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Old August 29th, 2009, 08:44 AM   #1
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pocket cam for a pro

Just looking for some replies from experienced owners - I am industrial video pro and do most of my work with nice lower end professional cameras like HVX/HPX and EX series cameras. I have always used these types of cameras at home as well when I want to play around. However, I am getting tired of lugging around the big bag, huge batteries, etc.

Sadly, while keeping informed about larger cameras technology I have read little or nothing about small consumer end cameras, and do not know any owners.

I want a small pocket cam that can capture HD to cards or drive, has image quality that will make someone like me happy, and has a small form factor that would easily fit in my bag or wifey's purse. I want something that can capture my kid crawling around or be a c-camera or nook-cam or stunt cam for professional shots. Also, I'd love audio input and as much manual control as possible - but I know I can't have everything.

Any recommendations from owners? No, I am not interested in HDV. The Panasonic HDC series seems attractive, but I really do not know any owns to ask. I have never been a huge Sony fan for a lot of reasons, but their HDR series seems okay. The Canon Vixia models seem nice too, but again I really do not know any owners.

SO, does anyone have any recommendations? I would love to hear some feedback from people who own the cameras that they are rec'ing.

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Old August 29th, 2009, 11:50 AM   #2
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What about the JVC HM-100? Pro Grade pictures and if you take off the mic adapter and handle it is a small and compact camcorder. Bit pricey though.
Alister Chapman, Film-Maker/Stormchaser http://www.xdcam-user.com/alisters-blog/ My XDCAM site and blog. http://www.hurricane-rig.com
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Old August 29th, 2009, 12:29 PM   #3
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I have a pair of Canon HF100's, quite small but I wouldn't call them "pocket size". HF200 is current model. AVCHD format recording on SDHC Class (4) or faster cards, mic input for better audio than onboard mics, headphone jack for monitoring audio.

I'm happy with mine.

One more possible option would be one of the emerging DSLRs that do HD video or one of the compact point 'n shoot digital cameras that also are coming out with HD video. I have one of the former, a Canon T1i (Digital Rebel 500D) that does HD video, I "upgraded" from a previous model and can use the same lenses. There are limitations like poor audio options but when I need serious audio I carry one of those ZoomH2 audio recorders and synch in the editor.

It almost sounds like your needs might be met with one of the new compact digital cams that also do HD video. More pocket size and purse size, a separate small audio recorder like the Zoom series would help with good audio. I'm happy with mine, it needs a Windcutter (Zoom H2 StormChaser White WindCutter [WC03-ZOOMH2-STORMWHITE] - $34.95 : TheWindCutter.com, Professional Microphone Windscreens) muff over the foam when used outdoors, as does just about any mic.

Hope there's some useful info for you here.
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Old August 29th, 2009, 01:04 PM   #4
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A lot depends on what you're after, but there are a TON of good choices - IMO it's hard to beat the new Sony XR500V and XR520V (two different HDD sizes), and they just announced the "CX" versions (no VF, SS internal memory instead of HDD, and a bit smaller). You give up discreet manual control (though there are workarounds), BUT it has pretty good "intelligent auto" features for when someone else is running it (wife or kids), good OIS, excellent low light (some say it suffers a bit against comparable Canon HF-S in good light), and I like having a VF and larger LCD (3.2 vs. 2.7 of most compact cameras). Can't go too far wrong with the XR... but the Canon HF and HF-S are hard to argue with too, so it may be a tough choice. I've always liked Panasonic ergonomically and feature wise, but I don't feel they've managed to keep up with Sony and Canon from what I've seen, and frankly it seems like their top of the line offerings go off the market almost before they hit the shelves...

You'll be impressed and surprised by what the small cams can do, the main "weaknesses" are it's tough to hold a small cam steady (there are tricks, but the XR500 OIS does amazingly well to reduce shakiness), and poor low light performance (again the XR500V is cleaner and less noisy under these conditions), along with limited, tiny, or nonexistent manual controls.
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Old August 30th, 2009, 07:21 PM   #5
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Give a look at the Sanyo Xacti HD1010. I just bought one, a few weeks ago, and I'm blown away! ... You mentioned a "pocket cam"... well this is certainly a pocket cam! Just went to concert, Friday, and It fit comfortably in the front pocket of my jeans.

As for professional shooting... I took it to the last wedding we shot, last Saturday. My colleague is very impressed with the clarity of the footage. I used it as a sort of "satellite" camera, simply to catch alternate angles and timelapses. With a 32 gb card, and an mp4 format, it shoots and holds a great deal of HD footage.

The camera is very shaky, so it must be mounted or at least held with "extreme care." That is just about the only downside I'm concerned with.

It also has a slow motion setting (300 fps), but the resolution on this is quite low, and only shoots for 10 seconds at a time.
YouTube - Sanyo Xacti HD1010 - slow motion

Here is a timelapse that I took in my back yard..
YouTube - Sanyo Xacti HD1010 Timelapse
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Old August 30th, 2009, 08:17 PM   #6
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Look at the Panasonic LX3, mine is always in my man bag. I have taken advantage of its 24mn leica summicron lens in many low light situation for insert. It is also great for photography (don't judge the por quality of the photos in the following exemple, it was my mistakes not the cam).
Here is an exemple of a short video I did with it.
Happy Birthday Jen on Vimeo
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Old August 30th, 2009, 11:26 PM   #7
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I used the Panasonic HDC-HS300 for a wedding shoot last weekend. Loved it. Takes great video. A nice second camera, which I used fixed on a tripod for the ceremony. Also put a Rode NTG-2 in a shock mount on top for some quick interview footage. Lots of manual control, auto control very good too, good optical image stabilization. If I buy one myself, though, I'd probably go for the HDC-TM300, flash only. The less things to break the better.
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Old August 31st, 2009, 08:30 AM   #8
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Thanks for the reports all... I guess I should have mentioned I want to stay in the $500 - $700 range - as this thing will probably live in wifeys purse, and I will not get to play with it too much.

I do like the JVC, but it is a little more than I want to spend.

DSLRs are making amazing video these days, but the lack of good audio options a and second recording device like a Zoom would be problematic for wifey.

The Canons are very attractive and are definitely in consideration - I really like what I have read in reviews and seen on Vimeo from these cameras.

The Pure Digital, Sony webbies, Kodaks etc are cute and do their thing well, but I want something that I can grab the occasional pro quality shot - I know it isn't "pro" if any of these cameras shot it, but we will not tell the producers will we ;) and I would love to get audio in, because my kid is six months old and is going to miss some of the better members of my family if I do not record them.

The Xacti is really attractive. I love it's compact form etc. It is in the running for sure. I just keep thinking "Really? All this from this tiny Sanyo camera? What's the catch? Will it last a few years?" I really want to play with one before buying - wish I lived in NYC.

The Sonys are nice - but a bit pricey for what you get. Also, the low-light pref appears to be pretty bad across the line, which is a deal breaker for me. Plus, their lack of inputs etc is annoying.

Finally the Panasonics. These seem to be where I am headed. They seem to have a pretty strong degree of manual control but can be fully auto. Good/great (sadly not best in class) video. Lots of inputs etc. and a strong price point. I think it is currently between these guys a the Canons.

I will get back with decisions and results.
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Old August 31st, 2009, 08:37 AM   #9
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I should add I bought the Sanyo for $350 on Amazon. An incredible price, in my opinion.
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Old August 31st, 2009, 10:23 AM   #10
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Okay, decision made... Panasonic HDC-FS100K for $375 "open box" buy. I didn't want to lay out $600 or $700 for one, but $375 seems to be an unbeatable deal. Thanks for the help with the decision, to all the kind folks who responded. I will be back in a few days after I have tested the camera to let you know about results - and if this camera will stand up to my demands.
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Old September 4th, 2009, 06:39 AM   #11
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Update - camera tested

The HDC-SD100 has arrived, and I have played with it a bit. Here's my two cents...

The video is pleasing, but not as good as what I have seen from Canon or Sony in this class of camera. The 17Mbps signal looks nice on my 40inch LCD, but it feels visibly softer/more artifacts than other cameras I looked at. Mind you, I didn't get to hook any of these cameras to my TV, but I did connect some to HDTV in the store when I was looking. I feel the Canons I looked at has a much much sharper image and the color was a little more true. Still, for the price, it looks quite good. Better than any of the "Webbie" or Pure Digital stuff I saw. Wish I had tested a Sanyo - but I feel good about The Panasonic for the price of $375.

Skin tones are rendered well, and while there is a bit of visual artifacting, it is an amount I can live with. The color is nice, if a bit too saturated - like they really want to consumer to say "Wow, look at the color!" Again this doesn't really bug me, but I do not think I will be using this guy to sneak a crash cam or nook cam shot for anything professional with it. The auto-focus is outstanding. The menus etc. are well thought out and organized. I think the basic operation is logical and the buttons are well placed. The camera is TINY though - like the size of a Twinkie. My hands are a little too big for it, ad I could drink too much and mistake it for a snack-cake.

I think it will make slick baby videos, nice travel material, or a decent student film... I would not be acceptable for anything other than a really brief shot in a pro format project. The low light is pretty ugly - but I didn't expect much from any camera in this class.

I am excited about some of the professional options on the camera though - there are audio levels, a multifunction/focus ring (that actually has decent feel to it), skin smoothing, iris adjustment, and some other settings that can be tweaked manually, so I am looking forward to playing with those. The compression seems quite good. I did have a bit of break-up when I was swinging it around the room, but for anything where I was actually "trying" to shoot it was fine and had no trouble.

All in all, I think this will be a good packet cam for someone who know what they are doing with a video camera. The quality of the video seems to be good enough (though not the best I saw), there are enough "professional" functions to let you have a little control (though honestly, I do not know how well they work yet), and operation seems straight forward and logical. However, if you really want to get a camera to use as a C-Cam or crash camera or something that you might use to get a shot for a professional gig, I would definitely look at the Canons or possibly the Sony - you will pay a good bit more that I did, but you will get a camera that is more up to the task.
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