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Best camcorder for 1080p native video?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I saw this question was asked about a year ago, and I am wondering what new models or technologies have come out since then:

I want to get a camcorder that will shoot in 1080p, native, at a decent framerate (higher than 24p, I guess). I know some models from Canon, Sony, and JVC claim to offer 1080p, but it's really recorded in 1080i and processed into a progressive format. The Panasonic AG-HMC40 offers 1080p at 24 frames/sec, which is a little slow, and also is AVCHD format (like the Canon/Sony/JVC ones, too.)

What camcorders are available that offer native 1080p at a good framerate and without AVCHD compression? Anything short of a big ol' professional rig?

Thanks.
post #2 of 9
The Sanyo's do 60P. The video DSLR's do 24P and or 30P.
post #3 of 9
Your request is a bit contradictory.

If you want broadcast quality at an amateur price, then you must consider the CANON EOS 7D DSLR - has 45Mb/s H264 - what more could you ask for (does not have auto focus though, 12min recording per clip due to FAT32 4GB file limitation - damm MAC users...).

BTW Nothing wrong with AVCHD H264 except for the lowish bit rate - I believe AVCHD is currently only being offered @ up to 25Mb/s.

More on the 7D:

Canon announces the 7D last week.

The initial reports suggest that the image is spectacular - nearly as good as the 5D, and vastly better than the Panny GH1.

Body is expected to be $1800 (ish). Use your existing Canon or Nikon (with adapter) lenses. Does 1080P x 24, 25 & 30fps, and 18Mpixel stills.

Basic specs (from dpreview preview http://www.dpreview.com/previews/canoneos7d/)

Sizes
• 1920x1080: 30/24 fps (NTSC), 25/24 fps (PAL)
• 1280x720 (HD): 60 fps (NTSC), 50 fps (PAL)
• 640x480 (SD): 60 fps (NTSC), 50 fps (PAL)
Audio 44.1kHz Mono (Internal Mic), Linear PCM
Format .MOV MPEG-4 AVC, H.264
File size 5.5 MB/sec (1080P), 5.5 MB/sec (720P), 2.8 MB/sec (VGA)
Max file size per clip 4GB, max duration 29min 59sec,
Running time 12 min for 1080P, 12 min for 720P, 24 min for VGA
Stereo mike input.

Some noteworthy clips;

Dublin's People: Canon 7d 24p
431 ‘likes’ on Vimeo in just 2 days !!
http://www.vimeo.com/6475938

Phil’s blog; http://philipbloom.co.uk/2009/09/07/...in-native-24p/


Another superb 7D clip;
Perya (Town Fair) - a Canon 7D Short
204 ‘likes’ on Vimeo in just 1 day !!
http://vimeo.com/6487566


How does the 7D compare to the GH1?
From Phil Bloom's blog;
http://philipbloom.co.uk/2009/09/07/...in-native-24p/

"the 7d has a superior image, superior low light and higher codec but needs more things like zfinder to make it work well. GH1 is much cheaper and is good but the 1080p mode is ruined by terribly low codec"
post #4 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by qualopec View Post

I want to get a camcorder that will shoot in 1080p, native, at a decent framerate (higher than 24p, I guess). I know some models from Canon, Sony, and JVC claim to offer 1080p, but it's really recorded in 1080i and processed into a progressive format.

Well, a little clarification here. Many if not most HD camcorders these days offer some progressive mode. Easy targets are 1080/30p and 1080/24p. This started in the days of HDV tape... Canon first put 24p on the market in the HV-20. But make no mistakes, this is real 24p. They apply an inverse telecine to bump it up to 30fps and package it as if it were interlaced, simply because they had no other choice -- HDV tape is not variable speed. And they also wanted to ensure it was interoperable with other camcorders. Most video editors will detect this as 24p and apply the telecine to correctly extract the 24fps video. Same with 30fps on later HDV models.

Now, the goofiness is that yeah, even moving over HDD or flash storage, some vendors still did this weird encapsulation, at least initially. I suspect they were using chips and software from the HDV world, and basically just their time working on the alternate storage, not so much the recording format itself.

There are plenty of modern camcorders using computer media that do this "right"... but it was never more than a small waste of storage... not a big deal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by qualopec View Post

The Panasonic AG-HMC40 offers 1080p at 24 frames/sec, which is a little slow, and also is AVCHD format (like the Canon/Sony/JVC ones, too.)

24p is the most requested progressive format for pro/prosumer video, because that's the standard used in film. If you're going to shoot, say, an independent film on camcorders, you WILL want to do a film transfer at some point. You want 24p for that.

The HMC40 does 1080/30p as well as 1080/24p. That would most likely be targeting web or computer video... most folks would still opt for 1080/60i when shooting for Blu-Ray. The HMC40 also does 720/60p, if you have a real need for frame-rate over resolution.

Quote:
Originally Posted by qualopec View Post

What camcorders are available that offer native 1080p at a good framerate and without AVCHD compression? Anything short of a big ol' professional rig?

If you're really asking for something like 1080/60p, it's pretty rare. You can actually get it in the pocket-sized Sanyo VPC-FH1... I bought of these to play with, and while it's very cool for a $400 camcorder, it's not going to replace a prosumer model like the HMC40 for serious work. It makes a great "C" or "D" camera, along with something for casual shooting (I was putting too much mileage on my way-more-expensive Sony shooting family videos). Sanyo uses generic MPEG-4 with AVC, but its more or less the same as AVCHD.

You can't find anything without compression outside of the high-end professional world.. lossless HD is something like 500GB/hour or so (depending on which lossless CODEC you use). Some of the new DSLRs, like Canon's 5D Mk II, offer higher AVC bitrates (up to 35Mb/s or so), but still use MPEG-4 AVC as a recording CODEC. The DSLRs have their own issues... beautiful picture, but no autofocus, short recording times, limited selection of frame rates (at least compared to other $3000-$4000 camcorders), etc. You might look at the JVC GY-HM100... this does MPEG-2 up to 35Mb/s, which it delivers in your choice of Quicktime or MP4 object wrapper. This is a bit higher end than the HMC-40, but also offers the good things that come with that, like XLR audio connectors.

Either way, if you're doing serious editing, don't edit in AVC. Use a proxy, or an intermediate CODEC like CineForm, and you won't care about the fact you shot in AVC rather than something else. AVCHD, as a standard though, is really a consumer thing... it doesn't officially support bitrates over 24Mb/s or 1080/60p video. The goal was really one of interchangeability... many of the early MP4 camcorders produced video that was difficult to edit or view by the average consumer.
post #5 of 9
All photo cameras that have HD video, shoot and record in progressive mode. None of the D-SLRs have good video features, for easy and effective shooting. Consider a Sony HX1, as it does very well in low light and has the advanced AVC format, that gives good quality with a lower bit-rate than other formats. Don't confuse AVC with AVCHD. They are closely related, but have differences. Unless you want to spend a lot of money, don't get into expensive editing software that has been mentioned previously. You can produce HD video that will do just fine with common editing programs, if you learn and practice good shooting and editing techniques. The standard video programs that come with PC and Apple operating systems can be used with good results, if you dig into their features, which are not all that apparent, at first glance.
post #6 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve McD View Post

Don't confuse AVC with AVCHD. They are closely related, but have differences.

There is no difference regarding video quality at the same bitrate except that AVCHD specs are limited to 24mbps making any other bitrate potentially incompatible with editing software...
post #7 of 9
Well lately, I've been extensively testing the JVC GY-HM100(E).

It's a beautifully built, robust, quite professional camera at a great price.
It ticks most of the boxes... but it uses the older MPEG-2 compression, which really sucks.

Even our older Canon HF11 consumer handycam can produce cleaner results, with respect to the transparency of the compression.


I can't believe there's still so much silly debate about MPEG2 vs AVC / MPEG4.
It's as if few people have really sat down and done any real testing!

AVC is also a lot more space-efficient - At 24Mbps, you get 180mins on a 32Gb card, vs 100mins with inferior quality MPEG2 (35Mbps).

Apparently, the JVC only uses triple-720p CCDs, but it certainly doesn't want for overall sharpness and resolving power.


I also tend to find that CCDs often give a slightly more "video-like" characteristic to images, whereas CMOS sensors often have a look more akin to digital stills or film. Among other things, something to do with the way contours and edges are rendered more smoothly, perhaps.


So, having tested the JVC and liked it a lot, I just kept wishing it used AVC compression, and wondered how much better full 1080p sensors might have looked.

Well sure enough, Panasonic have released the cheaper AVC-equipped AG-HMC40 (or the AG-HMC41E in Australia & Europe).
AVC/MPEG4, so that box is ticked too. It also has a triple-CMOS sensors rated at over 3 megapixels, a 12x zoom lens, interval recording, a built in waveform monitor and Dynamic Range Stretch, more gamma curves, and time-stamping.

Only real downsides are in the audio department - the XLR mount is an optional extra, and audio is compressed to Dolby Digital. But I could live with that.


Very keen to test it.
In most ways, it should capture more detailed images than their lower-end P2 cameras because it's using newer, higher res sensors.
There are clips posted on YouTube that look very promising.
post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Electric_Haggis View Post

Well lately, I've been extensively testing the JVC GY-HM100(E).

It's a beautifully built, robust, quite professional camera at a great price.
It ticks most of the boxes... but it uses the older MPEG-2 compression, which really sucks.

What sucks about 35Mb/s professional class MPEG-2? Sony does the same thing on their XDCAM models. The rationale behind both is the same: you get a proven compression technology (MPEG-2 is very mature... most companies can produce the same quality, while AVC is still kind of variable... it's still improving every year), and you get compatibility with existing professional channel tool chains. MPEG-2 is really well known, and supported for editing work everywhere. Of course, Sony uses SxS cards, which are typically larger than SDHC's (well, in fact, many folks load up SxS shells with two SDHC cards these days... SxS and Panasonic's similar idea, P2, are very expensive in native format).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Electric_Haggis View Post

Even our older Canon HF11 consumer handycam can produce cleaner results, with respect to the transparency of the compression.

Not sure what that means... you see fewer compression artifacts from the Canon than the JVC, even at full bitrates on both?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Electric_Haggis View Post

I can't believe there's still so much silly debate about MPEG2 vs AVC / MPEG4. It's as if few people have really sat down and done any real testing!

I think the camera manufacturers have. The debate isn't really just about AVC vs. MPEG-2. It's demonstrable that AVC has about twice the coding efficiency of MPEG-2... just look at one of the original Blu-Ray releases, all in MPEG-2, compared to a more recent release (usually in AVC). I get great AVC output on my PC as well... but I can crunch that for hours, 2-pass rendering on a quad-core CPU.

The real question is whether AVC algorithms that can run on a 4W camcorder in realtime. The answer, at least until very recently, has been that MPEG-2 is usually the winner... it's only this year that AVC models have usually (and even then, not in all situations) produced video comparable to or better than HDV. And to get there, they've boosted the bitrate to 24Mb/s (practically the same as HDV's 25Mb/s), and in some cases gone to High Profile AVC, rather than Main Profile.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Electric_Haggis View Post

AVC is also a lot more space-efficient - At 24Mbps, you get 180mins on a 32Gb card, vs 100mins with inferior quality MPEG2 (35Mbps).

I'm still not buying the "inferior quality" MPEG-2, unless JVC's having serious problems. I have gone past a number of AVC camcorders, trying to find something comparable to my Sony HDV models.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Electric_Haggis View Post

Apparently, the JVC only uses triple-720p CCDs, but it certainly doesn't want for overall sharpness and resolving power.

That's often been the case for 3-chip HD models... you get larger pixels, which means better low-light performance for the same CCD size, but you have to do CCD interleaving and interpolation. That produces a good picture, but compared to a pure 1920x1080 sensor recorder at 1920x1080, it's likely to be a bit soft. A bit... probably nothing you'd be bothered by, outside of starting at resolution charts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Electric_Haggis View Post

I also tend to find that CCDs often give a slightly more "video-like" characteristic to images, whereas CMOS sensors often have a look more akin to digital stills or film.

Curious... I never really noticed, though I'll have to say, it's been quite some years since I had a CCD camcorder. Since nearly all digital still cameras went to CMOS some time ago, and many digital cinema cameras also use CMOS sensors, that certainly seems to fit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Electric_Haggis View Post

So, having tested the JVC and liked it a lot, I just kept wishing it used AVC compression, and wondered how much better full 1080p sensors might have looked.

The problem with full 1080p sensors has been low light sensitivity. CMOS helps here, as they've been gradually reducing the noise floor on CMOS sensors, as the technology improves. Less room for that on CCDs, one because they're a more mature technology, and two because they're built on a special analog chip process, so they don't see the benefits of general process improvements that CMOS can benefit from (eg, because nearly every other chip is CMOS, at least until you get to very high frequency RF).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Electric_Haggis View Post

Only real downsides are in the audio department - the XLR mount is an optional extra, and audio is compressed to Dolby Digital. But I could live with that.

The primary value in XLR is the ability to use better mics, and to run them via phantom power. Obviously, there's a value in the balanced cable itself if you're feeding in 50ft runs to remote mounted mics, but it's not as if the 6" cable between camcorder and mic is a significant noise source, balanced or single-ended. Well, there is the mechanical issue, too... it's not simply the typical use of 1/8" plugs (no locking, unlike XLR), but the fact they're nearly always located somewhere that's practically begging to be knocked against something and sheered off. While I do usually have two good XLR mics on my Sony, when I have off-camera video as well (recorded on a digital field recorder like my Tascam DR-1 or Fostex MR8, or a laptop with a recording interface), the on-camera audio is rarely something I use for the prime tracks.

Audio compression is an unfortunately reality of HD, at least until you get to very high end models. I think most of these are mature enough that you really do get the same quality at lower bitrates using AC-3 or AAC, versus the MPEG Layer 2 from HDV. But that's the one thing give over DV... raw, uncompressed audio. Though on-camera, I'd really love something like compressed 24-bit, then I'd have a little more headroom, and not have to worry as much about monitoring audio while shooting. Easily solved by off-camera recording, of course.
post #9 of 9
I like my FH1. For $400 you get 1080p60. Granted that it's a low bitrate codec and if you don't use some hefty stabilization (don't even think about going handheld) it can suck. But 60p to 24p has a much nicer cadence. If you're recording anything with heavy action (lightning strikes) 60p is more likely to have a frame grab to your liking. There really is no need for interlaced footage IMO. But if you need it, I'm sure you can come up with a 60i result from a 60p source. That advantage is that you get to choose whether thats bottom field first or top field first. 1080p60 is the sweet spot IMO. Unfortunately very few support it. And most computers still can't play it unedited. And other technical quirks.

AVCHD isn't that big of a deal. I don't like it, because editing time on the back end is so CPU intensive. And the codec itself is prone to artifacts. The MP4 AVC variant isn't much joy, but unlike AVCHD, when things get busy, things get blurry instead of dirty. And on my older computers MP4 AVC takes about 4x's the source to convert. AVCHD takes about 10x's longer than the source. Less and less of an issue as tech gets better, but something to consider.

A lot of this debate really depends on your budget though. < $500? or > $5,000? Everything in between is pretty much a compromise.
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