Choosing a camcorder


Beyond HDV: AVCHD High-definition Compression

Although AVCHD first appeared in consumer camcorders, a variation—AVC-Intra—will soon show up in broadcast cameras from Panasonic. Given that the MPEG-4 technology that fuels AVCHD is roughly twice as efficient as the MPEG-2 technology used in HDV, the new Sony-Panasonic standard will likely supplant HDV in the prosumer space. For this reason, it’s a standard you need to know about, even though you may not use it for a while.

HDV Showdown, GY-HD100U, HDR-FX1, XL H1, HVR-Z1U

It all starts with the camcorder. Not to state the obvious, but whether you're shooting weddings, concerts, or interviews, or editing in Premiere Pro, Vegas, or Final Cut, each project begins with the shoot. This inescapable fact of videography life, plus a price tag that can approach five figures, makes camcorder selection a critical business decision.

This article compares the Sony FX1/Z1U, the JVC HD100, and the Canon XL H1, first looking at features and usability, then quality.

HDV and the Sony FX1

hdr-fx1.gifAfter testing Sony's HDR-FX1, I'm an HDV believer. It's not the second coming of DV, but it can be extremely useful in a number of circumstances, including when you need to down-sample the results to SD formats.

Conversation between Stephen Nathans, editor and myself, December 20, 2004:
Nathans:
So, now that you've spent more time testing with HDV, how do you like the Sony HDR-FX1?
Me: It's an awesome camcorder. The camcorder to buy in 2005.
Nathans: How does HDV look?
Me: Great, surprisingly good. Makes me rethink all the negatives I've said in the past about MPEG-2 as an acquisition format.
Nathans: So, did you shoot any real events in HDV?
Me: Are you crazy?

It was right at that moment I knew that the nice, pleasant, straightforward review of the FX1 was about to morph into a complicated, frustrating, and potentially embarrassing first look at the HDV format itself. In my view, before the conversation, I could recommend the FX1 wholeheartedly simply for price and DV performance, with HDV a nice bonus if HD-DVD or Blu-ray ever came around.

Comparing the Sony HDR-FX1, Canon XL2 and Panasonic AG-DVC60

Planning a new 3-CCD DV camcorder purchase? Wondering which one best suits your videography needs? You're in luck—This review compares three new 3-CCD models built with videographers in mind. They're all leading contenders for the current pro/prosumer crown: Canon's XL2, Panasonic's AG-DVC60, and Sony's HDV-capable HDR-FX1. Read on for the tale of the tape.