The oldest camera died

During the 207th episode of the Romanian-language podcast, right after switching to paywall-only content, I have announced the death of the “background” camera. It is the same background camera we used during the World Sofa Report series and the first episodes of Occasional Podcast. It’s also the same camera with which I did the 2016 Ukrainian tour and the 2017 Sweden tour. It also accompanied me in 2018 during the Albania and Israel-Jordan tours as secondary camera, before retiring it to studio-only.

Since then, it served as front-camera for nearly all of the Sofa videos from 2018 till 2023.

In short: This camera worked a lot. And its impending demise is, in a way, an emotional moment.


I bought it from the first large donation in January 2016 (7 months after the début of the English language channel) and it replaced the webcams used in the early days.

I said in the podcast that it cost $1000. To be more precise, it was $860 but once adding the first semi-pro tripod, backup batteries and other accessories, the final cost was indeed around $1000 – a big price for today’s standard some would say, but just slightly above average for those times and also in line with my practice since 2003 when I started working with video: Buy more expensive and more durable because you’re too poor to afford cheap stuff.

In principle, this camera lived its days. Even today this model is quoted by Sony RO for 1400 lei (~$300), even though it’s a camera launched in 2015 and considered rather pasée for the current year. The reason is simple: It’s a resilient device, built not to impress, but to last.

In the time that passed since the videotaping, I took a closer look at it. The defects are multiple and systemic: mechanical (the card reader and the mechanism that moves the lenses), software-related (I already edited its software three times in order prolong its life; I’ll try it for the 4th time but I’m not optimistic), and processor-wise (even when the software and the mechanics don’t fail, the electronic command is delayed causing the whole ensemble to freeze and only hard reset unfreezes it).

With this in mind, now that I know its new(er) defects, I am confident that I can suck more life from it for another podcast (next week) and maybe another 2-3 podcasts just enough to wrap up 2023.

Either way, given that I am soon leaving to Asia for the Killing Fields Tour, there’s not enough time to find a physical store to replace it and it’s risky to order one because any “minor” delay means I’m not getting it in time and get myself into further troubles (getting refunds or paying extra for storage for a month until I come back, yadda, yadda, yadda).

Solutions at hand

Solution #1: the fastest solution is to do nothing and then buy one of the same class but cheaper upon return (cost: about $200)

Solution #2: Try to find one of the exact same model and get to status quo ante as soon as possible (cost: about $350, realistically)

Solution #3: Turn January 2024 in a new jump in quality and technology on the Sofa

Basically, what I have in mind is a Sony Handycam FDR-AX53 BOSS or something similar.

The FDR class has things that I’m missing now such as:

  • proper night-mode (excellent for protests, campaign events, etc.)
  • camera with microphone port (meaning to be able to plug the mic/lavallier straight into the camera and start filming – this would also reduce editing time for street videos/interviews; not to mention the preparation time at least for some of the videos)
  • headphones ability – this would lead to reducing loss of sound and other impurities you and I sometimes had to bear with to zero. If I’m able to detect problems while I’m videotaping, I can fix them on the spot and prevent disappointments from occurring in the first place, let alone them making their way into the final cut.

Solution #3 would not fix all of the problems that plague the video workflow, but it will solve some of them (especially some of the very visible ones, given that the 2024 elections in Romania will probably make international news and we’ll need to provide quality coverage).

Besides, this exact camera has been on the Wishlist for 4 years and, in fact, it has gotten more expensive (almost 50% more expensive today than 4 years ago even though inflation wasn’t that high).

Realistic cost: $900 (+/- $40 depending on how lucky I will be at the moment when I place the order)

While it is, in the end, up to me, I am putting this message here, instead of the internal system because I want to collect slightly wider feedback than just the Donors’ Circle. At its extreme, I could simply drain the whole emergency budget and top it off from my pocket and just get over it.

But it is not an emergency, although I will want this issue settled by the end of January 2024 and, if it’s not obvious, I do prefer the 3rd solution, because it’s been almost 4 years since we haven’t implemented a visible change.

This is not a proposed change to bring more bling (as it was made clear to me by y’all that you don’t insist on 4K@60fps videos) – but a change to streamline the processes behind the scenes and open up new opportunities for coverage in the year(s) to come.

So with that, I submit to you this proposal. And yes, please do consider contributing if you like the idea.

Lucian Vâlsan on Youtube
Lucian Vâlsan
Not particularly nice. Mostly libertarian-conservative. Founder of the Freedom Alternative Network.