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post #1 of 36 Old 06-16-2014, 06:20 PM - Thread Starter
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Action Cams - Does 4K matter?

A video comparison of the new Panasonic A500 and the old Sony AS15.


Both attached to a sports car outside. The first clip is the Sony, shot at its best, 108030p in Fall 2012. The second, shot at 4K30p by the Panasonic in Spring 2014. Rendered at 108030p. Same road.

https://vimeo.com/98387856

Sound: the Sony must stay in a protective shell, which shields the mic (good in wind). The Panasonic needs no outer protection.


See a difference (horrendous light conditions (deep shade and bright sun))?

Last edited by markr041; 06-16-2014 at 06:24 PM.
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post #2 of 36 Old 06-16-2014, 09:33 PM
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I'm looking for an action camera but am repeatedly disappointed by the poor image quality even in the most expensive models (GoPro Hero+ Black, Sony AS100, etc.). When are we going to get an action camera with good image quality?
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post #3 of 36 Old 06-16-2014, 09:45 PM
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i understand that the sony was shot in 1080p30. however now that cams shoot in 1080p60 i dont think serious users would want 4k 30p. also, the sony doesnt need the protective shell unless your concerned about water. there are mounts for it that dont require the shell

and 4k on a 1/2.3"? the image on the pana a100 sucked, hard to believe they improved it that much to make it 4k
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post #4 of 36 Old 06-16-2014, 11:33 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fishywishy View Post
i understand that the sony was shot in 1080p30. however now that cams shoot in 1080p60 i dont think serious users would want 4k 30p. also, the sony doesnt need the protective shell unless your concerned about water. there are mounts for it that dont require the shell

and 4k on a 1/2.3"? the image on the pana a100 sucked, hard to believe they improved it that much to make it 4k

You are correct, the current Sony Action Cam does 108060p and the Sony Action Cam video resolution is poor, as is that of the Panasonic A100. You are also correct that with adaptors, you do not need the shell for the Sony, but then it is not shockproof or waterproof.


You are not correct that sensor size has anything to do with resolution. The Pro Sony 4K camcorder has a 1/2.3" sensor, same size as the Panasonic A500. Number of pixels matter, and the A100 had 2.3 megapixels, the A500 has over 9 megapixels, enough for 4K. And the resolution is much better than real 1080 (which the Action Cams and the A100 never came close to achieving). You can see the difference in the video, even at 1080, although resolution is not the only thing that matters. And, serious users would not put up with the really low resolution of the Action Cams, at any frame rate. Btw, as you can see, one advantage of the smaller sensor is that rolling shutter is not a problem.
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post #5 of 36 Old 06-17-2014, 01:04 AM
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IMO
At the end of the day they are pretty much the same. Both would do fine for the purpuse these types of cameras fill for me. Gopros and Contour are just as good/bad depending on how you want to view it and they are used alot in TV when an action cam is usefull.
To have 4k in a camera is to me nicer than not having it but not a need at this point.
When I choose an action camera the most important things to me is mounting ability, ease of use and durability since the image is not going to be super and the audio is going to be pretty unusable for anything but c- or b-sound.

The one I actually like the most now is Contour, shame they whent bust and havent released anything new lately. After that I think the Sony is looking like it could be my next action cam.

Nice test Mark, I enjoyed it.

Me and a friend both used our Contour and and GoPro 2 (Im the gopro) at the same time for a fun hobby project once and I took out a little bit from it and posted it as a comparison. I dont have the original footage anymore so excuse the grading, fast cuts and music.
https://vimeo.com/85544264
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post #6 of 36 Old 06-17-2014, 07:19 AM
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IMO, action cam should produce jello-free video. High frame rate is secondary. Spatial resolution is tertiary.


Last edited by Ungermann; 06-17-2014 at 07:26 AM.
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post #7 of 36 Old 06-17-2014, 07:26 AM
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good point, id take global shutter 1080 over 4k. id also take 1080p60 over 4k 30p
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post #8 of 36 Old 06-17-2014, 08:22 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fishywishy View Post
good point, id take global shutter 1080 over 4k. id also take 1080p60 over 4k 30p

His point was also jello-free trumps frame rate and shutter speed. The relatively small sensor of the action cams makes a global shutter less necessary.


I do not think most people would prefer mushy alleged "1080" to 4K downrezzed to 1080 at any frame rate. Resolution and color are the first things that people notice. They do also notice shaking. Everyone in this forum seems to have their pet obsession (jello, dynamic range, frame rate, etc.), but in my experience viewers who do not shoot simply react to resolution and color and then stability. Rarely smoothness of action (frame rate oddities) or DR.


So if you shoot only for yourself, then go with whatever you care about!
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post #9 of 36 Old 06-25-2014, 11:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Panasonic HX-A500 4K Road Test:


https://vimeo.com/99164730


4K original is downloadable. Free HDWriter software from Panasonic allows editing (trimming) and merging of 4K clips with no re-compression.
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post #10 of 36 Old 06-26-2014, 02:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markr041 View Post
Panasonic HX-A500 4K Road Test:


https://vimeo.com/99164730


4K original is downloadable. Free HDWriter software from Panasonic allows editing (trimming) and merging of 4K clips with no re-compression.

There appears to be something wrong with your car's shock absorbers...or maybe driving with flat tire...or there are some serious potholes in that road
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post #11 of 36 Old 06-26-2014, 06:18 PM
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did you cut out the part where you failed to stop at the stop sign?

is the EIS in 4k mode?
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post #12 of 36 Old 06-27-2014, 04:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fishywishy View Post
did you cut out the part where you failed to stop at the stop sign?

is the EIS in 4k mode?
Yes, and no. In 4k the camera uses the whole sensor, so no digital correction.

The lens part was attached loosely to the suction cup stand as I did not yet have the tripod adapter, so more lens movement than normal.
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post #13 of 36 Old 06-28-2014, 03:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Original video frame grabs: Sony AS15 and Panasonic A500

I cannot figure out how to show original frame grabs on this revised site. So here is a link where I posted them from the original Sony and Panasonic "road trip" videos:


http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/53931542


You can compare tree and fence detail. Even viewed at 1080, the difference is substantial.
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post #14 of 36 Old 06-28-2014, 11:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Turns out the SonyAS15 1080 video clips have a bitrate of 16 Mbps; some claim that this is why the resolution is so poor. However, that has been the standard for 1080 30p, and is not that far off from the AVCHD standard for 1080 60p of 28 Mbps.
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post #15 of 36 Old 06-30-2014, 10:55 PM
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the sony in the comparison has less fisheye then i remember, is that shot with the stabilization on?
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post #16 of 36 Old 07-01-2014, 01:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fishywishy View Post
the sony in the comparison has less fisheye then i remember, is that shot with the stabilization on?

You have a good memory - yes, it was on. This may have been partly responsible for the very low resolution. As noted, you cannot use stabilization in 4K mode on the A500.
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post #17 of 36 Old 07-08-2014, 03:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Left the A500 next to the hotel window in time-lapse mode, and got a thunderstorm. 2.5 hours collapsed to just over a minute.

https://vimeo.com/100093798
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post #18 of 36 Old 07-09-2014, 01:37 AM
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Mark, Which action cams provides the best image quality in your experience?
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post #19 of 36 Old 07-09-2014, 03:28 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hatchback View Post
Mark, Which action cams provides the best image quality in your experience?

I have limited experience with Action Cams. The Panasonic A500 certainly has better image quality than the Sony AS15 or AS30. 4K has proven to be superior to HD from any cam (and the A500 is real 4K at a higher bitrate (70Mbps) than the Sony AX100), so I would guess it has a better picture than the new Sony AS100, but I have not compared. The current GoPro does 4K at 15fps, so it is not serious 4K.


This is all in good light; there may be differences in dim light for the new Sony.
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post #20 of 36 Old 07-09-2014, 05:30 AM
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Originally Posted by markr041 View Post
4K has proven to be superior to HD from any cam.
Do you have a link to the proof?
Last shootout I saw was made by you and that imo did not prove that.
For most people 4k is still just a number and a feature. It means higher resolution and might mean higher amount of detail.
But there is more to picture quality than resolution. For some situations yes, a camera like the ax100 is beter than a 1080p camera. But there is just as many situations where the trade of on bitrate, DR, color, profile and so on lets it down.


IMO one single spec will never make a camera the best. It needs to be best at all things to trumph all other cameras. And such a camera will never be released.


So for this test of the two action cams my question to you that have both is, how do they compare if we look past the 4k?
The a500 has higher resolution so that goes on its plus side. But how is it with other features like DR, color accurasy, frame rates?
Most of that stuff I can read about but ergonomics, ease of use and so on. You have used it on your car, what was that like?
Which one would you choose if you where in a hurry?
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post #21 of 36 Old 07-09-2014, 03:30 PM
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The AX100 also happens to have very low noise, very good low light performance and very good color. So all of these 'other PQ characteristics' simply enhance the superiority of 4K. But yes, if you had a 4K camera with high noise levels and lousy colors, then even 4K wouldn't salvage the picture.
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post #22 of 36 Old 07-09-2014, 11:13 PM
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The AX100 also happens to have very low noise, very good low light performance and very good color. So all of these 'other PQ characteristics' simply enhance the superiority of 4K. But yes, if you had a 4K camera with high noise levels and lousy colors, then even 4K wouldn't salvage the picture.
Sorry but there is no 4K camera today that I would call superior. Its all down to the specific project.
Last weekend I did a shoot with ax100 and two other cameras and the ax100 shined in some situations but not in all.
And yes its lowlight was verry good, I was plesantly supriced with how good it was. But it was still the worst among the three.
The color needs correction to be natural Imo so it also require post.

Its stong points where detail for landscapes and its portability for running around and steady cam.

Any who, enough about it since this thread is about Action Cams.

Still curious to how they compare besides the 4K since both are a bit on my radar but the Sony is looking a bit more interesting.
/M
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post #23 of 36 Old 07-10-2014, 06:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Mattias Burling View Post
The color needs correction to be natural Imo so it also require post.
From mine and other poster videos such as Mark's, I see no need for color correction to achieve natural color. If it's a 'look' you're after, that's something different.
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post #24 of 36 Old 07-10-2014, 08:11 PM - Thread Starter
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I agree for sure there is more to picture quality than resolution, but I think that not all specs should be given equal weight, based on, say, viewer's reactions. DR is important, but I think most people react more positively to higher resolution than to higher DR (in most scenes). And of course we want color accuracy (although we know some people just like vivid colors and some like muted colors). On the new Sony AS100, there is a vivid color mode.


I will post a new Panasonic A500 4K short video soon (taxi ride, airport, train ride), which I think produces stunning results, much better than any I have seen from any other action cams.


Btw, the new Sony AS100 and the Panasonic A500 and the GoPro 3+ all have 1/2.3" sensors. But the Sony packs 18 megapixels on that sensor, the Panasonic only half as much (just enough for 4K video). So, with bigger pixels, the Panasonic is likely to have better low-light performance and perhaps dynamic range (I know other things matter too). I think the GoPro also packs many more pixels than the Panasonic on the same sensor size. That high-pixel count may be great for bright light photos, but is unnecessary for even 4K video and really makes for bad low-light video.


Finally, all of these action cams have fisheye lenses. I have found that is really useful for shots in cramped quarters when you want a shot of the whole room or car or hall (as will be seen in the new video). One can just use the action cam as a fish-eye lens, and when the camera produces 4K video, it can be mixed in with 4K video from other cams with limited wide-angle range. The A500 is no AX500, but it is close, and provides the fisheye lens perspective.
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post #25 of 36 Old 07-10-2014, 09:29 PM - Thread Starter
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A500 4K Video: Indoors and in Motion

This video shows the A500 4K quality, and the usefulness of the fisheye lens:


https://vimeo.com/100476182


Here are two 4K frame grabs:








There is motion too - a taxi ride and train ride.
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Thanks for posting the video. The static scenes (eg., airport lobby shot) have very high resolution, but the motion shots less so. For example, the trees outside the train in the last clip are mushy. Is that a limitation of the codec or a motion blur artifact? Can you choose the shutter speed on the Panasonic A500? And if so, what happens if you shoot the motion shots with a higher shutter speed?
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post #27 of 36 Old 07-11-2014, 03:12 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hatchback View Post
Thanks for posting the video. The static scenes (eg., airport lobby shot) have very high resolution, but the motion shots less so. For example, the trees outside the train in the last clip are mushy. Is that a limitation of the codec or a motion blur artifact? Can you choose the shutter speed on the Panasonic A500? And if so, what happens if you shoot the motion shots with a higher shutter speed?

The train was traveling at 70 mph, so I suspect that was motion blur. You cannot choose shutter speed (as is true of the new Sony AS100). Of course, shooting at high shutter speeds creates motion artifacts, so for smooth motion you do not want to go above 1/125th shutter or even 1/60th for 30p. The bitrate of the A500 is 70Mbps, higher than the AX100, and seems to use the same codec (AVC, CABAC, 2 reference frames, etc.), so it should be comparable given that the AX100 may still have a more efficient codec. One has to be careful with frame grabs precisely because of desirable motion blur for video. Even in the wide airport frame grab, the foreground guy in blue is slightly blurred, and looks less "sharp" because he was moving fast.
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post #28 of 36 Old 07-15-2014, 05:53 PM - Thread Starter
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Panasonic A500 versus Sony AS15 at their best, in HD

Here is a short video with both cameras mounted side by side on tripods.


Both cameras shot at their best settings for the exact same scenes, although the Sony has a wider angle than the Panasonic. The "best" settings for each:

A500 - 4K, 30p, wide, digital stabilization off. Bitrate is 72Mbps.
AS15 - 108060p, 170 degrees, digital stabilization off. The bitrate is 28Mbps, just like camcorders like the good Panasonic TM900 for 108060p.

The combined video was rendered to 108030p (XAVC S). So, you are seeing both at 1080.

*For each scene, the Sony is first.*

Conclusion: The Sony at 1080 has lower resolution, more CA and more noise than the Panasonic 4K video rendered to 1080. The Sony coloring is also too blue. Audio seems comparable. The Sony video is actually pretty awful, worse than most HD camcorders. The Zeiss lens is a disgrace (CA is terrible). Maybe in the new model (AS100) there is great improvement.*


Interestingly, both cameras have the same size sensor (1/2.3"), and the same aperture lens (f2.8). The Sony has more (unnecessary) pixels, so perhaps that is why the video is much noisier.

The video: https://vimeo.com/100859195


Sony video frame grab:





Panasonic frame grab:





*Note: the new AS100 has similar internal hardware specs as the AS15: the same Zeiss Tessar f2.8 lens, the same 1/2.3" sensor but with even more pixels!. The codec is different, however, and the max bitrate is higher.

Last edited by markr041; 07-17-2014 at 04:41 PM.
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post #29 of 36 Old 07-16-2014, 08:48 AM
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Im really liking this thread Mark, thanks for taking the time.
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post #30 of 36 Old 07-17-2014, 02:42 PM - Thread Starter
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Just for fun: A500 4K Cloud Time-Lapse

3-second interval, powered by external battery (not necessary, just trying out). Put together in Vegas Pro 13.


https://vimeo.com/101033564


Frame grab:
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