Dallas Ft. Worth - Washington D.C. - Seattle - New Orleans
The heart of any ghost investigation is A/V recording equipment and video tends to speak a lot louder than still pics. My main workhorse is a Sony DCR-TRV730 Digital 8 camcorder which I got from Abe's of Maine, a discount electronics retailer who has been around for awhile. Sony pioneered the Nightshot mode which is a favorite of many hunter teams. Also has a built in digital camera so you can save space, but I find the picture quality tends to suck ecto without a helluva lot of extra light. (get a flash unit) I bought mine for just over $600 back in November 2001, so you may get a better deal than that now as the 740's are out.
The only other thing which irritates me about this camera is the 2.5" viewscreen. The models above and below this one are both 3.5". Why Sony downgraded a feature on this particular camera is beyond me. I would have gotten the 830, but it was $200 more because they threw in a photo printer. Really dumb marketing, though to top that, I understand the year before the printer was BUILT IN. (Who the hell wants to carry an extra pound on a camera for an accessory they don't need? What morons...)
While it is a fine instrument, there are some cautions I offer about using the Sony D-8; one of which is the focus in Nightshot mode. Very often, the autofocus will have trouble locking on clearly in this mode, and don't be surprised if you have to switch to manual focus (where you rotate the focus ring with your free hand) in order to get a clear picture.
The other problem is tunnel vision. When wandering around in a dark area, you are completely focused on the viewfinder looking for activity while trying to navigate over what is often unfamiliar terrain. It is VERY easy to trip over something as the Sony's have a really narrow field of view and it will miss things on the ground immediately in front of you. I hang a red night light from my neck which illuminates a circle at my feet and move very slowly. You might consider having a second team member "spot" you by shining light right in front and verbally alerting you of any danger. Or you may just have to go with dim light instead of absolute darkness.
And speaking of light, I also recommend getting the extended life batteries, like at least an NP-FM70. The newer Lithium Ion batteries are great and will last for hours.
The Sony HVL-IRH2 infrared lamp is a damn handy accessory because it extends Nightshot capability out to 100 feet. Has an adjustable illumination setting, can switch to a regular 3 watt spot lamp, and it fits into the intelligent shoe slot for the camera. You can try VSS Electronics or Ebay for this one at $70.
There is also the HVL-IR Infrared Extender Lamp which works for Nightshot only mode. It can hold an auxiliary Sony battery or AA's. Available from Sony for $100.
Shown here are a wide angle and telephoto lens for the Sony. You might consider the wide angle lens to capture more area in a shot, and this particular Sony camera lacks wide angle to a surprising degree. The telephoto is good for long range surveillance, though at night you may need the IR lamp mentioned above. What is not shown is the 37mm UV lens which screws into the normal lens port. They try to push this hard in camera stores, and in this case you might think about getting one. The nature of hunting is stumbling around in the dark and it could be easy to smack something into your lens. This way, you are only out $25. Ditto finding this stuff on VSS or Ebay.
The next frame shows my audio equipment which includes my ATR-55 shotgun mike with windscreen, handle, Aiwa headphones and microphone. The close-up of the mike shows the switch to toggle from normal omni mode to tele mode for long range sensitivity. Made by Audio Technica - here is a link.
I actually bought it from Intellicam for $60 which has a lot of cool stuff for discount prices. Sony has a shotgun mike which fits into the accessory shoe, but I use that slot for the lamp, and I want both gadgets on there. That's why I went with an aftermarket mike that attaches using the Sima SVB1 Video Bracket accessory. (about $17 at Best Buy) I can also use this shotgun mike with other recorders, whereas the Sony only works on Sony camcorders with the shoe. Specs for the ATR-55 are below in the picture.
If you want to listen even more closely to the audio that you are recording, a good pair of headphones is a must. I have an old pair of Sony MDR-84's that have incredible sound and comfort, but are beaten all to hell. The foam has worn off and the wires need to be resoldered again, which is a real pain in the ass because they are so tiny. I found a pretty decent pair from Sennheiser (model HD 457) but the problem is that the molded headband tends to "mug" your head and can become uncomfortable for those with big heads.
I stuff most of the video equipment into my Ambico camera bag which you can get at Best Buy for $30.
I also like the generic Sony Hi-8 60 min. tapes for all around recording. For extended time, get the Digital-8's with 90 minutes. (but they are more expensive) For ghost hunting, this an area which edges Sony 8 over DV. The Nightshot mode is good and with the right battery and tape, the 730 is a low maintenance camera with very few tape/battery swap outs. Plus, Hi-8 tapes are less expensive than DV and I like the intelligent shoe on the Sony.
I can't keep living this masquerade
When my lonely eyes see only your face at night
I only see in infrared I can't dream anymore
Can't you see I need, too I can't stand the pain
You've gathered all my secrets
"I Dream In Infrared"
world has gone to bed,
lay me down to sleep,
- Marvin The Paranoid Android
from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe series