FCC Disclaimer: The following are my very own personal & truthful opinions.
Enthusiasts usually want the latest and greatest. They often go and buy expensive camcorders, dSLRs, or even 35mm adapters for them, only to never use them again after the novelty wears thin (and I’ve been guilty of it too). Or, more often than not, they use them, but they never fully use the equipment on its best of its ability. I know people who bought an HV20, and yet they always shoot in “auto” mode. They don’t take advantage of all the other features and settings the camera has to offer.
As some of you know, I’m a fan of the Canon SX200 IS, a $300 digicam that shoots 720/30p, and has more video manual controls than any other P&S digicam (read my review about SX200 IS’ video mode here). Around the same time the SX200 IS was announced, Canon also announced the SD780 IS. The SD780 IS has almost the same manual controls the SX200 IS has: exposure compensation & locking, contrast/saturation/sharpness control, manual white balance, macro/infinite focus modes, and focus lock. The only thing that’s missing compared to the SX200 IS is that it doesn’t have a manual focus mode, and that its lens is smaller, therefore letting less light hitting the sensor (so it’s noisier). But it’s $200, compared to the SX200 IS’ $300, so it’s acceptable.
My point is that these cams shoot good-enough video for the kinds of videos most people shoot. There is no reason to buy a camcorder, or even a dSLR if you’re not really serious about video. While a few more options would be nice (e.g. additional 24p frame rate, shutter speed support), even without these features, these digicams can offer amazing quality for the price. All it requires is to know how to shoot properly.
I wish people stop buying these terrible digi-recorders instead. They buy a Flip HD or the Kodak Z-series, while these Canon cams are actually much better for the same price: they have optical zoom, they’re smaller, they shoot still pictures too, they have optical stabilization, better lenses, higher bitrate codec, some exposure control, and other settings. Apparently, they also have a better microphone than any digirecorder, or Panasonic/Kodak P&S digicam too. In fact, the Sony and Panasonic digicams announced today at CES still don’t offer all the Canon video features, and Sony seems to be playing with our nerves for using just 6 mbps bitrate for their 720/30p video capture! Consider Canon’s 24 mbps.
I found this useful add-on for the SD780 IS that allows you to attach an ND filter and sunhood. For $50 you can get all three. The ND filter would help bring down the shutter speed, that’s normally too high on these cams, and the sunhood would help to not get CCD light artifacts.
So, while I already own an SX200 IS, I’m thinking of buying an SD780 IS to shoot a music video for a local band. Sure, I own an HV20 and a 5D MkII too. But I want to use the SD780 IS as part of “a project”. A project that details how to shoot properly, and what you can do with these small cams, in order to get an acceptable result out of them. I just want to prove to many people that you don’t need the best tool to create something that’s viewable. It’s not the camera that matters, it’s how you use it. From the moment you have the minimum acceptable tool in your hands, then all it takes is talent, not hardware. This proof of concept idea will end up costing me over $200 (I will probably buy some extra batteries too), but if I can convince one consumer, and one rock band to go that route instead of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars in equipment they don’t really need, it might actually worth it.
What has both surprised me and saddened me deeply is that after relentlessly searching for “artistic” or “atmospheric”, let’s say, videos on Youtube and Vimeo that were shot with either the SX200 IS or the SD780 IS, I found almost nothing! Except my own SX200 IS videos on Vimeo and this video, I found nothing else similar around. Every person who bought these cams (and they’re a lot of them) seem to be busy shooting their cats instead — handheld. They could do so much more! Same goes for most of the people who actually bought camcorders that don’t use in their fullest.
Such a waste.