My in depth GL2/VX-2000 Comparison at DVinfo.net

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Sony VX2100 / PD170 / PDX10 Companion
Topics also include Sony's TRV950, VX2000, PD150 & DSR250 family.


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Old August 6th, 2003, 10:33 AM   #1
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My in depth GL2/VX-2000 Comparison

(Posted in both the GL2 & VX2000 forums)

Now, I am not an expert on either unit, and I'm quite the novice on video cameras in general, but I've tested both extensively over the past few days and hope my notes will help others who are trying to make the same decision I did: Should I buy the Canon GL2 or Sony VX2000?

EXTERIOR STYLING/CONTROL

I definitely prefer the exterior styling/build quality of the GL2. Both units contain a lot of plastic, but the VX2000 has what I thought to be the cheaper look and feel. The Microphone in particular feels a bit loose, like it could snap off at any moment. And the GL2 is noticeably smaller and lighter than the VX2000, and hence, more comfortable for handheld shooting. In comparison, the VX2000 feels like a brick, and is a bit front heavy. I also prefer the layout of the controls on the GL2. Especially the controls on the top handle, where your thumb rests near both a record button and a 2nd set of zoom buttons. On the VX2000, your thumb rests on the hotshoe. Hidden inside the GL2's handle are the VCR buttons. On the VX2000, they are below the handle, and are not real buttons; instead you get a membrane keypad. In my experience, membrane keypads don't take much abuse.

The VX2000 does have more exterior buttons and switches than the GL2, but for the most part I feel the controls are poorly laid out, with too many switches (unlike buttons, switches produce an audible "click" which will be picked up by the microphone), and too many items buried in menus. On the GL2, hitting the custom preset button switches the custom preset on/off; on the VX2000, the same button opens the custom preset menu, where another dial and button press must be used to select and turn off the preset. Even more frustrating: when running the VX2000 in full manual, you must use two different sets of buttons and dials (located on opposite ends of the camera) to adjust the shutter speed and the aperture. I found operating the GL2 in manual mode to be much easier, as you can quickly view (and change) your aperture, shutter speed, and gain values.

The VX2000 does have some useful features that the GL2 does not have, such as the ability to quickly lock the focus to infinity and a manual zoom ring. Another thing I did prefer on the VX2000 was the recessed battery compartment. On the GL2, a large battery sticks out almost as far as the viewfinder. On the VX-2000, a large battery hardly sticks out at all.

The VX2000 also has a dedicated switch to turn the Zebra bars on/off (unfortunately, it's hidden behind the LCD screen), while the GL2 has no dedicated switch. However, the GL2 does have a Custom Key, a single programmable button that most users will use to control the Zebra bars. It is also worth noting that the VX2000 has 2 Zebra settings (75 and 100 IRE) while the GL2 has five (80-100, in 5 step increments).

I found myself preferring the Viewfinder on the VX2000. It seems to be a little brighter and sharper than the one on the GL2. As for the LCD, it's a toss up. The GL2 seems to have a better refresh rate, but the image looks a little "dirty" compared to that of the Sony. Both LCDs are a bit smaller than I'd like.

COLOR & EXPOSURE

Out of the box, I found the VX2000 to have the most neutral colors. The GL2 produces very rich, slightly over saturated colors. But it also has a slight red push that can make skin tones look slightly pink. I also had problems with the color purple when shooting indoors. I had to crank up the color and reduce the red quite a bit to properly portray a purple subject.

The VX2000 had no such problem, but it did look a bit bland when compared to the GL2. Fortunately, the color signatures of both units can easily be adjusted to ones own tastes.

In both cameras, I also found myself reducing the sharpness, but for entirely different reasons. In the GL2, it was to reduce the grain that can be seen in even moderate indoor lighting. In the VX2000, it was to give the picture a softer, more "film like" look. Out of the box, the VX2000 looks too sharp to my eyes, to the point of looking harsh. Turning down the sharpness did indeed fix this problem.

I've heard several times that the optics are better in the GL2, but frankly, I don't see it. The VX2000 produced a cleaner, sharper image with little color blooming (noticed quite a bit of blooming on the GL2 when filming a red rose), and a more useable lense flare effect (on the GL2, the lense flare looks pretty nasty, more like a smudge than a flare). Both units seem to suffer from stair stepping effects, particularly in harsh indoor lighting (fluorescent lights). I did notice more problems with the Moiré effect on the VX2000.

Auto-exposure works well in both units, though the VX2000 has a tendency to over-expose scenes. This can also be adjusted in the custom preset. Exposure can also be adjusted manually via the exposure button and dial. The GL2 has a similar manual adjustment. What the GL2 does not have is a way to limit the gain, which makes the auto mode less than useful indoors. Full manual control is needed if you wish to turn off the gain.

Auto White Balance seems to work better on the GL2; the VX2000 had problems when shooting indoors. Under normal indoor Tungsten lighting, the VX2000 took on a yellowish tone. Selecting the Indoor White Balance preset sometimes fixed this problem, but not always. On both units, you can set the white balance manually (by pointing the camera at a white piece of paper, or even a white wall), but on the VX2000 you can not set manual white balance while recording (which I find quite annoying).

LOWLIGHT CAPABILITY

How do these cameras do in lowlight? Well, I've always heard the VX2000 was the king of lowlight shooting, but reports vary in just how good it really is. I've heard anywhere from 1/2 to 2 1/2 f stops better than the GL2. So I did some tests. In a normal sized room lit by a single 60 watt lamp, the GL2 could not properly expose the dark corners of the room even at 18 db gain (it was about 1/2 stop underexposed). And there was a considerable amount of grain. On the VX2000, the room was quite OVER exposed at 18, with less noise than the GL2 produces at 12 db. At 0 gain, the VX2000's exposure seems to match the GL2 at 18 db. If my math is correct, that means the VX2000 is 2.5 f stops brighter than the GL2. And since the gain produces less noise, it is more useable, so the actually difference between the cameras is slightly higher.

I even tested the VX2000 with the lights turned off, the only light was from a TV and a Computer Monitor. Even then, it did a remarkably good job (it was dark and grainy, but it made out details even my eyes couldn't!).

The VX2000 lowlight sensitivity has one unexpected bonus: the 3 watt light I purchased for it will light up an entire room, if gain is turned on. On the GL2, the 3 watt light is good only if you're within 3 feet of your subject, and even then the footage is underexposed unless you turn on the gain or reduce the shutter speed to 30.

MICROPHONES/AUDIO

I've heard a lot about audio "hiss" on the VX2000, but I found that both units are pretty noisy. Both Mics are sensitive, and the one on the VX2000 will pick up the zoom motor noise quite clearly. However, the GL2 picks up the tape motor noise, which I consider worse because this noise is constant. The VX2000 will also pick up the loud clicks that are made when moving the on camera switches. The mics on both cameras sound a bit thin and metallic in certain conditions. Perhaps my memory is faulty, but I swear I think the VX1000 sounded better than both these models. On the plus side, the mics do provide good stereo separation. The GL2 has the better audio controls of the two, but you won't fully appreciate them unless you buy extra hardware.

OTHER NOTES

The GL2 has the better manual of the two, though too many pages are wasted on taking still images. In comparison, the VX2000 manual is awful. It's poorly translated, and some features don't seem to be covered at all.

Speaking of still images, the GL2 takes higher resolution ones. The ones on the VX2000 look fine, but seem to be interlaced, as they show a lot of flicker when viewed on the TV (then again, I'm recording images to tape, not a memory stick).

The GL2 has a useable "fake" progressive made that runs at 30 fps. The VX2000 has a similar mode, but it runs at 15 fps and is useless for video.

The GL2 has a longer optical zoom (20x verses 12x on the Sony). Both units have digital zooms, but I can't comment on those as I have them turned off.

Sony does not include a charger with the VX2000. You can charge the battery on camera, by plugging in the AC adapter. A battery charger will set you back around $50.

The batteries and memory cards (for taking stills) included with both cameras are practically useless. You will want to buy a larger battery.

I prefer Sony's InfoLithium batteries to the Canon ones, as they actually show estimated time remaining per charge. On the GL2, you'll simply have a graph showing percentage of time remaining.

CONCLUSION

Neither camera is clearly better than the other, each has it own strengths and weaknesses. If lowlight performance is your primary concern, don't think twice... go with the VX2000. If you often shoot wildlife or sports video, I'd go with the GL2 for its longer zoom lense and faster top shutter speed. If you want to shoot primarily in automatic, I think the VX2000 has the edge, while the GL2 is easier to control in full manual.

And me? I ended up choosing the VX2000 for its lowlight capability, but I do miss the longer zoom and smaller size of the GL2.
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Old August 6th, 2003, 11:29 AM   #2
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Torajima, thank you for the great comparison!
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Old August 6th, 2003, 02:05 PM   #3
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<<<-- Originally posted by Vladimir Koifman : Torajima, thank you for the great comparison! -->>>

Sure, no problem. And sorry about those grammer mistakes... I've already had to make three corrections. That's what I get for trusting the spellcheck on Microsoft Word!
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Old August 6th, 2003, 02:32 PM   #4
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Torajima, one more question. You mentioned you are setting manual white balance while recording. I thought one should pause, set WB and then continue. Do you use it differently?
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Old August 6th, 2003, 04:42 PM   #5
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<<<-- Originally posted by Vladimir Koifman : Torajima, one more question. You mentioned you are setting manual white balance while recording. I thought one should pause, set WB and then continue. Do you use it differently? -->>>

With the Canon GL2, you can indeed set white balance level while recording. But you can't do this with the VX-2000, you must stop recording first. You can, however, switch between preset values while recording.

As to why one would want to do this... if you are filming in a "run and gun" situation, lighting conditions may change, and you may not want to spend several seconds stopping the camera, setting the white balance, and starting it back up again. I'll rather edit out the "wall point" later...
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Old August 6th, 2003, 05:17 PM   #6
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Torajima, so the bottom line is that you like the GL2 more? No shame in saying, yes. I like the GL2 more, but I still think the VX2000 is the better cam. I found the VX2000 more solid, but difficult to to hold, whereas the GL2 is a joy to hold. For me, this is important, because I don't always lug my 12.5 pound tripod/head around (the bag's heavy enough). :)
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Old August 6th, 2003, 05:20 PM   #7
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Thanks for the info.
I am an amateur that wants to buy a pro-sumer camcorder, just to record personal stuff with a better image, and I had already read a lot of reviews and comparisons about these two cameras. My decision is towards the VX-2000, because of its amazing low-light performance also, since I will only buy the camera and no accessory at all (the camera in itself is already expensive enough for my wallet), but the 20x zoom and specially the weight and smaller size of the GL-2 makes the decision tough for me.
If only Sony could release a VX-3000, or VX-2001, with a better zoom (which I doubt will ever happen) and a better weight and size (that's possible!), I would gladly spend some more money to have it.
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Old August 6th, 2003, 06:19 PM   #8
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<<<-- Originally posted by Frank Granovski : Torajima, so the bottom line is that you like the GL2 more? No shame in saying, yes. I like the GL2 more, but I still think the VX2000 is the better cam. I found the VX2000 more solid, but difficult to to hold, whereas the GL2 is a joy to hold. For me, this is important, because I don't always lug my 12.5 pound tripod/head around (the bag's heavy enough). :) -->>>

I like the feel of the GL2 more. I certaintly prefer the controls. But ultimately, I felt the VX-2000 produced better images. The difference was subtle in good lighting, but in lowlight situations, well it was night and day.
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Old August 7th, 2003, 03:07 PM   #9
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Interesting thread as I've owned the VX2k for 18 months and I had a full day with the XM2 (GL2) yesterday.

The magnesium alloy chassis and shell of the VX count for a lot in my book, even though it makes the camera considerably heavier than the Canon. The maximum aperture of the lens is a good half a stop faster and this - in combination with the bigger low-smear HAD chips makes the images from the Sony streets ahead of the Canon in difficult and low light situations. It also has a slower shutter speed available for when it's *really* dark.

The Sony has two NDs which means you can actively control the aperture you shoot at in almost any lighting situation, and the Canon was all too happy to shoot at f8 in bright light even with its ND in place. As it uses smaller 1/4" chips this is very damaging to resolution as I'm sure you know.

The exposure wheel on the Canon I found fiddly. It's all too easy to select shutter speed or gain when all you wanted to do was open the aperture by half a stop. Sony use a dedicated wheel for aperture control.

But the Canon's stills to memory are miles better than the Sony, though the latter's progressive scan is full resolution rather than the 75% resolution of Canon's Frame mode. I know which I'd rather have for motor-drive stills.

The Canon's footage was first class and I certainly liked it's performance better at wide-angle. It was more difficult to get differential focus but then again, it has those small 1/4" chips.

Good shot Canon, but in reality this camera is aimed squarely at Sony's TRV950, not the VX2000.

tom.
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Old August 7th, 2003, 07:27 PM   #10
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Quote:
Good shot Canon, but in reality this camera is aimed squarely at Sony's TRV950, not the VX2000.
I agree in that Canon didnīt make the GL2 to go against the VX2000, but donīt think it was to go against the 950 either... I think it fills a gap between these two... althoug in price is more competitive with the 950 (at least where I live)... I think all itīs manual features and the Frame mode aim at a different target than that of Sonyīs 950

At least it was my case as I didnīt feel the 950 was for me.. and I didnīt feel that the VX2000 difference in price (more than 1000 EUros around here) was worth itīs difference in features...

And donīt be fooled by the small 1/4" chips... Iīll bet many can make footage with the XM2 and fool most to think It was a PD-150...(We are just matching footage from this two cameras with not more problem than correcting a bit of warm and cool in the colors)...

And about low light... well when you shoot fiction you usually have a controlled enviroment... so Itīs no problem for me...
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Old August 7th, 2003, 07:38 PM   #11
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A favorite city! You can shoot documentaries all day long there and never run out of subjects.
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Old August 7th, 2003, 07:56 PM   #12
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Mike:
If you meant Barcelona... well thanx for reminding me... when I first came here I didnīt have a Camera.. and always thought.. "I wish I had a Camera".. now I have a Camera... and havenīt thought about all the things you can just shoot around here... living here for a while makes you forget that the "Fish Building" around the corner is not just "The Weird Building around the corner"...

And if you didnīt mean Barcelona.. thanx for reminding me anyways..
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Old August 7th, 2003, 08:40 PM   #13
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I did indeed mean Barcelona, Spain. I only got to spend a long weekend there, visiting a potential software vendor, but I fully intend to return someday. What a stunningly beautiful city and surrounding country.

The market that exists in the center of the Avenue La Rambla (I think that is the name) is itself deserving of a documentary or two.

And how about the ship museum at the end of that avenue?

And the Basque population. I met a few and would have liked to meet more. The 'problems' between the Basque freedom movement and the Spanish government. Even the Basque food appears to be different in many ways from the Spanish fare.

And the number of French that live in Barcelona because it is better than living in France (for them).

The cemetery built into the hills on the way to the airport. To an American eye, very exotic!

Aren't there a lot of Brits that have holiday houses along the coast? A beautiful coast if I remember correctly.

The girls are very pretty too. Especially on the beaches.

Just a few thoughts.
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