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.

13 Comments »

Michael C. wrote on January 5th, 2011 at 4:55 PM PST:

I wish Canon did not bother making the G10 and simply offered the XA10 either with or without handle/XLR, making the handle a $500 accessory. The XA10 has two proper-sized accessory shoes, and unlike JVC and Panasonic it does not use a stupid external cable from the XLR block to the camera, using instead contacts on the shoe.

Bad things about these: viewfinder does not tilt up; AF/MF button is on the screen, not beside the focus wheel on the barrel; there is no wheel/rocker for fast exposure adjustment, you have to get into the touch-screen menu; no 60p (neither 1080p60 nor 720p60); stupid built-in memory even in a professional version.

But overall this is what I asked Canon for since its first HF-S model, remember me ranting on hv20.com? 58 mm threads, lower-res sensor, big hi-res screen, focus wheel… everything pretty much what I asked for. Still, ergonomically the HMC40 looks better to me. It has tilting viewfinder and more buttons on the barrel with easy focus, zoom and exposure controls. A new HMC40 costs only $200 more than the G10 lists in Canon’s catalog, and the HMC40 with the XLR block costs the same as the XA10. It is a toss-up, but the Canons are prettier and have larger sensor, which is marginally better for shallow DOF.


Michael C. wrote on January 5th, 2011 at 4:57 PM PST:

Really, the stupid placement of the AF/MF button makes me mad. The HMC40 is still my favorite small cam so far. I will pass on these new Canons.


zima wrote on January 5th, 2011 at 7:52 PM PST:

I take it that A2200 & 3300 don’t have 24p setting, and for no technical reason? It’s like they strive to always complicate the choice a bit… πŸ˜‰

But seriously, it seems like 1200 is my future always-carried-not-missed-too-much-if-something-bad-happens digicam (despite living in PAL place / who watches those videos on TVs, anyway? πŸ˜‰ ). A1200 might be even slightly better for other reasons – that’s the one with optical viewfinder (can be helpful on a sunny day), uses AA batteries (vs. Li-Ion of 2200 – so they are actually much closer in price, if somebody doesn’t have already a recharger and a stash of NiMH AAs) – having spares in the bag is easier to justify; might mean better grip, too.

Seems they also have low-res mode for low light, so at least somebody at Canon notices problems with ridiculously large MP numbers and tries to bring some balance…

(that’s the end / sorry for pathetic long post about cheap digicams around a year ago … I think I mostly tried then to stay awake via browsing, unfortunatelly)


Jeremy wrote on January 5th, 2011 at 9:52 PM PST:

This is sick! Grab an A1200, a Zoom H1 and Videomic and a half-decent Velbon tripod and you have a basic filmmaking kit for less than $500! A passionate (and poor) beginner could really do wonders with this setup. Part of me wishes I was 10 years younger and just getting started in this hobby again. Ok, ALL of me wishes I was 10 years younger, but that’s another story…..


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Eugenia wrote on January 5th, 2011 at 10:26 PM PST:

Actually, for a cheap audio setup that works wonders, there’s another option. All you need is the Audio Technica ATR-6550, that Amazon sells for $50, which has a tele-mode that is able to capture good sound from further away than most mics can. Sure, this is not a super-clear mic, but its tele-mode feature makes up for it. This way, you don’t need multiple mics, and you don’t need to pay an audio guy for your short movie, or ask favors from your friends to hold up a boom mic.

And for audio recorder, there are several ones that will capture in WAV, MP3 or WMA, and have a 3.5mm input, for about $35. Audio quality from this setup will still be better than with most consumer camcorders when shooting dialog from 2 meters away or more.

As for a tripod, Amazon has one with a smooth-pan head for about $65 too.

So overall, that’s a basic setup of about $250! And if this supposed poor filmmaker has some money left, I’d suggest the $100 continuous lights that Adorama sells, and a filter addon so he/she can add ND filters (these cams shoot at very high shutter speed outdoors, lets not forget).

Boom! A great, workable setup for less than $400. $250 for the basic setup! And $150, or $300 (with lights/filters) for a music video setup (no need for audio equipment in this case). All this was impossible just a few short years ago!


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Eugenia wrote on January 5th, 2011 at 11:11 PM PST:

This would be my ideal setup for Canon’s full range of P&S digicams, in terms of software video features:

Gxx/Sxx series:
1080 @ 24p/25p/30p
720 @ 24p/25p/30p/48p/50p/60p (48p can be important for 3D)
848×480 @ 24p/25p/30p/50p/60p/72p/75p/96p/100p/120p
Full video manual control
Audio saturation levels
Miniature effect
75% and 100% zebra support

SX / high-end SDxxxx:
1080 @ 24p/25p/30p
720 @ 24p/25p/30p/50p/60p
848×480 @ 24p/25p/30p/50p/60p/72p/75p
Audio saturation levels
Miniature effect
75% and 100% zebra support

D / Low-end SDxxx/x:
1080 @ 24p/25p/30p
720 @ 24p/25p/30p
848×480 @ 24p/25p/30p/50p/60p
Miniature effect

High-end A-series:
720 @ 24p/25p/30p
848×480 @ 24p/25p/30p/50p/60p

Low-end A-series:
720 @ 24p/25p/30p
848×480 @ 24p/25p/30p/48p

Common features for ALL cameras, no exceptions (some features already exist):
– Exposure compensation, and exposure locking
– Custom colors (sharpness, saturation, contrast, R,G,B, skin tone), and presets, including a new Canon preset for “film/cinema look”
– Macro/Wide focus choice, and manual focus via the d-pad. Focus lock (able to work in parallel when the user sets exposure compensation/locking).
– Custom white balance, WB presets
– 16 mbps bitrate for 480 @ 24p/25p/30p
– 24 mbps bitrate for 720 @ 24/25/30p and 480 @ 48/50/60p
– 32 mbps bitrate for 480 @ 72p/75p/96p/100p/120p
– 36 mbps bitrate for 720 @ 48/50/60p and all of 1080p (if camera supports these modes)
– For frame rates 48p and over, there should be a switch to tell the camera if you want the raw frame rate recorded, or slowed-down to a matching low frame rate.
– Actual frame rates: 23.976, 25, 29.97, 47.952, 50, 59.94 fps etc.

That would kick so much ass, and Canon would still have some product segmentation to go about.


glenn wrote on January 9th, 2011 at 10:05 PM PST:

eugenia, thanks for the email! i’ve been in nyc for the past few days, for work, and haven’t had a chance to check my email. obviously, you knew the 1200 would excite me and once again you are correct. do you know a street date? i might be picking up two.


glenn wrote on January 9th, 2011 at 10:09 PM PST:

btw, i just got one of those android eReaders and I was checking out your blog on it…I must commend you on having one of the few blogs that translates well on these small devices. there’s no need to scroll left or right…which can be a pain on this thing…was it accidental or did you have phone devices in mind as you developed your blog?


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Eugenia wrote on January 9th, 2011 at 11:50 PM PST:

>do you know a street date?

March.

>was it accidental or did you have phone devices in mind as you developed your blog?

For the specific blog, it’s just a free WordPress plugin. As long as your site is based on WordPress, anyone can install that plugin. But for my other sites, that I coded myself, I indeed make them mobile-friendly by myself. A few years ago I developed a mobile browser detection kit too, which I later open sourced. You can view such a site at osnews.com with your android device.


Mark E. wrote on January 11th, 2011 at 9:51 AM PST:

I’m interested in watching how things develop with the XA10 – I have been thinking of upgrading from an HV30 to a tapeless camcorder or DSLR and the XA10 seems to have most of the features I’d be looking for in a camera that’s an easier shape to hold than a DSLR.

Any opinions on the Sony NEX-VG10? I’m impressed with the video I’ve seen from it on Youtube and Vimeo, and the fact that the sensor is bigger than the one on the EOS 5D sounds like it would eliminate a lot of video noise. Although you do wind up trading Canon’s collection of lenses for Sony’s πŸ™


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Eugenia wrote on January 13th, 2011 at 12:56 PM PST:

From what I read, the NEX-VG10 does not do true 24p and 25p, which makes the camera useless for filmmaking IMO. This is why I dislike Sony cameras, and in some cases Panasonic: they always find some major way to cripple their offerings, just so their expensive models can live on.


mczx wrote on January 14th, 2011 at 7:50 AM PST:

How do you think the sensor/lens will compare for video to something like a Vado HD?


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Eugenia wrote on January 14th, 2011 at 3:38 PM PST:

The lenses on real digicams is way better than the one on digirecorders. It’s on the reasons why I always suggest a real camera compared to digirecorders that sacrifice too many things to get the job done cheaply — by companies that are not traditionally imaging companies.


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