Thursday
Aug162007

Canon HDV Consumer Camcorders Vs The Others

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Canon HDV
Canon HDVFirst up, even though this is a thread about Canon HDV, let me point you to some great reviews of the latest consumer (happy-home-snapper like you and I) HDV cameras over at Camcorderinfo.com.

They found the Canon HV20 ($1,000 to $1,100) out-performed the Sony HDR-HC7 ($1,060 to $1,170), the Panasonic HDC-SD1 ($1,070 to $1,160), and the dearest in the category JVC's Everio GZ-HD7 ($1,520 to $1,700). The Canon and Sony record to tape and use HDV MPEG-2 compression. The Panasonic uses AVCHD, an MPEG-4 based option and stores video on SD cards. The Everio records on a 60GB hard drive with both AVCHD and a new kind of MPEG-2.

Camcorderinfo says that the Canon HV20 has an advantage over the Panasonic and JVC because it uses tried and true HDV MPEG-2 compression and their tests showed that HDV remains the best consumer HD format. They found that both the Canon and Sony scored higher than the others in the comparisons. In the lab, they say Canon and Sony produced very similar results - both displayed sharper images with less noise than the Panasonic and JVC.

Canon HDV Crispness

But they were, like me, very impressed with the crispness of the HV20's image (most notable in close-up shots). The Sony wasn't quite so sharp. Followed by the Panasonic. The JVC came in last between the four even though it's the dearest. Interestingly they found the Canon performed well in low light and I've found that too although I've read reviews elsewhere where they say it sucks in low light. 231239-1037206-thumbnail.jpg
Canon HDV

Below this, I'm going to post some footage I shot in a Chateau in a low light situation. You be the judge. I shot it on Automatic too. But not in the 24p mode that apparently more than doubles the light-gathering ability of its imager. This is the much-touted Cine Mode which gives the Canon HV20 an edge over the others. It makes for a softer more filmic look - the contrasts are toned down.

Summing up: Camcorderinfo found that Sony has a wide range of options in the manual control arena but the Canon and JVC get the focusing down better.

The Sony HDR-HC7 was most feature-packed but absence of a focus assist feature was a liability. Cam Control multifunction dial was not as easy to use as its predecessors Cam Control rings.

The Panasonic HDC-SD1 is too specialized, though it is good for close quarters shooting, situations that demand silent operation, or a rock-solid optical image stabilizer. There's no headphone jack and no accessory shoe. It also records AVCHD video which in their opinion is not a threat to HDV.

The JVC GZ-HD7 had great handling with neat controls like a focus ring and dedicated buttons for image control. It lacks a headphone jack or any means of monitoring and adjusting audio levels. The biggest bummer with the HD7, however, was video performance: it just doesn't cut it.

Canon HDV - Best performer

They found that although the Canon HV20 had cheap-feeling construction and an awful zoom lever it was the best performer for the price (around $1000).

I agree with that - the Canon construction is a bit on the Mickey Mouse side - I'd hate to drop it. And the Zoom Control sucks but I try not to zoom too much anyway. In fact I keep exorting the YouTube crowd to super-glue your zoom control Dude - nothing looks as cheesy as zooming in and out all over the place.

One thing they don't mention above is what Editing and Compression to use with Canon HDV - and the others for that matter. I've been trying all sorts of Codecs but I keep coming back to Quicktime's H264. The footage below was edited on iMovie (I have Final Cut Pro Studio but I find iMovie very easy) and compressed on H264, "Best" Quality, Single Pass encode at a size of 640×480 - anything bigger and the file is enormous. Yes I know that size is not 16:9 ratio but it doesn't matter to YouTube and the other video-sharing sites as they just automatically letterbox it. Canon HDV - way to go. Check out the Canon HV20 interactive site here.

Canon HDV.
Thursday
Aug162007

Canon HDV - Testing the new HV20 Camcorder

231239-974858-thumbnail.jpg231239-974860-thumbnail.jpgI've had my new Canon HDV camcorder for a couple of months now and whilst I'm mostly pretty happy with it - the lens for one thing is superb! - but there are a couple of things that are irritating. It seems that HDV doesn't capture motion very well. It's nowhere as good as the minidv. You have to be really careful even on your pans. So for this reason it's not so much a point-and-shoot as a DV. You really need to think about what you're doing. And you really need to be shooting on a tripod a lot of the time. Which is probably a good thing anyway - shaky footage is annoying at the best of times. I don't know about this in-built Image Stabilizer that Canon boasts either. I can't see it making any difference.

Canon was a bit behind the eight-ball in releasing an amateur HDV camcorder. SONY were way ahead of them. The flawed Canon HV10 only came out at the end of last year. So here is the next generation - the HV20. And it's pretty darn good. The best part is the price - around $1000 for a camera that boasts a lot of features you find on professional HDV costing thousands more. So what do you get for your money?

First, even though SONY were into HDV earlier Canon has a couple of things over them with this model. For one thing, you can add other branded gear to this camera - microphones, headphones, lights. For another, this Canon HDV is the only consumer camcorder with the 24p "Cinema Mode" which adds a film-like look to videos (softens the contrasts).

The Canon HV20 HDV Camcorder is for happy-home-movie-makers like you and I. But it gives surprising results. You can make full-resolution 1080 widescreen (16:9) high-definition videos for use on High Definition Television. The camera's built-in HDMI terminal makes connecting to HDTVs a piece of cake. And if you fancy being the next Tarantino or just shooting something for Tropfest - this could be the HDV camcorder you need. But wait...there's more! The Canon HDV also features a 3-megapixel still camera and 2.7-inch widescreen LCD.

Canon has a terrific interactive site which takes you through this amazing HDV. Here's some Test Footage I shot recently using the camera on Automatic. Edited on iMovie and compressed using Quicktime's H264 Codec. You'll see BlipTV has much better results than YouBoob.

Wednesday
Aug152007

Canon HDV Camcorder - and Action!

13_421089.jpgThe Canon HV20 High Definition Camcorder is a beauty! I bought one a few weeks ago and I've been very impressed. This camera pisses all over the MiniDV I was using. Granted, it has some limitations - filming action being one of them but overall it's a stunning piece of engineering with a brilliant lens. And the best part? You can pick one up for around a thousand bucks!

The Canon HV20 HDV Camcorder is for happy-home-movie-makers like you and I. But it gives surprising results. You can make full-resolution 1080 widescreen (16:9) high-definition videos for use on High Definition Television. The camera's built-in HDMI terminal makes connecting to HDTVs a piece of cake. And if you fancy being the next Tarantino or just shooting something for Tropfest - this is the HDV camcorder you need. The 24p "Cinema Mode" adds a film-like look to videos. But wait...there's more! The Canon HDV also features a 3-megapixel still camera and 2.7-inch widescreen LCD.

Canon HV20 Specifications

High Definition Mini DV Camcorder
1080 HD resolution, 24p "Cinema Mode"
10x optical zoom, optical image stabilization
HDMI Connectivity

Here's some footage I took mucking around with the camera handheld and on Automatic -

More Technical Shit
From: camcorderinfo: The Canon HV20 uses HDV compression, a very efficient MPEG-2 codec with a fixed data rate of 25Mbps, identical to the data rate of standard definition DV compression. HDV excels in capturing stunningly high-resolution video, but it is inferior to DV in terms of rendering motion realistically, due to its dependence on interframe compression. This means that at 1080i, only one in fifteen frames is a full-frame picture, while the intervening frames are compressed in relation to each full I frame. Interframe compression is much more efficient than intraframe compression, and allows HDV to squeeze a full 1920 × 1080 picture into a 25Mbps stream, recordable to inexpensive MiniDV tapes. DV uses intraframe compression, so each frame is a fully independent picture, allowing much better motion capture. DV also uses a superior 4:1:1 color space while HDV encodes via a truncated 4:2:0 color space.

The inherent weaknesses of HDV have led many networks to deem the format sub-standard for broadcast, but it is still the best high definition format available on the consumer camcorder market. Most consumers find the stunning resolution of HDV trumps the superior motion handling of DV. A professionally lit HDV interview (or any HDV shot without too much detail or motion) can look nearly as good as footage shot in a professional HD format on a $20,000 camera.

Like other HDV camcorders, the Canon HV20 records to MiniDV cassettes, the same inexpensive and widely available format used by standard definition DV camcorders. MiniDV cassettes have a run time of 60 minutes in SP mode, but can hold up to 90 minutes of more compressed LP video. Unlike the DVD, memory card, and HDD formats, MiniDV tapes are linear media so moving clips to a PC from tape is a real-time process. For anyone serious about the quality of his or her video, HDV recorded to MiniDV cassette remains the best consumer HD option available.

Editing
The Canon HV20 records both HDV and standard definition DV video to MiniDV tapes, and both formats are now broadly supported by consumer and professional NLEs (non-linear editors) like Apple iMovie and Final Cut Pro, Avid Liquid and DV Express Pro, and Adobe Premiere. Transferring footage to a PC or Mac for editing is done via the included IEEE 1394 (otherwise known as FireWire, and branded as "i.LINK" by Sony) cable, so your PC will need an appropriate adapter. All Macs are IEEE 1394 compatible.

Due to its higher compression rate, working with HDV footage is much more processor-intensive than DV, but any newer computer with at least 512MB of installed RAM (and preferably 1GB) running an HDV-compatible NLE should be able to handle 1080i footage.

Wednesday
Aug152007

Canon HDV - Stunning Movie-Making For Amateurs!

canonhv20-thumb.pngCanon HDV brings real movie-making to amateurs at an affordable price.
Why the CanonHV20? This is one of the newest consumer High Definition Video camcorders on the market - it was released a few months ago. I've bought one. Here's why -

  • It has a Superb lens.
  • It's easy to use.
  • It is an HDV 16:9 aspect camera using 1920 × 1080i image size. 1,080 horizontal lines - twice the number of standard-definition TV with four times the pixels. Giving a stunning widescreen high definition image.
  • It records on regular minidv tapes - which are still better than DVD or cards.
  • It plays back on a High Definition television and looks amazing.
  • It has Cine Mode to give your vids a "film look" (it softens the contrasts). You can further enhance it with the 25 Frames Per Second (fps) progressive frame rate. The only HDV consumer-level camera to do this.
  • Bells and whistles - it has everything you need - optical stabilizer, sound levels, microphone & headphone jacks, built-in light etc
  • The Price, man - how can you go past around $1000 for all this?

Don't just take my word for it. David Pogue of The New York Times had this to say about the CanonHV20 -

Best Camcorder: Canon HV20. This camcorder ($1,040) can record either standard video or high-definition video onto standard MiniDV tapes.

The image quality is absolutely, forehead-slappingly spectacular when you play it on a high-def TV set. (Note that the hard drive-based high-def camcorders I reviewed in today’s paper can’t play at all on standard TVs; the Canon can.)

The HV20 has all the goodies of its predecessor, the HV10, like a dedicated autofocus sensor, built-in lens cap and an excellent optical stabilizer. (My review of the HV10 is available free at nytimes.com.) But the HV20 fixes the biggest disappointments of its predecessor: it adds microphone and headphone jacks, a top-loading tape compartment (so you don’t have to take it off the tripod), an HDMI jack (a single cable that carries both audio and video to your HDTV set), and a “24P” mode that offers incredible low-light sensitivity.
Here's some test footage I shot recently.

CanonHDV is set to rock the amateur movie-making world with this new model. Canon have a very nice Interactive Site which explains things clearly and simply.