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Wizard Photos

My new camera is no Muggle camera.

Pictures have always been a big deal in my family, and as my memory is a bit suggestible I very much value having the physical record of my adventures. Particularly because we tend to travel a great deal. I had terrible luck with digital cameras early on – had two stolen, one from a locked dressing room whilst I was onstage in college and had no money to replace it. Mercifully, over the years prices have dropped and I’ve been able to hold on to them for longer.

In 2009 I purchased a new Canon PowerShot SD1200 for my first European trip. I’ve had good experiences with Canon over the years and have become pretty loyal. This little guy was 10MP, blue, and took decent video if needed. It has survived a number of trips admirably, with a number of drops and heavy use along the way. But these days, the 10MP isn’t much better than my Lumia 920 cameraphone, and the Lumia has better low light performance. So at times this past year, I’ve found myself foregoing my camera in favor of carrying the phone only.

Yet the phone just isn’t a perfect solution – mainly, it maxes out at 32GB and I’m almost always full, even with almost no music on it. I wanted something that could do more than my phone. So for my holiday birthday, I asked for and received a Canon PowerShot ELPH 330 – I mostly wanted it for its 12MP, pink body, awesome 10x optical zoom, and full HD video. And the thing is so light I keep thinking the camera bag is empty!

I actually didn’t even think about the Wi-Fi, which I have yet to fully utilize yet. But when looking that functionality up in the manual, I discovered a feature I didn’t know about: “hybrid mode”. When in hybrid mode, the camera captures video right before every photo is taken, then stitches those videos into a daily video journal. I tried this out while performing in the Unexpected Productions NYE TheatreSports show, and – you guys – it’s a wizard camera! It takes lovely pictures AND it essentially takes MOVING pictures! I love the way the little video journal captures the environment – motion and sound, the emotion of the people in the photo – before it’s taken.

Sure, you’ll probably edit it a bit as there tend to be some really zoomy frames when you’re activating the shutter, but I was able to pull together a 2-minute video of the event with just about an hour’s effort, including picking music. (Note that the camera doesn’t do video editing after the fact: I used Windows Movie Maker in Windows 8.1.) And let’s be honest – if I had to manually take all of those video clips and stitch them together I NEVER would have gotten around to it. Perhaps there are better quality cameras out there, but with video, for me, convenience is everything.

In Harry Potter, “wizard” photos aren’t still. They’re short loops of motion – essentially, Vine videos – that display within photo frames. Admittedly, to get that full effect we still need power cords to digital photo frames, but this camera solves half the battle pretty handily. 😉 I’ll be giving the video journal another shot in Disney World in a few weeks, but I’m pretty enamored of this new way to memorialize big events. I only wish I had it around for my wedding!

For that matter, the normal video capture is a big improvement for me here too. Rather than a separate mode – that I had to trigger with a switch, then hit record, losing valuable time – this camera simply has a video record button. Once you stop recording it’s right back to stills. The audio is good AND the zoom is not locked out when recording. Things are just a smidge easier and as a UX designer I put a high value on streamlined experiences. 😉 However, I hear the Wi-Fi experience is not at all streamlined, but that’s still a bit of a holy grail anyway.

If you want to see how the video came out, you can view it here. The camera generated 2 total video files for the diary (at midnight the day flipped over so it started a new daily journal), along with one or two other video files I captures manually. At the end of the video I added the best of the corresponding stills, as the journal videos don’t include the final stills, just the preceding moments.

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