We covered a source for cheap visualist miscellany last week. It included cheap NTSC CMOS cameras, but unfortunately DealExtreme doesn’t seem to stock much PAL gear.

I had gone looking and placed an order with another site, but didn’t want to recommend it until that order had arrived intact.

Security Cameras Arrived

That order has arrived intact.

The source for these cameras is DHGate, which is a “marketplace” rather than a direct merchant. DHGate provide a database of products and act as an escrow for payment, it feels a little like eBay. Terms are set by the individual seller, so it’s not a free-shipping wonderland like DealExtreme, but the prices are still finger-tinglingly low. I ordered 16 of these little cameras, which seem to be the PAL version of the NTSC ones at DealExtreme. 16 cameras cost me US$219 including shipping ($13.70 each) and they arrived in about a week. I’ve unpacked and tested them, and they’re all working perfectly.


So, now that I have 16 cameras, what next? Unfortunately it’s not just a matter of “plug them all into the Vixid and get very, very excited,” as these cameras don’t come with power supplies, or any cabling to speak of. So there will be some more purchases and quite a bit of solder-geeking to do before they’re all singing in harmony. DHGate may be able to help further:

20M Video/Audio/Power Cable, or available as 10x10M bulk lot.
BNC Cat5 Balun Pair – similar to the aforementioned S-Video ones, but about 1/5 the price.
100′ Cat5 Cable, to go with those baluns.
KVM over Cat5 Set
Wireless AV Transmitter
Various LCD Monitors – I have a similar one (these may require a 3rd party AC adapter.)
Sony DV Camera S-Video + Composite Cable – these replace the standard output cable for Sony video cameras, allowing both S-Video and Composite output at the same time. Also works with my HVR-V1P.
RCA Video Lead
RCA A/V Cable
… or if you’re feeling really adventurous and DIYish:
RCA Connectors

These resources won’t help in the afternoon-before-the-show mad rush, but if you’re planning for a tour or project then they can definitely help your budget stretch further.
Sorry if these posts are costing some of you out there lots of time and/or money. We’re just trying to help! I’m sure I’ll be coming back to these posts next time I have gigs to organize, so if anyone else finds worthwhile sources please add them to the comments.

  • http://www.chromatouch.wordpress.com Leon Trimble

    build a camera array!

  • http://www.phononoia.at bilderbuchi

    or a wireless google-street-view camera to carry through the crowd at events :-)

  • http://www.serik.de erik

    Maybe the cameras could also be nice if permanent rigged in a club … like life-broadcasting from the dancefloor to the dancefloor.
    (At least if the video is not recorded what would be a bit CCTV-like.)

  • Michael Una

    I picked up one of these a few weeks ago. Two interesting features:

    1. The smallest focal length you can get is an inch, maybe a little less. Macro video!

    2. If you starve off the power supply, some interesting glitchy effects occur.

  • http://www.heart2beat.com vjwunderkind

    Cool links, thanks – what's the KVM thingy for?

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis

    @Mike: I noticed that too, and when you've wound the focus all the way in everything else goes smooth and blurry, lovely look.

    @vjwunderkind: I was thinking you could use the KVM to send VGA through network cable, the VGA baluns I've seen here have been around AU$150, so that's a very cheap alternative (if it works properly, I haven't tried it).

  • http://beatfix.com beatfix

    I'd be curious to hear more of your thoughts after gigging with these – they look identical to a couple of CMOS cameras I purchased a while back, and while they're super-portable and fun, the ones I have just didn't have good enough low-light capabilities to be usable at shows without a dedicated light source.

    As a result, I've stuck with low-light black and white cameras for the most part – much sharper image quality in my experience, and the lack of color hasn't really been an issue for me – aesthetically I actually kinda enjoy it.

    I haven't experimented with the cams that have IR emitters yet – anyone have some good video from a gig with one of those in action?

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis

    @beatfix: Without any tweaking they're unlikely to be much good for low light, but I'm lucky enough to have a Vixid mixer at my disposal, with its per-channel Gain, and Brightness/Contrast/Saturation controls, when these are cranked up I'm getting very interesting results from these little cameras in low light.

    I'm not looking for accurate colour and image here, this is about cheap, interesting and artistic results, and I'm defintiely getting that. I will be shooting some video very soon to display what I'm getting.

  • http://jim1000tongues.net sbn..

    I'm thinking that maybe they're IR-hackable? I was surprised to find that even recent cheapo Logitech webcams were. In my case, I just opened it up and replaced the visible light only filter (blueish glass) with an IR-only (double layer of black film negative). That's it, took all of five minutes.

    I think maybe it's cheaper making CMOSes that work all the way into the IR range and then filtering it out physically than making them with a narrower range to start with. That means cheap cameras have a fair chance of being moddable this way.

  • Eddie Tsang

    I'm from Hong Kong. I will check on this cam and see whether I can get a lower price for it ;)

    and I will report here!

  • jbcima

    Hi, the pictures in this post are private on flickr. Is it possible to add them back?