I recently made the leap to a non-tape video camcorder.
Working with HD has really changed my perspective on formats, archiving and editing. About a year ago I bought a Canon HV30 camcorder and started shooting HD on Mini DV tape- often referred to as HDV.
I had always preferred working with tape because there would be an archive copy of the whole shoot in case it was ever needed. No extra step was required, just store it safely and your archived copy was done. The downside is capturing from tape happens in real-time, which wasn’t really such a burden for me. Heck, you have to watch it before you edit it anyway.
But stepping up to HDV brought with it a host of issues. The first problem was all my footage required transcoding so my version of Premiere Pro could edit it. Suddenly the step of capturing footage from the tape was taking 2 to 3 times longer than it had when I was shooting SD video. This cold be overcome if I wanted to upgrade my software- which cost more than the HD camcorder.
The alternatives to tape are camcorders that use small hard drives, burn a mini DVD or record to flash memory. In the past these camcorders used file formats they were difficult to edit or proprietary. That’s slowly changing, although editing HD footage takes a lot of computer horsepower regardless of format.
When I started shopping for a new camcorder I decided on a flash-based unit, preferably using SD cards. I kept coming across reviews of a strange looking Sanyo called the HD2000. It’s unusual pistol-grip design was definitely different, but also very compact.
Not sure what Xacti is- or even how to pronounce it. But I went ahead and ripped open the box and fired it up. My first reaction was how heavy this little bugger is. Probably because it’s stuffed with so much HD goodness. If you’re used to handling similar looking units from Aiptek or Flip this will feel like a boat anchor. It’s a similar size, but a full featured camcorder with 16x optical zoom that shoots full HD at 1080p. And it takes pretty decent stills at 8 megapixels, or 12 interpolated.
The footage is stored as MP4 files and play without any extra steps or transcoding. For editing my old version of Premiere Pro still needed help. Instead I decided to try out Sony Vegas Pro 9 and it seems to work great. So far I’ve only shot about an hour of video and done a few minor edits. Here’s a sample video from the Dallas Motorcycle Show (not the greatest example but it’s the first clip I’ve uploaded to YouTube).
I think the video quality is great- and I don’t even have it cranked up all the way! I’m shooting 720p and stills at about 5 megapixel. For the price it has some upscale features like external mic and headphone jacks and a shoe attachment on top (not powered). The box also included Nero software that allows you to make minor edits and burn your movies to DVD. It also includes a feature called Xacti Library that allows you to copy footage to an external hard drive without a computer
But the little Sanyo is not perfect. Although an icon claims that a motion stabilizing feature is turned on, there is no evidence in the footage. Steadiness is a must- and requires some practice if you’ve never used a pistol grip camcorder. Ergonomics are not a strong suit either- the zoom control is unhandy and many people have trouble keeping their thumb off the power button. The charger base is required to connect to a computer or television- although you can charge it without the base adapter. And the menus have been heavily criticized.
But overall I’d say it’s a compact, easy to use camcorder. It’s a perfect choice for anyone wanting to shoot stills and video, then quickly export or edit it.