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Old May 9th, 2009, 02:28 PM   #1
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Canon HF-S10 vs Sony XR500

What are some general opinions on this if any? Aside from the obvious no viewfinder on the Canon and memory vs hard drive, what are the thoughts on these two and their relative performance?

My reading seems to draw me to the conclusion that the Canon is slightly sharper, but the Sony has much better OIS. It would also seem the low light is better on the Sony (I've seen that already, but not side by side with the Canon), but the Canon might be brighter in some low light situations at the expense of noise.
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Old May 9th, 2009, 10:08 PM   #2
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Ken -
I've seen excellent samples of video from both (night video from the XR sold me up front), but I've also seen some strange sharpening artifacts in the Canon (I'd describe it as "ringing" between colors - almost like a black line where there should just be two colors butting against each other). I believe there were similar artifacts in the 5D MkII reported, so I'm a bit cautious. Artificial "sharpness" is not sharpness - it may fool the eye, but I'd rather have a cleaner image.

I'd still like to lay hands on one of the HF-S series, but there's no way it will beat the XR in low noise/low light, I've looked at enough samples to feel that's a safe statement - you switch that "lo lux" switch (basically going to 1/30 shutter) and it sees way better than I do in low light! Noise comes up a bit, but not much.

The Canon manual controls are certainly attractive, but the XR exceeds my expectations and I've already got the accessories so I've stuck to Sony.

The reviews of the HF-S were surprisingly mixed as well. Not that the reviewers could figure out what Sony was up to with the XR either, but I expected to see the Canon do better with all the specs...

I love having a viewfinder - retired my CX12's for that reason alone, the XR is smaller than the SR11 and not much larger than the CX... The VF in the XR isn't exactly the best (I've seen some funky color errors - viewfinders probably should be B&W <wink>), but if you need to frame the shot in bright conditions it's great, plus it also will fit the sport packs with the VF right against the rear panel, so you can use it that way!

Hard drives still scare me a bit (and heaven forbid I get that much video backed up and unedited!!), I'd prefer the SS memory of the Canon in that respect, but the XR can record to the MS Duo, and I presume it's possible to remove the HDD like in the SR, though I've not examined that as I'm not dealing with any extreme conditions!

And the OIS... darn close to having a steadicam! If you're careful, probably adequate for most conditions. With some of my rigs (shoulder mounts, fig rig style bracket rigs, and belt supported monopod), I'm pretty sure I could match a gimballed rig under a lot of conditions... and that's saying something, since the bane of shooting HD has been the need to stabilize the camera or have a mess. I never found the SR11 to be weak in that area, but side by side with the XR, it was another one of those "night and day" differences. I could walk down a long hall and keep the XR locked on a "target", not so with the SR, it was close, but not quite. I had such poor luck with the OIS in the HV20 that in my opinion Canon would have to really make a huge leap to be anywhere close to what Sony did with the XR.

I didn't expect the XR to be such a jump ahead of the SR, but once I got one in hand it was a fairly easy decision to upgrade. For all the reasons you've mentioned, I think the XR was a better choice overall... now if they'd just give a better manual control suite!
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Old May 10th, 2009, 08:45 AM   #3
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I've used both

I have had the opportunity to use both cameras. The sony is a better out of the box point and shoot in my opinion. The Canon likes to run the AGC up and in certain situations not for the better. However if you are an experienced user you will get a better, cleaner, more saturated color from the Canon. They are both great cameras. I guess best summed up would be. If you use AUTO buy the Sony. If you are a manual experienced user definitely without a hint of hesitation pick up the Canon HFS 10/100, you will be glad you did. I ended up buying the Canon.
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Old May 10th, 2009, 09:15 AM   #4
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The sound on the Sony cams (in general) greatly outweigh the Canon cams in terms of sound quality with the on-board mics. I find the sound quality from the Canon line mediocre at best with no comparison to the Sony's. I'm guessing but it probably has something to do with the 5.1 surround sound ability. On the other hand they do seem to be a bit more sensitive to wind noise.

There are many that look upon the surround ability as sort of a gimmick, but it really does work. It's not the same stereo channel copied to the rear speakers. You can actually hear the cam operator for example louder on the rear speakers than on the front. I'm not sure how Sony is doing it because there is no mic separation at all, but I suppose if we can tell depth, front, back with only 2 ears then Sony can do it too.

I must say though that what I do find irritating in the Sony cams is that they spend WAY to much time hunting with the focus.... especially in lower light.
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Old May 10th, 2009, 10:43 AM   #5
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Yes but

I agree with you however, anyone that is that serious about sound is going to use pro mic option. Let's face it these on board mics are cheap and are what they are. The sound on the HFs10 and XR500 is more than adequate (for home movie use), however I will say that most of the on board (on body) mics are susceptible to wicked wind noise. I either use a wireless lav or a shotgun. Really can't say that I would use the 5.1 as an option although It's not horrible. If I ever wanted 5.1 I would record 5 distinct channels. Other than for kicks I can't say that I have great demand for that. Again the OIS on the Sony is better than the HFs10. However I really don't use it. I'm 90% on tripod/ dolly/jib. For auto/ run and gun I would lean toward the Sony. For planned out semi controlled shoots I prefer the Hfs10. Having said that, they both are really nice cameras.

Last edited by Darrin McMillan; May 10th, 2009 at 10:45 AM. Reason: add
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Old May 10th, 2009, 10:43 AM   #6
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Some good points here. Dave, I was surprised at the CCI review giving the Canon 800 lines of horizontal resolution (Videomaker gave it 900!). Yet CCI seemed to feel that the Sony & Canon were pretty close in this area. It should be noted that CCI gave the Sony a higher vertical resolution than the Canon. It's interesting that Videomaker's numbers were different.

But yes, in low light I don't think there's a comparison. I've never seen such velvety blacks and absurdly low noise levels (with low lux off). Even the Z5 has higher noise levels, but a brighter picture.

Darrin, I only have an in-store test I did with the S-10 just yesterday with an SD card I brought to the store. It appeared just a bit sharper than the Sony, but not significantly so at all...at least indoors. I agree with Dave about the in-camera sharpening that Canon seems to do. I didn't notice any significant difference in color though. I have seen some Sony clips though where certain shades of green (grass) appeared to be a bit hyped.

Interestingly, even in a well-lit store like Best Buy, as I zoomed in with the Canon in a somewhat darker area of the store, I began to see a dimming of the image. The same scene on the Sony 500 showed no dimming at all when fully zoomed. Frankly I was surprised that the Canon began to dim in an environment like that. I believe one of the reviews I read indicated that the Canon's low light was actually worse this year than last year. That scene was the single biggest differentiator in my in-store tests.

Jack, I fully agree about the Sony sound. There is a remarkable 'fullness' to the sound when played through a surround sound system. Once you go back to the 2-channel sound of the Canon or any other 2-channel cam, the sound just becomes 'dead'. That's always been a disappointment with my Canon HG21.
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Old May 10th, 2009, 12:34 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darrin McMillan View Post
I agree with you however, anyone that is that serious about sound is going to use pro mic option. Let's face it these on board mics are cheap and are what they are.
You have a valid point. But then on the other hand let's not forget that these are consumer level cams to begin with.... little point-and-shoot babes. Anybody serious would opt for something a tad more pro-ish in terms of an entire cam, and not just the mic.
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Old May 10th, 2009, 12:46 PM   #8
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Ken -
Good catch on the "lens ramping" or "aperture choke", or whatever you might call it - I know that in the SR you could see it just a tad at the high end of the zoom. As the lens reaches the tele end there's simply no aperature range left to open up, so the image darkened a bit. I didn't notice it in the brief time I played with the Canon at BB, but I was in a hurry, sounds like you had more tiome to observe it in action.

I know the XR seems to somehow manage to hang on and stay well exposed without a noticeable dropoff throughout its range - even the digital zoom at the 24x setting manages to hold it together until the very end of the tele range - you start to get more noise, but still a surprisingly clean image - the internal noise reduction starts to meet it's match, but it's still doing quite well! In a pinch, that ability to use "digital tele" could be useful - I know it was highly regarded in the FX7/V1U, and although I am no fan of using digital over optical, I might leave this pup in the "24x mode", there's a line to warn me if I want to stay outside the digital range.

This is the one HUGE pitfall in many "reviews", they just don't put the camera through it's paces and find all these little "real world" things! That's where to "trust" a review you have to learn what they do and don't test at that particular site... at least this round I felt like CCI got a bit closer, but it was obvious they didn't use the low lux setting and dinged the cam for bad low light... duh, use the functions the camera has before you ding it... they did on the other cams, but obviously didn't on the Sony?

There's another thread here where they mention a little fur wind muff for these small cameras (the SR11 was the main one in question if you run a search), I'm thinking of ordering a few so all my cams have a "soul patch", to avoid wind noise, it's a cheap add on, and if it doesn't cut the audio quality, it'd be worth it.


Darrin -
To say that you'd be using an external mic is no excuse for a camera in this price range having lousy mics/audio... sorry, but if you're paying around $1K, you should expect usable sound for general use or for ambient fill. It's like buying a car and the brakes are so-so - it's designed to go fast, so why would you need good brakes? I remember how disappointing the HV20 was for audio, and that was one of the reasons I moved past that camera rather quickly. Completely unusable with all the camera/body noise IMO. I'd expect better of the HF-S since it doesn't have a tape mech or door to add "special effects".

Yes if you're serious about audio, you'd have external mic capability, commensurate with the job, but I'm not lugging all that gear around all the time. I do pack a Sony HW1 (now they have an HW2) bluetooth wireless - it acts as the center channel in one mode, replacing the center on cam mic. Call it a gimmick if you will, but it seems to work for some situations - I'd really like to add an external mic input, and am looking at the "headphone" jack they put on the HW2... shouldn't be TOO hard to hack that into an "input" <wink>.

I LIKE having surround sound, I have my home theater setup for good surround, why shouldn't I want to have my videos give the feeling of "being there"? It's a small touch, but if your video is "high definition", why should your sound be stuck in '60's stereo??


As for the OIS, if I'm shooting out and about or at an event, the less gear I HAVE to lug the better, and a quality tripod or dolly is a BIG heavy piece of gear, expecially in relation to the camera! I can pack a belt clip and micro-monopod with a neck lanyard and I have a very stable shooting platform with the super OIS. Plus I can move around... Sure if you've got time to get all your settings right and do several "takes", the Canon might give you slightly better resolution, but for "run and gun" and live use, the Sony with that solid OIS wins without a doubt. Mounted on a shoulder or bracket (fig rig style handles) rig, it rivals a full steadicam IMO.



Jack - That's one thing the Canon has... that iAF with the sonar or whatever - snappy auto-focus, no doubt! I find with the Sony a quick crash zoom out and in seems to get it back on track, but yep it's a bit inconvenient. I've been shooting a hummingbird nest on our front porch, and was having some challenges with focusing - tele macro mode worked well, but I decided to try the spot focus, and voila! Worked great, and solved the hunting and challenges where the cam wasn't sure what to focus on - I just pointed to what I wanted, and it zapped right in... nice. It's a lot faster to press a couple buttons and point to what you want in focus than to manually focus... that's one place where the Sony menu works pretty well with easy access via touchscreen to things you might need quickly. It's a matter of learning how to get the most out of a camera and figuring what the engineers put in...

I'd sum it up by saying that Sony put out a pretty amazing camera with the XR, it's a definite step up from the prior generation. Take a little time to learn it, and you can get some impressive results.

I'm sure the same goes for the Canon, but it's a different beast for a different user... so it really depends on what you're looking for when you're camera shopping!

For me the Sony works and makes sense and I'm very happy with it. I want a "pocket cam" that gets excellent results under uncontrolled conditions, that I can accessorize to achive various purposes as well. I'd certainly like to have more control and all that, but I can work with what the camera has and achieve most of what I want, with a better image quality under more conditions than last years model, especially when light is low!



One last question for Ken - how do you feel the XR holds up against the Z5 for color in low light? I'm sure the Z5 is a bit brighter overall image with the big glass, but one thing that's always bugged me in other cameras is how color washes out in low light (you have an image, but it starts to drift off towards B&W) - I'm seeing the XR manage to pull "bright", relatively clean color out when all I can see with my eyes is muddy gray... that's been amazing to me.
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Old May 10th, 2009, 08:50 PM   #9
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Dave, the Z5 still bests the XR in overall low light image and color retention. It still is amazing to see the Z5 pop on in low light and retain such a high quality image. Yes, there is some noise, but not objectional noise. The XR has that velvety look and the color holds up pretty decently, but it still is not quite up to the Z5...but hey, look at that price difference!

To me the fact that the XR can do as well as it does against the Z5, is nothing short of miraculous.

Tonight I was looking at the Best Buy clips of the XR vs the HS-10, and the difference in in-camera sharpening was very clear (no pun intended). On my Pioneer Kuro I was able to up the sharpness to +8 with still no sign of ringing or edge enhancement. Yet with the Canon, an increase of about +3 began to show definite signs of edge enhancement. I'd still like to get my hands on an HS-10 to do more comprehensive A/B tests in a wider variety of shooting conditions.

So it's pretty clear to me that Sony was conservative in how they set up the XR. I'm not sure I agree with their philosophy, since I think there's plenty of room for them to have added a bit of extra in-camera sharpness without any ill-effects. This might have brought about more favorable comparisons from the media reviewers who don't take the time to look for such things or to determine how much 'headroom' a camera has.

When you bring up the sharpness on your display when viewing XR footage, you really can add some extra 'pop' without any ill-effects whatsoever. With many other cams you can't get away with that at all.

Going back to the CCI review, does anyone else find it incredible that they payed so little attention to the exceptional OIS on the XR??
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Old May 10th, 2009, 09:31 PM   #10
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Ken I have given up on the CCI review capabilities. They persist in saying Panasonic has gain control when in fact the controls are much the same on Sony, Panasonic and Canon consumer cams except Sony foolishly doesn't indicate when gain starts on the display. They all need to have iris full open before gain starts so there is no independent gain. This continuous error on their part either says they don't understand or are biased to Panasonic!!!
I always add a little sharpening to the SR11 and XR500 when going to the encoder for SD DVD and I would prefer it this way as I have some level of control over sharpening. The same with the FX1 which I usually boost colour and sharpen too to give some more punch. Staying in HD I have not found the need so far but usually try and match the three cams usually involving some level and colour controls for some of the cuts.

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Old May 11th, 2009, 12:16 AM   #11
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Ken -
Yep, bang for the buck is pretty impressive! I'd take CCI reviews with a grain of salt - reading the comments on the 520 review you realize they really ignored the low lux for bizarre reasons... and I think you have to use the OIS in "real world", not lab conditions to appreciate it.

I'd still like to play a bit with the HF-S out of curiousity, and the TM300 looks interesting, but I can't say I've found anything I really dislike about the Sony, it delivers where it counts.
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Old May 12th, 2009, 10:03 PM   #12
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Neither XR nor the HS/TM come close in resolution to HF Sx series, I've had all three and still keeping Canon
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Old May 13th, 2009, 06:58 AM   #13
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Buba, I wish it were that simple. The Sony actually had a higher measured vertical resolution than the Canon and the Canon bested the Sony in horizontal resolution.

Further complicating the issue is that the low light of the Sony is much better than the Canon as is the OIS. So it boils down to which of these (or combination of these) picture parameters do you prefer.

Not an easy question for all to answer.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 06:29 PM   #14
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Ken, as you've noticed, I still think there's some sharpening noise in the HF-S... I'm glad to hear I wasn't halucinating it. I sometimes feel there are "cheats" to make a picture appear better at first glance, then when you really dig into it, there are flaws - it takes more than lab measurements, and it takes hands on time to decide what's really going on with a camera...

The Canon specs sure looked great, and I've seen some good samples, so I probably wouldn't have a problem shooting with it, but I'm comfortable with the XR, especially with the OIS and low light, but I'm very happy with the results so far in good light too. I'm seeing people "upgrading" another Canon for the HF-S and being disappointed, but the bump from even the SR to the XR is pretty substantial, and I've not been disappointed in the least.

I'm sure that if one feels the need for more manual control, the Sony isn't the first choice, but just on image quality and versatility/practical usability, I think the XR is a winning package.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 07:03 PM   #15
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Sample clips

Well I gotta say I would love to have some Samples from the XR500. The ones I have seen are nowhere near as impressive as the canon. Granted I didn't have the sony that long, but long enough to choose the Canon. If someone has some impressive XR500 footage please leave me a link. When I compared the two on my computer I could notice very little difference. When I output to my TV the Canon was noticeably better. But hey it could be me. I would love to have some samples that I could do further comparison's with.
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