CES 2011, Some Prep

December 24, 2010

I don’t have my suitcase packed or my appointments during the show finalized, but the tech discovery journey I’m about to take in Las Vegas is nearly here. For almost a decade, I’ve reported from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (CES) for a number of publications and this year is no different. I’ve got a few outlets paying me to go find cool gadgets and the latest innovations. I’m also already playing with some devices that I saw in November at the CES Unveiled Pre-Show in NYC.

But being prepared isn’t solely about making sure you have appointments and enough underwear for the week. It’s also about making sure your tech arsenal is complete. To that end, I am woefully short in the HD video department. And as my role as ‘All-Platform Journalist’ continues to evolve, that’s one area that’s in need of help.

In fact, one of the publications for whom I’m doing a lot of work at the show – Automotive Rhythms – needs a bunch of video content for their site. SO I reached out to the tech vendors on my list for an eval unit.

Panasonic agreed to send me a Lumix FZ100 for the week so I’d have something to shoot HD video with. It arrived yesterday and I’ve been doing an evaluation of it to make sure it’s going to work for me over four days of shooting and interviews.

“You’re getting a free camera?” YOU MIGHT PROCLAIM – ignoring the fact I just said “I’ve been doing an evaluation of it…”

No. It’s not mine.

It’s not free.

And it’s only as part of a product evaluation do I get to use equipment from a manufacturer.

You see, the line between shilling bloggers and credentialed journalists is pretty wide. In that chasm are little things like ethics and proper procedures and the rules that go along with eval units. Here’s a primer…

You don’t get to keep any products sent to you for evaluation (the Lumix will be sent back to Panasonic in two weeks)
Your evaluation of a product cannot be part of a larger agreement with the manufacturer (Panasonic is not paying me or providing any other consideration as part of my evaluation)
Your evaluation of a product must not be tainted by your hopes to get future product from that manufacturer (I am annoyed at some of the video functionality of this camera already, but that shouldn’t keep Panasonic from sending me another unit in the future…it should put them on the path to correcting the issue)

Bearing all that in mind, here’s a quick glimpse into what I think of the FZ100 – a longer review will follow over on The Gadget Reporter or in one of the mobile technology outlets I write for.

Lumix FZ100 – Mini Review

Fit, form, function – Works superbly. The design makes operation intuitive for anyone who’s picked up a camera in the last decade and the style fits nicely in my tiny hands.

Power – Not sure yet. Battery charged up completely overnight (it only arrived yesterday) and the shots I took with it were fast and the flash was perfectly bright.

Imaging – The photos I took under the P mode needed a little more light, but when I turned on the flash, everything was good. The video I shot today of the birdfeeder using the AVCHD mode was fantastic.* Here’s that video for you to enjoy. DO NOT TURN UP THE SOUND. The hissing you’ll hear is the steam heat inside the house. I didn’t narrate this at all, just wanted to see how the stereo microphones picked up ambient noise. They did a great job. Also, the watermark on the video is explained below.

*Which brings me to this…the AVCHD is a pain in my butt. Why in the world is there a different video codec for everything? I had to search the Internet to find a video converter for the file type that the FZ100 shot. And this ‘free’ video converter placed a watermark on the video – really a nice touch that I’m sure my publications will enjoy on the finished video I provide them from CES.

To be fair, the FZ100 only retails for $375, so it’s not a $1400 Canon 60D with 1080 video, but it has bells and whistles. I just wish Panasonic would have paid attention – even at this level camera – to users who just want to be able to drag and drop video files onto their laptops.

In this case, I had to find a converter (with a painful watermark) to even get the video to show up on my desktop. Yes, I have iMovie on my Mac and the camera comes with software for a PC. But can’t we all just get along.

At first blush – I would not buy this camera for my needs. I want something that allows me to shoot full video and great photos and then process it all in seconds. Jumping through the hoops of converting video just to make it useable isn’t in my list of desires.

To be fair, I’m AMAZED at the burst mode for stills (60 shots in one burst!!!) and the quality video that it shot. And this is only a ‘first-blush’ look at the camera. It’s been with me for less than a day. So I might find much more to love about this camera over the holidays and it might still make it into my bag for CES.

Otherwise I could be using video from my iPhone (HD) for some of the shots at the technology show. The benefit there being I can upload them instantly and then put the camera in my pocket and be on my way.

What’s your favorite current camera for video and stills? Have you ever been to CES? And what do you think about the line between bloggers who write without regard for ethics and journalists who remain bound by their training and values?