Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Flip UltraHD vs the Sony Bloggie MHS-TS20

Ever since my Canon TX 1 began acting up after it was knocked from my hands by a Miami-Dade Metrorail security guard, I've been in the market for a new pocket-size high definition video-camera.

Especially now that they've become so affordable.

I paid $500 for the TX 1 in 2007 when it was first introduced. Today, you can buy a pocket-size high-definition video camera for $100.

This, my friends, is revolutionary.

Two weeks ago, I bought a Flip UltraHD (4 GB) at Costco for $100 after a $20 instant rebate. The camera normally retails for $150 at regular stores.

But I ended up cracking the lens by mistake after my first project. Not really sure how it cracked, perhaps because I stuck it in my pocket against my keys.

But I returned it to Costco to get a new one and instead I purchased a Sony Bloggie MHS-TS20 (8 GB) for $169. I figured I would get twice the capacity for an additional $69. This also came with a $20 rebate so Costco normally sells it for $189 and it probably goes for much more in other stores.

The rebates expire on Dec. 31.

But once I realized the limitations of the Bloggie, I returned to Costco and purchased another Flip.

Both cameras are restricted to their hard drive space. There is no slot for a memory card, which can be either a convenience or an inconvenience, depending on how you look at it. For me, it's probably a convenience because I tend to lose memory cards.

The Flip is a very simple camera to use. It doesn't try to be fancy, but it shoots very high-quality video and records good audio. It's a little bulkier than the Bloggie, but nothing too bulky that it can't fit in your pants pocket comfortably.

The Flip records at 720p, which is perfect for the internet. The Bloggie records at 1080p, which sounds great on paper, but tends to bog down editing and take up more space on your computer.

The main problem I had with the Bloggie was that it requires one to hold it horizontally to record horizontal (or landscape) video, which has been the norm ever since the introduction of film.

If you hold it vertically, which is the way a video camera should be held, it records vertically, meaning you will get two black lines on both sides of the video.

But Sony placed the tripod mount at the bottom of the vertical end, indicating that they expect us to shoot it this way.

The Flip, on the other hand, shoots in landscape mode while holding it vertically, which is the only logical way for one of these cameras to be designed.

Furthermore, the Bloggie had a hard time focusing in a low-light setting as you will see in the above video. And when it did focus, the image was darker than the Flip, which didn't really have an issue focusing in low-light situations.

Here is a video I did with the Flip and here is a video I did with the Bloggie. Let me know if you see a difference in quality.

So I'm going to return the Bloggie and keep the Flip. And I'll see if I can make it out of Costco without buying another brand to test out.


Read More »

JetBlue Escorts NY Daily News Photog out of Terminal

JetBlue is no fan of photography. They made that clear in 2008 when they had a woman handcuffed and escorted off the plane for refusing to delete a video she shot of an altercation between two passengers.

They made that clear again this month when they permanently banned an activist who videotaped himself stripping down to his Speedos before entering the TSA checkpoint.

And on Sunday, three JetBlue security guards confronted a New York Daily News photographer who was covering the flight delays at JFK Airport and escorted him out of the airport.

The photographer, Steven Sunshine, was photographing the giant board showing flight delays and cancellations due to the winter storm.

According to the Daily News:

They warned he could be in trouble for taking photos on "private property" at JFK's Terminal 5, even though he showed them identification and told them he was working on a news story.

"All of a sudden, there were three guys surrounding me," said Sunshine, 48. "They kept saying, 'You know you're on private property.'"

JetBlue spokeswoman Jen Cardillo said Sunshine should have asked for clearance at least three days in advance - even though the extent of the storm was not known until Saturday evening.

She insisted security officials only intervened to avoid "potential disruptions" to travelers.

Potential disrputions? Traveling was already disrupted because of the storm. Any further disruptions came from the security guards.

After he was escorted out of the terminal, Sunshine contacted Port Authority to file a complaint, but they refused to take a report and threatened to confiscate his NYPD-issued press pass if he pushed the matter.

Now the paper is threatening to take legal action against JetBlue and the Port Authority.

Mickey Osterriecher, attorney for the National Press Photographers Association, sent a letter of complaint to JetBlue.

“For you to have singled out Mr. Sunshine, who identified himself as a credentialed press photographer is an insult to our profession and members, who are also part of the flying public. While I appreciate your concerns for the safety of your patrons and employees I would hope that you can understand that photography/videography by itself is not a dangerous or pernicious activity.”

If you would like to file your own complaint, click here.

Read More »

Google Engineer Bails Out Teen Incarcerated for Videotaping Cop

After seven months of languishing in a Los Angeles jail for videotaping a police officer, 18-year-old Jeremy Marks will be home for Christmas.

And he has the internet to thank for that.

Marks' story was first told in the Los Angeles Weekly. Then it was picked up by varios other sites, including Photography is Not a Crime.

It was on Reddit where Google engineer Neil Fraser came across it. Of all the news aggregating sites, Reddit is the one with the strongest liberty mindset (or anti-authority, depending on which way you look at it). neilfraser.jpg

Let's just say that Reddit has been extremely good to PINAC.

Fraser, who lives in San Francisco, ended up paying Marks' $50,000 bond, which even though it had been reduced from $155,000, his parents were still unable to afford.

Fraser explains, “When I was growing up, I spent several years in Germany — a country still traumatized by the Holocaust. One of the things I learned was that bad things can only happen if good people do nothing. I consider myself to be a good person, so I had no choice but to act when I saw something like this happening.”

 Fraser also sent the family $1,500 for Marks’ defense attorney costs, which was matched by Google.

Fraser breaks it down on his own website:

Short version of the story:

Cop catches 15 year old kid smoking at a bus stop in LA.

Cop beats up kid, slams his head into the bus and uses pepper spray.

More cops arrive. Kid is released without charge.

During the incident, several bystanders start recording videos of what the cop is doing.

Cops pick Jeremy Marks, a 17 year old student, and arrest him at gunpoint (destroying the evidence on his phone in the process).

Since photographing police is still legal in California, they charge him instead with "attempted lynching of a police officer".

The prosecutor makes an offer: plead guilty and he'll only serve seven years. He declines.

Jeremy is thrown in jail, bail is set at an extortionate amount his family can't afford.

He sits in jail for seven months awaiting trial.

I hear about the case on Reddit and provide the collateral to get Jeremy out of jail and back to his family for christmas.

While this is a positive story, it still does not make up for the fact that an 18-year-old high school student was incarcerated for videotaping a police officer.

Yes, he was accused of other crimes, the worst yelling "kick her ass" as the cop struggled with another student, but there is no evidence he said that, even with all the cameras that had been recording the altercation.

He wasn't even arrested until several minutes later in a completely different location by another cop, who did not even witness the original incident.

People get falsely arrested all the time, but for the most part, it is the poor who end up convicted of these crimes because they cannot afford a proper defense.

And most of us are so caught up in our own lives and in our own debt to give a hand or a few dollars of support.

So hat's off to you, Neil. What goes around, comes around, so this will come back to you tenfold.


Read More »

Airline Pilot Disciplined After Posting Video of Security Flaws

The Transportation Security Administration did not like a series of Youtube videos posted by an airline pilot, which highlighted the ineptness of its security procedures.

So they dispatched a team of federal and local agents to his Northern California home to intimidate him.

The feds ended up seizing his firearm - which he had been allowed to carry into the cockpit. And the local sheriff's department ended up revoking his concealed weapons permit.

And he still may face further civil penalties for what the TSA calls "disclosure of sensitive security information."

But all he did was show the obvious, including how airplane ground crews are allowed to bypass the entire TSA security theater with a swipe of a card.

In other words, while you and your fellow passengers are getting your nail clippers confiscated and your genitals scrutinized, the people loading your luggage under the plane are given a free pass.

The 50-year-old pilot asked that his name not be used in the news report.

"As you can see, airport security is kind of a farce. It's only smoke and mirrors so you people believe there is actually something going on here," the pilot narrates.

Video shot in the cockpit shows a medieval-looking rescue ax available on the flight deck after the pilots have gone through the metal detectors. "This looks a little more formidable than a box cutter, doesn't it?" the pilot asks rhetorically.

Read More »

Los Angeles Teen Incarcerated Seven Months for Videotaping Cop

It’s been more than seven months since 18-year-old Jeremy Marks has been incarcerated in a Los Angeles jail for videotaping a police officer.

Seven months since they charged him with obstructing an officer, resisting arrest, criminal threats and “attempted lynching.”

Seven months since they told him he could serve seven years in prison for his “crime.”

Now they’re offering him a plea deal where he would serve 32 months in prison if he would just plead guilty to all the charges except the lynching charge.

But there is no evidence he did anything other than videotape an altercation between Los Angeles Unified School District police officer and a student who had been smoking a cigar.

 LAUSD police officer Erin Robles spotted a 15-year-old student at a bus stop smoking a cigar and confronted him about it.

 The boy apparently gave her some lip, which prompted Robles to grab him in a choke hold and hold him against a bus.

Witnesses said the cop then bashed the teen’s head against the window of the bus, which was when several students pulled out cell phones to record the altercation.

The two videos that have made it online (posted below) show a female cop who has no control of the situation as the 15-year-old teen she is holding is continually taunting her by telling her to hit him and knocking her hand away.

She is holding a baton but the videos do not show her strike him, even though she admitted in her report that she struck him three times in the legs with the baton.

But Marks, who is wearing a gray shirt and standing on the far side near the end of the sidewalk next to a teen in a white shirt, is never seen interfering nor taunting.

However, police claim he yelled “kick her ass,” which is where they got the attempted lynching charge from.  And which is why his bail was set at $155,000, which his parents have been unable to afford.

 According to the Los Angeles Weekly:

The first thing to understand is that Jeremy Marks touched no one during his "attempted lynching" of LAUSD campus police officer Erin Robles.

The second is that Marks' weapon was the camera in his cell phone.

The third is that Officer Robles' own actions helped turn an exceedingly minor wrongdoing — a student smoking at a bus stop — into a state prison case.

No charges were ever filed against the teen who was smoking and Marks was not detained until several minutes after the altercation after he had wandered to a nearby McDonalds parking lot.

Pittman says her son and two of his friends walked to McDonalds after the excitement was over. At McDonalds, "Police cars came flying from everywhere, jumped out on my son with their guns pointed right at him, yelling and screaming for him to get on the ground," she says.

Police claim he resisted arrested at McDonalds but several witnesses told the Weekly that he did not resist at all.

Besides, even if he did, what were they detaining him for in the first place?

In Florida, you are allowed to resist (non-violently) an unlawful arrest. Not sure how it is in California.

Police also claim that Marks picked up Robles’ pepper spray after she dropped it in her altercation with the smoking teen.

However, Robles herself stated that it was some kid named “Victor” who tried to grab her pepper spray after she had dropped it.

Robles claims that Marks was doing nothing but standing in the vicinity of the altercation, which is not a crime considering police had not roped it off with crime tape.

"I was very scared," Robles testified. "I got my O.C. spray to control (the 15-year-old student) that was facing me, and went to spray him. Sprayed him for about one, maybe two seconds. He had hit the pepper spray out of my hands and it landed in between the bus and the sidewalk in the gutter. It was starting almost a riot.

"It was getting very, very wild. There was screaming, people were walking behind me. There were individuals trying to reach for my O.C. spray that had fallen on the ground. I was screaming for help on my radio. I could not leave that weapon there for all the juveniles and a few adults, as well, in the area. So after the O.C. had fallen out of my hands, I used my right hand and got my baton out next.

"There is a subject by the name of 'Victor' that went after my O.C. spray, a minor as well. And also — defendant (Jeremy Marks) wasn't necessarily going to grab it, but he was walking around me — made me believe that he was. I believe when I told (Officer Gilbert) Rea that (Jeremy Marks) was in the area — I don't know what conclusions (Officer Rea) formed when he was writing the [incident report], or this Arrest Report."

The article reveals a huge number of contradictions in the police reports, so I suggest reading the entire article, even though it is lengthy.

It’s obvious there is a huge injustice going on here and they are simply using Marks as a scapegoat either because they screwed up in arresting him in the first place or because they are embarrassed that one of their own was unable to handle a skinny 15-year-old kid.

It’s probably a combination of both.

Read More »

How Does My Brand New Flip Camera Compare to Your Compact Video Camera?

Ever since my Canon TX 1 was knocked from my hand by an overly aggressive security on the Miami-Dade Metrorail, it's never been the same.

It tends to stop recording within a minute of me shooting video, forcing me to press the record button again, where it takes several long seconds to begin recording again.

And once it gets into that pattern, it just continues turning off within a minute of recording. I can turn the camera off and take out the battery and memory card and put them all back inside and it still the same.

Other times, it record just fine as if nothing had happened. The camera, unfortunately, cannot be fully depended on.

And that is unfortunate because I really like the TX1, which cost me $500 about three years ago when it hit the market as a compact high-definition camera.

This is my American Express camera, the one I never leave home without.

I also have a Canon HG 10, which is not pocket compact, so I only use that for professional assignments.

And now that the TX 1 is so unpredictable, I've been depending on my iPhone as a back-up as I did during our recent federal courthouse escapade and as I did in the moments after the Metrorail security guard knocked the TX1 about of my hand and pocketed it.

But the iPhone does not have image stabilization and it is just not a comfortable camera to hold for videography.

So this weekend, I bought a Flip Ultra HD camera for $100 at Costco. The camera is listed at $150 on the company's website and Costco has it listed for $125, but now they are offering a $25 instant rebate, so I jumped on it to see how it would compare to my TX1.

While it doesn't have the sturdiness, the control options and the optical zoom of the TX1 - which is now selling for more than $700 since it was discontinued in 2008 - the Flip UltraHD seems to have the same, if not better, image quality in its 720 p videos.

And it picks up decent audio, but not as good as the TX1 which has an extremely sensitive microphone.

I was on assignment yesterday for Miami Beach 411 and shot the following video of what we called the Croqueta Crawl solely on the Flip Camera, which limits me to 4 GB to its hard drive. I recorded an hour of footage and used about five minutes of that footage for my video.

I'm happy with the video, but now there have been at least two people who recommended other cameras to me that might be better, including the Sanyo Xacti VPC-E2, which is water resistant, and Kodak Zi8, which has a microphone jack.

Which compact video camera do you use and what's your feedback on it?

Check out the video below. Read the story and see my photos here.

Read More »

Michigan Cop Attempts to Intimidate Citizen Videographer on Side of Road

A man was parked on the side of a road in Michigan videotaping city public works employees was approached by a Lincoln Park police officer and harassed.

“Turn that off for me,” the officer tells the guy about his camera.

“I’m not going to turn it off," the man responds. 

“Yes, you are.” “I’m sorry, I’m not.”

The officer then orders him out of his car and asks him why he is videotaping the city workers. The man tells the officer he is with the “Michigan government watch group,” which monitors “government waste and fraud.”

The officer then tells him he that police were dispatched to the scene with the following explanation: “Well because your videotaping caused in and out of traffic, cutting them off and they called us.”

The man responds by saying “I’ve got it on tape and none of what you said is true.”

And the cop reveals his true professionalism with the following:

“Don’t get on my shit. You’re fucking pissing me off. Shut your mouth. I come up here and you’re videotaping me, then you’re running all this stuff, relax, I’m here legally asking you some questions.”

“You’re getting threatening,” the man responds. “I’ll appreciate it if you would not be so threatening.”

The cop then orders the man to turn around and begins frisking him. Then he demands his identification. The man retrieves his license from inside the car.

“Turn the camera off,” the cop tells him again.

“That I can’t do.”

The cop then laughs and asks another officer, who is cannot be seen, asks the following: “Can we take him in for something?”

The second officer then appears on camera and displays much more professionalism than the first cop.

The first cop reappears and suddenly appears much more professional than he did in the beginning, probably realizing the second cop was not keen on harassing the guy for legally videotaping on the side of the road.

It is obvious the first officer knew he had no right to demand him to stop videotaping, but he displayed the usual intimidation tactics that most citizens succumb to.

Fortunately, more and more Americans are learning that we do not have to succumb to such intimidation tactics and unlawful orders.


Read More »

NYPD Handcuffs Magazine Editor for Photographing Trains

The editor of a popular railfan magazine was detained, handcuffed, frisked and cited by New York City police officers for photographing trains four months ago – but the incident is just coming to light now.

Apparently, Railfan & Railroad Magazine editor Steve Barry was acting under the advice of lawyers by waiting this long to publish an account of the incident, which took place on August 21.

An account of the incident will be published in the January issue of the magazine, but the editorial was posted Thursday on Subchat.

On August 21, 2010, your editor, along with contributor Mike Burkhart, went into New York City to photograph the Transit Museum’s historic train, which was making a run to the Rockaways. After shooting for most of the day, we were waiting for the return trip at the Broad Channel station when we were approached by two (and eventually, five) officers of the New York Police Department. They insisted that photography was not allowed. After asking for i.d., I gave a verbal legal i.d. (full name and hometown) and repeatedly asked for a supervisor. I soon found myself in handcuffs.

The two men were cited under 1050.9.C of the New York City Rules of Conduct, which only forbids the use of tripods, lights and reflectors when photographing or videotaping trains, which apparently they were not using.

Photography, filming or video recording in any facility or conveyance is permitted except that ancillary equipment such as lights, reflectors or tripods may not be used. Members of the press holding valid identification issued by the New York City Police Department are hereby authorized to use necessary ancillary equipment. All photographic activity must be conducted in accordance with the provisions of this Part.

They contacted the New York Civil Liberties Union, which got the citations dropped.

They were also cited for not producing proper identification, which they were really not obligated to do since they were not breaking a law in the first place.

I know lawyers have their own way of thinking, but I don't believe in keeping the story under wraps for several months if you were unlawfully arrested or cited.

Read More »

TSA Speedo Stripper Strikes Again

A college student named Jon who has been entering Transportation Security Administration checkpoints stripped down to nothing but Speedos was permanently banned from Jetblue when he attempted to do the same in JFK International Airport in New York City.

On Wednesday (or Monday depending which date in the video you believe), the student stripped down and was immediately told to put his clothes back on.

A TSA agent told him that he was committing indecent exposure, which is pretty far-fetched considering New York is one of at least two states in the country where a woman can legally be topless in public.

With the words "Down With Big Sis" scrawled on his naked back, Jon argued that he was not breaking the law nor TSA policy.

Then another TSA agent ordered him to turn off the camera - which we all know is an unlawful order.

The TSA agent ended up turning the camera away from the scene, so we're only able to hear the audio.

Jon argues his right to videotape the TSA screening area, but the TSA agents are clueless and are waiting for Port Authority police to show up.

Police and TSA officials spend the next few minutes ordering him to put his clothes back on, but he continues arguing his right to wear nothing but Speedos.

Then they turn off the camera and Jon informs us that is when they threatened to arrest him with disorderly conduct - the old contempt-of-cop standby.

But Jon points out that he was, in fact, not committing disorderly conduct, according to the actual New York statute, which states the following:

A person is guilty of disorderly conduct when, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof:

1. He engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior;  or 

2. He makes unreasonable noise;  or 

3. In a public place, he uses abusive or obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture;  or

4. Without lawful authority, he disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of persons;  or

5. He obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic;  or

6. He congregates with other persons in a public place and refuses to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse;  or

7. He creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose.

He eventually turns the camera back on where we hear TSA officials tell him that they have contacted Jetblue security, who eventually ban him permanently from ever flying on the airline again because they believe he could be "a risk" once the plane is in flight.

But Jon has walked through TSA in his Speedos at least twice before, including last month in Salt Lake City where he had some trouble, but they eventually let him walk through and a second time at LAX International Airport in Los Angeles where nobody said a word to him.


Read More »

Raid on Atlanta Gay Bar Leads to Policy Changes on Photographing Police

In a brazen display of Constitutional ignorance, Atlanta police officers stormed into a gay bar last year without a search warrant and forced about 80 people down at gunpoint, confiscating their cell phones to prevent photographs as they frisked everybody in the bar.

Police claimed they were attempting to crack down on public sex acts and indecent exposure inside the Atlanta Eagle bar, but after more than two hours of frisking, interrogating and entering names into a police database, they left without making a single arrest.

While their actions were clear violations of the First and Fourth Amendments, Atlanta police insisted they were only following departmental policy.

And they were right. Since 2005, the police department had a policy in place that allowed them to detain people whom they deemed “suspicious” without any actual probable cause or search warrant.

However, the Atlanta Police Department will now be forced to rewrite its policy after a settlement this week stemming from the September 2009 raid.

Dan Grossman, attorney for the plaintiffs and longtime Photography is Not a Crime reader, spearheaded the settlement in which the city will dish out $1 million to 28 plaintiffs as well as certain procedure reforms.

Grossman, who is also a photographer, was sure to include a provision that forbids police from preventing citizens from photographing them in public.

  • Requires the revocation or amendment of several unconstitutional Atlanta Police Department policies regarding search, seizure, and arrest;
  • Requires Atlanta police officers to wear clearly visible nametags and to identify themselves upon request;
  • Prohibits Atlanta police officers from interfering with the public’s right to take photographs and make video and audio recordings of police activity;
  • Requires Atlanta police officers to document certain warrantless ID checks, detentions, frisks, and searches;
  • Requires the City of Atlanta to conduct mandatory in-person training of all police officers every two years regarding Fourth Amendment law and the safe use of firearms;
  • Requires the Atlanta Police Department to rule on citizen complaints of police misconduct within 180 days (many of these these investigations previously remained open for years);
  • Requires the Atlanta Police Department to conduct an investigation which should lead to discipline of officers for specific types of misconduct and for untruthfulness, including lies told under oath in various proceedings.

Grossman said the city council will consider adapting these reforms as law. And he believes other cities should enact similar laws.

"Photography and videography is one of the most powerful tools for police accountability," he said in an interview with PINAC. "If cities actually care about police accountability, they would pass a law like this."

Grossman did an excellent job on keeping the public informed of this case with a site he launched, where you can read more details.

The entire settlement can be read here.

He also sent me PDFs of the Standard Operarting Procedures (linked below) that were declared unconstitutional with the following explanation.

As you will see in the Search and Seizure SOP (SOP.3020), the section describing warrantless searches never mentioned the need for probable cause.  (See Paragraph  4.3.1(2)).

The "Terry stop" SOP (called "Field Interviews") instructed police officers to detain, frisk, and run ID checks on "suspicious" persons.  This SOP was basically a handbook to unconstitutional seizures.  It never even mentions the words "Reasonable Articlulable Suspicion," which is required for a lawful Terry stop.  And the SOP even contains its own "cover-up" provision:  If an officer finds that the civilian "has a legitimate reason for being at the location," the officer is instructed to "de-escalate the situation by courteously explaining what prompted the stop" and "tactfully alter the encounter into a less formal citizen contact."  (Section 4.3.4)  Needless to say, an illegal detention can never be "altered" after the fact into a consensual encounter.

Search and Seizure SOP.

Field Interviews SOP.

Arrest Procedures SOP.


Read More »