Canon S95 vs Panasonic LX5 for video

The previous versions of the Panasonic LX series featured 24p video, but terrible manual controls and video formats. With the LX5, we see a much more useful video support (full manual control), but now with… wacky frame rates.

The Canon S95 on the other hand, at the same price category of $400, has no full manual control. It has just the essentials (exposure compensation/lock) to get you going, and “clean” 24p support.

I don’t own any of the two cameras, but seeing some comparison clips (e.g. this one), both directly out of the camera and re-encoded, and reading the specs, I have a few thoughts about the two cameras.

Advantages of the LX5 over the S95:
– Manual control for video. This is a big deal.
– Much better image stabilization in video mode than Canon’s “dynamic” IS.
– Visibly better in low light.
– Optical zoom and continuous autofocus available when recording video.
– Wind Cut for audio.
– AVCHD-Lite a bit easier to edit than MOV files on most editors, even if internally they both use h.264. [I don’t consider its MJPEG option serious.]

Disadvantages of the LX5 over the S95:
– WAY more CCD purple artifacts on the LX5. You have to constantly be careful where you point the camera, and use ND filters and sun-glare protectors.
– Lower bitrate at 17 mbps, compared to S95’s 21 mbps VBR. From directly-out-of-the-camera samples, I found that the S95 has more detail.
– Completely retarded frame rate: 30p with double useless frames, to make it look like it’s 60p. Just enough to confuse some video editors.
– No cinematic 24p option.
– No sharpness setting.
– 192 kbps AC3, compared to S95’s uncompressed audio.

At the end of the story, for video, it all comes down to if you don’t mind the CCD artifacts and the doubled frame rate. Sony Vegas should be able to handle its frame rate properly, if you force your project properties at 30p for example, and hopefully it won’t mess up any slow-motion either. Not much you can do about the artifacts though. Regarding artistic videos, e.g. for slightly slow-motioned (30p to 24p) music or non-vocal videos, the LX5 is the better choice when you shoot with full control of the lighting and exposure.

The S95 on the other hand keeps the reigns for its clean 24p frame rate, for those who shoot run-and-gun short movies and family videos, or non-slowed music videos. Also its higher picture quality with limited CCD artifacts is a plus.

Verdict? The LX5 has the advantage, IF used with enough care.


Glenn wrote on March 3rd, 2011 at 11:41 PM PST:

I don’t think that comparison on YouTube is the best indicator of which is better in low light. I’ve seen photo comparisons from the same two cameras, and the S95 shots always have less noise. But maybe I’m biased 🙂

I never knew the LX5 had manual controls. But I originally dismissed it because the vertical CCD flares looked worse than those from the cheaper Canon cameras like my Ixy 510 IS, and it would have been too big for my pocket. Similar size to the GF2 as far as I can tell.

At the end of the day, the S95 is still the best camera I’ve owned. I’ve been very impressed with both the photo and video quality.

I hate to admit it, but Canon’s 600D has caught my eye since shooting a video on this guy’s 550D last weekend. With the sensor crop and a decent but affordable lens on it like the Tamron 17mm to 50mm f2.8, that would be quite a verstile package. I don’t think I would bother even buying a second lens for it.

Michael C. wrote on March 4th, 2011 at 9:56 AM PST:

30p in 30p is not completely retarded: broadcast HD uses 60p, and AVCHD has no provisions for 720p30. Thus, AVCHD Lite is valid from the standpoint of basic AVCHD/BD and broadcast.

It is another matter that Panasonic and Sony were totally dumb (or they did it on purpose) when they did not include 30p and FullHD in BD and AVCHD specs.

Michael T. wrote on March 4th, 2011 at 12:25 PM PST:

Eugenia, very good comparison.

“- 192 kbps AC3, compared to S95′s uncompressed audio” – I believe here BOTH cameras suck big time as they don’t have a socket for an external microphone.

Also, LX5 zoom range is 24-90, while S95 has 28-105. While it’s great to have ultra-wide angel at 24mm, the picture distortion is extremely noticeable. I personally would prefer S95’s range for that, but with 30p there is no question LX5 is the winner.

CRFilms wrote on March 5th, 2011 at 12:23 PM PST:

Off topic, sorry, but I read on HV20 forums that you’re going to buy the ELPH 500(?). I’m thinking about that myself, but is it worth it vs the 100? On the specs it says the 500 has AV and TV priority modes, but is that just for pics or does it work for videos also? I’m poor and cheap(a deadly combination) so is it worth it for the extra cash vs the 100 HS. You said the 500 has a fast lens, in what way?

Either way, love the blog and I’m glad you re-opened it…and I suspected you would. Cause let’s face it, you have too much to say…and say it well. ^_^

Ivan wrote on March 5th, 2011 at 1:00 PM PST:

I own the LX3 and used it quite intensively for video during a one year period. What bothered me most in its image quality most was the ‘sensor blooming’ (the vertical purple lines when shooting directly into a strong source of light. Also the absense of exposure lock and manual mode, of course.
The new LX5 fails again has these ugly purple lines, which is very sad.
My advise is to stay away from ccd sensor cameras when you plan to use video frequently.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on March 5th, 2011 at 3:17 PM PST:

>but is it worth it vs the 100?

As I explained on my “24p cameras” blog post a few days ago, the 500 HS has a big wide screen, and a very fast wide lens, which will create more background blur when zoomed-in, and it will also allow for more light too. It’s worth the extra money IMHO. 🙂

>My advise is to stay away from ccd sensor cameras when you plan to use video frequently.

Indeed, but not all implementations of CCD are that bad. Canon’s digicam CCD offers are not nearly as bad as Panasonic in that respect. On the LX5, a still image capture does not show the purple blooming on the same scene as a video capture. Which means that Panasonic hasn’t taken the time to apply the same filtering for its video modes too.

Max wrote on March 12th, 2011 at 7:48 PM PST:

CCD sensors have blooming, CMOS sensors have rolling shutter.
I’d go with CCD sensors anyday….

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Eugenia wrote on March 13th, 2011 at 1:56 AM PST:

I’d go with CMOS anyday. With CMOS, if you stabilize your camera, you will at least avoid jelly. With CCD, if you’re shooting with light sources in the scene (and sometimes you can’t take them out, e.g. the sun), there’s nothing you can do.

Sorry, but between the two evils, CMOS makes more sense. It’s simply more preventable.

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