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Canon VIXIA Series AVCHD and HDV Camcorders
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Old July 14th, 2013, 12:00 AM   #1
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Canon G30 MP4 vs AVCHD vs Panasonic HMC150

I recently purchased the new Canon G30 as a possible replacement for my old (2009) Panasonic HMC-150. The HMC-150 was a great camera in its day, but lately I've been wondering if it's ready for retirement. I've been using the HMC-150 along with my GH3 and GH2 cameras to shoot dark, indoor concerts and I have been disappointed its sharpness, noise, and low light sensitivity when compared with these DSLRs. I thought the new G30, when coupled with my Sound Devices MixPre for XLR inputs, would be a good replacement.

Well, I did a few tests, and I was surprised by the results. First I compared the Canon's AVCHD option with its MP4 option. Then I did some side-by-side comparisons with my HMC-150. Then I lowered the light level to near-darkness and started testing gain settings. These tests are not scientific, but I think that they're still interesting. Check it out:

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Old July 14th, 2013, 08:59 AM   #2
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Re: Canon G30 MP4 vs AVCHD vs Panasonic HMC150

Interesting. Two things stand out:to my eyes.

The Canon looks sharper.
There is a decided white balance difference (canon much warmer) but which is more accurate.

Bottom line is which gives a better end product once edited to the final deliverable format.
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Old July 14th, 2013, 12:26 PM   #3
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Re: Canon G30 MP4 vs AVCHD vs Panasonic HMC150

I have discovered that the G30 low light scene selection makes a big difference in noise levels. I haven't analyzed that scene mode to see what settings it picks, but the decrease in noise levels is quite pronounced.
You may have selected that scene mode in your test. If not I would try it to see if it improves the G30 image.
It may not be a real apples to apples test against the other camera however.

As for myself, it is a relief to find that the G30 has the ability to create good low light clips even if it is by selecting a "scene mode" which I ordinarily shun.
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Old July 14th, 2013, 01:07 PM   #4
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Re: Canon G30 MP4 vs AVCHD vs Panasonic HMC150

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Palomaki View Post
Interesting. Two things stand out:to my eyes.

The Canon looks sharper.
There is a decided white balance difference (canon much warmer) but which is more accurate.

Bottom line is which gives a better end product once edited to the final deliverable format.
The Panasonic's WB was set to 5600K while the Canon's WB was set to "cloudy". It wasn't until after shooting that I realized that I could have set the Canon to a specific Kelvin Temp too. That might have helped match the colors.

But these tests weren't about color temp, which can be easily fine tuned in post. It's much harder to remove a lot of noise in post.
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Old July 14th, 2013, 01:12 PM   #5
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Re: Canon G30 MP4 vs AVCHD vs Panasonic HMC150

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Originally Posted by Tom Kilgore View Post
I have discovered that the G30 low light scene selection makes a big difference in noise levels. I haven't analyzed that scene mode to see what settings it picks, but the decrease in noise levels is quite pronounced.
You may have selected that scene mode in your test. If not I would try it to see if it improves the G30 image.
It may not be a real apples to apples test against the other camera however.

As for myself, it is a relief to find that the G30 has the ability to create good low light clips even if it is by selecting a "scene mode" which I ordinarily shun.
That's good to know. I would have included a test using the Low Light Scene Mode. I just took a quick look at that setting and it looks like it does reduce the noise, but at the expense of sharpness. But maybe that's an OK trade off.

However, in that Scene Mode you can't control iris, shutter, white balance, or gain. It's all set to automatic. So I wouldn't use it in a professional setting for that reason alone.
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Old July 14th, 2013, 02:07 PM   #6
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Re: Canon G30 MP4 vs AVCHD vs Panasonic HMC150

Thanks for posting. Looks like the Canon is pretty light challenged. The HMC-150 has decent, normal pro light gathering abilities (nothing crazy) and the Canon needed 12db of gain just to equal the exposure. I can not see using the Canon for anything like a wedding etc...
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Old July 14th, 2013, 02:53 PM   #7
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Re: Canon G30 MP4 vs AVCHD vs Panasonic HMC150

I would say that the HMC-150 is a keeper.

I am not a professional so it's out of my price range.

Last edited by Tom Kilgore; July 14th, 2013 at 03:04 PM. Reason: I reexamined the parameters set in the test
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Old July 16th, 2013, 09:13 AM   #8
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Re: Canon G30 MP4 vs AVCHD vs Panasonic HMC150

Does the G30 share the same sensor as the XA20? I remember the HMC 150 that I had as being decent in low light, but I felt the FX1000 beat it. However, the HMC gave cleaner images at the higher gain settings.

I feel that my XA20 would be very competitive with the HMC150 low light, so if the G30 has the same sensor, your test proves that there is much more to a camera's low light ability than then sensor. I would love to put up my XA20 against the FX1000 or HMC150 just to see what's what.

Thanks for sharing, very interesting video.
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Old July 16th, 2013, 06:02 PM   #9
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Re: Canon G30 MP4 vs AVCHD vs Panasonic HMC150

I would like to see that test Jeff. Sensitivity is the main reason I have taken this camera out of my view.

Canon has made it clear that the three models have the same sensor. I always expect the "pro" models to offer more. It would be interesting to actually see if it is true.

The light gathering at 0 db would need to match the HMC-150 for me to consider these cameras.
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Old July 16th, 2013, 08:53 PM   #10
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Re: Canon G30 MP4 vs AVCHD vs Panasonic HMC150

Here's an example of some "normal everyday" usage of the G30. I used it to shoot my son's birthday.

The camera settings were 1080 24p MP4 24Mbps f5.6 1/48th ND1/8 5600K Dynamic IS Instant.AF with Face Detection. Audio was set to Automatic.

The first few shots are on a tripod and then everything else is handheld. The dynamic range is limited and it was a sunny day, so I exposed for faces and let the highlights get blown out around the edges. About halfway through the video I attempt a steadycam shot by holding the camera with my arm fully extended down by my thigh as I walk towards a subject and then away. I thought that the Dynamic IS and Face Detection worked pretty well with that shot. But other shots the Face Detection was slow and soft focus. Perhaps it was because I was stopped down to f5.6. Perhaps if I had a 6-stop ND filter on then I could open up to f2.8 and get shallower focus which may help with the Instant.AF.

Note: in Manual mode when stopping down the aperture, once you get to f4 the camera automatically holds the iris there while engaging the ND filters, first 1/2 then 1/4 and finally 1/8, before allowing the aperture to stop down any further. That's why the addition of a 6-stop ND filter to a f5.6 + ND1/8 iris would allow the iris to open up to f2.8.

The video looks less sharp to me compared to my initial dark room tests. Even when locked off on a tripod I don't see the sharp edges and detail that I expected to see. Perhaps this is because of the ND1/8 filters. Or perhaps the Instant.AF is subtly hunting throughout each shot so nothing is every truly in focus.

Another thing that let me down was the variable speed zoom rocker. I tried to get a slow steady zoom near the beginning of the video but the speed was jerky. I've never had such troubles maintaining a steady zoom on a variable rocker with my HMC150. Perhaps the G30 requires more practice. Perhaps I got a bad apple.

Here you go, in all its little kid home video glory:

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Old July 16th, 2013, 11:35 PM   #11
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Re: Canon G30 MP4 vs AVCHD vs Panasonic HMC150

If you go to the slashcam site below, and select the G30 vs the HMC-150, there is a much less dramatic difference between the cameras than you experienced Ben, but I don't know how they conduct their tests. If you choose the XA-10 vs the HMC-150, the XA-10 beats the 150 at 12 lux, which is what I would expect.

I have edited footage with the XA10 shot along side the FX1 and the FX1000 at a wedding, and the XA-10 was superior to the FX1000 in low light, and it beat the FX1 handily.

The XA-20 is superior in low light to the XA-10 in my limited experience. I have no doubt the XA-20 would beat out the HMC-150 in low light. Why the G30 in your test performed so badly is the question to ask. The G30's sensor is a new product. It cannot be all hype. Or can it be? Would Canon release a $1700 consumer cam that performs this poorly in low light? It's possible but I find it hard to believe.

I have a friend with an FX1000, which is in the same league as the HMC-150. I'll see if we can run the cams (XA10 and XA20 vs FX1000) side by side and see what happens.

Camcorder test charts comparison
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Old July 17th, 2013, 12:18 AM   #12
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Re: Canon G30 MP4 vs AVCHD vs Panasonic HMC150

I also use Slashcam to compare various cameras before purchasing them. That site helped me choose between the HMC150 and the Sony AX2000 back in 2009.

The 12 Lux frame grab comparison between the HMC150 and G30 on the Slashcam site shows a marked difference in favor of the HMC150. Look in the shadows of the plastic pine needles and plastic fern. The HMC150 is brighter. And the sharpness looks about equal too. Is that because of the low light level? I don't know how they test their cameras, but I would hope that they try to keep it fair and balanced.

(brief aside: I noticed that in those 12 Lux frame grabs from the HMC150 and the G30 that the lighting and framing seems different. Look at the highlights on the rainbow colored plastic spears hanging from the top of the frame. In the HMC150 frame grab there are no highlights, but in the G30 frame grab they there are. Did the lighting change since they tested the HMC150 in 2008? What about the different framing?)

With the G30 I was so certain that it would be an improvement over my old HMC150 that I took a leap of faith and pre-ordered it back in May. Which is why I'm so disappointed now. I'm certain that my tests were fair and balanced. Now the question I ask is did I get a bad apple? Maybe, but I doubt it, and I'd feel foolish to try again with another G30 only to confirm what seems obvious to me now. Which is why I'm returning the G30 and sticking with my HMC150 for now.

Frankly, I think that I'm spoiled with the image quality from my hacked GH2 and GH3 cameras. When compared to them my HMC150 looks soft and dark, but maybe I shouldn't be comparing a camcorder with 5-year old technology with a current DSLR.
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Old July 17th, 2013, 06:44 AM   #13
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Re: Canon G30 MP4 vs AVCHD vs Panasonic HMC150

Comparing a consumer 1-chip camcorder to a professional 3-chip product that listed for 2x the price is always a bit dicy.

Another potential issue is comparing a camcorder one has lived with for several years to one fresh out of the box may not be totally objective. Some of the differences may relate to how well the tester knows each camcorder and how to extract max performacne from it.
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Old July 17th, 2013, 07:45 AM   #14
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Re: Canon G30 MP4 vs AVCHD vs Panasonic HMC150

This test video was never about how to get the most impressive image quality out of the G30. I'm sure that with the right lighting and subject matter this camera can make great video. This test was only about comparing the G30's low light image quality with that of the HMC150's. And you're right, in a way it doesn't make sense comparing these two cameras as they are designed for different filmmakers.
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Old July 17th, 2013, 12:16 PM   #15
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Re: Canon G30 MP4 vs AVCHD vs Panasonic HMC150

I hate to think I paid so much(to me) for the G30 if it is in some way deficient. I'm not a pro, but I do desire quality output from whatever camera I use. When I use the low light scene mode I get very good video in a dark room. Compared to NOT using low light scene mode it is remarkably good.

This may be a dumb question but....
Is there a way to determine what the camera actually used for settings when I used the low light scene mode?
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