Hello Internets! I’ve returned from gallivanting around the country and have a couple of weeks while we refuel and plan the next leg of the tour. One of the first tasks I’ve set myself is to get a better video camera, and was all set to pick up a Canon XH-A1 when I found out that it doesn’t have S-Video in or out. That cuts down my options a little for live visuals, as I wouldn’t be able to mix in this camera’s output without an expensive scan converter or going via Firewire, which introduces latency and creates cabling issues.

So now I’m in a quandry, and with that seed of doubt sewn, I’ve opened up to many possibilities: Sony’s HDR-FX1, Panasonic’s HVX series, or perhaps something compact and tapeless, like JVC’s Everio series.

I had a chat to Peter, who suggested that I ask you, dear reader. What are you using for your video capturing needs? Have you gone HD? Compact? Cheap? Expensive? Tapeless? What are you liking and disliking in today’s video cameras?

  • I personally love my Panny HVX200.
    Being able to shoot highspeed progressive 60fps in HD, along with a slew of other features (P2,DVCPROHD, 1080p, direct to disk recording, etc.) makes this camera blow all the others away.

  • Ive been seriously looking at the Canon Powershot TX1. Ive got a Canon HV10, which has some serious low light noise issues, the HV20 supposedly fixes that, but has a rolling shutter problem, which some say is a huge issues, and others say is barely noticeable. the HV20 is nice though, component out, hdmi out, full raster 1920×1080 sensor, 24p fps mode and lots of options for a consumer cam.

    However, the Canon Powershot TX1 is looking MIGHTY interesting. $500 for 7.1Mpixel sensor, and it records 720p video. To motion jpeg. With 44.1Khz audio. I went to B&H the other day to look at one, and was really impressed with the size, however I could not record any video to test. It records to AVI, but is QT compatible due to mjpeg codec and should be able to losslessly change the container format.

    I like the HV10, and am pissed the HV20 fixes its issues (i really dont like the HV20s form-factor however), but the HDMI out is fucking killer), however, the size and price of the TX1, the fact that it shoots progressive, and well, fits in my back pocket make me *really* consider going tapeless and small, and forgoing any niceties other larger ore professional cameras have.

    Man its complicated 🙂 Im not a big camera person either, so id love to know more about these options, as i fucking hate interlacing (HELLO 1920!). What a joke.

  • gautjac

    just a note that the XHA1 has a bnc out that can easily be converted into an rca composite for mixing purposes

    it is a smoling cam with great picture results


  • Vade: Now that is an interesting camera! Another part of my quandry has been that I'm not sure if I should be lugging around another heavy camera, my backpack already contains a laptop, digital SLR with lenses and the relatively compact Sony HC32. Something like the TX1 would be fantastic, if the quality is reasonable.

    gautjac: Thanks for that info. I guess I really should be looking at these things in person rather than just doing web research. Talking to others is extremely useful though, so I hope some more people chime in.

  • jane s.

    I have a sony hvr-Z1 which is a fantastic camera. I have no problems with 1080i . especially with fast cam movements it looks better than 720 p. I mainly use it for shooting corporates and commercials.
    But indeed it is too big to carry around all the time in your pocket. to be able to shoot vj footage any time. I also like the size of the tx 1 but haven t been able to check one here in europe.
    i am awaiting the sony avc-hd cameras …especially the cx 6 which records onto memory stick. also supersmall, 5.1 surround !! and nightshot!!
    But first i want to be able to convert avc hd to dv pal or hdv. I hope final cut studio will get this codec soon. Then i can convert avc hd to anything to make avchd footage available for vj apps….

  • Yeah, the HVX200 is one hell of a camera, but frankly Its hard to justify that much money on a camera when you can basically get 2 new Macbook Pros for the same price. Id go with the HXV over the FX1 or the ZR1U as DVCProHD smacks the shit out of HDV, but those P2 cards are expensive and a pain when trying to be somewhat agile, dont hold a lot of storage and the newer Intel Macs Expresscard 3/4 requires and adaptor to read them, or you have to digitize…

    *sigh*. Fucking pain in the ass this shit.

  • jane s

    sony is about to release a budget xdcam model. Same size as z1 and on standard memory cards. less expensive than p2. And lots of new additions and improvements. This will definately be my replacement of the z1.

  • input input input! I want an HD camera that can record from S-video or (if I could dare to wish) HDMI. These little consumer harddrive based cams are great but NONE of them have good inputs- I want to be able to record my gigs! I currently have a little Sony DCR-PC9 (its a dinosaur- but one of the first tiny small form factor DV cams). I love it- it's great, but I really really want HD! INPUT!!!!!

  • So I went into a physical photography shop today to actually get my hands on these cameras and get a feel for their weight and balance. Yes, I know that spending 3 days researching online before actually having a look at the physical product makes me a massive geek. Sue me.

    Turns out that the XH-A1 is a MASSIVE camera! I don't think the pictures online do the thing justice. The lens especially is huge. I was envisioning toting it around for the tour in my Crumpler backpack, along with a Macbook and Pentax DSLR.

    This is absolutely not an option now that I've actually held the camera in the flesh.

    Something that did interest me though was the Sony HDR-SR1. This camera is also around 1/3 the price of the XH-A1, and much more compact. It's a 30GB Hard Drive AVCHD cam. I need to do some research on possible workflow issues, but the idea of a tapeless workflow is really attractive to me, especially for visuals.

    For this reason I'm definitely going to check out the Canon Powershot TX1 as well. It seems to be very reasonably priced in Aus. I can get it from ebay for around AU$400

    Anomolee: I think an HVX200 would be my favourite choice if budget wasn't a consideration, the multiple framerates, progressive mode and tape or tapeless workflow turns me on rather a lot. Unfortunately for touring I think it's out of budget (and probably too big for my backpack as well).

    When this tour is over there will be a round of music video production though, and I think for that the HVX200 will be right on top of my list.

    Superdraw: You make an excellent point, I wonder if the HDMI interface on the Sony HDR-SR1 is an input as well…

  • Update: I think the HDR-SR1 (which I forgot I'd posted about) is definitely ruled out. Looks like AVCHD is a shocker of a format to work with. Vegas supports it, but my laptop is a Mac, and I'm not going to install bootcamp + XP just to run Vegas 🙂

    Pity, the smooth slow motion function of that camera would be fantastic.

  • Liquidmetro

    I would love to find a new camera with an S-Video input for the main function of recording sets. I realise that limits me to a 60min MiniDV tape, but I can't afford a DVCam deck or a kickass high end Canon just yet. All the new cameras I'm seeing that have either hard drive, MiniDV or even DVD recording formats, don't have an S-Video input. Anyone reccommend one? Thankyou in advance for any help!

  • My only issue with the HVX200 is that a) P2 cards arent cheap, and, b) afiak, you cant record HD formats to tape, only SD.

    AVCHD is a pretty highly compressed format and yes Jaymis, as you found, a pain in the ass. More than likely you wont see a QT codec for it, similar to how Apple supports HDV – only certain apps will have the Codec 'Built in'. No capture components for HDV exist, although there are decoding codecs for HDV for QT apps, not quite 100% supported, which sucks. (Although, I guess now that im speaking it out loud you *dont need* a capture codec for AVCHD since its by def. tapeless).

    Still, I suspect it will be a while, and have lots off issues since its highly compressed, and is on the order of HDV in bitrate, which erm, is not all that great. Heres some info on AVCHD i found:
    http://www.avchd-info.org/press/20060713.html (has a nice table of info).

    2 of my coworkers picked up the TX-1's, so you might see a review soon 😉 ( And I might end up getting one myself ).

    For SVideo input, almost any consumer DV cam has A/V passthrough. My Elura 50 (old school canon 1Chip CCD DV camera) has S-Video in 🙂

  • Hey,
    my idea is, if you need a camera to film, and a camera to record gigs, you should have two devices…

    the FX1/Z1 is the sturdiest on that budget line. P2 sucks if you're not having a production line behind and ahead of you.
    Canon does great stuff, but like the XL1s, you don't quite get around as easily as with sonys.
    -> FX1 for filming. 3200 euros.

    If you need someting to record gigs, go for a recorder. Not some random camera.
    Get an archos, records divx 3000 kbps 640/480, 4:3 or 16:9, weighs a few hundred grams, and has s-video I/O with loop-through (with optional AV dock). http://www.archos.com check out the AV404 (mine) has a camcorder option. (crappy). good for recording bulletcam sports/hiddencam stuff.
    You've also got the new sony standalone DVD recorders, which look like a bulkier discman. s-video I/O…

    budget: 350 euros

    If you need DV quality, go for a datavideo AD converter and a used 12"powerbook with a 2.5" external HD. 900uros.

    Either way, you still have video feedback.

    I use both an archos and the laptop to record. (safety first), and am not constrained as i used to be when using a DV caera to get my gigs home.

    Finally, if you need HDMI in… you don't. Or you need a macpro. :p
    unless you know of some solution ?

  • Great comment Francois13e! What you say makes perfect sense. I think the issue many visualists may have is that this isn't their full time job, and they don't have the budget for multiple specialised cameras, so a single all-rounder is the goal.

    Peter and I both talked about picking up an Archos recorder a while back, never happened though.


  • Liquidmetro

    Thanks Francois13e, Jaymis is spot on.

    I am an AV Tech by day and although I get to play with nice toys at work, I can't afford them!! An all rounder is what I am after to save budget and space. As I make all my content as PJPEG Movs and use Modul8, I avoided the Archos as it natively records AVI's and for a bit more money I can get a camcorder. Also space is an issue and I would be getting 2 devices in one.

    On new camera's the specs seem so vague with regard to S-vid input e.g.

    S-Video Input/Output = OUT

    The one above is from a consumer sight and the one below from the manufacturer. I'm still on SD DV, can't afford the leap to HD just yet.

    Thanks for your help.

  • I have a little Sanyo XACTI HD1A which works well for me… It's tiny, tapeless, and iPhoto will automatically import the MP4 movies when I stick it in its handy dock. It has options to shoot 60fps and in 'HD' 720p which looks pretty clean except in low-light.

    The portability and tapeless makes it totally worth the $500… I am more likely to shoot in any given situation and I can take quite a bit of footage on my 2GB SD card.

    I have to use ffmpegX to convert the MP4s to .DV files in order to edit in FCP, but I can set up a batch and walk away faster than I can plug in and set ins and outs my Sony miniDV camera.

    There is a newer one called, but this will get you in the ballpark:

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