Archive for January 5th, 2011

The cheapest 24p camera is upon us! Plus, the Canon HF-G10

Canon today announced their new consumer line up at CES. Thankfully, they stayed away from gimmicks, like 3D camcorders and the like. Instead, they brought us what I was asking in 2007 already. They’re four years too late for my own personal needs, but hey, it’s now here. But let’s start with their digicam line up instead, because that’s where most non-pro video-enthusiast readers of this blog could find some real value.

The HD digicams

So, Canon today announced their new A-series cams, and the two cameras of interest are the A2200 ($139) and the A1200 ($109). Video-wise, both cameras are the same, except the frame rate. The A2200 records in 30p at 24mbps (exactly 29.97 fps!), while the A1200 records 24p (exactly 23.976 fps!) at 21 mbps VBR (I assume, same as in the popular S95 model). There is also the highest A-series model, the A3300 IS (16 MP, 720/30p, $180), which apart its optical image stabilization (rather than digital in the other two cameras), offers nothing additional to the video side of things.

These A-series cams are truly a marvel! Think about it: 24p for less than a hundred bucks (eventual street price). Both of these cameras have exposure compensation and locking (very important to get a professional look), and both support custom “color” settings, so you can increase dynamic range, and emulate the movie look by shooting “flat” (just lower to minimum contrast/saturation/sharpness).

Both cameras, video-wise, seem amazing for their price! I used to suggest the SD1400 IS or the SD780 IS for cheap-but-good 720p video, but now the A-series have come to offer us the same, for cheaper. As to which model you should buy, it depends on the frame rate! If you live in a PAL country, or you’re interested in amateur short movies, get the 24p model. Get the 30p model if you’re interested in sports, family, travel, and artistic videos (for non-speaking art videos, slow down 30p to 24p and export at 24p).

However, remember that the fewer megapixel in a sensor, the better the low light is. So for the 24p A1200 model, it’s 12MP rather than A2200’s 14 MP, which is better in low light. Personally, I would have preferred all models to not be more than 10 MP. 10 MP is enough for a big print, and it’s a lot better in low light.

The HD camcorders

Now, let’s come to the camcorder line-up, which has been updated substantially with various models. The best all-around model is the HF-G10, which is basically a kind of model with features that you would normally find on a $3000 camcorder just a few short years ago. It now costs just $1500 (I’d expect a $1300 street price). It has support for native 24p, PF24, PF30, 60i, focus ring, and the biggest new feature for me: full manual control! This is the first consumer Canon camcorder with full manual exposure!

Thankfully, Canon stopped the madness with the high megapixel sensors, and so low light is going to kick ass on this baby! The sensor is a bit of a disappointment at just 1/3 though, although that’s the [wedding/TV] industry standard for such cameras. Other than that, the only other problem I see there is the fact that Canon still uses the mini-advanced shoe rather than a full shoe — there are virtually no third party gadgets for the mini variety. I don’t understand why Canon insists with this stupid standard. Also, there is no mention of zebra support, but I will take it on faith that it does have it.

At this point I should also mention the prosumer XA10, which is like the big brother of the HF-G10. It has XLRs, among other pro features, and it costs just $2000.

The third best new model is HF-S30, which has a bigger sensor at 1/2.6, but it’s one of these megapixel cams, so low light it’s going to suck, as it did in the older similar models. Also, it has no full manual control.

One very interesting model is the cheapest of the new crop, the HF-R200. At $379 (possibly at around $350 street price), is the cheapest 24p camcorder. Of course it’s not native 24p, it’s PF24, so you will need Cineform NeoSCENE to remove pulldown from it. But if you consider that we used to pay $1000 for such a camera just 2 years ago, it’s its own kind of miracle too.

Conclusion

So, what to buy? Easy:
– If you hate dSLRs for some reason, or don’t have the money for all the lenses that a dSLR requires, and you need continuous autofocus, lots of zoom, ports, interlaced 50i/60i, progressive 24p, “semi”-progressive 24p/25p/30p (PF), and the form-factor of a camcorder, get the HF-G10.

– If you need a real big sensor, very shallow focus, more movie-look potential, true progressive 24p/25p/30p/50p/60p, get the T2i/550D or the 60D dSLRs.

– If you’re a newbie, and you simply need good 720p support with just the minimum controls needed to make your video look good-enough, get any of the two mentioned A-series cameras. Under no circumstances go for a Flip, or a Kodak, or any these piece of crap “digirecorders”. Canon beats all of them with a big stick in terms of both control and quality, despite it being just 720p and have limited frame rate options.