Love Your RV! Photo and Video Creation Tools

Introduction

I’ve been asked numerous times “What camera equipment and software do you use for your blog photos and videos?” Rather than answering the question over and over I’ve decided to put up a post detailing my stuff.  None of it is very fancy but since I’m producing content mostly for use on the internet, super high-end equipment and software thankfully isn’t required.

Both my cameras are Sony brand. The more expensive is the still camera a model NEX-5R. It also does video but I much prefer using my HDR-CX190 camcorder. Video quality is about the same but the camcorder has much superior sound recording, a 30x optical zoom, and much better image stabilization. My software is mostly free stuff except for two products from Corel: PaintShop Pro X7 and VideoStudio Pro X8. All processing is done on a 17” Toshiba Laptop running Windows 7.

Camera Equipment Details

Sony NEX-5R Mirrorless Camera

Comparable new model = Sony Alpha a5000

I absolutely love this camera! Photo quality is excellent. The mirrorless part means unlike a standard large DSLR camera which has a mechanical mirror inside, this one uses a new design that does away with the mirror. By doing so the size of the camera is dramatically smaller and lighter weight but still has the same larger DLSR type sensor. So you get the excellent photo quality of a DSLR in a much smaller package.

Sony NEX-5R

Like a DSLR camera, it has the capability to use multiple lenses. This provides much more flexibility than a standard point and shoot fixed lens camera. It came with an 18-55 manual zoom lens which I find is great for 90% of the photography I do. Lucky for me if I do require say a telephoto or wide angle lens my photo geek wife Anne has a nice assortment. She bought the NEX6 at the same time and has collected several different lenses since then. It says a lot about the quality of the camera that she uses the Sony much more now than her fancy Canon 7D DSLR.

Likes:

  • Has quality feel to the body and fits really nice in my hand.
  • Large rear LCD touch screen that flips both up and down – Awesome for taking low and high angle shots.
  • Quick start up time – Nice since the battery life is fairly short, so turning off between shots extends it quite a bit.
  • Auto HDR mode – makes high contrast photo scenes look much better without a lot of post processing as it’s done on the fly inside the camera.
  • Very good in low light – taken some amazing shots in the dim light just after sunset or before sunrise.  Also works very well indoors.
  • Tons of features – many built-in auto modes or you can go completely manual.
  • Very durable – I use this thing to death and don’t baby it at all. It hasn’t skipped a beat.

Dislikes:

  • Short battery life – had to buy an extra battery for those long shooting days.
  • Very poor image stabilization in video mode – movies turn out pretty jerky.
  • Poor sound quality on videos – mics are small and located on the top of the camera
  • LCD screen coating – became scratched pretty easily

Check out the Love Your RV gallery for examples of photos taken with the NEX-5R

Sony HDR-CX 190 Camcorder

Comparable new model = HDR-CX405

For the price paid this little camcorder has performed way beyond my expectations. I’ve had it for three years now and it still works like new. Its been dropped a few times and used it in many harsh environments and it just keeps on trucking.

Sony HDR-CX190

I find it is excellent for my YouTube videos with good sound pick up of my narration, long zoom capabilities, and decent video output. With the built-in USB cord it’s super easy to transfer my clips to the computer.

Likes:

  • Excellent zoom – at 30 times optical zoom I can really show off a landscape.
  • Compact – easily fits into a coat pocket and light weight.
  • Flip out screen – large bright screen that rotates 270 degrees.
  • Decent image stabilization – does a nice job unless zoomed in.
  • Good in low light – comes with a special low-light sensor making it very usable indoors or at dusk.
  • Good onboard mic – picks up sounds really well.
  • Built-in USB cord – love this feature, USB output is tucked in to the hand strap.
  • Durable – used a lot in dusty and wet environments and have dropped several times, still works great.

Dislikes:

  • Zoom control button is difficult to use – hard to create an even zoom speed.
  • On board mic picks up too much wind noise sometimes.

Garmin Dash Cam 20

I use the Garmin Dash Cam 20 in the truck when driving to record our trip in case, we ever have an accident. But a side benefit is the ability to use its footage in my videos. It allows the viewer to see what we are seeing. Great for showing the drive into a camp area or a scenic roadway.

Garmin Dash Cam 20 in window

Read my blog post detailing the Dash Cam 20

My Main Computer

I can’t really justify the cash outlay for a Mac laptop (I’d rather buy RV gadgets) so I use a budget type PC (Toshiba Satellite C870D) for all my video and photo editing needs. It has a 64-bit processor though so does a decent enough job and I added extra ram to it for a total of 8 gigs to help it out a little bit more.  My eyes aren’t that great anymore so it’s nice to have the large 17 inches of screen to work with.

I had the option when buying it to upgrade to the new at the time, Windows 8. I tried it for a few months and hated it, my computer ran slow and buggy. So, I re-installed the original Windows 7 and it’s worked flawlessly ever since.

Photo and Video Software Details

Free Software Programs

Here are a few free software image programs I use all the time.

Windows Photo Gallery 2012 – comes bundled with Windows and works fine for photo management, renaming, captioning and minor photo edits.

IrfanView – very lightweight and fast, I use it mainly as my default photo viewer, for cropping/resizing photos and its batch run capabilities.

Pixlr – this is a nice little online photo editor, great for adding text, adding logos or creating photo collages, very simple to use and fast.

Corel Paint Shop Pro X7

This is my main program for doing any complex photo adjustments or editing. It has most of the features and abilities of well-known editors like Photoshop but a budget price. I also went with it because ran really well on my PC and has decent online support and tutorials available. Furthermore, it works in tandem with my main video editor also made by Corel.

Corel PaintShop Pro X7 Ultimate [Old Version]
Price: --
3 new from $57.412 used from $45.81

Corel VideoStudio Ultimate X8

This is where I produce my videos for YouTube. I’ve tried a great many programs some free and some paid and settled on this for my video production. It has all sorts of fancy features but the main reason was how well it runs on my PC, as it is able to utilize the 64-bit processor.

Most other editors I tried were slow, jerky or would crash all the time. The VideoStudio runs smooth and is super reliable; I can’t even remember the last freeze up. I just upgraded it to version X8 after using X7 for the last year or so to produce most of the videos up on my YouTube channel. I probably only use about 5% of the features packed into the program. Hopefully, this summer I’ll find some time to explore it more and learn ways improve my videos.

Corel VideoStudio Ultimate X8 (Old Version)
Price: $38.10
You save: $61.89 (62 %)
18 new from $32.671 used from $24.99

Aimersoft Video Converter Ultimate

The final piece of software I use is a video converter. This one does a good job for me. Its main task is to take the outputted video file from VideoStudio and reprocess it making the file size much smaller so I can upload it without breaking the bank. I’m usually on the road paying for cellular data so can’t be uploading huge files. There seems to be a sweet spot for YouTube videos where they can be small file size but still HD quality. The Aimersoft converter does a good job producing the right file size.

I generally output the video at 1280 x 720 in MP4 format then run it through Aimersoft converter and can reduce the file size by up to 4 times. So instead of uploading a 1-gigabyte file for instance it will be only a 250 megabyte one, but retain decent enough resolution for YouTube to offer it in HD format. I’m sure there are some drawbacks to this but I can’t notice much of a difference.

Video Showing my Cameras and Screens of the Software

Wishlist for the Future

I’d like to upgrade the camcorder to one that has an external microphone port. I’d also like to get a remote wireless mic so I can do more video footage where I’m away from the camera speaking. And for something really cool, I want a Quadcopter drone with an onboard camera! What a way to show off those scenic boondocking spots.

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