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Old May 21st, 2004, 10:02 PM   #1
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GS400 vs Sony TRV950 vs Sony HC1000

This is speculative, as both the GS400 and HC1000 are not released yet, but I thought it would be worth discussing using the known specs so far.

I want to shoot short films as a hobby and am looking for a camera with the following:[list=1][*]16:9 capability without losing any vertical resolution.[*]Optical image stabilizer (related to #1, because from what I'm read, electronic stabilizers work by using a higher resolution to fixate on the image and thus turn off in 16:9 mode, where there is no further resolution to give).[*]3 CCDs.[*]Manual controls - I want to experiment and be able to override camera settings.[*]Around $1500 or less.[*]Horizontal orientation (held with the fingers on the side and not the front).[/list=1]I want to buy new, preferably a Canon, Panasonic, or Sony brand (partly because of brand reputation but also to narrow down the number of models to research) and the sooner the better, although I don't mind waiting a few months.

The Panasonic GS400, Sony TRV950, and Sony HC1000 all have the following in common:[list=1][*]16:9 mode.[*]Optical stabilizer.[*]3 1/4.7" CCDs with 690k video pixels.[*]Good manual controls.[*]12x optical zoom.[*]Top-loading (the HC1000 may not be, but the Sharp models that it emulates are side-loading).[/list=1]What are the advantages/differences of each?

The GS400 has a 'Pro Cinema mode', which is a "frame mode (30P) with a special gamma setting to make the video look more like film" (StrongDotGuy). Since one of my strongest priorities is to get a film-look, this is an appealing feature. I'm not sure if either the HC1000 or TRV950 has an equivalent function. The GS400 also sports a Leica Dicomar lens, which apparently has a good reputation. It boasts a 4 megapixel still image capability, but still image shooting is not a priority for me. This model is supposed to come out in early July and cost about $1500.

The HC1000 is supposed to be the successor of the TRV950, but you wouldn't tell by looking at it. It has much more of a consumer-look than the TRV950, but that may be an indication of improved, smaller technology. It has a T star lens with a special coating, reserved for Sony's higher-end consumer camcorders. The Japanese website (http://www.sony.jp/products/Consumer.../surround.html) mentions a "Surround 5.1 feature", but I haven't read anything about how good this is or how it works. Some negatives of the HC1000:[list=1][*]2.5" LCD screen instead of the 3.5" found on the GS400 or TRV950.[*]Probably will arrive later than the GS400 - scheduled to be released in Japan on July 10th and no word of a US date.[*]Not a big deal by any means, but a strange body shape.[/list=1]The Sony TRV950 is currently available for $1580 from B&H (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...=249633&is=REG). Released in mid 2002, it fits all my criteria. Physically, it appears to have a more 'professional' look with its large lens hood and size than either the GS400 or HC1000. Negatives include:[list=1][*]Not as easy to run-and-gun because of its size compared to the GS400 or HC1000.[*]It can shoot 16:9 without sacrificing vertical resolution, but only in NTSC and not PAL (see http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...threadid=25218).[*]2 years old, which is reflected in its lack of newer features like 'Pro Cinema' or 'Surround 5.1' mentioned before. I suspect that there have been less obvious improvements made in that time such as menu interface and overall build quality.[/list=1]

Before I finish, I'll list some models that came close in my evaluation but for one reason or another fell short:[list=1][*]Canon Optura XI - 1 CCD. I've read several forums and reviews which indicate that the image quality isn't as good as the TRV950 or other 3 CCD cameras like the Panasonic DV953. Otherwise, the Optura XI is a good camera for the price ($900 after Canon's rebate). It has an optical stabilizer, 16:9 mode without a vertical resolution hit, and good manual controls.[*]Canon Optura 30/40 - electronic image stabilizers instead of optical, which don't work in 16:9 mode. Also 1 CCD.[*]Panasonic DV953 - 16:9 mode has a loss of vertical resolution (see http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...threadid=22991). Otherwise, it has everything I'm looking for (3 CCDs, optical stabilizer) and a good price at that. Sold out at B&HPhotoVideo.com.[*]Panasonic GS120/200 - doesn't have the 16:9 vertical resolution loss that the DV953 has, but loses the optical stabilizer in favor of an electronic one.[/list=1]There are higher end models which fit my criteria and then some (Sony PDX10, Sony VX2100, Panasonic DVX100, etc.), except they get into the $2200+ range.

Right now, I'm waiting and leaning toward the Panasonic GS400. It has a decent (speculative) price and the 'Pro Cinema' mode is interesting. But really, all three of these cameras seem very close in features and price.

Which would you pick and why? Any comments or corrections?

Andy
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Old May 22nd, 2004, 01:08 AM   #2
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Andy asks:
Quote:
Which would you pick and why? Any comments or corrections?
Okey-dokey, Andy. :-))$1500 or less? That would be the PV-DV953/MX5000, NV-GS100 and most likely the PV/NV-GS400 (but I'm not sure about the 400 yet). How much is the Sony HC1000 list price? Both the Sony HC1000 and Pana GS400 are not out yet so there is NO feedback available. The Pana 953 and GS400 are easy to grip from the top side unlike the Sony TRV950 and PDX10.
Quote:
I don't mind waiting for a few months
Tom says that he can wait too.
Quote:
The Panasonic GS400, Sony TRV950, and Sony HC1000 all have the following in common...16:9 mode...Optical stabilizer...3 1/4.7" CCDs with 690k video pixels...Good manual controls...12x optical zoom....Top-loading (the HC1000 may not be, but the Sharp models that it emulates are side-loading)
Where did Sharp come in? It's got to be a red herring, right? Do we really know the CCD specs of the GS400? It's still all a big secret. Furthermore, the TRV950 does NOT have the better widescreen as the PDX10 and these Pana models.
Quote:
What are the advantages/differences of each?
How do we know? The full specs are missing plus there's no feedback from 2 of these cams because they're not out yet.
Quote:
The GS400 has a 'Pro Cinema mode', which is a "frame mode (30P)
No it's not.
Quote:
TRV950...not as easy to run-and-gun because of its size compared to the GS400 or HC1000.
You got that right! But how do you know the HC1000 is easy to grip?
Quote:
but for one reason or another fell short...Canon Optura XI - 1 CCD. I've read several forums and reviews which indicate that the image quality isn't as good as the TRV950 or other 3 CCD cameras like the Panasonic DV953.
Huh? But the Optura Xi is a 1-chip camera. An apple and 2 oranges my friend. :-))
Quote:
Panasonic GS120/200 - doesn't have the 16:9 vertical resolution loss that the DV953 has
Oops. That's not right either. The GS120 and 200 have less CCD pixels for video, far far less, in fact.
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Old May 22nd, 2004, 01:56 AM   #3
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"How much is the Sony HC1000 list price?"

Again, it's speculative at this point, but camcorderinfo.com reports a debut price of $1550 ( http://www.camcorderinfo.com/content...0-05_10_04.htm ). In any case, it's safe to assume given the TRV950's current price of $1600, and the expected price of the competition (GS400), that the HC1000 will be around this price range.

"Where did Sharp come in?"

I brought up Sharp in my sentence that the "HC1000 may not be [top-loading], but the Sharp models that it emulates are side-loading" in reference to the bodyshape of the HC1000. The aforementioned camcorderinfo.com article refers to the HC1000 bodyshape as a Sharp-model ripoff. And the Sharp models that look similar to this design are side-loading.

"Do we really know the CCD specs of the GS400?"

Again, speculation. But both the specs released from Panasonic Europe (see http://fortvir.net/modules.php?set_a...view_photo.php and http://fortvir.net/modules.php?set_a...view_photo.php ) state that it is a 3 1/4.7" CCD with 690k pixels for video. The support for 16:9 without vertical resolution loss is assumed from the fact that the GS100 has this.

"Furthermore, the TRV950 does NOT have the better widescreen as the PDX10 and these Pana models."

I referenced this thread in my original post ( http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...threadid=25218 ) which discusses that the TRV950 does support 16:9 mode without a vertical resolution loss, but only in NTSC.

"What are the advantages/differences of each?" "How do we know? The full specs are missing plus there's no feedback from 2 of these cams because they're not out yet."

My original "what are the advantages..." was a rhetorical question. It was meant to frame the following paragraphs where I laid out what I thought were the major differences.

" The GS400 has a 'Pro Cinema mode', which is a "frame mode (30P)"
"No it's not."

So what is it then? I have read a reference that it is a 16:9 mode combined with a higher gamma setting. What is inaccurate about StrongDotGuy's description (about the GS100's Pro Cinema Mode, to be precise)? Is it the progressive that is incorrect?

"You got that right! But how do you know the HC1000 is easy to grip?"

Well, um, I don't. But the pictures ( http://www.camcorderinfo.com/content...0-05_10_04.htm ) don't suggest horrible ergonomics or anything.

"Huh? But the Optura Xi is a 1-chip camera. An apple and 2 oranges my friend. :-))"

Which is the first item I stated about the Optura XI ("Optura XI - 1 CCD"). I also mentioned that this was the sole reason I chose to exclude the model for my next purchase.

"Oops. That's not right either. The GS120 and 200 have less CCD pixels for video, far far less, in fact."

This you are correct - I must have gotten the GS120/200 confused for the GS100, which does have the 16:9 mode I described.

Andy
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Old May 22nd, 2004, 03:30 AM   #4
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This is all very confusing. As far as I know the TRV950 does not have true widescreen. It takes a big verticle resolution hit when you switch to 16/9.

Is someone saying the GS400 can do true 30 frames per second progressive scan? Please clarify this. I don't believe it, but if it does I'll buy one.

Be careful not to let specs on a sheet over ride what the cameras' video output actually looks like. You have to try these tools for yourself. Technically, the PV953 is better than the Optura Xi, (3 1/6" ccds versus 1 modern 1/3") but I would take the Xi's image over it any day.
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Old May 22nd, 2004, 04:17 AM   #5
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The Pro Cinema mode is widescreen I believe, and you have the option of setting it in frame mode.
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Old May 22nd, 2004, 04:57 AM   #6
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it won't do 30fps, it'll most likely do 24/25fps as so far there is no confirmed news of an NTSC version of it, and as PAL runs at 25fps that's most likely what it will record at
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Old May 22nd, 2004, 05:45 AM   #7
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there is no confirmed news of an NTSC version of it
There's been US dealer web sites advertising the PV-GS400 for the last couple of months; the 953 and GS100 have both widescreen (pro cinema mode) and 30fps (frame mode).
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Old May 22nd, 2004, 06:01 AM   #8
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"As far as I know the TRV950 does not have true widescreen. It takes a big verticle resolution hit when you switch to 16/9."

Your response led me to do some further homework on the TRV950, and I was mistaken. Standard NTSC resolution is 720x480. Standard PAL resolution is 720x576. The TRV950 in 16:9 (using part of its 4:3 CCD sensor) uses a resolution of 944x528, which is more than adequate for NTSC but falls a bit short in vertical resolution for PAL. Because of this, I was under the impression that shooting 16:9 for NTSC with a TRV950 would be close enough to 'native 16:9' without having any cropping and resulting in a wider image capture.

However! I reread some of the forum posts regarding this and it turns out that the TRV950, while it does capture at a higher resolution than NTSC requires, does not capture any wider image than its 4:3 shot. The PDX10 *does* capture a wider shot and is the kind of 16:9 capture that I am looking for. So indeed, it appears you are correct in that the TRV950, when shooting in 16:9 mode, loses vertical resolution from its 4:3 mode. So I stand corrected on this.

For reference:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...threadid=25218
Ignacio Rodriguez says that "even though [the TRV950] does not use a wider portion of the CCD than 4:3 mode like the PDX10 does, still uses enough pixels to produce an image better (resolutionwise) than that of native DV resolution cameras like the PD170."

http://www.maxent.org/video/16x9.html
At the bottom of this page it shows an illustration of the wider image obtained by the PDX10 compared to the TRV950. The image captured by the TRV950 in 16:9 is the same width as the 4:3 shot of the PDX10.

"Technically, the PV953 is better than the Optura Xi, (3 1/6" ccds versus 1 modern 1/3") but I would take the Xi's image over it any day."

I agree that it's important to try the camera in person before purchasing, but I just wanted to see if anyone could offer a compelling reason to choose the HC1000 or the GS400 on paper.

What specifically do you like about the Xi's image quality over the 953's? I'm very seriously considering the Optura XI because it provides everything I'm looking for, minus the 3 CCDs, but for an extremely good price (about $700 less than a GS400).

Andy
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Old May 22nd, 2004, 06:09 AM   #9
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Regarding "Pro Cinema Mode" on the GS400, I did a search and came up with this:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...threadid=22991

Tommy Haupfear says the Pro Cinema mode on the GS100 "combines 16:9 mode, frame mode, and its cine-like gamma setting (similar to DVX100 but non adjustable)."

There's a good description of Frame Mode at http://www.adamwilt.com/DV-FAQ-etc.html#filmlook .

Andy
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Old May 22nd, 2004, 06:13 AM   #10
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I agree that it's important to try the camera in person before purchasing, but I just wanted to see if anyone could offer a compelling reason to choose the HC1000 or the GS400 on paper.
These papers have a lot of empty lines. The best thing to do is when these cams become available, bring a miniDV tape to the shop and record some test footage with all of these cams, and then take the tape home and run some tests.
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Old May 22nd, 2004, 07:11 AM   #11
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What is inaccurate about StrongDotGuy's description (about the GS100's Pro Cinema Mode, to be precise)? Is it the progressive that is incorrect?
Frame mode is a pseudo-progressive mode. The camera outputs the frame as if it were completely captured at full resolution in one scan of the CCD. But, the frame is interpolated. This reduces the vertical resolution to 320 lines. We don't know yet if the GS400 will have this mode, but one could speculate it will be there since it is on the GS100 and is used in conjunction with Pro-cinema.
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Old May 22nd, 2004, 09:58 AM   #12
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This whole discussion is really very speculative (as you note) since as Frank points out, two of the cameras aren't even available and it will take some time after they come out before we get any user feedback. And by then the TRV-950 may not be available, or may be selling at a blowout price which would skew things further. And of course there will also be new models coming along that we don't even know about yet. And those "higher end" cameras you mention may very well be cheaper also (actually I think the PDX-10 may be had for under $2000 already).

So I don't see how you could make any meaningful decision until you're actually ready to make a purchase, and then you pretty much have to choose from those cameras that are actually shipping.
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Old May 22nd, 2004, 10:36 AM   #13
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"What specifically do you like about the Xi's image quality over the 953's? I'm very seriously considering the Optura XI because it provides everything I'm looking for, minus the 3 CCDs, but for an extremely good price (about $700 less than a GS400)."

Andy, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and of course looking at video from camcorders in this price range is very subjective. What one guy likes, the next might prefer another.

With me, I bought the Pana 953 last summer. The widescreen mode was VERY sharp and clear. I almost kept it for that. But, it was so subject to verticle flaring it ruined most of the shots I took outdoors. AND (the big one for me here) I totally hated it's color response. This thing had the ugliest color I've ever seen on video. Everything was industrial greenish-gray, with some orange-reds thrown in.

At first I thought I must be doing something wrong with the settings. 2 days of tests later - nope, that's not it. Must be something wrong with the camera....I took it back, and sure enough the next one was exactly the same. The 953 went back to the store. Except for the very high resolution SD video, I did not like it compared to what I already own.

I currently have a single chip Sony TRV820 D8 cam. I totally LOVE the color response on this thing. It also has a portraight setting that turns off all the edge enhancement, along with some other things, it almost makes the video look like film. Basically, it gives exactly the look I'm looking for.

The 1/4 inch CCD I believe is the same one used in the PD150. This was, I'm pretty sure the only consumer D8 made that way, which probobly explains why I like it so much.

The problem is the 1 megapixel chip only uses 460 pixels for the video. That is very low resolution by todays standards. I have a widescreen HD TV so....you guess the dilema.

The camera takes a big hit in resolution in 16/9 mode (Hey, at least it has one). Anything taken in bright contrasty situations that has dark diagonal lines just falls apart into cartoon jaggies.
If you are really carefull, like never blowing out highlights, and shooting simple subject like faces, you would never notice the resolution hit - but it's there.

Check out this clip I found on the Internet taken with the Optura Xi:

http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/blogs/gems/philg/MG42.wmv

(Sorry if it's rude to post someone's link. It came off of the review page for the Optura Xi on Camcorder Info.com).

It is shot with all the elements I would avoid like the plague with my current cam, YET SHOWS NONE OF THE PROBLEMS! The videographer is shooting in a tight space that combines bright outdoor sunlight with stark interior shadows. He lovingly focuses on all the diaganal straight lines of the gun, and there are NO jaggies to be found!

That video, to me anyway, is totally beautiful. It looks like it was made with a several thousand dollar camcorder. Remember, this is compressed down to about 10 percent of it's file size, and it still looks amazing. The color is a little soft maybe, but at least it looks nice. Easy to bump that up a little in an editor. I also like the slight softness, and lack of any synthetic edge enhancement.

Also, notice how smooth the optical image stabilization is on there. The Sony's use digital stabilization, which takes up an area of the chips resolution, so in 16/9 mode it's unavalable. I believe the TRV950 and the new HS1000 work exactly the same way. I remember on the 953 that feature didn't seem to make much difference. The Optura Xi has the most noticable stable image feature I've ever seen. It almost looks like a glide cam effect.

I also tried the Cinema Frame mode on the Pana 953. It was basically a marketing joke. It makes everything stutter like an old time movie effect. (More so in the viewfinder, but it still looks that way on the cams output).

So, I have been searching for pretty much the same features that you have, and I am about a hair away from buying the Optura Xi right now. There is a $200 rebate going on untill June (VERY savvy marketing, Canon) which means you can get it for about $800. Yup, I'm getting very very close now.......
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Old May 22nd, 2004, 01:08 PM   #14
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<<<-- Originally posted by Kevin Sturges : Also, notice how smooth the optical image stabilization is on there. The Sony's use digital stabilization, which takes up an area of the chips resolution, so in 16/9 mode it's unavalable. I believe the TRV950 and the new HS1000 work exactly the same way. -->>>

The TRV-950 and PDX-10 have optical super-steadyshot which is available in both 4:3 and 16:9 modes. Also, the image from these two cameras can benefit a lot by lowering the sharpness setting under Custom Preset. I keep mine set all the way at the minimum, but this is a matter of personal preference and has been discussed at length in the TRV-950/PDX-10 forum.
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Old May 22nd, 2004, 02:35 PM   #15
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Mileage may vary with the Optura Xi. The construction gives off a definite cheap feel and while the video may be high resolution it lacks color accuracy of 3CCD cams (regardless of RGB filter). I kept mine about a month before moving back to a Panasonic 3CCD.

Quote:
The 1/4 inch CCD I believe is the same one used in the PD150.
The PD150 uses 1/3" CCDs.

Kevin didn't appreciate the DV953 but we have a forum full of happy owners here. Want proof?

Just check out Guy's excellent site full of frames, stills, and video from the DV953.


www.fortvir.net

As for the PDX10. If you can get past the $2000 price tag its an unbelievable cam and definitely worth a look.
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