, so I'll be shopping around I think…

  • Thanks for the input, cat. Health is anything but quiet and the club is small as a closet and requires earplugs as it is.
    Still, a very perfect environment to test the capture in.

  • Flip HD anyone…?
    Shame it doesn't allow direct output via USB though.

  • I have a Panasonic FT1. Nice compact camera, lots of fun shooting HD video underwater… (eg – must upload some more stuff). I tend to use a gorilla pod attached to a rock or something to keep it steady (although the gorilla pod got knackered pretty quickly as a result).

    Planning to get a Pentax K-x probably at some point as I have a few K mount lenses already and it looks pretty good.

  • I have the Casio Ex-F1 , do capture in HD and slowmotion until 1000fps.

    I bought this after read a post about this camera here on CDM.

    I love my child. πŸ™‚