The new Canon AVCHD cams

Today Canon announced a slew of new AVCHD camcorders, as they do every year at CES (I hope you didn’t buy an AVCHD cam for Christmas, always wait for CES). The particular model of interest for most readers of this blog is the new HF-S series, the HF-S21. The particular new features that are interesting to high-end consumers are only two:

1. True 24p. No need anymore for pulldown removal. Yay!
2. Touch & Track. You just click on the huge 3.5″ touchscreen LCD, and the system will automatically track the object while you move with the camera. Particularly useful if you’re using a steadycam for music videos or short movies.

The rest of the new features are just fluff for clueless consumers, or nasty software hacks (e.g. the claimed “better low-light support” that this camera now has, while it’s the same sensor/glass as the previous model).

However, the HF-S21 is still missing the point. No full manual control, no real focus ring, and no bigger sensor at around 1/2.0″ (to combat the dreadful low-light performance this sensor/lens combo has on that model). And no 720/60p either (the hardware can do it).

What’s important to remember here is that the Canon 7D is eating away the high-end consumer and much of the prosumer market. The 7D has the best performance/price ratio for what it gives you. And that includes good low light, a selection of lenses with focus rings, 720/60p for good slow-mo, and of course, full manual control. Any serious amateur filmmaker would root for the 7D instead of any of the AVCHD Canon cams.

In other words, the 7D has up’ed the bar. For the engineers at the consumer department at Canon to keep their jobs they MUST have offered the equivalent of a high-end consumer camcorder in the face of the HF-S21. They don’t have the luxury anymore to do incremental updates as they do every year. The high-end consumer model has to be _serious_. They needed a new HV20-style AVCHD camera feature-wise. When the HV20 came out in 2007, it changed the landscape. That’s the kind of product (in spirit of course, not in features) that Canon’s consumer department needed TODAY.

Oh, well, here’s one more year waiting for that Canon department to get off its ass. If I hadn’t already bought the 5D (for reasons I explained in a previous blog post), I would still be with the HV20 and not upgrade until Canon got it right.


Dave wrote on January 5th, 2010 at 12:41 PM PST:

So close, and yet so far away. My trusty HV20 is still going strong after all these years. Those tapeless adapters are starting to look pretty dang good…

Jim wrote on January 5th, 2010 at 4:23 PM PST:

What is sad for Canon is I would buy a second HV20 if it were a tgrue upgrade. Many times I put one camcorder on a tripod and the other a roving camera. If I could have gotten the HV20 with manual controls I would have bought it. Think of all the people who have bought 35mm adapters, would they have bought an upgraded camcorder instead? The fact is with the HV20 they produced a camcorder I would buy, but to get my business again, they will have to provide me with options and so far, they offered a black body and bigger lcd in HV30 and another speed choice I would never use in the HV40 and I think we must be stupid. Now I will buy a used Hv30 or HV40, but $3k is beyond my budget, but $1k is within my means and I think Canon has squandered a wonderful opportunity so far and I wonder why Sony, Panasonic etc hasn’t rushed into fill the gap. I thought the Scarlet might be the answer, but I think we are going to find the scarlet will be a $4k camcorder in basic form. So each year I hope someone will make the camcorder I want, but basically I want a Sony TRV 27 in High Def either HDV or AVCHD

Mikeymike wrote on January 5th, 2010 at 5:01 PM PST:

Wow, that’s dissapointing. Glad I bought my 7D. I’m really interested to see the first company that is going to use the APS-C sensor and interchangable lenses. Oh well, they gave us the 7D so I have to say Canon is still in the lead.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on January 5th, 2010 at 5:08 PM PST:

>Canon is still in the lead

Yes, but not all departments are. We like to think companies like Sony or Samsung as “one” company, but in reality they have very independent dpts. That’s why I have a problem with their consumer cam dpt, they will get the ax if they don’t get their shit together.

Jack Zhang wrote on January 5th, 2010 at 5:25 PM PST:

I’m just waiting for the day a decent prosumer camera with decent solid state memory and a rigid codec comes along. Panasonic is moving in the right direction with a 3CCD AVCHD camera in the prosumer market, but slap AVC-I on that and you’ve got a winner in my books. No more rolling shutters and perfect 4:2:2 10 bit picture on a sub 10k camera. Makes matchmoving so much easier.

And putting HDMI on that just sweetens the cake much more so.

Kim wrote on January 5th, 2010 at 5:25 PM PST:

Can I just tell you NOTHING frustrates me more than the focus ring issue. What is the resistance there…why is the message not reaching the powers that be?? The more 7D footage I see, the more I want that piece of machinery. Thanks for the helpful post (as always), Eugenia.

Mikeymike wrote on January 5th, 2010 at 6:29 PM PST:

Yeah, I’m afraid the consumer cam dept isn’t going to ever get it “right” because the average consumer isn’t going to want shallow focus and interchangable lenses. They’re not going to want more control as opposed to simpler operation. I think I’m going to have to watch the DLSR development to find the solutions I’m looking for.

Glenn wrote on January 5th, 2010 at 8:46 PM PST:

Stick with your HV20’s I say 🙂 They still do a brilliant job. With what I’ve put mine though, I’m surprised it still runs so smoothly.

The quality of HV20/30/40 videos these days seem to be a lot better than when they first came out. I think it’s taken that long for people to learn how to get the most out of them and how to best work with the footage. That said, I do use Neat Video in Vegas 9 to clean up all my HV20 footage these days, but the results are well worth it.

I’ve been looking at the 7D, 5D mk2 etc, and have seen some nice looking movies made with them. To me their main strength is their low light shooting capability. But for me it ends there. They don’t give you an LCD you can flip which I could not do without for ground shots like the title image of my wife’s video here http://www

The GH1 and D5000 have them, but not Canon so I’d need an external LCD which would be too much trouble. Plus the rolling shutter still sucks big time for handheld shooting. So I’ll be sticking with my HV20 & SG Pro, at least until they die or Canon, Red, Panasonic etc get their act together and release something decent.

For stills and timelapses though, I think Ricoh cameras are king. I was hoping I could use my Canon SX200 IS in continuous mode for timelapse style shots, but it was extremely difficult to do and it’s macro and still photo quality were rubbish (video mode was good though). I sold it and bought a Ricoh CX1 which absolutely brilliant.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on January 5th, 2010 at 10:40 PM PST:

>the average consumer isn’t going to want shallow focus and interchangable lenses

I don’t want that either for a consumer camcorder. There are more basic needs not met at this point than lenses.

MikeyMike wrote on January 6th, 2010 at 7:38 AM PST:

Well the 7D doesn’t do ground shots great but then again I don’t do a whole lot of ground shots. The ones I have done I have the external monitor hooked up like I do all the time while I shoot so that isn’t an issue for me. It all depends on what type of style you shoot…handheld isn’t great on the 7D unless you have a stabilized lens or a shoulder rig, but all in all I’m getting some much nicer images from the 7D that I do with my HV20. I’m still hanging on to the HV20 for backup though.

MikeyMike wrote on January 6th, 2010 at 7:44 AM PST:

One last comment Glenn, I love the timelapse I’m getting from the 7D and I really don’t see how any camera could be any more qualified in this areana than the 7D as I have total control over all settings

Glenn wrote on January 6th, 2010 at 3:03 PM PST:

Hi Mikey, I’m sure the timelapse on the 7D is good. It’s a big camera though. I carry my Ricoh around in my pocket all the time instead of a phone.

I’m not knocking the 7D. You’re right, it depends on shooting style what can be done with it. Although I’ll probably wait and see what else gets released later this year before switching to another video camera.

r4i wrote on January 8th, 2010 at 2:08 AM PST:

Canon strengthens its reputation for excellence in digital compact camera design with a new digital camera model: the slimmest ever Digital IXUS model, the 10 Megapixel Digital IXUS 95 IS. The new Canon IXUS 95 IS features a new Smart Auto mode, which uses Canon’s Scene Detection Technology to help users take great shots with ease.

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