If you read my blog in the past, I have a standard def camcorder, the Samsung SC-MX20. I said I like it. Well, no more. It sux! I tried using it during an event where things can get fairly dark, and it failed big time. It just sux, no way around it. Not only that, the recorded video has incorrect aspect ratio and interlaced, adding processing time. Super annoying! Thus, my search for another camcorder, preferably an HD one.
Lurking around, I came by a Sanyo VPC-FH1A. Now, Sanyo is not the first brand I would think of for camcorders. It would be Canon, Sony, or Panasonic. However, camcorders from the later manufactures are expensive. In the meantime, the VPC-FH1A is 1080p capable with a fairly good-sized sensor (even larger than more expensive Sony/Canon models), and I found it for only $330. A lot, if not most, consumer HD camcorder only records 1080i. Yeah, interlaced video, which means your video when viewed on your computer will have lines and jaggies, and it takes a considerable amount of time to de-interlace it. And no, I found out most models, even expensive ones, can only record in 1080i. No option to do 720p. On the other hand, pocket camcorders from Flip/Kodak can record in 720p, but obviously those have small sensors and no optical zoom. The Sanyo VPC-FH1A is a rare breed. It is a standard handheld camcorder form factor, and can record in various resolutions, including 1080p and 720p. It even supports iFrame, an off-standard resolution set by Apple, 960×540 progressive. Personally, I don’t really care for 1080p, all I want is progressive recording, so the iFrame and 720p format suit me perfectly.
Now, you may say what’s the point of iFrame if you have 720p. It’s only a bit higher than standard DVD 480p resolution. Well, try editing a 720p video. I have an iMac with Core 2 Duo processor, and iMovie 09 still choked on scrubbing the 720p movies. In comparison, iFrame videos scrubs very smoothly. Another point is bitrate. The FH1A records 720p video with 9Mbps bitrate, while iFrame has a whooping 24Mbps bitrate! That means less potential of artifacts due to over compression/not enough bitrate. To me, iFrame is an advantage and a great feature.
HD camcorder aside, I also realize I have a lot of gadgets that can actually record video. From a 5G iPod nano, iPhone 3GS, various digicams, and to the Sanyo FH1A. This made me want to do a comparison of videos recorded with those devices, and I did. 🙂
The devices and the video resolutions they record in are:
-iPod nano 5G (640×480, progressive)
-iPhone 3GS (640×480, progressive)
-Panasonic DMC-TZ4 digicam (848×480, progressive)
-Casio EX-FC100 digicam (720p)
-Canon S90 digicam (640×480, progressive)
-Samsung SC-MX20 camcorder (480i)
-Sanyo VPC-FH1A camcorder (1: iFrame 960×540, 2: 720p)
*Note: to enjoy the videos fully, watch them on Youtube in 720p.
Part 1 is focusing on the details on the building during daylight.
-iPod nano 5G: It does okay for a tiny camera in an iPod nano. However, obviously it’s too tiny to capture much light. The video is pretty dark with oversaturated colors.
-iPhone 3GS: The 3GS actually did very well. It seems to adjust the contrast better on dark areas unlike the 5G nano. The resulting video is a lot brighter and captures more details. It is very nice for a phone. In fact, I like the 3GS video better than the one from the Samsung MX20.
-Panasonic TZ4: The main advantage of the TZ4 is that it records the video in widescreen resolution. This gives you the nice impression of more details. The video itself is very sharp, but actually has quite a lot of artifacts, probably due to the limited bandwidth the camera is recording. The artifacts are more pronounced during movements.
-Casio FC100: Oh, welcome to the HD world, or at least 720p. The increased resolution is prominent, allowing you to observe more fine details of the buildings. Good sharp video, but artifacts are aplenty, probably due to over compression and/or lack of bandwidth.
-Canon S90: Ouch, return to the standard def world. The S90 is a great picture taking camera, but video recording is only at VGA resolution. However, you can notice that its sensor can capture more light. The dark areas pretty much lighted up on the S90. Also notice the much wider angle lens compared to any of the other devices. You could see the top of the building with the S90!
-Samsung MX20: Now do you notice how sucky this camcorder is? Not only I have to de-interlace and correct the aspect ratio before hand, but you see that the colors are just bad and inaccurate. Video is fairly dark and doesn’t have much fine details. Oh well, it is cheap, but obviously you can get better video with a digicam.
-Sanyo FH1A iFrame: Very nice and smooth looking video, although it feels a bit soft.
-Sanyo FH1A 720p: Wow! After looking at the 720p video, I feel I cannot go back to anything lower. The details captured is just amazing. I mean I can see lines on the building’s walls that I don’t see on the previous videos. Just amazing!
Well, this is the first part. I’ll continue my commentary more later with the rest of the videos. You can watch all the videos on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/pata2009
Oh, yeah, as much as I hate Google/Youtube, it gives me the best feature for 720p video streaming.