Now in one of my last rants I talked about how difficult is to chose a camcorders nowadays. Now I would talk a bit more specifically of the camcorder models that made it into the finals. Let’s start from the Canon HV20. This camcorder is really new, it is just coming through the usual distribution channels so chances are high that you can order it via Internet but it is still not available at your local dealer. The camera is high definition with miniDV storage and color viewfinder. Canon brochure is lengthy and equally parted between video and still shot functions. Depicting it as a very hybrid device.
Reviews are very good, but I am not enough geeky to jump on the HD train. First I have not the right TV set, nor has any of my friends or relatives, then the computational cost of HD rendering far exceeds the computational resource of Pagani’s Manor, finally I have not the proper storage media for playing it back… worse it is still undecided which the storage media for high definition will be. Blue Ray? HD-DVD? I think that some 10 years are still needed for the wide spread of these technologies and it makes no sense for me to pay money for something that I could use at the end of the camcorder life cycle.
Also, if talking about quality, I have some doubts that a consumer device, even if at the top of its range, could match the quality of a professional device of the previous generation. I mean that the Canon XM2 probably will outperform the HV20 in terms of quality even if it cannot achieve the same pixel resolution.
So, since I have introduced it, let’s talk about the Canon XM2. This is a professional entry level costing around twice the other models I considered. I found a good deal on used device, provided with 1-year shop warranty, in the right price range.
The XM2 is miniDV based and has a standard definition broadcast quality whatever this means. It has plenty of features and although you can use it in fully automatic mode you can set individually shot parameters. Reading the specifications I found lot of stuff that I don’t exactly know what is, but, I suppose, is there to improve the quality in difficult situations.
I think that the most appealing feature is the optics, large fluorite lenses that promise to deal greatly with even the darkest scenes, zooms and wide-angle far superior than the consumer models and a sun shield.
Against this camera count the size (it is 30 cm long) and the look which is very professional and that could attract too much unwanted (and possibly evil-intentioned) attentions. Given the dimension I reckon it is quite uncomfortable to carry during trekking and walks.
Last I got a suggestion about the Panasonic NV-GS500. This is a standard definition, miniDV based, and consumer top-range camera. It has large lenses, 3CCDs of more 1M pixels each, that’s near the double of other standard resolution devices. Weights about half a kilo. It is for sure easier to handle than the Canon XM2 and much less expensive-looking.
I read a couple of reviews (1 and 2) of the NV-GS500. It is praised for its video and audio quality, while its weakness are: the lack of a headphone jack, and that some commands are not directly accessible via buttons, but you have to navigate the camera menu to operate them.
Since I have never used the headphone jack with my current camera in the past 8 years, I don’t think I’ll miss it too much. As for the other problem, I guess it is more a shortcoming for those used to professional or semi-professional cameras. For example I even don’t know that something called zebra-pattern was a camcorder command. (No, I don’t think it is for filming pedestrian crossings).
Well, all that said, yesterday my wife and I went to the shop where the XM2 was on sale. We wanted to have another look at the camera and more specifically to transportability. Once in the shop I asked the clerk: “we’re here to have another look at the Canon XM2”, the clerk answered: “It’s been sold”, me: “… , … ? … ! … “, he: “yes, sold”.
And that was the end of the decision process, yesterday evening I ordered the NV-GS500.