Video Cameras Checks and Maintenance
Actually there isn’t really any such thing with most late model video cameras. Those that use tape or disc, both of which have moving parts in the media compartment, are usually considered maintenance free. And if they weren’t the expense you might encounter means it would often be a case of replacing rather than fixing.
In any case some of the following practices will extend the life of your camera. If you haven’t used your video camera for some time, or are planning a shoot, these tips will help. If your buying a second hand camera there are some good points you can use when trying it out.
But first here is some general advice.
1) Do not overuse head cleaning tapes as they can be abrasive to the video heads.
2) Use quality Tapes – Camera manufacturers always recommend their own tapes of course but it may be better to follow that advice in this case.
- Try to use the same brand only
- Discard damaged tapes
3) Have at least 2 batteries.
Battery test. Run batteries fully flat before recharge. You have to know how long batteries last for proper shoot planning. If batteries behave odd or don’t last very long, repeat a discharging and charging procedure a few times. Even though modern batteries supposedly don’t develop a memory, I have known people to
resurrect some batteries with this procedure.
Camera check (Tape Cameras):
- Fast forward and rewind a whole tape.
- Play back one of your pre-recorded tapes at the beginning and at the end of the tape or even some places in between.
- Do a test recording by constantly panning and zooming the camera in and out. Here you look for distortion and pixilation in playback of the recording. If it does show up you may have an issue with the video head drum or tape path. A remedy can be a cleaning tape, if unsuccessful, see a repairer. If it occurs with a camera you are considering to buy, it might make sense to look at another instead.
- Do this recording test in SP (Standard Play) and LP (Long Play)! A tape-path or video head issue is much more obvious in LP.
- Test the iris by checking scenes on a bright sunny day outdoors and indoors under low light conditions.
- Check the optical zoom for smooth zooming from wide angle to full zoom in. Do this in both directions and observe the auto focus tracking.
- Sensor check, DSLR Cameras: Try to take a photo of a blue sky and look out for little dark spots in the picture on playback. Do this by zooming in on different sections of the picture. Any dark spots indicate dust and dirt on the sensor.
- Do the test recording and playback procedure as described above for tape cameras.
- If you do have any issues with the recordings, you may clean the laser lens. If unsuccessful, see a repairer. Repairs can be expensive as in most cases the whole disc drive needs to be replaced. These drives are a lot dearer compared to computer disc drives! So again, if it occurs with a camera you are considering to buy, it might make sense to look at another instead.
HDD and Flash Memory cameras
- Test record and playback. There is nothing else to do.
Fire-wire port. This is an important issue. Particular when buying a 2nd Hand camera. Make sure the camera is recognised by the computer. If not, there are in the most cases only two things which can go wrong. When you are lucky, it is the socket itself with broken pins or much worse the computer on the main circuit board. These circuit boards are none serviceable items and need to be replaced, which is extremely expensive.
A good rule of thumb might be if the repair costs exceed 2/3rds the original cost of the camera then it might be time to think of replacing the camera itself.