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(MPG4) Sanyo Xacti (all models)
A compact 720p MPEG4 digital media camera recording to SD Card.


 
 
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Old January 21st, 2007, 08:04 AM   #1
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A backpacker's dilemma

I've been shooting hiking videos for 25 years. My current project is a doc on hiking the 3,000 mile Continental Divide Trail. Last summer I did a 110-mile section using the Sony HC-3 with its rather useful blue tooth microphone arrangement. However, this summer I'm faced with trying to reduce my pack weight while maintaining video standards, if possible.
My question to the HD1/2 community of users is this--given that my shooting is under daylight conditions mostly, do you think that Sanyo footage would be equivalent in looks to HC3 footage? Or are the discrepancies so noticeable, especially on vista-type long shots, that I would be advised to stick with the Sony and just suck up the extra weight?
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Old January 21st, 2007, 05:19 PM   #2
 
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You and I have backpacking in common.

While I worked professionally in TV news for more than a decade, I quit because I essentially hated the way the commercial news business was falling apart.

So now my video work is strictly for home movies -- especially the family backpacking trips.

I'm sorry to say I don't think the SANYO HD1 or HD1a model camcorders yield video on a par with the video by the SONY HDR-HC3.

Not even close.

In fact, I tried to like the SANYO -- when it came out initially -- for the same reason you've expressed: backpacking.

It's small and light; it's easy to use.

But -- wow -- the video quality really disappointed me and I decided to pass it up.

I'm curious to know how the extra pixels will improve the image quality of the forthcoming SANYO HD2 model.

But -- to be frank -- I'm skeptical it will lift the performance of this camcorder to the point where it competes favorably with a typical HDV 1080i consumer camcorder.

You can download some sample HD1 clips from the SANYO Web site:

http://www.sanyo-dsc.com/english/pro...hd1/index.html

Have a close look at those.

Then keep an eye on the Web reviews of the HD2 model.

If there's truly significant improvement, then it might be something to consider.

If it produces decent 720p video, then I might pick one up.

If it still disappoints, I'll keep looking.

Consumer high definition is still in its infancy.

We'll be seeing new and more interesting models, sooner or later.

Enjoy the wilderness.

Jerry Jones
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Old January 21st, 2007, 06:37 PM   #3
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If I've learned anything in 60 years of photography, professional and otherwise, it is that quality is in the eye of the beholder and the beholding has to be done in realistic circumstances.
What do you do with your video? Do you edit it a lot? Etc.
I have found the HD1 satsifactory for stills and video watched on a 60 inch HDTV. I have the HD2 on order. I have looked at the AVCHD cameras and was disappointed -- nothing there to justify a bigger, heavier and much more expensive camera, let alone a format that so far can't be edited easily.
Having become used to working with SD cards, I am too lazy and impatient to go back to tape.
The only way you will really know whether the Sanyos meet your needs is to buy one from a store that will take it back and try it out. No amount of advice from others or technical chit-chat can substitute for actual use under your conditions.
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Old January 22nd, 2007, 12:06 PM   #4
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What about the Canon HV10?

Best wishes,
Peter
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Old January 22nd, 2007, 02:48 PM   #5
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Rhalter
What about the Canon HV10?

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The Canon HV10 has no external microphone input.

Why is this an extremely ignorant decision?

Let's assume I'm on a backpacking trip with three or four family members and I want to "interview" each of them.

In other words, let's assume I'm wanting clean audio commentary from each of them that I can later edit into a finished presentation about the backpacking trip.

Well, with the HV10 model by Canon, Canon's engineers have cut me off at the knees.

They force me to use the built-in microphone, which is going to pick up extraneous noise and ruin the interviews.

Sure, one could also carry a portable audio recording device -- a Sony MiniDisc recorder perhaps -- and then insert that audio into the production during the editing process.

But that is annoying because you have to do a lot of work making sure the audio is then properly synchronized with the talking head, etc.

Canon is a mystery when it comes to consumer camcorders and audio.

They don't listen.

Canon's engineers simply don't listen.

I wish they would listen.

I'd be interested in their stuff, if they would.

Jerry Jones
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Old January 22nd, 2007, 08:48 PM   #6
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The Sanyos do have an external mike input, but don't have a headphone output. There is a level adjustment for external mikes, but you would have to check it on playback with the tiny speaker.
I liked the Canon HV10 the best of all the newer HD cameras. It is quite small and seems to have excellent picture quality. What stopped me was going back to tape.
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Old January 23rd, 2007, 11:38 AM   #7
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HDV records 1080 video in 1440x1080 resolution, and many Sony HDV cameras have CCD size of 960x1080. Interlaced frame makes the vertical resolution only half effective for moving images so it's more like 960x540, but with higher temporal resolution of course. What makes HDV winner over mpeg4 based 720p is the datarate. Even the old mpeg2 25mbps is much better than mpeg4 with 9mbps.

I don't expect too much of improvement of HD2's 720p because it's the same codec with same bitrate. But I hope they got rid of diagonal jaggies and gave it wider dynamic range. Their claim of better low-light performance gives me a bit of hope.
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Old January 23rd, 2007, 01:33 PM   #8
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Solmssen
The Sanyos do have an external mike input, but don't have a headphone output. There is a level adjustment for external mikes, but you would have to check it on playback with the tiny speaker.
Agree.

External microphone = good.

No headphone jack = bad.

Unfortunately, virtually all of the manufacturers seem to be dropping the headphone jacks from camcorders that cost under a grand.

But the thing about the SANYO HD2 that bothers me -- aside from the low data rate -- is the 720p video at only 30 frames per second instead of 60 frames per second.

The reason this really bothers me has to do with how I fell for the initial high definition hype and bought the JVC JY-HD10, which was the first HDV camcorder model.

You may recall the JVC JY-HD10 -- when it was first released -- was expensive.

I paid $2,700 for mine (B & H).

I was excited... until I scrutinized the images it recorded in 720p mode.

You see, that camcorder also was limited to 30 frames per second.

There was no 60 frames per second mode.

Big mistake.

Ever hear of "eye tracking?"

Well, sadly, I learned about "eye tracking" -- in association with 720/30p -- too late.

As explained here: http://tinyurl.com/2ojg4f

"When shooting HD, the (JVC JY-HD10 720p) camera captures 30 progressive frames per second — half the temporal rate of 720p HD broadcasts."

"The NTT 'SuperENC' MPEG-2 decoder/encoder chip is primarily responsible for the low frame rate."

"Some shooters will like the low rate because it is close to 24fps, thereby providing what they consider a 'filmic' look."

"Others will dislike the look, as rapidly moving objects — or non-moving objects when one pans too quickly — appear as 'double objects.'

"The name for this visual artifact is 'eye tracking,' and it is generated within our eyes.

"The double images are not recorded to tape."

"Our eyes create the artifact from moving objects within a series of images where every frame is repeated — as it is when 720p30 is converted by the camcorder to 720p60 for display. (Just as when film is projected using a double-bladed shutter.)"

"Although the artifact can't be eliminated, you can minimize it by locking the shutter-speed at 1/60 second — a speed equivalent to a film camera set to a 180-degree shutter."

"JVC recommends locking a 1/30 shutter speed that masks the artifact by creating so much motion blur — from the very slow shutter — that the two objects blur into one."

"While I prefer the former solution, my testing showed that any shutter speed from 1/30 to 1/60 second is equally acceptable."

I was one of those shooters who found the 720p video from the JVC JY-HD10 to be absolutely unacceptable because of this "eye tracking" issue, which is precisely the problem that puzzled me about that camcorder from day one.

I didn't find this article until it was too late.

I wish I could have found the article sooner.

But since the SANYO HD2 also is confined to 30 frames per second, it might exhibit the same problem.

Ironically, the camcorder that now has me interested is another JVC model, this forthcoming GZ-HD7: http://tinyurl.com/2v75v4

But now I'm much, much more cautious.

I'll wait.

And I'll read all of the reviews.

And I'll wait some more.

Jerry Jones
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Last edited by Jerry Jones; January 23rd, 2007 at 02:34 PM.
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Old January 23rd, 2007, 02:16 PM   #9
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The JVC GZ-HD7 does look interesting. I prefer the SD card medium (which Sanyo and Panasonic are using) to the hard drive. The cameras can be smaller and lighter, with fewer moving parts. Extra cards are very portable and you can download into any card reader without having to hook up the camera.

We don't know exactly what format the JVC will record to. We do know that it will cost almost three times as much as the Sanyo and is bigger and heavier. As usual, whether that is worth it depends entirely on what you are trying to accomplish.
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Old January 23rd, 2007, 02:32 PM   #10
 
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Agree.

I also would prefer to record to cards instead of hard disks.

For the same reasons you've mentioned.

The thing that is most interesting about the forthcoming JVC model -- in my view -- is the lens.

Some shooters using fairly expensive HDV camcorders have noted that if they switch out the stock lens with a higher quality lens, it vastly improves the picture to the point where visual issues they formerly *thought* were HDV encoding issues were -- in reality -- issues related to using a lesser-quality lens.

Jerry Jones
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Old January 23rd, 2007, 02:52 PM   #11
 
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Sony really has done a good job with the HVR-V1U, I have to admit: http://tinyurl.com/fpgyu

They have made it smaller.

It reminds me of the Sony DCR-VX1000... the one that started the digital revolution.

But the new one still seems too big for backpacking.

Even so, I've seen a demo and the image quality is A-OK, in spite of those relatively tiny sensors.

And -- unfortunately -- it's tape-based, which is something I've always wanted to get away from.

But I had a Sony DCR-VX1000 where I formerly worked... going back to '97.

As far as I know, it's still being used.

Great camera for its time.

If only I had waited and not spent so much on that $2,700 JVC JY-HD10.

Serves me right for believing the hype.

Oh well.

Live and learn.

Jerry Jones
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Last edited by Jerry Jones; January 23rd, 2007 at 05:26 PM.
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Old January 23rd, 2007, 08:32 PM   #12
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Interesting discussion. I appreciate all the various opinions. As someone else stated, the new .95 pound Canon HD10 with only a built-in mic was a major disappointment. When I as the cameraman am also the hiker and am carrying all my other gear as well, ounces matter. That's why I didn't carry the wide-angle lens for the Sony HC-3 last summer--it weighed almost 8 ounces by itself. So regarding the Canon, to get good audio would have required lugging separate audio recording devices--too heavy.
Even the Sanyo with its SD card presents a problem--how to easily download data once you get to a town to resupply? (Carrying many cards is too expensive.) Tape is easy to deal with--just pick up more at Wal-Mart or from your own resupply box you mail to yourself at the local PO.
As you might guess, the sort of hikes I'm describing are long-distance, many hundreds and even thousands of miles over the course of months. Like the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. Going home is not an option.
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Old January 24th, 2007, 08:49 AM   #13
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I backpack, too, so I really appreciate the concern about weight and size, as well as the importance of acquiring decent quality audio. Given the absence of any palm-size high-def camera with both audio inputs and outputs, how about carrying along a small outboard recorder like the Zoom H4? I know it adds another 5 ounces of weight and takes up room in the pack, but isn't the capability of getting decent sound worth it? Of course, I'm the same fool who once stuck 25 pounds of camera gear on his back for a solo week-long trek through the Grand Canyon. I had plenty of time to contemplate the error of my ways on that trip.

Best wishes,
Peter
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Old January 24th, 2007, 11:50 AM   #14
 
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The Panasonic HDC-SD1 AVCHD camcorder Web page is now up in the English language: http://tinyurl.com/yvf6sv

I'm a bit disappointed in this forthcoming model.

It's not as small as I anticipated.

But it does have a microphone input.

I guess I was hoping Panasonic would instead give us a miniature 3CCD AVCHD camcorder -- but not forget the microphone input -- as they did with the standard definition memory card camcorder, the SDR-S150: http://tinyurl.com/yu2kcf

If they could give us a microphone input into a camcorder as small as the SDR-S150 -- but high definition instead of standard definition -- that would be almost perfect for backpackers like me.

Jerry Jones
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Old January 24th, 2007, 12:02 PM   #15
 
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I would also clarify something.

The Sony MiniDisc recorders are very light.

But you have to be careful to get the newest models that allow you to digitally upload to your computer (Hi-MD models).

Jerry Jones
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