New Canon cameras at CES

Canon announced today a few new P&S digicams and camcorders. What do these new models mean for video? Apparently, absolutely nothing.

The flagship of the new announcements is the G1 X, a large sensor G-series camera. The only new video-related feature it’s got is its upgraded bitrate: it now uses the same bitrate as in the Canon dSLRs, at around 45 mbps. But there’s still no manual control, or 1080 @ 25/30p and 720 @ 50/60p (in addition to its 1080/24p and 720/30p). Video-wise there’s absolutely no reason to buy this camera compared to the Canon S100 I’m afraid. Sure, it’s got a bit more bitrate, but that extra 20% more bitrate isn’t worth an additional $400 IMHO. Yup, there’s a big sensor in there now, but if you can’t manually control the aperture, and instead we have the camera go automatically to high shutter speeds outdoors (and closing down the aperture), what’s the point of it?

Update: According to this article, the G1 X does not even have exposure compensation for video. It’s one, big, fat, expensive, JOKE. Update 2: DPreview updated their article saying that exposure compensation does work, but only when the camera is in movie mode, and not when you simply click the record button in any of the other modes. This is how it’s supposed to work, but the way they wrote the original article showed that the dpreview guys are in need of a video-specific reviewer…

Regarding the cheaper 520 HS, 310 HS and 110 HS, there are highly disturbing news I must report. Not only exposure compensation + lock is STILL MISSING from these models (remember, up to 2010, Canon P&S digicams did have this feature for video, but then it was removed from most of their new models), but bitrate was also botched down! Where in the past all Canon P&S HD digicams would feature 21 to 24mbps bitrate for 720p, and 35 to 38 mbps for 1080p, now we have TWO of the NEW models (520 HS & 110 HS) offering just 18 mbps for 1080p, and about 12 mbps for 720p. In other words, Canon made their consumer digicams WORSE than they were last year (again, video-wise).

I made quite a few frienemies by evangelizing the Canon P&S digicams over the last 2-3 years, but starting last year and continuing with this year’s models, I can’t suggest these cameras anymore with a straight face. Canon is trying to save their camcorder department by butchering what it was the best P&S video digicams in the market. They had the basics right, but now they aren’t better than other manufacturers. We were going so well in terms of adding video features on digicams in the last few years, and then, not only there’s a stop, but there’s regression too. Sad…

As for their new camcorders, none of these new models offer anything really new, that’s just recycling we see there. The HF G10 from last year at $1500 still remains their best semi-consumer camcorder ever released, but they didn’t update it this year (it would have benefited from a bigger sensor and a full-size hot shoe).

Conclusion: Buy older Canon digicams if you must have a digicam for video, the ones that still have the basics in place. These basics are, I list them again:
– Exposure compensation + lock
– Focus lock
– Custom colors for “flat” look (at least for saturation, contrast, sharpness)
– 720p at over 20 mbps, 1080p at over 35 mbps
– 24p and 30p options

I mean, really, is that too much to ask? I never even mentioned manual control for A/V, or built-in ND filters, or mic-inputs, or any other “crazy” feature. Just the damn basics needed to make a video that doesn’t look like total amateur hour! Even the iPhone can do most of that now via third party apps!

So, which P&S digicam to buy? If you only shoot random family videos, anything will do, but if you want to do art, go for last year’s SX220/SX230 HS which sells at $200 now (1080/24p, 720/30p), or last year’s A1200 which sells for $90 (720/24p). If you have the extra money, you can consider the S100 too at $430 (same video features as SX230, plus ND filter). For camcorders go for the one I mentioned above, the HF G10, the rest are laughable for anything serious (at least from what you would expect from a camcorder compared to a digicam).

But the best advice would be to wait and see what the new T4i dSLR will be able to do in February. From leaks we know for sure it’s going to have the new Digic imaging processor, but if an updated sensor/body comes with it to complement it (which would translate to less rolling shutter, no line-skipping, continuous autofocus), then there’s no reason to get a P&S digicam. Save your money, work extra hours if you have to, and go for the T4i in that case.

I wish I was able to suggest P&S digicams instead, for young people who just start with video (I will be teaching a videography class soon to kid-artists), but these new models don’t allow me to do so. They’ve taken a step back.


Ivan wrote on January 9th, 2012 at 12:14 PM PST:

I’m pretty sure there are reasons why Canon takes the bitrate down: perhaps the codec is more effiecient now, and dropping the bitrate makes the battery life longer.
Anyhow, I’m sceptic also.
The camcorder and camera market are perhaps the most tell tale segment where ‘built-in obsoleteness’ and market segmentation are very obvious. I’m more and more convinced that the success of some cameras when it comes to video (the 5D Mark II, the HV20, the 550D perhaps) are lucky accidents, unintended by the engineers (or at least the management). In fact, Canon is annoyed by it, and now is ‘setting things straight’. Canon is desperate at re-locating strict borders between the different market segments (p&s/dslr/camcorder/professional camera). It reminds me the Dupont company: back in the 1950s, their engineers had developed a new nylon fiber which was virtually indestructable. Dupont workers’ wives were given nylon stockings to test them out, and they turned out to be the best and strongest stockings on the planet. Very soon, however, the Dupont researchers were sent back to the lab to invent another type of nylon of a much lesser quality, in order to guarantee a steady sale of stockings, while the strong nylon was never put to use in the consumer market.
In other words, it is a perverted but real world logic: why build and sell the ‘perfect’ camera? This would in the end bring the sales to an end and ultimately destroy the company.

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Eugenia wrote on January 9th, 2012 at 12:21 PM PST:

>perhaps the codec is more efficient now

It probably is, but definitely not 50% more (since the bitrate is now 50% less than it used to be in these two models).

>(the 5D Mark II, the HV20, the 550D perhaps) are lucky accidents, unintended by the engineers (or at least the management)…

Good thoughts Ivan, thanks. Segmentation is indeed the game Canon is playing now. But it’s the new, young artists (kids, or artists in the third world) who will pay for that. It’s one step to a less democratic artistic world.

Chris wrote on January 10th, 2012 at 9:09 AM PST:

I just wanted to say thanks for your recommendations in this blog for the Canon sx230 HS. I was all set to buy the 300 HS, believing it could handle exposure lock, until I read your post that none of the Elphs have that feature. After seeing what they’ve done with the upcoming releases, it makes me even more glad that I went with the sx230.

glenn wrote on January 10th, 2012 at 9:06 PM PST:

This is sad news. I was hoping the new G series would implement more manual control plus the 1080p. Anyone interested in the video portion of p&s photography would never waste their money on this camera, when they can have the same basic features for 400 bucks less. It also shows that the t4i will, most likely, be released at a higher price point than the previous EOS models… which is also unfortunate.

I had a feeling something like this was going to happen, that’s why I bought a t2i right before Christmas when they went below $600. I just couldn’t resist the price. I have always been interested in making a feature film with a p&s camera but unfortunately, what should have and could have been an economical way to make a film became the exact opposite, however I’ll still, probably, pick up an A1200 or a 230hs for some b roll.

Michael C. wrote on January 11th, 2012 at 9:18 AM PST:

How do you know that you cannot control aperture on the G1X?

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Eugenia wrote on January 11th, 2012 at 9:47 AM PST:

It’s not mentioned anywhere. When such a new feature appears, the press release is usually all over it. I’d be very, very surprised if some form of manual control was there.

Michael C. wrote on January 11th, 2012 at 10:03 PM PST:

So, you have no factual proof that the G1X has no manual aperture control in video mode, as well as exposure lock?

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Eugenia wrote on January 11th, 2012 at 10:37 PM PST:

It has exposure compensation and exposure lock, nobody said that it doesn’t have that. It has the same video features as the S100 for video, plus more bitrate. But it doesn’t have APERTURE control, this is *different* than exposure compensation. IF it had anything like that, the PR *would* have mentioned it, since it would be the FIRST Canon P&S camera to have such video control. When they added manual control in dSLRs, their PRs never neglected to mention that.

Michael C. wrote on January 12th, 2012 at 2:11 PM PST:

So you have no factual proof. Let’s assume that your judgment is correct. What about manual shutter speed for video mode, can it be set? If yes, and if exposure can also be adjusted, this effectively gives control over aperture/ND, just like in Canon camcorders.

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Eugenia wrote on January 12th, 2012 at 2:21 PM PST:

As I said, if there was anything more manual than plain exposure compensation, the PR would have mention it. And even if it has shutter speed control + exposure compensation, it does NOT give you control over the aperture or the ND filter, it only gives you control over the shutter speed and brightness. Manual control is manual control. If it’s missing any of the three elements (aperture, shutter speed, ISO), then it’s just a bit more than a toy. A camera at that price should have had full manual control IMHO.

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