Mini DV spy camera MD80

For $15 including shipment you can buy a mini camera, socalled MD80 mini DV spy camera, on from shops in Hong Kong. The camera is really mini, the size of a cigarette lighter. Add a SD card (good quality, or you get jerky video) and make videos! It also functions as a decent webcam and micro SD(HC) reader.
To my surprise this is a very good deal. Video is Standard Definition (720×480, NTSC 30 frames/s) and as you can see it looks rather good. As usual, stability is key for for quality, the MD8o was placed on a stable platform.

The manual is quite bad. I could not get it to work at first, not as diskdrive via USB or as as webcam, the PC rejected it as unknown device.

I found out that only by performing this sequence it will work as diskdrive and webcam:
1. Create a file called TAG.TXT in the root of the SD cardon the PC,  (of course with another SD reader!)
2. Insert in the TAG.TXT file the date and the time as follows:
(substitute with your current date and time, this is May 21,2010). Add a blank after the date and the time
3. Switch off the MD80
4. Insert the SD card in teh MD80
5. Turn on the MD80, wait until the blue/red leds stop blinking
6. Switch it off again
7. Install the driver for the webcam on the mini CD (only once)
8, Insert the USB cable in the MD80 and connect the USB cable to the PC
9. Now the USB diskdrive should appear showing the SD card in the MD80.
10.If not, correct the TAG.TXT file, remove cable from the PC, switch off the MD80 and start all over again.
11.Note that the TAG.TXT file is removed by the MD80 if it is accepted, otherwise it has errors and remains on the  SD!
12. Press the mode button on the MD80 and now the MD80 works in webcam mode. In good quality!

You will have to repeat this everytime the battery is empty or when you reset the MD80 (I had to reset several times).

No way to remove the annoying date and time stamp on the bottom. Good editing software allows to magnify the video (I use Adobe Premiere in widescreen, requiring enlarging so it moves the bottom out of sight).


Video editing

I made a series of recordings with the MD80, riding on my bicycle in Weesp. The MD80 was clipped to my bike and I will spare you the jerky and moving-like-a-rollercoaster images. Bad idea.

When I stopped cycling and made video recordings manually the results were acceptable. I loaded the more stable parts into Premiere, made a widescreen project  and enlarged the 720×480 NTSC to widescreen HD PAL format. That made the irritating date/time move out of view. Of course this magnification means less detail. Combine with shooting manually, not optimal stability.  Anyway, the result is not bad at all. Video looks good, errors in color (some light trees turn purple) and jerking if moving.

I know now I can use this minicam to do some video recording I cannot do with the higher quality but larger Canon FS100.  See the clip here under.

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