The new Canon digicams

Canon announced today a few new consumer digicams. Some plain digicams, some super-zooms, and two somewhat higher-end ones. The two interesting ones are the higher-end ones, the S90 and G11. They have large sensors (1/1.7″), and somewhat faster lenses (the S90’s aperture size is almost as big as the HV20’s, which can mean quite some background blur). And coupling this with the fact that they allow for the same amount of manual image controls as the SX200 IS, they could make them the best sub-$500 video digicams in the market.

And that’s where Canon screwed up.

They offer HD 720/30p support to their cheap new models and their super-zooms, but only VGA to the G11 & S90. This is where HD video would have made some good difference with the big sensor and faster lenses. But noooo… Canon had to segment this new product line. I would have bought the S90, even if I just bought the SX200 IS a few weeks ago, but now, no way I’d buy any of that. That’s money lost for Canon.

Especially for the two high-end models, they could easily make it such as it could do 30 mbps 1080/720p at 30/25/24p (selectable), and with some manual controls (aperture, shutter, ISO) in addition to the current auto modes (that already include exposure compensation/locking, and manual focus/locking). Now, that would be a great stills-video combo gadget that most people would have loved to take with them on holidays.

Product segmentation sucks.

And don’t let me start on their “refreshed” camcorder line (which they do every August traditionally). The new “features” added on the HF-S11 (more flash storage, better OIS) are useless for most video enthusiasts (who already carry bags of SDHC cards and use tripods anyway). Instead of adding native 24p support to FREE US from the pulldown removal HELL, they added the “Advanced Video Snapshot Mode which allows you to create the perfect highlight movie to share with family and friends by recording a series of four second clips when in shooting mode as well as in playback mode.” Really? Really now?

28 Comments »

xiaNaix wrote on August 19th, 2009 at 4:08 PM PST:

What about the $120 RA-V1 Remote Control Adapter that adds a LANC terminal to the SF11? I was going to buy the HF-S100 but now I’m wondering if I should wait for the SF11. Of course, once I buy that, there will just be another one around the corner.


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Eugenia wrote on August 19th, 2009 at 4:13 PM PST:

You misunderstood. The RA-V1 Remote Control Adapter works with ANY mini-Advanced Canon camcorder, not just the HF-S11. So that new “feature” is not part of the HF-S11 product, and so it can’t be counted against my argument above.


xiaNaix wrote on August 19th, 2009 at 4:18 PM PST:

That is what the article says but Canon, when asked, said that it will only work with the SF11. Hopefully that’s just marketing b.s. I suspect it will work with any Canon mini-shoe cam but we’ll have to wait until somebody actually tries it I guess.


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Eugenia wrote on August 19th, 2009 at 4:19 PM PST:

Yeah, there’s no other way to know, unless Canon puts up a spec page for the item and mentions its compatibility range.


J.Y. wrote on August 19th, 2009 at 4:33 PM PST:

Nothing really exciting this year. Too bad.

In your opinion, would you still exchange your HV20 for a HG20?


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Eugenia wrote on August 19th, 2009 at 4:42 PM PST:

No. The HV series are still superior to any AVCHD camera in the market because of their hardware support (e.g. full advanced shoe, instead of a mini one, ability to record from AV-in, too many third party accessories made for it because of its success etc).

The HF-S series is the only AVCHD series that yield better image quality *when the light is good* (and only when so), but that’s not enough to make me move away from an HV camera I already have. The difference in what you get overall is so small that doesn’t warrant to get into all the trouble of selling your HV camera on eBay, and then pay some more to get an HF-S series camera.

I will have to wait for a next-gen AVCHD cam (or a DSLR) that is more advanced than the HF-S series to consider myself moving away from an HV camera. For example, it has to have a bigger sensor and a faster lens, full manual control, true 24p, full Advanced shoe. In other words, a camera that would normally sell at around $2000 (think of it as an advanced consumer camera rather than prosumer). That’s what I would consider a TRUE next-step over the HV series. Anything else are just rehashes of the same tune.

The only camera that comes close in the range I describe, is the Panasonic GH1 DSLR, but it blows it because of its low 17 mbps bitrate (you can clearly see blotches in its footage when viewed in a 1:1 sized monitor), and to the fact that it also requires pulldown removal. Additionally, we have a lot of Canon EOS lenses, because of my husband’s photography hobby, so it would be stupid of me to go get a GH1 instead. The 5D-MII is more expensive, but we have lenses for it so the cost equalizes, but without 24p at all, it’s a no-deal for me.

And so I am “on the waiting”, still. Right now, there is absolutely nothing in the market that makes me happy to upgrade my HV20 to. I could if I wanted to, but the difference between the two products has to be considerable. And right now, there’s nothing in the $2000 range that does things THAT MUCH better than an HV20/30/40.


Matthew Galvin wrote on August 19th, 2009 at 5:13 PM PST:

Canon has been blowing it with model and product segmentation for a long time. Confusing array of product choices and model numbers, no detailed specs released.
IMO, they blew it big with the AH1 and XLH1 by offering the HV series! You could “shoe up” to the capabilities of the prosumer cameras for wayy less.
I’d like to see a real head to head with the 5dMKII, Rebel T1i, AH1, and the HV20/30. I’m really happy with the T1i, exceeded my expectations and I would recommend it to anyone with EOS lenses or even for holiday shooters. Great video, great stills.


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Eugenia wrote on August 19th, 2009 at 5:18 PM PST:

>they blew it big with the AH1 and XLH1 by offering the HV series!

That’s not a blow up, that’s PROGRESS. Each passing year, hardware becomes better even in the lower ranks, by also acquiring previously pro features. And the XH-A1 sold very, very well, with the HV20 or without. If anything, prosumers bought an HV20 as a second camera to their XH-A1, not as a replacement. The people who bought an HV20 to use it as the only prosumer camera, were simply poor people who couldn’t afford the XH-A1 anyhow.

>really happy with the T1i

The T1i is a good still DSLR, but it’s useless for video. At 20 fps, it’s just useless, sorry. No manual controls to speak of either.


jim wrote on August 19th, 2009 at 5:32 PM PST:

I had the money and was prepared to buy the Canon A1, then my youngest daughter came to me for money because she was going to lose her house, so I bought the HV20 instead and was able to give her the money. She was able to live in the house another year and then they lost it.
I am pretty happy with the video I get from the HV20, but always miss the one that got away, but it was for a good cause


xiaNaix wrote on August 19th, 2009 at 5:44 PM PST:

Damn it. Now you’ve got me wondering if I should get the HV40 instead of the HF-S100. What would Eugenia do? 😉


Andy wrote on August 20th, 2009 at 1:49 PM PST:

I also don’t understand the inflexible movie-modes (not just on canon-models) … Selectable framerate (24/25/30/ and 60 maybe) would be so simple to implement, but its fucked up all in the whole-digicam-market. Some models offer 25, some 24, some 30, and some companies advertise HD-Video (and don’t advertise that it’s done in 20fps… )…


Robert wrote on August 20th, 2009 at 1:54 PM PST:

I think that the problem is that you Eugenia are trying to find profesional features (big sensor, high bitrate, manual controls, good picture quality…) in a consumer camcorder. And that will never happen. That’s why you still cannot find your ideal camera, and never will you.

If you want pro features, buy pro cameras, it’s that simple. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a Canon HV30 and works well for some projects, but for REAL projects, our Sony EX1 wins hands down in EVERY aspect. Even our Sony DSR-500p full size dvcam beats any HD consumer camcorder out there. I really hate small camcorders, with their limited manual control, its stupid “easy modes” (sports, portraits…), and useless features. I shot a lot of videos with my hv30, but no matter what I do or how I shot, all my videos scream “consumer video” out loud. Put my dsr500 on my shoulder, get those Canon BCTV lenses and I’m ready to go and shot professional video with an “old-fashioned” standard definition camera.


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Eugenia wrote on August 20th, 2009 at 1:57 PM PST:

Andy, as my engineer husband was explaining to me yesterday it takes physical space to have additional electronics to accommodate a video encoding chip that can do different frame rates that don’t depend on the digicam’s internal clock to operate. So it is possible to do it, but it will end up becoming more expensive, and would require slightly bigger cameras. But I think it will eventually happen…


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Eugenia wrote on August 20th, 2009 at 2:03 PM PST:

>And that will never happen.

This is not true. Progress will always… progress. Think of when the HV series came out. A lot of pros bought one, as their first consumer camera that was not completely laughable. Even you bought one. Just as the HV20 was a big step up from the Optura Xi model (the previous high-end Canon consumer cam), the same way, I expect such a bump.

The HF-S series now do 8 MP, and their low light performance has gone to the floor because of that. Many consumers did NOT buy the HF-S series because of it. This will DRIVE Canon to offer a camera with a bigger sensor, because it’s the only way to have an 8+ megapixel imager to compete with Sony/Panasonic, AND to have an acceptable low light performance.

And competition itself will bring more manual controls (again, the HF-S series were the FIRST Canon cams to have some ISO control), and better lenses etc.

Eventually, it will get there. Saying that all what I ask are “pro-only” features, is NOT true. There is a NEW category of amateur video enthusiasts, a category that started existing with the HV series release. A lot of us hang out on Vimeo and HV20.com too. And yes, there are quite a lot of us. And WE (not just I, after discussions with them in the last 2 years), are willing to pay MORE than the highest-end consumer camera, just not as much as a full prosumer camera. And the features we want are not that outlandish either. They are just a bump up, not super-features.

In other words, the kind of product we crave, is doable, with a big profit margin, at $2,000.


Robert wrote on August 20th, 2009 at 2:19 PM PST:

Are you going to pay $2000 for an advanced consumer camera instead of paying $3000 for a low-end prosumer camera?

This discusion is like comparing Panasonic LX3 ultra-advanced compact digicam with a low-end SLR like, let’s say, nikon D40x. The SLR by itself will outshine the LX3 in every aspect apart from size (if that is a drawback for you) while being even cheaper.

I’m trying to say that compact high-end consumer gear is EXPENSIVE for what it does. That’s the category your “ideal” camcorder will fit. You’ll get an expensive piece of gear with almost-pro features, with almost-pro manual control, and a lot of other “almost’s” but with a MSRP barely below similar professional gear. And yes, in a small package, of course.

Regarding the reasons that make me buy the HV30. I bought the HV30 because we needed to shot some dangerous sports shots so we did a research and bought the least expensive camcorder that brings us a reasonably good picture quality.


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Eugenia wrote on August 20th, 2009 at 2:24 PM PST:

> Are you going to pay $2000 for an advanced consumer camera instead of paying $3000 for a low-end prosumer camera?

A big resounding YES. Why pay an additional $1000, when I don’t need all the features of a real prosumer camera? $1000 is a big cost difference for non-pros. We are not talking about a couple hundred bucks here. I don’t need all these crazy menus with the so many adjustments, I don’t need all the hardware buttons, heck, I don’t even need XLRs.

This is why I am telling you that there is a market at that price, a NEW market. A market that’s that of the artist-wannabe. The same kind of people who buy the Canon G11 or the LX3 in the consumer still-photo world, as you correctly identified. So far, there’s only the HV and HF-S series that do that job in the video world, but their features don’t exactly match that of the G-series and LX-series. They are still a notch below (when comparing the overall experience). That’s why I am asking for a tiny-bitty higher-end consumer camera. I am telling you man, there’s a new market there.


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Eugenia wrote on August 20th, 2009 at 2:39 PM PST:

Robert, look at my blog post here. I explain there exactly what I need. If you read carefully, you will see that the features I need are not outlandish. It’s just a bigger sensor (and I am willing to lose zoom range in order to get it), a focus ring, a faster lens, and full manual control. I am not asking for XLRs, for genlock, for any of the super-weird EX1 menu items, or the thousands of hardware buttons found on prosumer cams. Just the BASICS, for what’s required for someone who does amateur art. Because with the current consumer cams, I don’t have — from what I consider — the basics. And the full prosumer cams are *overkill* for what I do. So yes, a $2,000 cam is what I need. A hybrid between a consumer and a prosumer cam, or just really high-end consumer. Depends how you see it.


al wrote on August 20th, 2009 at 6:59 PM PST:

Why so much fuss, about 24p for 5DII? I know you don’t like AviSynth but with ConvertFPS(24000,1001) and separate audio capture device or boom mic, you get perfectly synced audio at 24p.

Btw, regular reader of your blog.


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Eugenia wrote on August 20th, 2009 at 9:14 PM PST:

Al, you say you are a regular reader of my blog, but you somehow missed this blog post of mine? The method you propose is the 2nd one discussed in my post. This is simply not real 24p. It won’t look the same.


Robert wrote on August 21st, 2009 at 1:41 AM PST:

>> Robert, look at my blog post here. I explain there exactly what I need

2/3s CMOS chip >> That’s asking too much for a consumer camera. Big chips are expensive and requiere BIG lens which means BIG camera body.

No more than 5x optical zoom >> zoom sells, like megapixels in digicams. So, consumer cams will always offer 500x zoom just for impress the client.

An on-board stereo mic with included wind muff (I don’t care if it would look like a hairy vagina) >> HAHAHAHA good point.

A 3.5mm microphone jack (no reason for XLRs) >> For me, XLR are a must, even for amateur work. All the decent mics have XLR’s.

ability to also record in AVC-Intra at 50 mbps >>> !!!!!!! You are asking features that only ultra pro camera have. Take a look at Sony XDCAM 422 line or Panasonic HPX3000 which costs ten times the price you suggested.

The other points you suggested really make sense. Will see.

I would also like to point out that CANON is not really a camcorder manufacturer. I mean, CANON has no professional camcorder whatsoever. And yes, the XL-H1 is not a true broadcast camcorder at all. So, don’t put so much expectation in Canon.


Robert wrote on August 21st, 2009 at 1:54 AM PST:

BTW, have you seen Panasonic AG-HMC40. Maybe it is what you are looking for…or not.

1/4″ CMOS (uuuhhhh, welcome to the consumer world again. Forget swallow DOF with that sensor size.)

21-24Mbps AVCHD (great)

Extremely slow, smooth zoom for the precise control needed for dramatic sequences (interesting…)

All in a $2000 package.

P.D. And yes, it has XLR’s 😉


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Eugenia wrote on August 21st, 2009 at 2:36 AM PST:

>2/3s CMOS chip >> That’s asking too much for a consumer camera. Big chips are expensive and requiere BIG lens which means BIG camera body.

This is why I also wrote about 1/2″ chips. Please don’t forget what else I wrote: that I am willing to lose zoom range to accommodate a bigger sensor. As long as you lose zoom, you can have a bigger sensor and a pretty fast lens at 58mm diameter. And besides, if the camera has to be bigger, that’s fine with me! Remember, I am talking about a hybrid consumer-prosumer camera, so it might have to be a hybrid in dimensions too. I am good with that.

>No more than 5x optical zoom >> zoom sells,

Not to the kind of consumer that I am. The people like me are not stupid consumers wanting more zoom. The person who will pay $2000 for this camera, would know why the camera has only 5x or 6x zoom and not 12x.

>For me, XLR are a must,

Not for me. With a good shielded 3.5mm mic, I am good-enough.

>ability to also record in AVC-Intra at 50 mbps >>> !

Please re-read carefully that blog post. The AVC-Intra bit was in a paragraph that talked about a $3,000 camera, NOT the $2000 camera discussed in the first part of the article! The camera I am talking about here, doesn’t have to have more than 24mbps AVCHD, as current consumer cams do.

>Panasonic AG-HMC40. 1/4″ CMOS

Absolutely a deal-breaker. I have talked about that cam in the HV20.com forum. Not with that small sensor. Not ever.

Honestly, I don’t think what I want for $2,000 is so outlandish. It might require some “forward evolution” in terms of features included in such a price range, but I feel that we should have that evolution by now.

>CANON has no professional camcorder whatsoever… So, don’t put so much expectation in Canon.

Maybe that’s because Canon has the most advanced consumer cameras. Because they are not afraid of a pro market getting eaten away like Sony or Panasonic would. And maybe that’s because such an innovation will come from Canon… So there are two ways to see this. 😉


Robert wrote on August 21st, 2009 at 3:48 AM PST:

>> Because they are not afraid of a pro market getting eaten away like Sony or Panasonic would.

Yeah, maybe that’s a good argument. Indeed, maybe Casio or similar brands will end up with something cool like a true hybrid photo-video cam, plenty of cool features, because they do not have broadcast camera line to protect.


Mike wrote on August 21st, 2009 at 10:35 AM PST:

I convinced the wife that she needs a SLR, so as soon as GH1 is available I’m going to settle for the limitations of that. Sux that you have to balance which limitations you want to live with.


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Eugenia wrote on August 21st, 2009 at 12:16 PM PST:

I have specific needs for what I do. They are not outlandish needs, but I will not tolerate crippled products either. The GH1 is a crippled product IMO.


Ralf. wrote on August 24th, 2009 at 6:45 AM PST:

The good news from my point of view is, that the G11 comes with less mega pixels than its predecessor. This brings hope for a better image quality, because the picture quality of the G10 was a litte bit weak.


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Eugenia wrote on August 24th, 2009 at 11:29 AM PST:

Yes, but its lens is slow, and its video is only VGA. It doesn’t make sense in my mind for Canon to do that to the G11.


xiaNaix wrote on August 27th, 2009 at 12:28 PM PST:

Not that anyone cares, but I ended up going with the HFS100. I also purchased the WD-H58 wide angle, DM-100 mic, BP-827 battery and CG-800 charger (which is really handy). I’ve got some more shopping to do but this rig will be perfect for shooting the short subjects I’m looking to do. This blog, as well as the HV20 User’s forum were an invaluable source of research so thanks to Eugenia and everyone else.


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