Thursday, March 26, 2009

Buyer's Guide 2009: HD Camcorders

By Wes Pitts Published in Video
Buyer's Guide 2009: HD Camcorders

Resolution

The letters "HD" are pretty powerful marketing mojo, but beware the specs! Everything "HD" isn't necessarily created equal. There are two resolutions in consumer video that are commonly referred to as HD: 720 and 1080. These numbers represent the pixel count in the vertical dimension of the image. True HD is generally considered to be 1080, with 720 being higher resolution than standard definition, but not "full" HD. All of the camcorders featured here are "full" HD, with video resolutions of 1920x1080 pixels.

Frame Rate

Classic film movies were usually recorded at 24 frames per second. In the digital age, faster frame rates are possible, though many people, accustomed to film, like the "look" of 24 frames per second. So, you'll find many cameras that offer this frame rate. However, it's usually the result of downsampling from a faster frame rate of 60 frames per second. A few cameras do include a native 24 frames-per-second mode.

Also intertwined with the frame rate is the method in which frames are captured: interlaced or progressive, denoted by the letter "i" or "p" following either the resolution or the frame rate (1080i, 24p, etc.). Interlaced frames don't capture the entire scene at once; instead, the scene is broken into horizontal lines, and each frame captures half of the alternating lines. The subsequent frame captures the other half of the lines. During playback, our brains weave the two together, and this all happens so fast that we don't notice it. In progressive capture, the entire scene is recorded in each frame. Progressive capture therefore offers better image quality overall and is of critical importance when you want to snag a still image from your video footage.

Also intertwined with the frame rate is the method in which frames are captured: interlaced or progressive, denoted by the letter "i" or "p" following either the resolution or the frame rate (1080i, 24p, etc.). Interlaced frames don't capture the entire scene at once; instead, the scene is broken into horizontal lines, and each frame captures half of the alternating lines. The subsequent frame captures the other half of the lines. During playback, our brains weave the two together, and this all happens so fast that we don't notice it. In progressive capture, the entire scene is recorded in each frame. Progressive capture therefore offers better image quality overall and is of critical importance when you want to snag a still image from your video footage.


JVC GZ-HD320/GZ-HD300

Video Resolution: 1920x1080
Frame Rate(s): 60i
Video Format: AVCHD
Still Image Resolution: 1920x1080
Lens (35mm equiv.): 20x (41.4-828mm)
Recording Media: SDHC, 120 GB internal (HD320),
60 GB internal (HD300)
Digital Output: USB, HDMI
Dimensions: 2.1x2.7x4.5 inches
Weight: 13.1 ounces
List Price: $799 (GZ-HD320); $699 (GZ-HD300)


Panasonic HDC-HS100

Video Resolution: 1920x1080
Frame Rate(s): 60i, 24p
Video Format: AVCHD
Still Image Resolution: 1920x1080
Lens (35mm equiv.): 12x (42.1-505mm)
Recording Media: SDHC, 60 GB internal
Digital Output: USB, HDMI
Dimensions: 2.9x2.9x5.4 inches
Weight: 14.7 ounces
List Price: $1,199

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