Michael's Dispatches

My Encounter with Eurocracy, and Why Digital Cameras Have a 30 Minute Video Recording Limit


Screen Shot 2016 06 27 at 9 04 25 AM 640x480

The British and others have much basis in fact for wishing to leave the EU and its nonsensical Eurocrats.
This post explains a trivial matter by comparison, but by scaling up this example it becomes easier understand their anger and frustration.

My Canon DSLR cameras shoot video that is of sufficient quality to use in major motion pictures. The quality is extremely high. Many filmmakers use the Canon Mark III 5d.

I use the same model for interviews and other situations to capture maximum details. I just used this camera in 11 countries during ‘comfort women’ research.

Often, my use of the camera to create video requires keeping it still, usually on a tripod, ideally shooting video until the battery dies. But the camera will only shoot for 29 minutes 59 seconds. Why?

This time limit often has been problematic. The reason for the time limit is not technical. It has nothing to do with sensor overheating or memory issues. The limit is caused by Eurocrats overheating and their insatiable compulsion to control any and all mundane minutiae within their grasp, such as how much cinnamon should be permitted on a Danish pastry.

For whatever reason, Eurocrats decided that significant tariffs should be charged for video cameras, but first they needed to define what is a video camera and what is not.

During that quest, Eurocrats set an arbitrary time limit for continuous video. They created law stating that cameras capable of shooting 30 minutes or more of continuous video would be considered video cameras, and thus subject to significant tariffs that could cost hundreds of dollars more per camera, or for top end models, even thousands more per camera.

From 2007: “The EU trade experts decided last Friday that to be classified as a digital camera, equipment must not be able to record at least 30 minutes of a single sequence of video in a quality of 800 x 600 pixels or higher at 23 frames per second or higher.”

So manufacturers like Canon programed their DSLR cameras to stop making video at 29’59”. Cannot make up this stuff. Well, Eurocrats can.

This cost me headaches. It would have been worth the price to pay a few hundred more dollars to have the hardware fully enabled, unfettered by arbitrary firmware specifications contrived in Brussels, over breakfast consisting of reduced-cinnamon Danish pastries.

Canon’s global shipments contain this firmware. There was no option to buy an ‘unlocked’ model.

There is an easy workaround: spend thousands more dollars on a high quality video camera and invest a great deal of time learning to use it, when there is a perfectly great camera already in my hands that could do the job, a camera already paid for. Eurocrats sabotaged my expensive tool.

There are other workarounds such as firmware hacks. Paper covers rock, and hacking voids the warranty.

Years ago, I tried the Magic Lantern hack on a Canon G-10. I had specific application trying to catch firefights and car bombs the moment they began, by leaving the camera pointing in the direction of probable action and waiting, like a trail camera.

I never deployed it to Afghanistan but did check that it might work. The hack also has security applications such as motion detection.

The hack appears to be fantastic, but there are no guarantees the camera will function that moment you need it, and again, hacking voids the warranty.

Say something here...
You are a guest ( Sign Up ? )
or post as a guest
Loading comment... The comment will be refreshed after 00:00.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Steven Noble · 5 years ago
    Have you looked into using an external HDMI recorder? Most of the people I see at conferences doing video use them.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Frank Ch. Eigler · 5 years ago
    This sort of thing is one reason that many computer techies promote the idea of open source software: so that the owner of the equipment can in principle examine, modify, improve, replace the innards. Warranties are overrated :-) and in any case, one can often get back to factory firmware if a hack goes bad.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Scott W · 5 years ago
    I can't wait to look back later and see how many more suggestions there are about making your camera record longer, but personally to me, the amount of cinnamon is paramount!

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely to the point of adding taxes to sugared drinks because someone who is probably fatter than I am says I am getting fat.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon writer · 5 years ago
    Thank you for the ideas.

    As mentioned in the piece, the tech issues are easy to overcome but they either void the warranty, or cost time and money for something that should not be an issue to begin with.

    Warranties ARE important to professional photographers. For instance with CPS (Canon Professional Services) membership, a photographer can get loaner gear while his/her gear is being repaired. But if you have hacked it, the gear is out of warranty -- and also if you hack the gear they loan you, they might end your membership.

    This is not about tech issues. We can solve those. This is about wasted time, money, and effort -- and voiding warranties -- due to euro-rules.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Joe B. · 5 years ago
      It's not about time, money, effort, or warranties (which are, really, the same thing -- an Ohm's Law of wealth if you will). It's not even about the frenetic Eurocrats busily regulating, taxing, prohibiting, requiring, or otherwise harrying everyone and everything. No, what it's about is just how many of these petites-tyrannies people are going to accept so that they may continue living in the Pollyanna social welfare fantasy.

      Where's the point at which there is a critical mass of very pissed off Europeans... and the chain reaction of nations kicking off the yoke? Or, will they simple continue to grouse and grumble in cafes and do... nothing?
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Dave F · 5 years ago
        Looks like that time has come and passed for the Brits. Now if only we in the States could re-find our Huevos.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jean Clink · 5 years ago
    I posted this article and the Danish cinnamon roll one on my Facebook page. I hope others do, as well.

    I appreciate your reports!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jon Gorman · 5 years ago
    This is NOT a problem with bureaucrats but a political one. Whenever liberal/socialist scolds and professional hectors get power they use any bureaucracy that is in place to consolidate their power over the everyday lives of the citizens of whatever county they infest.

    This is in the DNA of the liberal, elite know it alls. Voters are their enemies and citizens their subjects. When the vote of a blue collar worker counts as much as some college professor that is a sure fire recipe for liberal outrage. Control is asserted through bureaucrats, regulatory agencies and peer pressure.

    Voters and the will of the masses is an inconvenience that has an easy work around. Just control freaks doing what they do!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Pete · 5 years ago
    All countries have import laws, and many of them are stupid and arbitrary. I think the classic one is the fight over whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable.

Reader support is crucial to this mission. Weekly or monthly recurring ‘subscription’ based support is the best, though all are greatly appreciated.  Many methods are available to keep the work rolling. Click the image for a more info.



Quick Link to Paypal

Recurring Donation

QR Code

QR Code


To support using Venmo, send to:


My BitCoin QR Code

Use the QR code for BitCoin apps:


Or click the link below to help support the next dispatch with bitcoins: