Archive for March 7th, 2011

Video manual control on Canon’s new $300 P&S HD digicams?

At last, tonight I found online the manuals for the new Canon cameras (it seems that Canon-Singapore is faster than anyone other Canon site). I checked these PDF manuals for the cameras that have some manual control in still-picture mode, in this case the Elph 500 HS (Av/Tv modes), and the SX220/SX230 HS (full manual control).

So, to my huge surprise, the manuals insinuate (but they are not super-clear), that you can press the new dedicated “video record” button, even if you’re not currently in an actual video mode. The only other Canon P&S cams that had a dedicated video button in this fashion were the SX30 IS, and the SX210 IS, but I can’t find any info online of people commenting about what happens to video when in Manual/Tv/Av mode. The PDFs I read tonight show video for the AUTO and P modes, but they also mention that it’s usable on other modes too. In fact, on screenshots of the 500 HS’ Tv and Av modes on the manual, the video record button shows to be enabled!

This hopefully means that we can set the camera to Tv mode, set it to 1/50th or 1/60th shutter speed (depending if you’re shooting 1080/24p or 720/30p), set ISO to 80 or 100, and then force the aperture open by using an ND filter. Zoom-in too, and you will achieve a very pleasant background blur. Then bring up exposure compensation and tweak it, focus too, and then lock them both. Then record, and notice the very cinematic motion blur!

In the SX220/SX230 HS case it goes even further, since it has full manual control, where the camera allows you to manually focus and/or lock focus, and independently change shutter speed, aperture, and ISO values. If all this is as expected, then these are the cheapest Canon cameras with full video manual control, and with quality and additional features that vastly surpass the only other cameras that have manual control in a similar price range: the Sanyo Xacti.

There’s a stinker in the 500 HS case though, where the manual is not very clear, and that’s about the focus lock. The manual claims that this works in video mode, and that it can be set separately from exposure lock, but I can’t see how this is possible, since the manual also states that if you press again the screen, the AFL goes away (and you need to press the screen again, since the video record button on the 500 HS is a touch-button and not a hard button as in the case of the SX220/SX230 HS). Hopefully it is possible to lock focus & exposure independently, and then record video on the 500 HS, otherwise I will be seriously pissed off, since that’s a feature that existed in older models. Update: Avoid the 500 HS, it doesn’t lock exposure in video mode!

The other scenario that I fear is that while you can be in manual mode and be all-setup to record with these custom values, when you press the video record button the camera goes back to AUTO. Or, nothing happens. Anyway, I won’t know about any such… loopholes unless I get a camera to test with. I will be buying the 500 HS (very fast and wide lens, large screen), and I will write about my findings. Fingers crossed! These cameras are expected to be released in April, they’re currently on pre-order.

BTW, the other major movie modes, like the iFrame format and the super-slow motion mode, don’t have exposure/focus lock, they are pretty much “auto”, and therefore useless for anything serious.

Update: Bad news. An SX30 IS owner tried his video record button in M mode, and the exposure changed automatically. So it seems that we can’t get manual control for video via the stills mode.