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-   -   Which 16:9 SD or HD Prosumer Camcorder? (http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/open-dv-discussion/127377-16-9-sd-hd-prosumer-camcorder.html)

Scott Surbrook August 4th, 2008 05:26 PM

Which 16:9 SD or HD Prosumer Camcorder?
First time post here...

Anyway, when my first daughter was born 8 years ago, I bought a Sony TRV310 Digital 8 camcorder. At the time, it was the best I could afford. However, I've started the process of converting all the footage to DVD via Adobe Production Premium CS3 and I've begun to realize just how bad that camcorder is. At least compared to the kind of footage I want to be taking.

Now we are at the point where we would like to have higher quality video of the girls (2). I have been frustrated by the almost complete lack of manual control of my existing camcorder. Also, my two girls are showing an artistic bent and it would be nice to have something that would allow them to express themselves (with Daddy's help, plays, chroma keying, etc.).

Anyway, I've been lurking around here for awhile (before registering) and some comments I have been reading about the pros/cons of 4:3 vs 16:9. A couple years ago (the first time I got the upgrade bug, but couldn't afford it) there was no doubt (to me) that 4:3 was the way to go. It was the TV type I and the rest of my family had. However, things have really changed...

Now just about everyone either has or is planning on getting a 16:9 TV. This means that I need a camcorder that supports (preferably natively) 16:9 recording at the very least for future proofing. Not only that, it just looks better not having the bars on the side.

Anyway, I'm looking for a "prosumer" class camcorder with "broadcast quality" video that has adequate auto controls for "run and gun" situations, but enough manual controls to optimize shooting for important events like birthdays, etc. Color fidelity and low light performance are also very important, so I assume I'm looking only at 3CCD models. And who knows, I may want to expand my horizons, so I want to make sure I have my bases covered.

I know that SD is on its way out, but some of the higher end SD cameras have a pretty darned good picture, especially when upconverted. However, HD is the future.

Sooo... My dilemma. Do I buy a 16:9 native SD camcorder (do they even exist at the prosumer level?) or spend a bit more for a HD model? I'd like to keep it under $1500 for a used unit, though I may have some extra money coming in the next month or so to bump that up to as much as $2500. Or am I just kidding myself?

I've been keeping an eye on eBay and see Sony FX1 and Canon XH-A1's for around the upper amount. I see Sony VX2100's and DVX100A/B's for around the lower amount (but they are 4:3 units). These seem to have the features I'm looking for.

Any thoughts? Thanks in advance!


Pietro Impagliazzo August 4th, 2008 05:39 PM

A Sony SR12 or a HV30 would satisfy your needs, not so strong on manual controls but the IQ would please you and would be HD.

Real manual controls for 1500? Hmmm the Sony FX7 is not produced anymore, that would give you V1 quality (search Vimeo if you want samples) and strong manual controls for $2500.

So, since the FX7 is out of the game, you'd be left with the more expensive Canon XH-A1, you wouldn't regret the buy, but it's way beyond the budget you determined.

Some links you might find useful:



Scott Surbrook August 4th, 2008 11:00 PM

Thanks for the quick reply!

I've looked at those cameras, but (at least with the HV30), the low light performance is a below what I'm looking for. I've looked at both at Best Buy and they look great in good lighting. However, Christmas mornings, birthdays, etc. don't have such good lighting and I don't want to regret the purchase afterward, especially after it is too late (after the event(s)). I find desaturated colors rather irritating, though I probably would dislike a lot of grain more.

I have spent the last couple years trying to refine my skills with my Nikon D70 DSLR by learning how to use its manual abilities. Now I feel it is time to do the same with video. I have looked at the video from various single CCD and 3CCD camcorders and just do not think that even the best of the single CCD cameras have as good color fidelity as even average 3CCD cameras, except in almost perfect lighting. At the same price point, the 3CCD's, IMO, have a clear advantage at the top end.

Anyway, because of this, I am looking at 3CCD cameras. I have seen that the VX2100's and DVX100's are selling for between $1200 and $1500 (and, of course, higher) on eBay at the low end for cameras with <300 hours, and sometimes with <150 hours... *IF* you can catch the right auction. And I'm rather patient. :D The Buy It Now prices for used Canon XH A1's and Sony FX1's are ~$2700 with individual auctions as low as $2200.

Are there any prosumer SD cameras that have native 16:9 chips or, at the least, don't lose any resolution when filming 16:9?

David Beisner August 5th, 2008 06:49 AM

Hey Scott,

Welcome to a fun hobby/profession! You've got a lot of choices, but let's start with the 16:9/4:3.

No HD cameras are native 4:3 anymore--they're all 16:9. You can get most of them to shoot in 4:3, but you're just wasting the sides. Panasonic's DVX100 cameras also allow you to shoot in 16:9 using either letterbox format or what they've called "digital squeeze." I'm not really sure what the "digital squeeze" technology does, but I can't imagine it looks bad or they wouldn't have done it. Though I don't have any experience with Sony's VX2100, I do have extensive experience with its predecessor, the VX2000 and I can tell you that it doesn't have good low-light or color representation.

If you want an SD camera that shoots good low-light, I don't think you'll find much better than the DVX100b. It's also got lots of manual controls which you'll really like. If I was to go out and buy an SD camera for myself or the company I work for, I would buy the DVX100b without a second thought.

If you want to go to the HD realm (I would very highly recommend spending the money for HD--Walmart in backwoods podunk Tennessee doesn't even sell SD TV's anymore) you really can't beat the XHA1 for the price. It's got pretty good low-light response and the color is beautiful. It's got decent auto controls and full-featured manual controls, including an iris ring on the lens--something you don't see often on prosumer fixed-lens cameras.

If you can find a used model from a trusted seller on E-Bay, then I'd say go for it. Otherwise, see if you can shell out the cash for a new one with full warranty and everything. I think you'll really like the picture you can get from the camera. If you want to see examples of the footage from any camera, go to www.vimeo.com and search for videos by the camera model number. There's lots of footage from the XHA1 that looks really good.

One last thing--if you do make the jump from SD to HD, you'll probably have to upgrade your editing computer as well. In order to successfully edit HDV, you'll pretty much have to have a multi-core processor (recommend at least a quad-core) and at least 2GB of memory. You'll also want to have your "scratch disks" (the ones that hold your video data) separate from your OS/programs disk and you'll want them in some sort of a RAID array optimized for performance (RAID 0 or 5 is best for that).

Good luck!

Tom Hardwick August 5th, 2008 09:57 AM

However good the VX2k family are in low light I'd cross them off the list for the simple reason they were designed as 4:3 cameras and they do that very well indeed. 16:9? Move to their natural successor - the FX1.

You now have one of the best value 3 CCD chipped units around. Built Z1 tough, reliable as pyramid bricks, everything you could imagine under manual control (should you want to). You can shoot HDV to future-proof your master tapes or downconvert to make SD DVDs today.

Of course the Canon HV20 or 30 might suit you just fine. These (contrary to their picnic-cam looks) deliver mighty fine video footage that you'd be amazed at.


Chris Barcellos August 5th, 2008 10:47 AM


Originally Posted by Tom Hardwick (Post 916768)
However good the VX2k family are in low light I'd cross them off the list for the simple reason they were designed as 4:3 cameras and they do that very well indeed. 16:9? Move to their natural successor - the FX1.

You now have one of the best value 3 CCD chipped units around. Built Z1 tough, reliable as pyramid bricks, everything you could imagine under manual control (should you want to). You can shoot HDV to future-proof your master tapes or downconvert to make SD DVDs today.

Of course the Canon HV20 or 30 might suit you just fine. These (contrary to their picnic-cam looks) deliver mighty fine video footage that you'd be amazed at.


I have both, and second Tom's analysis.

Robert M Wright August 5th, 2008 03:23 PM

DVX and V2K family cameras crop the image, on the sensor, in 16:9 mode. The result is essentially 360 lines of actual resolution (regardless of the recorded format).

Boyd Ostroff August 5th, 2008 03:43 PM

Welcome to DVinfo Scott!

I'd also echo what Tom has said. But regarding 16:9 native 3-chip standard definition cameras, Sony used to have the PDX-10 to fill this niche in their pro lineup. Low light response was not as good as the VX and PD series however, due to the small chips (about 1/5"), but it was actually pretty similar to the Z1 (I have owned a VX-2000, PDX-10 and Z1). My observation was that the PDX-10 was about 2.5 f-stops slower than the VX-2000.

The TRV-950 was the consumer version of that camera (as the VX-2100 is to the PD-170), and later it was replaced with the HC-1000 which kept the same chips but dumbed down the controls a bit. If you're on a tight budget you can probably find some of these on the used market. See our forum for these cameras here: http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/forumdisplay.php?f=43

Aside from the FX-1 you might also have a look at the FX-7 or HVR-V1 (see: http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/forumdisplay.php?f=140). Another possibility might be the HVR-A1, although low light will suffer a bit there - see: http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/forumdisplay.php?f=99

Tom Hardwick August 6th, 2008 12:46 AM

I might point out that although the PDX10 went some way to giving good 16:9 from the essentially 4:3 CCD chips on board, the TRV950 had this feature blocked, so I'd not recommend that one. The HC1000 that followed was as Boyd points out, so dumbed down that I'm not even sure it did 16:9, and it faded quickly from the scene. Sony make some corkers and crackers, but they also make some nonsense.

And although David B says 'I would buy the DVX100b without a second thought.' he should know that its 16:9 modes (squeeze or mask) both compromise image quality to an unacceptable level in this day and age. Lovely cameras and I know them well, but so too was the VX2000 lovely in its day.


David Beisner August 6th, 2008 07:37 AM

Thanks Tom... yeah, that would be if I was buying an SD camera... but in this day and age, I would personally NEVER spend money on an SD camera. I'm more likely to go for the XHA1, HD110U, the HVX200A/HPX170/500, the HD200U/250U or the EX1/3, the choice of those cameras depending on my budget with the XHA1 at the bottom end and the HPX500 at the top end.

Michael Wisniewski August 6th, 2008 08:10 AM

If you want to stay within your stated budget - you could purchase a LitePanel Micro for the Sony SR12 or Canon HV30. The light can be used on/off camera and it's battery operated so no wires. With a clamp or stand it can give you more flexible options in low-light situations. And you'll still have enough left in your budget to get a shotgun mic and lavalier, maybe a Rode NTG-2 and Audio Technica AT899.

If you want to do keying and shoot in-camera, look into using Cineform as it gives you 4:2:2 and can help keying the 4:2:0 HDV video. If you don't mind being tethered to a computer you could shoot direct via HDMI to a Black Magic Intensity Pro card. Starts to get a little over your budget at that point, but do get 4:2:2 video.

[EDIT] But keying HDV ain't bad, it's doable within limits. So all the extra stuff for keying might just get in the way of doing what you want to do which is unleash the creativity of your girls.

Ervin Farkas August 7th, 2008 06:52 AM

A dissenting "second opinion"
Scott, it looks like the general consensus is: go HD. I will offer an alternative view.

No, I am not all for the old, I AM NOT saying HD is not good - in fact, I bought into HD a couple of years ago when my church asked me to purchase cameras for our video ministry; what I AM saying is that in your particular situation, given your budget and your high expectations for quality, at this moment it would be better for you to go for a broadcast quality SD camera. Check the classifieds here on DVinfo, look around on the auction sites and you will find amazing deals on used broadcast cameras as most TV stations and lots of independent videographers are upgrading to HD. I am not saying that SD looks better than HD; however, with time you will find that resolution plays a lesser role (compared to other factors) in defining a "good" motion picture. You will never find the low light capability a 1/2 chip pro camera can give you, in a $2K consumer/prosumer HD camera!

And another thing: don't get intimidated by the computer requirements some people suggest... those refer to professionals who's time is money - for hobby, and even for weekend videographers, a good single core will still work. I am editing HDV natively on a P4@3GHZ HT w/2GB RAM - playback is real time for cuts, of course it needs rendering if effects are applied.

Again, this is just a "second opinion" for you to consider.

Jeremy Doyle August 7th, 2008 07:36 AM

I sold my VX2000 half a year ago and picked up an hv20. Although I dislike my now lack of manual controls (although you can trick the camera and get some, its just not as convenient) the picture quality is so, so much better. I loved my vx and it was really hard for me to sell especially since the hv20 doesn't look as professional, but really the picture quality of the VX doesn't even compare especially hooked up to an HD monitor.

But that's just my experience, and I look at HDCAM footage all day at work.

David Beisner August 7th, 2008 08:55 AM

Ervin, I'm impressed... I'm running an Athlon FX64 at 3.6GHz with 2GB of ram and I can't even make the HDV footage play in Premiere! (Well, it plays, but very jerkily and drops frames non-stop.) And the P4 core structure isn't even optimized for the type of processor power used in multimedia editing. Are you perhaps running a high performance RAID or something?

Ervin Farkas August 7th, 2008 10:17 AM

No, the media is on a cheapo external USB hard drive, Western Digital MyBook 500GB.

What else do you have running on that machine? One thing I did to that computer is, I deleted everything on it, reformatted the 30GB C drive, and loaded it with XP, drivers, SP2, and then the Adobe CS2 suite including Photoshop - that's it, nothing else. Runs like a dream, stable, no crashes, no corrupted projects.

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