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Old Jan 4, 2006, 9:14 AM   #1
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Which camera would you suggest I buy if I'm just going to use auto mode and just point and shoot. I'm looking for a camera that will hold a lot of movie clip timeand one that will snap from one picture to the next quickly.

My choices SO FAR are:

Canon Powershot S2 IS (what does IS stand for)

or

Panasonic DMC-FZ5


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Old Jan 4, 2006, 9:56 AM   #2
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IS stands for image stabilization, which is a mechanical way of limiting the effects of camera motion when you hand-hold it instead of using a tripod.

If movies are important to you, the FZ5 is not a good choice of camera. The S2 IS has a good movie mode as still cameras go. However, still cameras make crappy video cameras. The main thing that is bad about them is that movies take a lot of storage space. You really need something like digital tape to take a vacation with a video camera, unless you are planning on bringing a laptop and burning a CD after every 10 minutes or so of raw footage. Digital tape will hold at least an hour or two of raw footage (often 8 hours or more, depending on the system), and you can buy all the tape you need for a few bucks each.

On my last two-week vacation, I recorded about 30 hours of raw footage. After editing, it makes about an hour's video, but you aren't likely to edit on the fly. Editing takes a huge amount of time and you will probably want a lot of resources available to you while you are doing it (sound tracks, scanned in still shots from post cards orbrochures,maps, etc). Furthermore, it is easier to do the editing at the end of the vacation, when something like a story line has emerged in your mind.
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Old Jan 4, 2006, 10:05 AM   #3
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Do you know from the cameras above which one holds more as far as movie clipsgo? I've seen some clips from the Panasonic and they were really GOOD. I'm wondering about the Canon too. Does it hold more then 10 minutes. I would be downloading whatever I film the same night so a 1GB card is fine with me. But how much will it hold either using the Panasonic or Canon?
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Old Jan 4, 2006, 10:26 AM   #4
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S2is holds up to a 1GB movie file.

FZ5 holds as much as the card wil allow.

S2 has a MUCH better movie file output. I've used both. Not even close.


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Old Jan 4, 2006, 10:56 AM   #5
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Dequardo is right, to my way of thinking. The things that make the S2 IS better include:

It will allow you to capture 640x480 videos, which have MUCH higher quality than 320x240 videos. The FZ5 will only capture 320x480 video. The S2 IS will capture 320x240 if you want it to, but it doesn't have to.

The S2 IS allows you to zoom in and out while taking the video, which the FZ5 does not.

The S2 IS has stereo sound capture, while the FZ5 is monaural only.

Both cameras use motion JPEG for their compression scheme. This will give you a bit more than 20 minutes worth of video on a 1 gig SD card at 320x240, or about 6 minutes of a better-quality 640x480 video on the S2 IS.

There are some cameras that use MPEG compression instead of motion JPEG (if memory serves, the Sony H1 is among these). MPEG gives you much smaller video sizes for the same quality video, although the quality of MPEG varies considerably between implementations (for the technical among us, the search space for the"motion compensation" algorithm is a direct trade-off between quality of compression and computational load during compression). A good MPEG algorithm should achieve comparable quality to a given motion JPEG at 1/10 the storage space. I don't know whether the H1 is a decent implementation or not.

The bad thing about MPEG compression is that it doesn't survive nonlinear editing well at all. If youcut snippets of video out of a clip for use, the quality of the video degrades very rapidly. This causes a "generational loss" in MPEG that motion JPEG is not subject to (if you edit the individual frames -- resize the video or change the contrast, etc., motion JPEG would also undergo a generational loss. But just clipping snippets of video out of a stream involves no such loss for motion JPEG.)


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Old Jan 4, 2006, 11:02 AM   #6
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OH this is AWESOME information for me. Sounds like the Canon is the better choice for me but ONLY 6 minutes of video at 640x480? YIKES, that's not much. How is the quality compared to the FZ5 if I shoot it 320x480? I would like it to take more then just 6 minutes on one card. I currently use Quicktime to view my movie clips and I think that is MPEG. What would I use to view JPEG movies? THANKS to everyone again for all their advice.
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Old Jan 4, 2006, 11:17 AM   #7
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The quality of an FZ5 or S2 IS video at 320x240, with no change in zoom, should be pretty comparable. QuickTime is not a codec (COmpression/DECompression algorithm -- the part of the pogram that figures out how to compress or decompress the video), it is a video player. QuickTime will play lots of different video compression format files. I believe that it will support motion JPEG, but I'm not sure. Video players can usually have additional codecs downloaded for them. If your current installation of QuickTime does not have a motion JPEG codec, it can almost assuredly be added to it. But I don't use QuickTime, so I'm not reliable on this -- I would just be very surprised if it failed to support such a widely-used format.
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Old Jan 4, 2006, 11:22 AM   #8
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But is it true that you only get approx. 6 min on a 1GB SD card if you shoot in 640X480 mode?
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Old Jan 4, 2006, 11:37 AM   #9
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I just checked the manual for my FZ20 (it works like the FZ5 for video, although I've never taken video with it). The movie mode is listed as QuickTime motion JPEG, so I guess QuickTime does support motion JPEG. Also, Panasonic claims that you could get over 30 minutes of 320x240 video on a 1 gig card. That sounds optimistic to me, unless the motion JPEG is really clobbering the video quality. For a given size of video format, the quality of the motion JPEG will be directly proportional to the size of the file -- there is no "wiggle room" in motion JPEG for getting better video by increasing the motion estimation search space, for example. So, if they are actually getting half again as much video on a 1 gig card as the Canon, they are doing it at the cost of image quality.


ETA: The "gotcha" on these estimates of sze is that the same camera with the same settings will compress some motion JPEG data more and osme less, depending on the content of the video. So Panasonic could either be compressing the video stream more than Canon (a bad thing, to my mind) or they could be presenting optimistic estimates, based on image data that compresses better than the image data that Canon based its estimates on. I hope that's clearer than what I had said originally.
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Old Jan 4, 2006, 1:43 PM   #10
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It's clear but still in a language that I don't REALLY understand. But thank you for your help. Bottom line, it looks like I need more then one 1GB card if I plan on taking movie clips.
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