Prosumer Digital Video Camera Review – the Canon HV-30, HG-20, HF-10
I just bought a new digital video camera, and the research was quite exhausting!
Before I get to the product review, there are a few things you should know about digital video cameras, and playing your recordings.
Sure, you can buy an expensive HDMI cable and plug it straight in your High Def TV, and you’ll be utterly amazed at the quality.
On the flip side, you can always buy a Mac and use iMovie and this entire blog post can be irrelevant. If that was the case, the title would have been called Consumer Digital Video Cameras Camcorder.
Teaching a course from How to Choose a Video camera to Producing a DVD playable on your TV or Blu-Ray player requires much more than a single Blog post.
These two topics are inter-related so I am going to attempt it, but I will follow up with future more detailed articles if the demand is there.
Choosing a Digital Movie Camera
In choosing a video camera, here are some decisions I used for my selection process. Remember, I am buying a camera to record Track and Field events:
- Optical Zoom. Get the highest OPTICAL zoom as possible preferably over 10X zoom, especially when you film a 100m or 200m start
- Media Format. Choose the media format of the camera. You can choose from DV tapes, Hard Drive, Flash disk or even memory sticks!
- Video Format. Choose the final video format of the files. File formats includes MPEG2, AVI, raw DV or AVCHD (a high def compressed file like MTS or MP4). You have to decide what you plan on doing with the video files. Are you burning DVDs for sale? Just viewing them on a computer? Or uploading to YouTube?
- Light vs. Heavy Cameras. If you DO NOT plan on using a tripod, get a “heavy” camera, as it is easier to stabilize, especially when zooming. If you want a video camera for vacation videos or for producing videos for your Blog, then you might want to consider a smaller miniature one like the Flip Video Ultra Series Camcorder, 60-Minutes (Black)
- Batteries. Get a spare battery (adds $80 -$120 to your budget), or buy from a 3rd party battery retailer. Make sure you rotate your batteries. Like the cliche, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Leaving a battery unused will kill the battery after 1 year or more and will no longer hold a charge.
- Accessories. If you already own a Canon camera, buy a Canon if the batteries or AC adapters are interchangeable
6 Things You Need to Know about making DVDs from Video Cameras
But first, here is a quick summary of terminology on making DVDs from your video recordings:
- Record. This is recording the video footage, with the best possible light and sound.
- Capture. This process is copying the media from the camera to the computer.
- Edit. You have to scan you video clips, and possibly trim them.
- Convert. The video format you record is probably different than the format required to make the DVD.
- Author. This is the process where you make menus, chapters, and add any fancy stuff like titles, credits and transitions.
- Copying. If you plan on selling your final product, then you’ll need to mass produce the DVD including the cover label.
Why I bought the Canon Vixia HG20
At the end, I bought the Canon Vixia HG20, and here are some explanations to my decisions.
NOTE: The term “HD or high def video” refers to videos with a display resolution of either 1280×720 (720p) or 1920×1080 (1080i or 1080p which is full HD). YouTube only supports 720p HD resolution with a 16:9 widescreen with an aspect ratio and 24fps frame rate. Some default settings are set to 30 fps. The old video standard was 720×480 or 640×480 (4:3 ratio).
Canon makes 3 models (DV tape, Hard Drive, Flash disk), all 3 have the list price at $899, which means about $599 USD brand new. Check out the Amazon price for the best deals:
- DV tape based (tapes are cheap) – Canon VIXIA HV30 MiniDV High Definition Camcorder with 10x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom
- Hard drive based – Canon VIXIA HG20 AVCHD 60 GB HDD Camcorder with 12x Optical Zoom
- Flash Drive (writing to disk is lightning fast) – Canon VIXIA HF10 Flash Memory High Definition Camcorder with 16 GB Internal Flash Memory and 12x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom
You can do a compare on the Canon website, or the vendor of your choice (Sony, Panasonic, JVC, etc)
Storing the video files requires disk space, but if you use DV tapes, you can store them on tapes and off-site. Much cheaper than an external HD. You do practice disaster recovery, don’t you?
Some cameras have a viewfinder and/or LCD display while recording. The LCD mode may be hard to view in bright sunlight from my experience.
DV camera records in raw DV, which can easily be transferred to your computer using Adobe Premier (AVI) or Windows Movie Maker (WMV format – Free)
My original Canon was a DV camera. The reason why I didn’t buy another DV camera was DV cameras take 1 hour minimum to copy 1 hour of “tape” to your computer with a Firewire cable connected. Basically you have to “playback” the entire video.
The Hard drive and Flash based models are at the mercy of the the USB 2.0 connection, which copies at 400Mb/sec… which is fast. Faster than 1 hour per hour of video with 1394 Firewire, so I am happy. When I record a track meet and publish it on my Blog, the faster the better.
Editing Raw Video Files
Editing a video from a DV based camera is easy with Windows Movie Maker or other commercial software.
The Hard drive and Flash based AVCHD files require the “codec” to play onto your computer. The format on the camera is a MTS proprietary format, but it comes with basic video software to view the video on your computer. Thus, you will need to have the file converted to another format such as MPEG4 or MP4 (see below)
Converting or Exporting to another File Format
The standard DVD uses the MPEG-2 format. It is compressed and not great for frame by frame analysis.
If you want to get fancy using Converting or Authoring techniques, without the headache of converting files to compatible DVD formats, you are probably better off buying a $50-100 software package like Nero 9 or Pinnacle Studio. There are literally hundreds of software packages out there.
Everyone is going towards the AVCHD video format, which is 1920×1080 (MXP, FXP, XP), but the standard setting is 1440×1080 SP mode, which still looks fantastic. The higher the resolution, the longer it will take to “convert” the file formats to a lower setting.
NOTE: Converting AVCHD files requires a “good” powerful computer, and it can take hours.
Authoring the DVD
The software that comes with the Camera is the ImageMixer SE. It allows you to simply make a DVD playable onto a regular DVD or Blu-Ray player. There are no special effects to this software other than making a simple menu for your different chapter selection. It is limited to about 40 minutes per single sided DVD-R disc.
If you are using a DV method, the simplest program is using Windows Movie Maker in Windows XP. The file format is a lower quality streaming video (not a frame by frame one) but all the older videos on this blog uses this method. It is very easy to capture, edit and trim the videos, add a Title or credits page, and add fancy transitions, like fade in/fade out between scenes. You can also dub or overlay extra audio clips.
Otherwise, consider buying a $50-100 software package like Nero 9 or Pinnacle Studio that will create a fancy DVD. Of course, there are higher end software products over $1000 that professionals use.
Burning the Final Disc and Mass Reproduction
If you have a Blu-Ray player at home, then recording the video in the highest quality and burning them in AVCHD mode using a regular DVD-R will yield fantastic results. This is the big selling point today. You can get about 40 minutes on a single 4.7Gb DVD. Otherwise, you will need an Authoring program that will downsize, compress and convert your video. If you do, I hope you have a powerful computer.
As for copying or mass producing your final DVD, try using LightScribe technology. These are essentially a 2 sided DVD. One side is for the data, and the other is for the “silkscreen” label by simply “burning” the image using a Lightscribe DVD burner. The DVD burners are as low as $28, and the discs are inexpensive.
There’s no need to mess around with sticky labels that can produce “bubbles” and look very unprofessional.
In my opinion, in about 5 years, AVCHD, Blu-Ray optical discs, Solid State & Flash Disk drives will become the norm. Until then, you can choose depending on your budget as older technologies still exist.
I hope this helps you in your decision on what camera to buy. If you have any questions, please comment below. Good Luck.
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