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General HD (720 / 1080) Acquisition
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Old February 3rd, 2007, 09:54 PM   #1
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Had some spare time and decided to put in writing some of my thoughts regarding the state of the current HD sub-10000$ camcorder market. I hope it makes an interesting read and generate some other views...

OK, here we go:

Canon: Now in the process of incorporating their DSLR CMOS sensors in camcorders. First attempt HV10. Now HV20. I guess, if HV20 prooves as problem-less as HV10, next step an implementation of a professional 3-cmos camera. Question is, in which price range? Is Canon going to introduce an H2 about 2 years after H1? Or are they going for the Sony's A1 market, at around 2500$? At this price point there is only Sony playing ball at the moment. How about a camcorder with intechangeable lenses (like H1) but without the professional jack-pack (SDI etc), at around 5000$?

Panasonic: They seem to be a bit behind in the HD game. Maybe the huge success of the DVX made them believe they were well ahead of competition. The point is, Panasonic seems to be the only company out of the "big 4" which has not introduced a high pixel count sensor yet. They cannot or they don't want to? Instead, they are using pixel-shift technology, in order to generate an HD image. They also seem to be strugling with solid-state recording technology (undoubtedly the way of the future...) but given their lack of experience with hard-disk based camcorders, they are not yet managing to provide a cheap solution. They have introduced only one HD camcorder (HVX) and very recently a couple of AVCHD consumer ones (one of which hard-disk based, their first one if I am not mistaken), only available in Japan... Given their past marketing strategy of "leaking" information of their new products well before they hit the market, there is nothing in the horizon now from Panasonic in the sub-5000$ range. Unexpected and a bit sad, really...

Sony: Being the leader of the race for the past years and being an expert at segmenting the market in as many pieces as possible, Sony seems to have been cought of-guard by Canon who, with the introduction of just a couple of cameras (A1 and now HV20) are now destroying these segments offering before unimaginable low price points. Given that Canon was always positioning their products in the top bracket of the price range, I can easily imagine that this new tactic from Canon was really a big surprise for Sony: When Canon came out with the A1, Sony replied with the... V1 (at a higher price point!). Not really an A1 killer... Now, Sony came out with (how many? 5? 6?) new HD consumer camcorders, attempting to segment the consumer market and Canon replied with one... 1000$ 24p! Sony was the first one to actually open the HD market (JVC although first, never really managed to open it) and has proven that they have the technology to produce exceptional HD images and camcorders. I would imagine that they are now just realising that the rules of the HD game are quite different from the SD game and that Canon looks really determined to dominate this market. It would be interesting to see whether they will manage to go through a major philosophy shift and strike back quickly. How quickly, is also a question. Designing and building a camcorder is not exactly a fast process. I can easily imagine though that Sony has a 3-cmos 1/3" "Z2" almost ready to be announced at NAB 2007. But how are they going to price it? This is a tough decision (although rather obvious!): It needs to be competitive with A1 ! But what about the V1? What about their precious money-generating market segmentation? Whether they will be able to swallow the pill and accept that they have to take Canon into account in their pricing or they will simply ignore the situation (like they did in the past with DVX) and assume that their fans are so focused on them that they will definitely pay their price no matter what, it is unknown to me.

JVC: Having made an impressive come back with their HD100 line, they have established a big group of fans in the high price HD arena. They seem however to have focused only in this market more time than they should, leaving Sony (and later Canon) play alone in the more affordable (and bigger) sub 5000$ market. Now they are attempting a small comeback with HD7 (with 1/5' sensors???). Some people were speculating that at NAB a higher priced more proffesional version of this model will also be announced (again, with 1/5' sensors???). JVC also has a history or leaking information long before a product is officially announced. AFAIK, no unofficial info has appeared regarding such a camcorder. On the other had, the reality is that an HD1/10 replacement is long (too long) overdue and probably (maybe) JVC will attempt to rectify this. Hopefully with a revolutionary product, as they have a history of making big jumps in front in the past. Only time will tell though if this a reallistic expectation, especially given the financial troubles this brand is going through the last years.

The conclusion? At the moment, it seems as if Canon is re-writting the market rules in the sub-10.000$ camcorder industry... alone. It is a very good development for all of us who are buying camcorders since prices have reduced significatly, very-very fast. However, I would really hope to see some other manufacturers responding pretty quickly and introducing equaly good (or better) products at the same (or lower!) price points, so that we end up with more choices. Two models are simply not enough to cover everybody's needs!

Thanasis

P.S. I really really hope that this is not going to generate "angry" replies from fans of one brand or another. I am simply stating my understanding of the current situation, hoping to learn something more from other views :)
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Old February 3rd, 2007, 11:35 PM   #2
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I have Sony FX-1. If I was adding a camera, it would be a hard call for me. I have had Sony exclusively, and the fact that my current batteries for my VX2000 and my FX1, will go fine with the V1U, has made me lean that way. In addition, the apparent exended latitude of the V1U is also something promising. And the smaller form factor of the V1U is another benefit. The FX1 and the Canon A1 are very similar in size, it is my understanding, and the FX-1, to me seemed a bit to big to be a "handy cam", but it wasn't quite to shoulder mount size.

I am glad I don't have to make the decision now, because the A1 does have a lot of tempting benefits with it.

So Sony, do you have a 1/3", 3 CMOS camera on the horizan ??
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Old February 4th, 2007, 06:55 AM   #3
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Hi Chris!

IMHO, Sony introduced the V1 in order to further segment the 3000$ - 5000$ market: I think they were planning the FX1 at 3000$, the FX7 at 3500$ the V1 at 4500$ and the Z1 at 5500$. On the other hand, Canon came out of the blue with a direct Z1 competitor at... 4000$. Not only this, but when they saw Sony trying to strike back with the V1, they further lowered the price at 3500$!!! You can easily see how this totally destroys Sony's market segmentation. Totally! Sony was preparing the FX7 and V1 for some time now, to simply test the waters of a 3-cmos camcorder, advertise the "extended latitude" of CMOS sensors (not proven yet, AFAIK), prepare the ground for the Z1 successor and increase the different price points of their products. They probably expected another GL type camcorder to hit the market and V1 would be perfect to compete with this. Had they seen Canon coming with their A1, they would definitely have introduced a Z1 successor to directly compete! This is why the V1, instead of receiving raving reviews and buzz is actually making everyone think "Hmmm. It certainly has some advantages, but...". On the other hand, Sony holds its price and does not let it go lower. I can easily imagine they are in great confusion at the moment. Unfortunately, a company with such a size (and tradition) is rather difficult to change strategies just like this!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Barcellos
And the smaller form factor of the V1U is another benefit. The FX1 and the Canon A1 are very similar in size, it is my understanding, and the FX-1, to me seemed a bit to big to be a "handy cam", but it wasn't quite to shoulder mount size.
I also find the A1 bigger and heavier than I would like it to be. For my shooting needs, even V1 is too big and heavy. As a matter of fact, one of my biggest complaints in the camcorder market is that companies seem to always associate size and weight with price, features and performance. WHY?

WHY, WHY, WHY???

I would LOVE to have a small, (say like GS400) camcorder with the capabilities of an A1. I would also love it to come out with different housings. For example, one consumer looking and one prosumer looking. AND I WOULD NOT MIND PAYING A NON-CONSUMER PRICE FOR IT! Because I needs it's size, it's weight and it's looks! Whoever managed to convince the camcorder companies that small means "cheaper" and "consumer"? Small means "convenient"! It means "easy to carry and travel with". It means "easy to pass through custom controls". It means "can hold in your hands for hours and hours". It means "not intimidating". IT DOES NOT MEAN CHEAPER and IT DOES NOT MEAN CONSUMER!!!

OK, that's it! Sorry for shouting!!!

Thanasis
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Old February 4th, 2007, 08:02 AM   #4
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I think the smaller cams have their place in the indi market.... their great on a merlin, great as pov, great for adventure situations,.... but their awkward on a tripod.... and just don't have enough manual control.

I started out with a HC1.... was at first amazed with it's image, then after trying a professional gig with it, wanted more control ( and I could never get the reds right.... looked pink )

so... I moved to an FX1 and a Z1.... from reading here at dvinfo, it seemed to be the best fit for me.... and they have.... small enough for the merlin, big enough for sticks..... and all the manual control that I [ a career large/medium format shooter for 20 years ] need.

now.... I find myself wanting an even larger sensor..... an f350..... or in a year, a RED.....

I like canon still camera's..... the 1DSII 16mp cam is the best out there in it's form factor..... nikon is a few years behind, as they have not gone full frame yet..... and not as clean at higher gain as canon....

A canon 2/3 hd camera would be something else would'nt it?
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Old February 4th, 2007, 03:58 PM   #5
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Hi Christofer!

I agree on your comments on the types of use you can put a small-form camcorder at, but I disagree on the "indie" market you position them. IMHO, we have learned to think of the small form camcorders like "indie" tools because of the available products and the fact that there is no serious high-end professional camcorder that can be called small.

I think the only (recent?) time a company actually tried to go a bit more pro in a small form factor (pro - not indie) was Panasonic with the DVC30 and Sony with PDX10 and A1. If you look at the image and the controls included in these models though (not the physical controls, the overall controls) they are certainly lacking compared to their bigger brothers. Why? Because to the mind of companies, professionals and customers, smaller means cheaper means less good.

Of’ course it is easier to work with a larger size camera: more on-body manual controls. But big cameras are... big. For the type of projects I do at the moment (travel and on-the-move, real life documentaries) their size is not an asset. It is a liability. They are heavy and long and intimidating.

On the other hand, there is no such thing as a "camera for all uses". I currently have a RED reservation but I certainly do not plan to use it in the situations I use my small camcorders. It would just be inefficient.

All I am saying is that I wish I was able to pay a pro price and get a pro camcorder in a small form factor. Not a crippled consumer camcorder which does some things well, some things ok and some not at all. A full option small factor camcorder, broadcast quality and all (and whilst I am at it, also recording in solid state media). It would certainly make my life a lot easier in my projects.

Of course such a product would have less physical controls. But this is definitely not a problem, if the available controls are cleverly designed and functional. Just imagine: If you are shooting in Africa (like I was 6 months ago), travelling in a 4x4 for days and shooting about everything that moves in order to get the "lucky shot", what would you like to hold in your hands all day long? A Canon A1 or a GS400? A 3 kilo object or a 700 grams object? (assume an exceptional OIS).

So... how about having A1 quality and control over image in a similar to GS400 body (with at least one on-body xlr)? ;)

Thanasis
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Old February 4th, 2007, 04:04 PM   #6
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Thanasis, I totally agree with you on the form factor should not limit the image quality. I went on a rant about how the companies refuse to put larger imaging chips in smaller form-factors. I realize that compromises must be made, but a 1/2" imager should fit in a PD170-style camera body. The only thing that would suffer would be the zoom range. There are 1/2" CCDs in $250 still cameras so it is not a matter that CCD chips cost too much. It is a simple matter of video camera companies segmenting the market and agreeing on price structures.

I hope RED does a 16mm equivalent for under $10,000 with a 2/3" CMOS chip. Heck, I hope any company will stop using tiny chips.
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Old February 5th, 2007, 04:12 AM   #7
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Yes Canon and Sony have been very aggressive as of late. Strong points towards Canon for really hitting the mark on almost all of their releases. This leaves Pana and JVC for some real smack back sub $3500 releases. JVC will not abandon the market they created, and have obviously spent time figuring out what the category really wants, and it is, surprise*** HDD recording at HDV or above levels. Pana is stuck as it cannot vier from P2. The battle is on. I don't think they can do an HVX at $3500, do you? Bye, bye, Pana in the sub $3500. They are, a dominant $20,000 class cam, or higher. Sony has the most to fear. Pana will attach the high end, and Canon, JVC seem to be very aggressive on the low to mid. Tough times indeed for Sony. All of this and trying to sell Ps3 and Blue-ray to boot.
Thin, baby, thin.
But of course never count out Sony. They might just start making ground breaking products if they are pushed to the wall. Or even better, their competitors will be forced to be inventive just to compete with the name.
I thank the original poster for the obvious nails hit on the head. As a famous band once played."Same as it always was".
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Old February 5th, 2007, 06:53 AM   #8
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I don't like menu's on a camera....

I want just 4 knobs; iris, shutter, gain, and ND.

I want the cam to shoot/capture RAW directly to hard drive ( why not a sata 2.5" slot? ) and have control over temp, gamma etc to be done in post or upon output.

I want a really good lens..... at least 20x ( 28mm to ? with no barrel dist )..... just one.... I want it sealed..... no dust issues.... ( ansel adams used to say " if you have more than on lens with you, then your probably have the wrong one on your camera"

I'm hooked on shot transition.... so I guess I'll need 3 buttons..... or at least a remote with the options on it.

I want wireless ( 802.11n ) as the cam to computer interface..... why not? no need for a deck!

make it 2/3" progressive, 1080p with a sensitivity of around iso 300.... and I'll cut a check for $10 right now!
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Old February 5th, 2007, 10:53 AM   #9
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Hi Ken!

Thanks for your kind words!

I agree with you on your accessment regarding the need/demand for pro products with HDV and above quality recorded on solid state media. I certainly hope that JVC is somewhere around there as well, ready to fulfill this need. They are certainly the ones with the longest experience in HDD recording and they seem determined to follow this route (at least in their consumer products). What worries me is that there is no unofficial info regarding a pro product like that from JVC. If their past marketing strategy is a good indication, this is not a good sign. Even HD7 was pre-announced about 5 months ago and it will be available in what? April?

Regarding Sony, the more I think about it, the more I believe that they will follow their own route, at least for now. They will leave the V1 where it is, maybe lower a bit the price and bet everything on Z1's successor. The point is, this successor needs to be really exceptional. HDMI will of'course be there (as opposed to A1's component), but this is definitelly not enough for an 1500$ - 2000$ difference! What I would imagine is that they are going to bite the bullet and incorporate an internal HDD in this version, recording HDV. Now that would really differentiate their product! I don't expect 4.2.2 or anything "crazy" like this but maybe (just maybe) 60p (of course 4.2.0)?

Or maybe not...

In any case, I expect them to offer a very good product, keep their price around Z1s levels and bet on their name and the accessories of their old customers.

Panasonic is a mistery to me. If I were them, I would definitely be strugling to produce a real successor to the DVX. Everybody thought before the HD revolution that the real strength of DVX was it's ability to record 24p. And it was. But what everybody neglected was that this was not all there was. What became very apparent now is that DVX was exceptional because it could record 24p ON THE CHEAP! And for long long hours...

Now Panasonic is probably strugling with making AVCHD as efficient as HDV, image-wise. But given their (small) attempts in this area with consumer products, i would imagine that they are not quite there yet.

Finally, Canon may seem the "leader" at this point (at least price-wise), but Canon has no applied experience in HD solid state media camcorders. If I were Sony (or any other brand), this is were I would come back to them: Recording on HDD. If the marketing strategy of Canon for their still cameras is a good indication, then no technology from this company will reach a pro product, if it is not tested before in the consumer arena. This means another what? 1 year, before Canon hits the market with a pro HDD camcorder?

This is my understanding at the moment but of' course I might be dead wrong!

Thanasis
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Old February 5th, 2007, 05:35 PM   #10
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I have a feeling Sony may try to distance its self from the other mid range HD cams by releasing a Z2 that has market defining low light performance. Making it the new PD-150/170 of its day. Low light is really the only real weakness of these HD cams.
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Old February 5th, 2007, 07:33 PM   #11
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My take on this, is that all of these cameras were designed to be used in a professional manor, other than the FX7 and the HV-10. Having a smaller camera than the V1u would be rediculous given this task. You would sacrifice usability and professional level control.

That said, the whole sub $10k camcorder segment is subject to a long list of comprimises. To say that canon holds the sub $5k segment over Sony, just because the canon is a couple bucks cheaper, isn't entirely acurate. There are plenty of shooters that will go for the sony, because of the cmos sensors or because of the hdr option or because of the size or because of the various other features that the canon lacks. Many shooters will still opt for the z1u, even without all of the advantages of the canon or the v1u. I would make this argument against any other camera vs camera discussion.

You can't really compare still camera imagers to video camera imagers. Still cameras take crappy video and video cameras take crappy stills. Putting a still camera 2/3" sensor in a video camer and expecting it to capture 30 frames per second for extended periods would not work in my mind.

Also, I don't really see any new ground breaking cameras really comming out in the near future, not this quarter at least. This is probably why you haven't heard anything in the form of leakage. As was noted before, designing a new camcorder is a serious undertaking, and the release of a new cam would undermine valuable r&d dollars, as well as manufactoring and marketing expenses.

What will the future hold? Well from what I have read, AVCHD at this level is a few years off. I doubt we'll see larger imagers in this segment, but definitely better ones. Smaller cameras? We might see a few highpriced consumer cams, but no smaller cameras for this intended market imoa. I guess the future holds all though.

Until then, which camera is right for you?
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