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Old April 2nd, 2008, 04:29 PM   #1
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Assessment of the HF10 vs the SR12

I shot a bunch of clips this morning under clear blue skies with just occasional scattered clouds. I shot first with one cam and then immediately the same scene with the other. I prefer doing an A/B side by side at the same instant in time, but I couldn't for a couple of reasons. First it was very windy in N.Y. and second, because of the need to extend the LCD, it was just too awkward to frame both cams accurately.

I had no problem with the Canon LCD except for one shot, shooting in to the sun. I wanted this shot because I wanted to see how the lens on both cams handled sun glare. I have a theory about the rez charts that some reviewers use. These charts are shot under indoor, controlled lighting conditions...it says nothing about how a lens handles glare, bright sunlight, high contrast, low contrast etc (the somewhat blurry zoom shot I got yesterday with the Canon when shooting across a drizzly field, was a low contrast condition that the Canon didn't respond favorably to...there was no such problem this morning under bright, contrasty light). These are all factors in lens design and won't necessarily show up in any rez charts. Just another reason why it's dangerous to 'buy by the numbers'.

What I found with the sunny clips of today was the consistently better color rendition of the Sony. My friend and I both agreed it was closer to reality. At times the Canon was just too cool whereas the Sony was neutral. This is pretty much what I've felt all along with the Sony on its own, but it was even more evident in contrast to the Canon. This didn't occur all the time, but happened often enough. Again, the Canon displays the magenta sky issue and can be annoying at times. They just can't seem to get rid of this.

Interestingly, and somewhat surprisingly, I saw almost no evidence of the purple fringing on the Canon lens. It happened perhaps once or twice, but only to a minor degree and only in areas of very bright to dark transitions. I'm convinced this is not a lens issue, since there is no consistency to it and when it does occur, it does not occur along the edges where you typically see CA in a lens. If I wasn't looking for it, I doubt I would have seen it at all. In my mind this is not an issue with the HF10.

My friend and I both thought the Sony did an overall better job with exposure. This, coupled with the amazingly low noise of the Sony, simply produced to what our eyes always felt was the more professional looking image. This is something I felt from day one with the Sony. It just hits you right away. We both agreed we've never owned a cam that produces this professional looking a picture. The color is just the best of any cam I've ever owned and coupled with the overall excellent exposure and low noise, I haven't seen anything better. I saw no repeat of the 'haze' issue I saw on two clips a week or so ago where the SR12 seemed to lose some contrast.

In terms of low light performance and things missed by certain reviewers who will go nameless:

The SR12 performed better, at least in my house and at least with the kind of lighting I have (recessed lighting). One room, my den, I made a bit dim and others I put on normal brightness. For whatever reason my house is always tough for low light tests. The SR12 was both sharper and more noise free than the HF10. It wasn't a day/night difference, but anyone familair with video would see it. No, I didn't lower my lights to 0 lux, I find those tests absurd. I tested in light that I thought was typical of a normal house.

The Canon showed a type of 'crawling' noise on walls, even light colored walls. It was a fine grain, but it was definitely visible. The Sony in this same room had an absolutely clean rendition of that same area. In other parts of the room, darker areas in particular, both cams displayed a bit of noise. But I didn't shoot one clip, not one, where the HF10 looked cleaner.

I had one HF10 telephoto shot that was a bit fuzzy under low contrast, rainy weather. Now in another telephoto shot down the street, the HF10 looked sharp and clear with none of what I had seen before. Part of the issue in the first clip may have been due to the fact that the first telephoto shot was shot at a much longer distance as oppoed to down the block and the low contrast of the day was more pronounced. Perhaps this had something to do with the lens itself or better coatings on the SR12 lens...I just can't say.

Here are a few points I haven't seen mentioned in certain reviews and might prove interesting:

* The SR12 and HF10 do NOT have the same field of view. I have no idea why some reviewers think so. The SR12 definitely takes in a wider field of view than the HF10. This is also why the HF10 gets you closer at max telephoto than the SR12 despite them both having a 12X optical zoom. You really have to be careful with these reviews.

* The HF10 was quite a bit brighter in the cloudy, overcast weather of yesterday. As I said, its colors were less saturated and leaned toward the blue.

* Indoors, some shots on the SR12 had a bit more 'pink' in fleshtones than the HF10. My wife didn't really notice it until I pointed it out. Part of it may have been due to the more saturated colors of the Sony. In general, at least in my house, the colors of the Sony were a bit more accurate for the most part.

* To use the remote while playing back your footage on an HDTV, you must have the LCD open on the HF10 since the sensor is on the side of the INSIDE of the LCD panel. What was Canon thinking on this one??? Why should I have to pop the LCD open, draining my battery much quicker, when I'm watching on TV? Isn't it assumed if you're using a remote you're watching it on TV? In fact I thought there was something wrong with either the cam or the remote. I checked the battery, the orientation of the cam etc. Finally, as I should have done in the first place, I checked the schematic of the cam and saw the sensor was located inside the LCD. Truly one of the dumber design moves I've seen. I can understand as these cams get smaller the design becomes a compromise, but there are certain things that should get priority.

* Once you've used the SR12 and then begin using the HF10, you can't believe how awkward the port covers are on the HF10 by comprison. Getting the HDMI plug in is not easy since you must battle both the port cover and the hand strap. Then, once you've gotten it in, the cam has trouble resting squarely on a table since the wire is forced in to an odd position by the strap.

* The audio on the HF10 is pretty good, in fact dialog is a bit louder on the HF10 than it is on the SR12. Of course you lose the ambiance created by the 5.1 sound on the SR12. It's pretty weird switching back and forth and just listening to the audio between the cams. On the SR12, my voice while operating the cam, comes from the rear speakers, but when I switch to the HF10 all of a sudden the whole sound field switches to the front.

* When playing back on your HDTV, the menu is pretty much the same with both cams, but the HF10's appearence is a bit more crude, a bit more 'dossy' if you know what I mean. Not a biggie, just a bit of a difference. Both cams are just as easy to operate. There is one difference in operation in this respect. When you have the SR12 turned on and are connected via HDMI, the cam automatically defaults to the camera mode. You can see yourself behind the menu. You use the remote to highlight the 'play' button to switch the cam to playback mode. Because of this you need to be sure your audio is not turned way up if you put the cam near your speakers. Trust me, I learned the hard way. The Canon probably makes more sense since you set the mode by the dial regardless of how you connect the cam.

Another thing my friend and I agreed on was that the HV20 produces a better picture than the HF10. My friend first mentioned this when he said we had a much tougher time determining which cam produced a better picture between the HV20 and the SR12. We simply didn't have that difficult a time on this go-around. I honestly expected to be doing A/Bs for days if not weeks.

I asked my friend what his final assessment was in terms of how much better he thought the Sony picture was. He felt that overall it was about 20% better on average, but some scenes were more like 30% better. Although it's hard to quantify, I don't think I'd disagree with him. Of course this is purely subjective.

The ironic thing was that we both agreed beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the closest picture parameter was sharpness and detail. On my 60" 1080p Pioneer Kuro, it was almost impossible to pick a winner in the overwhelming majority of clips in terms of sharpness.

I know full well that some will say "oh, you're biased", but those people simply don't know me. The only reason I go through camcorders like water, is I'm ALWAYS after what I feel is the best picture. My last two HD cams were Canons prior to this for that reason. But this round goes to Sony...at least IMO and my anal video buddy's opinion too.

This is no way says the Canon is a slouch, it isn't and I'd be happy with it if the Sony wasn't around. But I don't think I"d make the switch from the HV20 to the HF10 based purely on picture quality. I'd be tempted to keep both, the HV20 for when I want to shoot the best quality and the HF10 for the convenience of AVCHD acquisition.

By the way, for the 'point & shooters' there is little difference between either cam in terms of their ease of use. Of course the viewfinder or lack thereof may be an issue. If you wear glasses, it will be an issue.

Also, I did not try the 24p or 30p mode since I didn't plan on using it. I might give it a whirl for fun.

Sorry for the length.
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Old April 2nd, 2008, 05:30 PM   #2
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Ken, thanks for the very detailed description. Out of curiosity, did you get any feel for how the image stabilizer behaves between the two?

Edit: Also, regarding the color shifts in the HF100, did you get the impression that it is a fairly consistent shift - i.e., easily correctable in post - or is it constantly varying?
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Old April 2nd, 2008, 05:54 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Dave Rosky View Post
Ken, thanks for the very detailed description. Out of curiosity, did you get any feel for how the image stabilizer behaves between the two?

Edit: Also, regarding the color shifts in the HF100, did you get the impression that it is a fairly consistent shift - i.e., easily correctable in post - or is it constantly varying?
Dave, I thought the OIS was very similar in both. However, I do find it easier to hold the Sony steady, perhaps because while using the viewfinder I can brace it against my face.

In terms of the color shift, when there was one with the Canon it invariably leaned toward the blue...a cooler look. That degree of shift would vary however. Yesterday in the overcast and rain, the blue shift was quite pronounced. Today under sunny skies, it was less so. But some colors were altered such as blue and orange. The thing that concerns me about correcting anything "HD" in post, is the extreme time required to do so. Editing in HD is a bear and AVCHD is a tougher bear. So you really don't want to have to color correct clip after clip, it will be a very very time consuming process assuming your computer is even up to it. You really want to make sure the color is as correct as it can be in the acquisition phase.

In all fairness, I did not use any MWB controls, both were set to full AWB. It is quite possible better results may have been obtained using either a preset for "Outdoor" or MWB. But I really wanted to do an 'apples to apples' comparison.
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Old April 2nd, 2008, 05:59 PM   #4
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Thanks Ken for such a detailed assessment! I really appreciate it.

I find it interesting that you concluded that the Canon was cool color wise. Could it have been a white balance or color setting?

I remember when in the old SD (digital) days, the Sonys (PD150, PD170) were considered cool (bluish) and the Canons (GL1, XL1, XL1S) were considered warm (reddish).

Thanks again for doing all that work!
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Old April 2nd, 2008, 06:42 PM   #5
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Doug, yes it appears that's how Canon has their AWB set. You're correct in that manufacturers seem to change their design philosophy from generation to generation. I was a bit disappointed when I went from my Sony VX2000, which I thought produced great colors to my current VX2100 (yeah, I still use SD cams for work) which I think produces cooler, somewhat less accurate colors. Why Sony chose to do it is beyond me.

As I said, you can always try MWB or one of the presets to improve things. I didn't try those so I can't tell you how welll those work in terms of correcting things.
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Old April 2nd, 2008, 06:43 PM   #6
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Ken, Thanks for the additional information. I agree it's best to minimize post as much as possible, but sometimes you have to do some, especially for artistic videos, less so for recording family memories.

I'll throw one more question at you and test your memory. Since you had an SD9 to look at a few weeks ago, do you remember your impression of how the color balance and exposure would compare to these two cameras outdoors? I know it wouldn't be A/B, but I'm curious what you remember. I've looked at an SD9 in the store now, but I haven't yet found a store that has one that will let me take it outside.
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Old April 2nd, 2008, 06:55 PM   #7
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Dave, I thought the color of the SD9 outdoors was very nice..in fact I liked it better than the HF10. I don't recall anything odd about the exposure, so I think that was fine too. In terms of downside, there is some edge enhancement that can be seen in good light, but the most serious issue is low light. Dave, this is simply one of the worst HD camcorders I've seen in low light.

Apparently Panasonic made a design decision to almost eliminate low light noise. Unfortunately in the process they also eliminated any detail. I don't think I've ever seen an HD camcorder take such a drop off the clif with detail in low light. To say it looked "VHSish" is not an understatement IMO.
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Old April 2nd, 2008, 08:15 PM   #8
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this is simply one of the worst HD camcorders I've seen in low light.
Apparently Panasonic made a design decision to almost eliminate low light noise. Unfortunately in the process they also eliminated any detail
Ken, thanks again for the additional inputs. I agree with your low light conclusion after the limited testing I did in the store, but my usage will be 99% outdoors in good light, so it's still on my list of candidates at least for the time being until I've had a chance to try everything.

What really should be done is to give the user the choice to turn NR on and off (or at least reduce it). Sony does this in their new Alpha DSLR's and it would be nice to see this migrate to camcorders.
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Old April 2nd, 2008, 09:08 PM   #9
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Sorry for the length.
Are you kidding me, Ken? We need *more* posts just like yours. Thanks a bunch -- much appreciated,
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Old April 2nd, 2008, 09:47 PM   #10
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Thanks Chris. This is what happens when you get anal about a hobby. :)
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 01:30 AM   #11
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In all fairness, I did not use any MWB controls, both were set to full AWB. It is quite possible better results may have been obtained using either a preset for "Outdoor" or MWB. But I really wanted to do an 'apples to apples' comparison.
Maybe it is the AWB. A few weeks ago someone let me check out their Canon HG10 while I was on a job filming a play. Just for fun I filmed part of the play with the HG10 one day when I wasn't filming with my regular (SD) camera. When I looked at the footage later, I noticed that the auto white balance seemed to drift around a bit as the camera moved, even when the stage lighting was not changing, whereas my regular camera doesn't do that. After seeing that, I would have tried a preset incandescent WB, but I had given the camera back by then.

If you have the time to try a preset outdoor WB or manual WB, it would be interesting to see if that helps.
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 06:56 AM   #12
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Thanks for the feedback... But how have you come to the conclusion that HV20 is better than HF10 ? Not what I see here:
http://lucienk.spaces.live.com/photo...B12A26635!708/
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 07:01 AM   #13
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Dave, I'll give it a shot. One thing I don't think I mentioned and you reminded me of, is the variability of the HF10's AWB. In framing the shot, I'm careful when first turning on the cam to point the cam toward the scene I intend to shoot. With many cameras if you happen to point the cam to the ground or some object of fixed color, you can get a whacky WB. At any rate there were a couple to times I reframed a shot, although I was not pointing the cam toward anything unusual. In the process of turning the cam on and off and back on again, I got a couple of radically different white balances.

It wasn't so much the tone changed, but rather the intensity. When the color was wrong, the LCD clearly showed a much too saturated image. I have no idea why this occurred and I'd never seen that behavior with either my HV10 or HV20.

For me (and others may feel differently), there is comfort in knowing you have a reliable AWB. I say this because LCDs and viewfinders really can't be used as reliable indicators of the accuracy of your colors. True you can see gross errors, but smaller errors will be missed both because of the small size of these displays and their inherently inaccurate color. Yes you can use a fixed preset, but you have to be careful when, where and at what times of the day you do that. Used at the wrong time, the preset can yield a too saturated picture, a too blue picture or a too warm picture.

Add to this the fact that I actually haven't 'always' found the MWB to work the best in all situations. I find MWB to work the best when all others methods fail. As an example, last week I was in a building where they rebuild railway cars. My VX2100's AWB was clearly fooled by the very odd lighting in some of the different rooms within this operation. Presets were of no use either. The MWB worked perfectly in this situation. But I've had others where I've actually found the AWB to work the best.

So it's a crapshoot at times.
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 07:18 AM   #14
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Thanks for the feedback... But how have you come to the conclusion that HV20 is better than HF10 ? Not what I see here:
http://lucienk.spaces.live.com/photo...B12A26635!708/
Robin, relating to that site, I don't think I've ever met anyone on any camcorder enthusiast site, whose 'findings' so differed from mine. He has frequented one forum in particular and has posted numerous pictures and opinions on his testing of the Sony SR11 that he bought from a place he knew had a liberal return policy. Suffice is to say his pictures have been proven to be seriously flawed and his 'issue' are issues that no other owner seems to have. He has even posted a clip he claimed were 'dropouts' on the SR11. The only problem was that not one single person could find those dropouts when playing back that same clip!!! He even referenced the frame number so people knew where to look. Even his current pictures in your link show the colors of the HF100 much too blue. To my eyes the color of the HV20 looks more accurate, but still not the kind of colors I see with my HV20. I've yet to see colors from any of his shots that look 'normal'.

When you've been on some of these forums long enough you learn who the 'reliable' posters are and take their opinions far more seriously than those than have proven to be 'unreliable'. So I really don't bother with his thoughts at this point and would like to end this aspect of the discussion here, it's just not worth any further time. Chris's site is a great site for learning and you don't see the degree of 'bickering' that goes on elsewhere. So I'd really like to keep it that way.

To answer your question using my own experience, I trust my own eyes and my own testing. I've previously stated that I never did a direct A/B of the HV20 vs the HF10. However I've done considerable A/B testing of the SR12 vs the HV20 and found the two to be amazingly close. I still wound up preferring the image of the SR12 due primarily to its lower noise and more consistently 'pristine' image. But it took many days of testing to come to this conclusion, the cams were that close in my opinion.

As you know I just did an A/B with the same SR12 against the HF10. That A/B ended in less than two days since I and my videophile buddy both agreed this testing was far easier in determing a 'winner'. I found the color of the HF10 to be less accurate than the HV20 and I also found the exposure of the HF10 to be less accurate than the HV20.

So by seeing that the SR12 was so close to the HV20 in performance, but yet the SR12 clearly beat the HF10 (in my opinion), I came to the logical conclusion that the HV20 is superior to the HF10.

With that said Robin, if you're seriously interested in these cams, try to find a retailer who has the two cams you're lookig at. Invest in memory media (or tape) and bring them to that store. Test out both cams, take the results home and see which you like better. That's far better than my opinion or anyone elses. Of course the only downside is that you can only shoot in that retailer's environment, but it's better than nothing.
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 07:37 AM   #15
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Those HF10 shots and HV20 shots should've been both at 60i. You shouldn't compare a 30p still with a 60i still.
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