Why Canon instead of a Panasonic video P&S digicam

I use semi or pro cameras these days, but I’ll always be a proponent of “you can do the same with less”. A number of people have emailed in the past year asking me which HD video-capable P&S digicam they should buy. I reply to them suggesting either the Canon SD780 IS or the SX200 IS, depending on their budget. Only to come back to me, within 24 hours, and say “but, but… what about this Panasonic model?”. Honestly, that’s pretty annoying. So I decided to write this blog post to explain why *for video*, a Canon HD digicam is better than any other in the sub-$300 range.

Image quality
Panasonic uses better lenses in most of their HD sub-$300 models, and worse in few others. However, Canon uses 24 mbps bitrate, while Panasonic uses 17 mbps (the format internally is essentially the same, AVCHD-Lite or not). Winner: Canon for footage with more movement, with possibly Panasonic being the winner for static scenes. So it’s a bit of draw here, it highly depends on the model in question.

Low light
Panasonic wins. While the sensor size is the same in the modern crop of P&S cams, Canon has been quite bad in low light lately. That Digic4 chip wasn’t all that it was hyped out to be.

Zoom while recording
Only one model from Canon, the SX210 IS, supports optical zooming while recording. However, as I have explained in the past many times, if you’re doing artistic and not random family videos, then you should not be zooming while recording. It’s a home-video tell-tale sign. Anyways, this goes to Panasonic.

Color Controls
Canon wins hands down. They offer sharpness, contrast, saturation, skin color, and even individual R, G, B manipulation, which can help you get the film look right out of the box! Shooting “flat” also has extreme value when color grading. Panasonic’s color controls pale in comparison. And even their most “flat” mode is not flat enough. It’s high-jacked on saturation and contrast like a 50-year old hooker.

Exposure and lock
Both Panny and Canon have exposure compensation support, but Canon goes one step beyond, by letting you lock exposure. Without locking, your video will look like amateur home video. It’s the No1 feature I personally look into a camera. Without this feature, there’s no sale for me. Even if you give me such a camera for free I wouldn’t touch it.

Manual Focus and lock
Some Canon cams, like the SX200/SX210 IS, have the ability to precisely control the focus (rather than just “macro”, “normal”, “infinity”). For these cams, Canon wins, for the rest, it’s a draw I guess.

Now, if you count the wins and the draws, the two manufacturers almost even out. However, except the zooming while recording (which is a feature that as a filmmaker I couldn’t care less about), Panasonic didn’t win anything with a big lead. Canon on the other hand gets ahead with its color controls and exposure locking (which as I explained is the No1 feature for me). So for the kinds of videos I shoot, and the kinds of videos I encourage people to shoot, Canon has a clear advantage, even if they don’t do everything right. It’s all about what kinds of videos you shoot, so different features have different weight. And I can only speak for the kinds of videos I do.

Now, if you just want to shoot the cat tormenting your dog, or your grandmother putting her teeth back, then a $70 Kodak Zi6 will do the job too. No reason to spend more in that case.

The next step for both manufacturers would be to offer selectable 23.976, 25.00, and 29.97 fps. Full manual control is almost impossible in video mode in these digicams (various hardware constraints), but frame rate selection is not. An adapter hook for a filter thread wouldn’t be a bad idea either, so this way we could somewhat control the outdoors high shutter speeds by using ND filters.

30 Comments »

Daveson wrote on February 13th, 2010 at 3:44 AM PST:

Hi E., nice post.
Does the Canon SD780 IS also have the lock exposure feature or is it SX200 IS only? Is it a “trick” you have to do like with the hv20 or a actual menu feature?

THX
Daveson


Bill wrote on February 13th, 2010 at 5:48 AM PST:

Based on your previous posts, I looked into supplementing my two HV30s with something a bit simpler and less expensive. At least for a while. I looked at the two Canons that you’ve mentioned and decided that I would like some more zoom if I were to spend the money. And the fixed viewer was something that I thought would be a pain after having adjustable ones on th HV30s. Anyway, I settled on the Canon SX20 IS. A bit more expensive, but not as much as a new camcorder. Good zoom. And image quality seems very good. It integrate well with the HV30 video on Sony Vegas Studio with no problems.

Thanks for the “out of the box” thinking.

Bill


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Eugenia wrote on February 13th, 2010 at 9:45 AM PST:

Daveson, yes, it has it. Locking it is simply a matter of pressing the center key a few times.


Peter wrote on February 13th, 2010 at 3:30 PM PST:

And for those that would really consider a panasonic for zoom during video, you can do that with the canon as well with the CHDK software. Not that I recommend zoom during video (zoom motor noise during zoom), but it is possible.


John Rappold wrote on February 14th, 2010 at 7:31 AM PST:

Cokin does make a filter holder for compact cams. I haven’t tried it. Amazon link.


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Eugenia wrote on February 14th, 2010 at 1:45 PM PST:

The SD780 IS already has a dedicated third party addon for filters.


Michael wrote on February 16th, 2010 at 12:36 PM PST:

Panasonic LX3 is not in sub-$300 models – I bought it for $360, but it does have manual focus for video.

In terms of complementing HV20 this camera worth every penny – it complements everything and anything. Individual control of R, G, B has very little for me, so Canon cameras complement HV20 extremely little for me.


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Eugenia wrote on February 16th, 2010 at 12:47 PM PST:

As I told you before, without exposure lock, that camera is dead to me. And the quality itself is not very good by using the MJPEG codec.


Michael wrote on February 16th, 2010 at 3:03 PM PST:

Eugenia, you give more priority to exposure lock and the color control than to the huge low-light advantage (especially over HV20) and much higher photo quality. There is nothing wrong with that, everybody is entitled to his/her opinion 😉


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Eugenia wrote on February 16th, 2010 at 3:15 PM PST:

As I explained to you the other day, for the kind of videos I shoot, I control the light, 95% of the times. That’s why I spent $400 on studio lights and reflectors. Therefore, low light performance is not a biggie for me. As for higher photo quality, I don’t print my pictures. I use them on the web. And for the web, resized-down pics are enough, which means that even if a camera is not able to get amazing pictures, when resized down the LX3 advantage will disappear. So, yes, exposure lock is more important to me.


Michael wrote on February 16th, 2010 at 3:41 PM PST:

“That’s why I spent $400 on studio lights and reflectors.”

I thought the whole idea of a compact P&S is to use it on-the-go, not in a studio with controlled lighting.


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Eugenia wrote on February 16th, 2010 at 4:30 PM PST:

I don’t do on-the-go shooting. Either I shoot during the day, outdoors, where I don’t need lights since the sun is up, or I shoot indoors/night, where I use lights. You’re not supposed to shoot indoors without some lighting anyway. Even if the camera might be better than others in low light.


Michael wrote on February 16th, 2010 at 6:34 PM PST:

“A number of people have emailed in the past year asking me which HD video-capable P&S digicam they should buy. I reply to them suggesting either the Canon SD780 IS or the SX200 IS, depending on their budget. Only to come back to me, within 24 hours, and say “but, but… what about this Panasonic model?”. Honestly, that’s pretty annoying.”

I agree – that’s pretty annoying indeed! These people should either spend $400 for lighting and reflectors, or should shoot only when the sun is up. They just don’t get it, do they? Folks, don’t shoot on-the-go!


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Eugenia wrote on February 16th, 2010 at 6:45 PM PST:

Michael, if you’re going to be sarcastic and aggressive just because we don’t shoot the same kinds of videos, and therefore our needs are different, then please don’t comment at all. You said your piece, I said my piece, give it a fucking rest.

Low light IS NOT the most important part of a camera. And as I said in the article, “for the kinds of videos I shoot and I encourage others to do”, you don’t need it as much as you’d need locked exposure. Every time I see exposure jumping on LX3 videos on Vimeo I cringe. I hate how that looks. Much more than sensor noise. A lot more actually.

And no one said that people should buy $400 lights. I already have them, from my HV20 days. When you have a $200 camera, you simply make sure you shoot at places that do have a lot of light already. You use the environment in your advantage. And if you have to shoot indoors, you can always use small cheap lights, like desk lights. No reason to buy.

And I also said that if you’re shooting indoors, then you need lights ANYWAY. No matter if the LX3 can do better under low light than other cameras (which it does). Default indoor lighting looks extremely bad, it makes scenes look amateurish. Like home video. So since you would have to do something about the light conditions, the LX3 low light abilities are diminishing even more in importance.

And no, you should not shoot on the go, random shit. Make a real video, like the one embedded above. “Family moments” on-the-go videos are useless to the way I see video. I only see video as an art form, not as “memories”. I mean, if you only care about shooting random stuff, why the heck do you read this blog in the first place? It’s obvious that my blog is not geared towards your needs.

And even if it was, the LX3 costs $400+ which is out of the scope of this blog post. $400 is pretty expensive for a *video* camera where its *only* advantage is better low light support. Its MJPEG codec sucks, and under the same good light conditions Canon wins every time with its much better codec and controls. So if you’re shooting caves, sure, go ahead and get the LX3. But if you just want to do video art on the cheap, and you’re willing to learn how to manipulate the environmental conditions around you to get the result you need, then the SD780 IS is a better, cheaper buy.


Glenn wrote on February 16th, 2010 at 6:48 PM PST:

“The SD780 IS already has a dedicated third party addon for filters.”

Oh, that’s brilliant! I’m gonna order one.


Glenn wrote on February 16th, 2010 at 6:59 PM PST:

Michael, the low light performance of the SX200 actually isn’t that bad. Here’s a video I shot on the one I had before I sold it – http://www.youtube.com/avene#p/u/5/1XMy3yzcGws There are a few night shots in there – 00:38 and 00:47 were taken at full zoom. Both had Neat Video noise reduction applied to them, but still looks good. Biggest problem was the CCD sensor smear. 00:56 – another night shot, but this time straight from the camera with no noise reduction.

The Ixy 510 IS (SD960) I use now is better, with an f2.8 lens (SX200 is f3.4). I can shoot indoors without any serious noise.


Stan wrote on February 16th, 2010 at 7:59 PM PST:

Canon has added auto-focus during video to the new SX210 IS, which is something even their 5DmII/7D/1DmIV/T2i HDSLRs lack.

Something else new is Dynamic mode IS for enhanced image stabilization when shooting video using wide-angle settings, which Canon claims was lifted from their pro video cameras.

As a SX200 IS owner, I’ll be checking out the new and improved SX210 when it ships next month.


Stan wrote on February 16th, 2010 at 10:21 PM PST:

Doh, that should have been ‘continuous’ auto-focus during video for the SX210 IS.

Also, the Fish-Eye and Miniature (tilt/shift lens) effects for stills looks interesting.


Luis wrote on February 17th, 2010 at 12:04 PM PST:

I have an LX3 for still pictures, and like it much for those. The video is not really good, though. Canon ones look better (in good light).

One thing not mentioned is that while h.264 codec is much better than mjpeg, it is quite a bitch for editing. But some good news: Kdenlive 0.7.7 has just been released along with MLT framework 0.5.0. And reading the release notes of MLT, it now supports h.264 decoding using VDPAU (so it will work for nvidia cards using the official binary). No idea of how good it works, though.


Ivan wrote on February 18th, 2010 at 4:48 AM PST:

Ok, E. The sx200 is the best choice for YOU. But for other people, there are alteratives that are better for THEM.
The LX3 for instance, as stated by numerous others, you included, beats any canon p&s in low light. I’m talking about real life situations like a room light by a 100 watt bulb. Isn’t it a shame that Canon cannot do this?

The LX3 is also arguably the best p&s for still images around, which makes it a great choice for people who want ONE compact tool for video and stills.

Also, I can’t understand why you – as a music and concert lover – leave out SOUND. The sx200 only has mono, while the panasonic TZ7 has great stereo audio.


Michael wrote on February 18th, 2010 at 12:10 PM PST:

“The LX3 is also arguably the best p&s for still images around, which makes it a great choice for people who want ONE compact tool for video and stills.”

That is the key point. Who needs a P&S for video as a first priority??? Other than you, Eugenia, very very few. This is the point you constantly miss when you recommend Canon’s to everybody.

Yes, Canon is cheaper than LX3. You get EXACTLY what you paid.


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Eugenia wrote on February 18th, 2010 at 2:00 PM PST:

>I’m talking about real life situations like a room light by a 100 watt bulb.

When was the last time you saw me blog about family videos on this blog? The reason I started talking about these digicams is because I want to direct *poor artists* and *poor music bands* to get a camera that can give them results with enough control. NOT random people who shoot random family videos like you do. I don’t care about such videos, and I don’t care about such readership. Just because YOU shoot such videos does not somehow make you eligible to tell me how my articles should be shaped and who should target! That’s the part that neither you or Michael understand!!!

You somehow missed a whole paragraph on my article above:
“Now, if you just want to shoot the cat tormenting your dog, or your grandmother putting her teeth back, then a $70 Kodak Zi6 will do the job too. No reason to spend more in that case.”

I MADE IT CLEAR ON MY ARTICLE (and my previous one about such digicams) that my target audience is NOT random videos and random users. And yet, you continue replying here about how consumers would be better off with the LX3. Completely forgetting my target audience and the overall targets of these series of articles. It’s like you’re trying to JUSTIFY your own purchase of the LX3 on MY blog. Don’t do that. It’s not fair to me.

>Isn’t it a shame that Canon cannot do this?

Canon already does this with their G11 and S90 cameras. The SX200 IS is not on the same same range as the LX3. The G11 and S90 are (almost same sensor size as LX3), and they ARE competing in both low light and still features with the LX3. Canon can do it just fine technically-speaking. It’s just that because of stupid marketing and market segmentation they decided to not put HD video support in these cams. But I expect them to do so this Spring. So it’s not a matter of “cannot do”, but a matter of “don’t do”.

>The LX3 is also arguably the best p&s for still images around

I give no shit about still pictures. When I mention digicams for stills, even a cheapo Kodak 8 MP is enough for the kinds of stills I’d need *for the web*. As I explained above, by the moment you resize down the pics for the web (e.g. my blog), they all look the same. Heck, even if you want to do a video using stills, the cheapo SD780 IS’ “bad” still picture abilities will be just fine by the moment you resize down its 12 MP stills to 2 MP 1080p.

>The sx200 only has mono, while the panasonic TZ7 has great stereo audio.

The Panasonic cameras have TERRIBLE sound. Just because Panasonic is selling you “stereo”, does not make their microphones any better. The SX200 IS has GREAT audio. WAY better than ANY other digicam I have around. And I have 12 of them.

>Who needs a P&S for video as a first priority???

You. Don’t. Get. It. These articles are about P&S digicams as small videocams, that HAPPEN to also shoot stills — if I need them to. I see them as cheap alternatives to camcorders. I don’t see them as still digicams that happen to also do video. Again, refer to the first paragraph above. My articles are geared towards POOR artists & music bands. People who don’t have the money to buy a $700 AVCHD camcorder to shoot their videos. And for these kinds of people, the $200 Canon SD780 IS, *does the job*. I don’t even suggest the SX200 IS as much for them, than I do the much worse (still-picture-wise) SD780 IS. Because the *video* on this less-good still digicam is AS GOOD as the other models. And since these people are mostly interested in a cheap video cam that is better than the Kodak/Flip digi-recorders that have no controls whatsoever, and HAPPENS to also shoot stills, it’s PERFECT for what they’d need. You somehow missed my intro article a few weeks back about these digicams, where I CLEARLY position these digicams against the Flip series. That’s what I want to raise awareness for: don’t buy Flip/Kodak digirecorders, buy an HD digicam instead — if you’re doing video art!

Do you understand the logic now? The reason why I suggest the things I suggest? The TARGET audience of these articles? It’s NOT YOU. Ivan, you started doing some good artistic stuff 2 years ago, but since then you haven’t done anything. I keep reloading your Vimeo page every now and then to see what you’ve come up with, but I get disappointed to only see there family videos. Which is cool, you know. But I KNOW you can do more than that. But if family videos is all you care about these days, especially since your family is expanding and takes away most of free time (I get that, I understand), then this series of articles about cheap video digicams don’t apply to you!

>Yes, Canon is cheaper than LX3

And both you and Ivan are off topic. I clearly mentioned this article to be about sub-$300 cams, and you’re pissing me off here with your no-locked-exposure LX3. The LX3 is a more expensive camera, and it does LESS as a video camera than the Canon cheaper ones. That’s the bottom line, so if you have nothing to say about the TZ7 instead, the other Panasonic sub-$300 cams, and stop talking about the LX3, then don’t comment at all please. YOU ARE OFF TOPIC, out of the SCOPE of this article. The LX3 is NOT on topic because it’s more expensive, and doesn’t offer all the video functionality a music band or a video artist needs. I’m trying to suggest here a cheap-cheap HD digicam with enough controls for POOR artists, and you come here to fill up this comment section with your useless rants about the LX3 — a much more expensive cam than the $200 SD780 IS, and with fewer controls — controls that while a random consumer might not need, but an artist **needs**. Not to mention that Canon’s 30p is more useful for music bands and artistic videos than 24p is (because you can always slow down to 24p and get a great dreamy effect without being jarring, while 24p can’t be slowed down more).

I don’t want to hear the word “LX3” in this comment section again. Any comment mentioning it will be deleted.


Michael wrote on February 18th, 2010 at 3:29 PM PST:

“When was the last time you saw me blog about family videos on this blog? The reason I started talking about these digicams is because I want to direct *poor artists* and *poor music bands* to get a camera that can give them results with enough control. ”

Eugenia, where on this (or any other SX200) blog you have mentioned anything about poor artists or poor music bands? This point have not been clear to me – I am sorry.

“A number of people have emailed in the past year asking me which HD video-capable P&S digicam they should buy. I reply to them suggesting either the Canon SD780 IS or the SX200 IS, depending on their budget. Only to come back to me, within 24 hours, and say “but, but… what about this Panasonic model?”. Honestly, that’s pretty annoying.”

How could we figure out that these annoying people were actually poor artists from poor music bands? I thought that these were ordinary “random” people who shoot, you know – “random shit”.

Thanks for finally clearing it up. It took a while, didn’t it?


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Eugenia wrote on February 18th, 2010 at 3:36 PM PST:

On my previous article about digicams I mentioned that if I can make one music band to shoot with such a cam, it would worth my trouble. Also, even when I talk about “consumers”, I always mean artists. Meaning, amateur people who want to get involved in some kind of video art.

>It took a while, didn’t it?

No, it didn’t. It’s your fault if you didn’t get it. Read again the paragraph about the cat tormenting the dog. If you didn’t get the memo in THAT paragraph, I don’t know what else will.

And besides, when was the last time you saw me putting up on Vimeo a video of my brother and his little daughter? Or a video of JBQ playing games? Or myself walking to a grocery store and discussing the bean prices?

I don’t do such videos. And I don’t write about such videos. I thought this was self-explanatory. If I was writing for such videos, I would have suggested the Flip.

Not only that, but I haven’t made a random “art” video for months now. My last two videos were official music videos, and the one I’m going to shoot this Sunday will also be one.


Michael wrote on February 18th, 2010 at 3:49 PM PST:

“And yet, you continue replying here about how consumers would be better off with the LX3. Completely forgetting my target audience and the overall targets of these series of articles. It’s like you’re trying to JUSTIFY your own purchase of the LX3 on MY blog. Don’t do that. It’s not fair to me.”

Ok, I got it – the target audience is poor artists. What about you, Eugenia – should we consider you a poor artist, too? After all, you do have HV20, $400 lighting and reflectors, etc., etc. If you are not a poor artist, why SX200 is so good for you? It appears someone else is trying to JUSTIFY the purchase, not me 😉

(And please don’t delete the post for mentioning the camera – I only quoted your post).


Michael wrote on February 18th, 2010 at 3:55 PM PST:

“Also, even when I talk about “consumers”, I always mean artists. Meaning, amateur people who want to get involved in some kind of video art.”

In SX200 blogs “poor artists” and “poor amateur people” – just a minor insignificant correction. Something worth to emphasize on 😉 (after all, that’s where the whole misunderstanding was)


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Eugenia wrote on February 18th, 2010 at 3:56 PM PST:

I’m not rich either. While I fair better these days, I grew up in poverty. We didn’t have hot water in my home. For years I was sleeping in a couch where the “fluffy” part was eaten away and the wood was breaking my bones every night. Eating beans 6 days a week was no fun either. Things only got better in the ’90s for my family.

So I know what it means to not have money, and yet want to be creative. The only way I could bring my artistic self out back then was via sketching. But times change, and spending $200 for an HD digicam is not a huge deal anymore in the developed countries. Spending $400 can be though.

>why SX200 is so good for you

As I mentioned above, I mostly suggest the SD780, not the SX200 IS. The SX200 IS is *only* suggested if the user absolutely needs a big zoom. Otherwise, the SD780 IS makes more sense. So I’m not trying to justify my own purchase, you are mistaken.

And please, can you freaking give it a rest? You have DESTROYED the commenting section for this article. I put my time here to help others, only for you party pooper to come here to FILL this comment section with your [misguided] opinion about that damn camera of yours. While I suggest anything-Canon from $200 to $300 depending on the budget (and I explain “WHY Canon” very well), you only want to push your own, very particular, more expensive purchase to others. You’re off topic, so please, stop it.


Michael wrote on February 18th, 2010 at 4:08 PM PST:

“The SX200 IS is *only* suggested if the user absolutely needs a big zoom.”

Here is the same typo again! Let me correct it for you:

“The SX200 IS is *only* suggested if the POOR ARTIST absolutely needs a big zoom.”

So no more misunderstandings!


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Eugenia wrote on February 18th, 2010 at 4:11 PM PST:

Michael, you are an ass (and yes, you deserve the name calling right now).

You’re trying to play with my nerves on purpose. I do all this around here to help videographers, and you come here with your fucking sarcasm to piss me off. It’s not fair.

So please stop replying to my blog. Either keep it together, or don’t come back here. Your sarcasm, nitpicking, and whatever else you got going on right now, is NOT welcome.


Daren wrote on February 19th, 2010 at 10:41 AM PST:

Keep up the great articles Eugenia. They are greatly appreciated.


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