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Old Aug 24, 2009, 3:09 AM   #1
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Default Best small-ish 720p hybrid for 400gbp

Hi, I've asked a similar question in the P&S forum but I've just realized since my focus in on video quality, this particular hybrid subforum is probably a better place to post in.

In a nutshell I'm looking for a 400gbp ($650) device that would be the same size or smaller than a micro four third and shoot good quality 720p video.

I guess I'm looking for a camcorder replacement that also takes pictures, rather than the other way around. Quality is important - I'd rather spend 400 quids than 200 if it means better quality.
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Old Aug 26, 2009, 6:09 AM   #2
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Default Things you wanted to know, and some more ;)

Sorry for no reply, the forum has been a bit quiet, in the last year.

Generally, most of these cameras have questionable still and video quality, but not all. Unfortunately the 720p60/50 mode has suffered the most around here (the hybrid forum), even 1080p modes get more data rate per pixel per second, which really kills 720p60 (as the lower resolution requires more base data rate then the higher irresolution, as certain shape data is required what even resolution). So to get the same quality at half the resolution does not necessarily mean half the data rate. They know about the problem, but nothing has been done across all the models. I have a 720p60 mode camera, and it is an issue to me.

It is like the reverse of the standard cheap digital still, that have still performance, but questionable video quality.

Sanyo has better dual cameras with up to 24mb/s video, and the stills are probably going to look better. Samsung had the HMX20c, really a camcorder but nicer lowlight. They have many new models, so it might be worth checking out the ones with 1080p and higher mpixels. Sanyo HD2000 has all the bells and whistles, but the next version must be due to be announced.

Panasonic has a Lumix that does 720p50, don't know about the quality, but the still is bound to be better.

Kodak has the zi8 (zi6 is also good but only 720p60). RCA has a similar looking flat camera too. But reports on stills performance is not flash.

Aiptek and DXG tend to be the leading cameras around here. There has been lots of controversy with the Aipteks lately. The 600 model was not so popular, but that was replaced by the GVS stateside, and the 700 euro side. The European version might be the best, but I do not know, and I do not know if all the problems with the 600 has been sorted out with the GVS. Our moderator fishy comics, and review threads on these cameras is where to consult.

DXG has some nice cameras, so are worth looking at. The standard around here is the 596, but it is camcorder format, and GVS tends to be more popular, but have noticed lower data rate on footage, and other things. They have a new camerae coming out like the 596, but camcorder. They have others in different format, but maybe restricted to 720p30.

Generally you are luckily to see a camera over 200 pounds mentioned here.

Don't buy a HSHD, I have one, and you know what they say about you get what you pay for.

Things to watch out for:

Not all video, and not all video codecs of the same name are equal. H264 in the cameras around here tends to be better per megabit per second then other h264, though upmarket manufacturers, and Sanyo I believe, have improved leaps and bounds in recent years. So maybe this h264 is up to twice as efficient as some others out there.

Kodak's old cameras, through going to 14.5mb/s, that was a version of mpeg4, less efficient, and cameras like the 596 hit something 12.5mb/s h264 I think in hd1080p30. I think the new Kodaks that i mentioned the zi6 and the zi8, use h264, which version I am uncertain, but 9 mb/s for 720p30 I think (best to verify what each modes does up to,a nd down to, variable compression schemes) which is OK for a good h264. and some suffering lines from blooming while others with CMOS.

Sanyo does up to 24mb/s for it's 1080p60, which is nice, assuming the codec has reached the same level as the ones around here. Please note, we are talking about the models released late last year, not previouse ones.

Recommend, for 720p30 9mb/s+ h264 (double to treble for Mpeg2, double again for mpeg), for 720p60 14-18mb/s+, for 1080p30 authentic (1920 pixels across instead of the stripped 1440 pixel across) 14-18mb/s+, for 1080*1440p30 12mb/s+, for 1080p60, 24mb/s-36mb/s (Kodak top camera does more) but you are unlikely to find more than 24mb/s soon, as AVCHD (another flavour of h264, but older and some newer versions might use lower levels of h264). The lower quoted figures are a concession, the higher ones are what you should go for.

Around here 720p30 tends to be around 3.5mb/s or less, 720p60 is supposed to be 9mb/s or less but tends to be around 6 or less, with some brands being less and some around 6. I think some of the latest models have a higher data rate. 1080p (1440) starts around 9mb/s+ or less, with some cameras reaching around 12.5mb/s.

Why is data-rate important, because we often are seeing less quality but don't realise it. How compression usually works is that it muddles the image to make pixel to pixel transitions more even, this lowers the contrast of pixels in the image, blurs details and edges, this makes it much more compressible. The image will be less striking and more murky, the picture generally should become less desirable and emotive. People tend to look to see if it has macro-blocks, artifacts, or pixelisation, and think it must be good if they don't notice any of them, but even then they miss them, and tend to ignore the fuzzy blobs used to hide macro blocks in H264. Around here the quality of video is bad, movement and complexities can introduce these artifacts and noise does (the highest data rate 1080p30 cameras probably avoid this) though they are more prevalent in some resolution modes than others, and some TV's and graphic cards, computer video players, have special routines to hide these artifacts. What people don't realise is that HD is heading to 200 inch screens (and ultra-HD), and once you get to 60-80 inches (depending on how close you are) these compression problems tend to stick out more. Good consumer should contain none of these artifacts. The next level is where you get bland surfaces with details left out, good consumer video should contain very little of this and only to save the image from more noticeable compression artifacts. Then we get to the level where the transitions between pixels are smoothed out, and good consumer video should fall into this range with as close to visually lossless as possible. At this level you should not see a pixel out of place, but they might have different values. The data-rates I recommended are for a descent image decently in this zone, we watch something not just for reference, but for the joy of watching it. For descent professional quality, double all data-rates.

With poor low light performance, you will needs lots more data rate to cope with the noise, this does not describe the general camera around here.

For a flash camera, and I don't know about video, try Casio high speed models (didn't appreciate the video form the first model years ago). I think the original Casio, maybe the Samsung hmx20c though I don't remember, Sanyo HD1000, and Sony Sr12 camcorder, used similar sensor by Sony. Sony and Canon are leaders in consumer camcorder, so maybe their still is worth checking out.

Tricks,

Interpolated images lower effective resolution and make it more compressible (because less real resolution). So when you see a 10 or 12mpixel camera with 5 mpixel resolution, warning bells should go off. At 5mpixel usually the 720p resolution can be pixel binned (combining multiple pixels together to make one on screen pixel, increases pixel performance, but not usually as good as a bigger pixel to start with) but for 1080p it means they have to skip pixels (fly screening) interpolate skipped pixels with surrounding pixels (lower effective resolution, or use one on one window of pixels instead of the whole width of the sensor, severely limiting angle of view, and as the sensors around here naturally tend to have less than 100% fill factor, some fly-screening that requires a little interpolation to reduce (though not as much as skipping pixels). A compromise is to skip pixels and use the in between pixel to apply just enough interpolation to hide the fly screening, but they probably haven't thought of that (and likely to reduce compression efficiency a little, though fly screening should reduce the efficiency more.

Cmos/CCD
cmos, tended to have great problems when it was younger technology, has been resolved now. CMos tends to do better in a number of ways then cheap[ CCD, unless the cheap CCD has the technology to compensate, and not as good in other ways. Sensor artifacts caused by bright lights in the picture tend not to be a problem with cmos, but tend to be a problem with cheap CCD, unless the CCD has technology to compensate, like anti-blooming circuits. Cheap cmos can be higher noise, less latitude, lower low light performance then CCD, but latest technology can help. Cheap cmos/cmos tends to have rolling shutter, where moving images slant, and may flicker when moving up and down, but CCD may also have the same thing. This is caused by the sensor continuously gathering light from the image while being read out, so as each image line is read a moving image will move a bit per line across the screen, resulting in the awful slant (as 30fps, like around here horrible, but at 60fps not so noticeable, at 100fps+, probably not such a problem) and if the image is move vertically some pieces of the image will disappear/reappear (flash) and the appear to be getting shorter or stretch. line is read while the sensor is still gathering image, so moving objects will slant depending on the time taken to read. Cmos will tend to have have less fill factor, this is the amount of the sensor imaging surface that collects light, through the senor pads. but these pads have electronics and gaps between them, to collect the light from the pads, which miss parts of the image (fly screening). CCD's can have very high fill factors, but the more technologies you have to deal with bright light etc etc etc, the more they can take up. There are a few strategies around this. CMOS/CCD back-lit/illuminated pixels, with this all the electronics can go around the back of the pad. I think there has been some attempt to put circuits over the front of the pad, but back-lit has been adopted. Traditionally (and still often do, like around here most likely) CMOS and CCD manufactures have used micro-lenses, that focuses the light away from the circuits to the pads, but still not delivering 100% fill factor (in cmos at least) and reducing the maximum effective aperture to something like 1.6+ for 3chip (I think due to the 3chip prism instead) and 1.3 for single chip, as light from wider aperture would lead to chroma aberrations in the image. Another scheme was made by a company called fill factory, that took a reading of the light falling outside the pad, on the circuits, as a sort of pseudo pixel to interpolate with the pad data. Another, was a scheme by Nikon, I believe, that I thought up years ago, but they beat me to patent, where all the relevant light is collected, pipelined filtered and reflected down, color range by color range, into the three desired color pads, they probably use that on their most advanced still cameras now (so bucklies getting it on one around here). Pity.

Noise, ideally you want less noise then your lowest pixel value. Luckily it is easy to calculate. Most poor quality cameras use 256 pixel values or less, which is 8 bit/s, 6db of noise is roughly equivalent to 1 bit (roughly a stop), so 8*6=48. So the maximum noise you want from a camera for this format is 48db+SNR for a relatively smooth image. The more the merrier though, as Signal to noise ratios are averages, so the lowest bit's will still contain some noise, and when you get into dark places the camera will likely add gain which increases noise. 48db is better than most of the cameras around here unfortunately, and 96db SNR is better than most on the market, but I imagine good cameras have at least 60, maybe even 70db these days. If you just walk into a dim room in the day time, many cameras will likely be turning the gain up. A lit room at night can be many times worse, external lighting worse again. A good test, is it as good as my color vision a night (5 lux smooth lit image), look for tests with 15-60watt incandescent globes (1/5th for fluorescent). Video cameras have been getting better under the 15lux test, but not so much around here. I have a camera that under 36 watts, even 2*36 watt florescent (=360watt incandescent, they say, but I doubt) has shocking noise, even in the day time next to an open door there is clear noise. Most camera manufactures seem to leave these sorts of meaningful hard fugues off product information though.

With all these cameras, look for 3D or other noise super reduction. Noise breaks these low data-rate compression codecs, as it is hard to compress, and sucks away quality from the compression of the actual image. Whatever noise reduction scheme sensor noise combination, it must also not get carried away and with itself, otherwise it will also reduce video quality under normal shooting, leading to crawling bland surfaces with less detail.

Latitude, you should know this one from stills. A stop rough equals 6db of real latitude. Like noise, ideally we want it to match the performance of the human eye under color vision (rather then the lower nighttime monochrome vision) for consumer. Here we have technologies that can help better than common technology used for noise (though Samsung has access to some nice 120db SNR technology, that may not have hit the consumer camera market yet). 8 stops is not enough, you are likely going get very contrasty images, burnouts and black shadows, 11-stops is considered good. But multi-slope (and known by other names) technology is used in some of the sensors from the manufacturer that makes many of the sensors used in cameras here. With this 16 stops + is possible, but at a price. Color balance does not remain constant, leading to strange colors, and you can note washout. If implemented wrongly it is garish. There is a German company manufacturing low noise sensors, that can record 27 stops latitude with color constancy. This is for car cameras. The previously mentioned technology Samsung has access to probably also does wonders. There was also an autobrite technology (auto gain per pixel i think) from a still/car/security camera sensor company bought by Cyprus semiconductor, who also bought fill factory mentioned earlier, who undoubtedly have cameras, at least in the still market. As it is, multi-slope, in this price range your options to look out for, are good sensors, or sensors with multi-slope.

Any sensor below 1/2.5 inch in size is usually not worth considering in HD around here. The performance of the sensor technology is usually not that crash hot around here. The performance of a pixel is often based on it's since on the sensor. Bigger sensors with the same amount of pixels usually have better performance per pixel. Sensors of the same size, but with less pixels usually have better performance per pixel. Except, if the technology one sensor uses is better, it can even more than compensate other a low pixeled rival. How do we know, we usually don't, until somebody tells us or we test the pants off of it. If you were looking at straight 1080p or 720p resolution, then yes there should be some descent 1/3rd or 1/4th inch sensors out there, but because you are considering still performance there would not be too many that have descent Megapixel resolutions (which reduce the size of the pixels). (pixel binning mentioned before helps but usually is not as good as a bigger pixel, but maybe in back illuminated?). So, Canon and Sony sensor might be an option below 1/2.5 (look at back-lit sensors), but look at them closely in low,light and the mid day glare. I think the industry needs to look at going at least 1/2, even 2/3rd an inch in the future, particularly for fixed focus. 2/3rd an inch is 4 times smaller than four thirds, so image how small a mega-pixel 1/5inch is, and you can image the problems.

The lens can be terrible around here. Lack of zoom, narrow apertures and Fixed focus are problems. For low light, wider/faster apertures help (or better technology).

Microphone input. Look out for poor quality sound through the on board mike or the external. We have had a problem with some cameras, like mine, that crackup in distortion at moderate noise levels, low latitude of volume before distortion. Signal to noise ratio might be bad, and ideal should be 96db+ for consumer (I would probably expect little over 70dd). And watch out for those companies that record sound at like 12khz, 12 bits, and the like. Use the CD reference for a minimum standard, 16bit, 44khz, which means 96db+ SNR is desirable (HD audio and Bluray go higher again) to judge just how much you are getting.

The software that comes with the camera may or may not be great (as in does a lot) and is worth checking out. H264 software is likely to require a good computer, or may have GPU acceleration. Mpeg2 usually not as good a computer, mpeg1 probably less again. I don't know what others are using, but it is either a case of buy a full version or something like vegas (or open source editor) but you will have to check if they support the footage from your camera (this is not just around here, but probably any digital still with new HD video).

If you don't want just a nobrainer camera, than settable manual controls. Most cameras around here are simplistic, the best are probably the DXG 596+replacement, Aiptek GVS/700. With Sanyo HD2000 you have a wealth of controls. Sanyo is probably the true hybrid company in the industry, because you can get descent still and motion features.


A number of people in shops that sell video cameras probably won't know about half this stuff, and be pretty ill-informed on a some of the other. Most people in most of the shops that sell the cameras around here, probably won't know hardly any of it.


I guess this is enough to make many people here want to suck on their hybrid cameras all night, but hey, their still great value for $100-$200.
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Old Aug 26, 2009, 7:27 AM   #3
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The current raves around here:

http://forums.steves-digicams.com/hy...mic-input.html

A review on the Kodak does not rate the stills too highly.

http://sanyo.com/xacti/english/produ...fh1/index.html
http://sanyo.com/xacti/english/produ...000/index.html

They also have 720p versions through the links.
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Old Aug 26, 2009, 8:00 AM   #4
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WOW what an incredibly detailled, wonderfully put reply. I'm floored Wayne, just floored! Thank you ever so much.

I gather from the references you make to 'around here' you suggest that hybrid cameras in general tend to be cheaper (ie, $200) and maybe not so-fantastic in terms of quality. Fair enough - but does that also imply that if one wants quality, I should consider buying a camcorder for the video and a camera separately?

Seems a shame no company has released an hybrid which would be pricy (say $600) but also of good quality.
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Old Aug 26, 2009, 9:04 AM   #5
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I have used Kodak v1073 (really good in low light), Kodak z1012, Kodak v1253, Sanyo HD700, Sanyo HD1000 and nothing comes close to my (faithful) old Canon HF100.

I have ordered the new Panasonic ZS3, which has AVCHD video, and manual selection of white balance, EV, as well as some preset scene selections, while shooting video. I will let you know my impressions later tonight or tomorrow
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Old Aug 26, 2009, 9:25 AM   #6
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You can get the sony tg3 in pcworld for 329.
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Old Aug 26, 2009, 10:16 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Trevmar View Post
I have used Kodak v1073 (really good in low light), Kodak z1012, Kodak v1253, Sanyo HD700, Sanyo HD1000 and nothing comes close to my (faithful) old Canon HF100.

I have ordered the new Panasonic ZS3, which has AVCHD video, and manual selection of white balance, EV, as well as some preset scene selections, while shooting video. I will let you know my impressions later tonight or tomorrow
The only problem I had with the HF100 is the rendering of reds which were almost pink at times and seeing some other videos since I tried one out, I am not so sure mine was faulty after all. The Sanyo to my eye has better more realistic colors. The reds certainly are a lot better than the Canon was.

I was also surprised though at the OIS in the Canon. It is definitely the poorest of the OIS camcorders. I remember using it on zoom and it didn't reduce shake as much as I thought it should. I thought I was expecting too much, but I have used a Panasonic and I was amazed at how well it worked. Panasonic are definitely king in OIS and it seems camcorder info.com tests on the HFS 100 confirmed my suspicions as even they said how poor it was and that's a $1000 camcorder! Canon really do need to improve their OIS.

Supposedly Canon invented OIS, so it makes me wonder why they have the poorest implementation!
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Old Aug 26, 2009, 2:17 PM   #8
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I use my HF100s (I have 4 of them now) with three Custom Effects tweaks in place: Brightness fully down, Contrast fully down, and Color fully down. This takes their output to almost the same lineraity as a Pro camcorder (no in-camera tweaking of colors or contrast to make it look good). I can apply effects (saturation, etc) in post-prod.

I spend a lot of time in post-prod
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Old Aug 26, 2009, 11:08 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cigaro78 View Post
WOW what an incredibly detailled, wonderfully put reply. I'm floored Wayne, just floored! Thank you ever so much.

I gather from the references you make to 'around here' you suggest that hybrid cameras in general tend to be cheaper (ie, $200) and maybe not so-fantastic in terms of quality. Fair enough - but does that also imply that if one wants quality, I should consider buying a camcorder for the video and a camera separately?

Seems a shame no company has released an hybrid which would be pricy (say $600) but also of good quality.
I used to be involved with research for DIY Digital Cinema camera projects, so have a rudimentary knowledge of the technicals. The chips used in many of these cameras are actually some of the low quality chips they were exploring in those days (and some still do). In those days, they were rudimentary for professional video, these says they are cheap consumer. You might have heard of cameras like the Red/Scarlet or Silicon Imaging, these were commercial products that looked at what we were doing and decided to do their own (one was directly involved with us).

The Canon camcorders, like the HF100, are certainly nice items. Another that might be worth checking out is the Sony Webbie (is that the correct name) if it is not built like around here and uses a superior sensor, then maybe that would be something (But the Kodak/RCA flips like might blitz it in everything but stills). May oft he cheap name brand cameras that are like ours, are actually based on the same platforms.

1080p full HD is now the way to go. Is there any particular reason for 720p (that Lumix will do 50 frames a second that is quiet good).

You don't need to buy two cameras, just realise that there usually is a compromise on one side or the other. Even the top end Canon DLR is a compromise in HD video (low frame rate) though generally good, and the camera I am looking at buying is excellent on filming but only 6 megapixels and 2/3rd inch sensor (the cheapest version) though you can get medium format with around 28 thousand pixels across at a price (the Epic range), and 3D versions. The cheapest camera will still work out to around $4K for a system., however, this is what you pay for to get a true hybrid system (except maybe the other cheaper Sanyo, and maybe the Lumix, but I don't know, as far as I know). Here it is (don't worry about most of the pictures, they are mostly tricked out cinema rigs, rather than the slr body):

http://www.red.com/epic_scarlet/

I forgot, that older Samsung (around 6 mpixel) is 17mb/s. If you have 1080 interlaced, then add 50-100% to the 1080p figures (interlace is hard to encode, and less desirable to work with then progressive at 60/50p, especially under 4:2:0 video encoding). Poorer encoders are the 100% mark, but I think ambarella (who makes the chips for our cameras) have claimed to refined it to 50%.

Have fun.

Last edited by Wayne12; Aug 26, 2009 at 11:17 PM.
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Old Aug 28, 2009, 2:27 PM   #10
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Another that might be worth checking out is the Sony Webbie
I bought a webbie from Sony Style, then returned it. Low light performance is abysmal.

I just bought a Panasonic ZS3, with x12 zoom, and 60fps 720p video (please don't flame me on this - it is 60p, I have analyzed each farme with AVIsynth and Virtualdub). It is nice. Adequate low-light performance (video up to ASA 6400) and an amazing, absolutely amazing, Leica lens. Of course, it cost me $339 from Amazon, so it isn't cheap. But it is small, weighs 8ozs, and will nicely replace my v1073, which just bit the dust...

Interestingly, the ZS3 allows manual white-balance and manual EV settings on video. The rest is automatic, but the EV especially makes quite a difference. If you leave it in full-auto, the algorithms used give a nice, professional control over video. Not as good as the 24fps movie mode 1080p out my HF100, but a pretty equivalent functionality for such a tiny camera.

http://www.steves-digicams.com/camer...s3-review.html
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