Buyers remorse! PV-GS400 not beating my 4 year old TRV-820! at DVinfo.net

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Old September 7th, 2004, 12:18 AM   #1
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Buyers remorse! PV-GS400 not beating my 4 year old TRV-820!

Hmmm.... what could I be doing wrong here?

My old camcorder is a Sony TRV-820 Digital8 (purchased in 2000) - with a 460K pixel sensor - 290K effective pixels according to the documentation. It always shot decent video, but when burned to DVD, the picture was good but never that crisp. And when I tried to create a compressed WMV file for web download, the picture was downright bad. I figured I was due for an upgrade.

I just purchased a Panasonic PV-GS400 - 3 CCD sensors 700K effective pixels each.

I shot video with the Panasonic, burned to DVD using Sonic MyDVD, and much to my surprise, the video quality was not dramatically better. The color was slightly deeper with the newer Panasonic. But the overall resolution - the detail presented in the subject, the detail in the background, appeared almost the same. I was really really surprised. My wife viewed old Sony video and new Panasonic video (similar scenes with similar lighting) and her comment was the same as mine, can't really tell a difference. When I created a compressed WMV file, same thing really fuzzy detail.

Very frustrating. My questions:

Was I expecting too much of a change in camcorder technology in 4 years?

Did I not spend enough? If I had instead upgraded to a Sony VX2100 or similar model instead, would I get dramatically better video, or just slightly better when lighting is good? I wanted a more compact camera, but now I'm rethinking that! However, maybe even the camcorders in the $2K-3K range won't help that much?

Is it my DVD encoding software? I don't have thousands to spend on software, but maybe Sonic MyDVD isn't sophisticated enough encoding for this camera? I kind of doubt that, but...

Is it my TV?!!! I have a great 32" Panasonic TV that is about 9 years old.

Help me understand why 4 years later, the picture looks the same! I'm very frustrated at the moment, this isn't like buying a new computer, where 4 years makes so much difference!

Thanks.
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Old September 7th, 2004, 02:16 AM   #2
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You say that after burning to DVD the picture is little different to that taken by your Sony -- but what about when you play the tape directly through the TV?

That would be the real test. If the GS400 looks significantly better (which it should) then you need to look at the MPEG encoder that your DVD creation software uses. You might be able to tweak it for higher bitrate or resolution.

If the two cameras look the same when directly connected to playback through your TV set then you might want to have your set checked since it might be the weakest link.

I also assume that you're transfering the video from your camera to the PC using a firewire connection. If you're actually using a video-capture card then that will likely be the culprit.
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Old September 7th, 2004, 02:18 AM   #3
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Edit:
Oops, sorry Bruce, I posted the same question 2 minutes after you did :-)

Just wondering how the GS400 and TRV820 video compare when the cams are connectly directly to TV through S-video (a 32 inch TV should have at least 2 S-Video ports right? Are they almost the same too?


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Old September 7th, 2004, 03:26 AM   #4
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I could be wrong but doesn't the TRV-820 have 690K video effective pixels on its CCD?
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Old September 7th, 2004, 08:58 AM   #5
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The TRV-820 is 490k gross and 290k video actual.

As for the TRV820 and GS400, I will echo that it would be better to compare these cams via S-video and make sure your TV is calibrated with something like Digital Video Essentials or AVIA.

Will a VX2100 treat you better? Yes, but its also about double ther price and size of a GS400. Of course the GS400 has the advantage of its Pro Cinema mode with cine-like gamma, HQ 16:9, and pseudo progressive scan. As usual there always trade-offs.
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Old September 7th, 2004, 09:03 AM   #6
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Nine year old TV's and low end software encoders are not going to show either camera at it's best. As suggested, view the tapes directly into a more modern TV or monitor. Preferably use the S-Video connector for optimum results.
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Old September 7th, 2004, 10:24 AM   #7
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The GS400 has a lot more manual controls than the TRV820.
If you shoot in full-auto mode, you're not taking advantage of the newer cam's features.
Starting with white balance, the GS400 will do things that the D8 will never do: get correct colors in a shaded area of a daylight scene, for instance. The TRV820 had Auto-WB only. No presets.
For low-light performance though, the D8's larger CCD has an advantage. The old auto-focus was also excellent.
Try the CineGamma feature on the GS400, it should do a difference in color rendition, no?
With N/D filters in bright daylight, you should get better resolution with the 3CCD cam.
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Old September 7th, 2004, 12:44 PM   #8
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Try to shot EIA1954 chart then compare picture on PC (Mac). You'll found a much difference. It's a real thing.
Then change your software, at least MPEG2 encoder. I believe most "allinone" DVD soft is able to downgrade even professional quality.
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Old September 7th, 2004, 02:23 PM   #9
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Wow thanks all!

Picking up on this last response from Mikhail, any suggestions for a low cost software encoder that may substantially improve over Sonic MyDVD? TMPEng was suggested to me, I have not tried that yet. Others? Will Pinnacle Studio or ULead VideoStudio give me better results? Those are in the same price range as MyDVD, so I am doubtful.

I will do a comparison hooking the cam directly to the TV, sounds like a *great* suggestion. Upgrading the TV itself will have to wait another year! :(

Yes I am capturing using firewire, not analog capture. But a good point.

I was using full-auto on the GS400, which resulted in decent exposure. It's the detail in the images I am after. I have not investigated any filters - I use a stock UV filter over the lens for protection.

Any suggestions on encoders beyond TMPEng?
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Old September 7th, 2004, 02:44 PM   #10
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Pete,
I also use TMPGEnc (code name for "Tsunami MPEG Encoder") and I can't think of anything better. The basic version is downloadable for free but will only encode to MPEG1 for VCD's. You pay only $48 (or something like that) and you get the full MPEG2 licence on line with so many features you'll wonder how you could've gone without it!
One of these features is the sharpening tool which enables you to sharpen independantly on the horizontal or/and the vertical axis. It works on a finer scale than VideoStudio. You can get more detail without going into noticeable noise.
I also do my color correction in TMPGEnc because the tools are so much more complete.
I get very good DVDs from Digital8 footage, thanks to extensive use of TMPGEnc.
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Old September 7th, 2004, 03:10 PM   #11
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Lots of great comments, so I try not to overlap with the other responses.

This is a common comment, and one I had when I upgraded from a cheapie JVC with a built-in Mic to a Sony VX2000, other than a dramatic increase in the sound quality. What are your shooting conditions ? Outside in good light, all miniDV recorders are pretty good. When the light drops, the 3 CCD devices deliver better color and lower noise levels. Overall, better cameras deliver better image quality over a variety of lighting conditions, although it is just as easy to deliver mediocre footage with a top notch camera.

As for a change in camcorder technology, you had no upgrade in your sensor area, which is is 1/4" on your TRV820 and 1/5" on your GS400. If you're willing to move to larger sensors, such as 1/3" for a VX2100, you'll notice more of a difference between the VX2100 and the TRV820. Beyond that, it's difficult to gauge the performance of digital video from high level spec sheets.

Pro features are a great help. Zebra stripes are an awesome tool for setting exposure as eyeballing the viewfinder or LCD isn't reliable enough.
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Old September 7th, 2004, 07:41 PM   #12
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I'm just the opposite. I started off digitally with a TRV120 (Digital8) and I was very disappointed. I replaced it with a VX2000 and while I completely blew my budget out of the water I was extremely pleased with its video quality. I have a VX2000 on my desk right now and its not going anywhere anytime soon. Now, my DVX100A might have to go if the new Sony HDR-FX1 turns out to be a winner! j/k

:)
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Old September 8th, 2004, 05:07 PM   #13
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Oops, it was the TRV730 and TRV830 that had a 1/4" CCD with 690K video effective pixels.
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