Researching an HD Camcorder

Now that I own an HDTV, I’m seriously considering buying an HD Camcorder.

The problem I’m finding is that I really don’t want a full blown Camcorder. I own a Canon Elura 65, and we never use it. Primarily because the process of getting video off of it, takes a long as the video you shot, and if I have an hour of recording time, I’ll likely use it all up before I start importing.

When we record video with our little PowerShot point-and-shoot, I usually download it within a week or two of shooting, because the memory card gets full… so I usually edit it quickly and make a movie out of it for web use, or to put on our AppleTV (which I love by the way, just haven’t gotten a chance to post a review about it).

So, I’m looking for a good consumer quality, small sized, easy to use HD Camcorder that we’ll actually use a lot and carry with us all the time.

I’m partial to the new Canon TX1. It’s got the same form factor that we’re used to (we owned the first Canon Digital Eplh or Powershot S100 back when Canon first started making little digital cameras and have stuck with the brand since).

I’ve read this PowerShot TX1 Review by Digital Trends and also read the User Reviews and I’m almost sold.

My only problem is the amount of video that fits on one memory card. I’ve put together this little table to show the real amounts of HD video that’ll fit on the currently available SD cards on the market:

Recording Pixels Frame Rate 32 MB 128MB 512MB 1GB 2GB 4GB 8GB
Price   ? ? ? $16 $20 $30 – $50 $65-$90
1280 x 720 pixels 30 6 sec 12 sec 1:42 3:24 6:48 13:36 13:36 x2*
1280 x 720 pixels 30LP 12 sec 50 sec 3:17 6:34 13:08 26:16 26:16 x2*
640 x 480 pixels 30 14 sec 58 sec 3:48 7:36 15:12 30:24 30:24 x2*
640 x 480 pixels 30 LP 26 sec 1:48 6:59 13:58 27:56 55:52 55:52 x2*
320 x 240 pixels 60 20 sec 1:21 5:17 10:34 21:08 42:16 42:16 x2*
320 x 240 pixels 30 35 sec 2:24 9:19 18:38 37:16 60 + 14:32* 60 x2*
*Max. Clip Size: 4 GB: Even if the clip size has not reached 4 GB, recording will stop at the moment the clip length reaches 1 hour. Depending on the storage capacity of the memory card and the speed at which the data is written, recording may stop before reaching 4 GB or 1 hour. And does anyone know the difference between 30 fps and 30LP fps?

The problem I see with the TX1 is that even with a 4GB or 8GB SD card, the most HD video you can get on a TX1 is a 13 1/2 minute clip. Is that a problem? I’m not sure.

I’m looking through my source video library, and the longest shots we’ve taken lately seems to be around 3-4 minutes… we just take a lot of them.

So, I’m tempted to buy the Canon Powershot TX1 from Amazon with 4x4GB SD cards (they’re cheaper than the 8GB models for sure). Good idea or not?

Would you recommend something else?

note: I’ve considered the current line of Sony HDD based HD Camcorders, but they don’t work with a Mac (the video doesn’t have sound on a Mac) so those are out. And I really don’t want another DV Tape based camera… .AVI files are much easier to work with for me, I’ve found…

Thanks in advance.

4 Responses to “Researching an HD Camcorder”


  • i have a tx1 and i’m happy with it.  i have a lot of experience with different codecs and you should know that, in my opinion, Canon’s choice of the Motion JPEG format is a big plus in this camera.  I could go on and on about the pluses and minuses of Motion JPEG vs MPEG4, but I think it comes down to something very simple.  Although battery utilization in the TX1 is great, it’s not going to last more than 20 or 30 minutes of continuous shooting. So, you have to pop in another battery, good time to swap the SDHC card as well.   I believe Canon deigned the TX1 to get the maximum image quality out of single battery power session.  

    Having extra batteries and SDHC cards in your pocket is always wise.

    The LP modes in both HD and VGA resoutions result more JPEG compression and less image quality.  The LP HD mode gives you 26 minutes of recording on a 4GB card.  The LP VGA mode gives you 55 minutes of recording.

    The motion JPEG data is in an AVI container, but Quicktime has no trouble reading and editing the movies.  You can easily setup a Final Cut Pro sequence template for native editing of TX1 material.  Editing right off of a fast SDHC card is great.  

    Do not get a cheap SDHC card.  Class 6 looks good, but a good Sandisk Class 2 card may work better than a bottom dollar Class 6 card.

    Two warnings: 1. 1600 ISO allows for very low light shooting at the expense of nasty image noise.  There are good/free FCP filters that help with the noise issues though. 2. At 4 GBs a shoot, and one shoot a week, prepare to spend another $1.5k on that new Drobo and some 1TB disks. ( http://www.drobo.com )

    Ok, one more thing: the sound recorder application on the TX1 is setup nicely. The audio quality is good. No tape motor noise! The stereo mics are located on the outside of the screen for less handling noise.

  • John –

    I recently purchased the Canon HV20 and am VERY pleased with the performance. It’s more expensive than the TX1 I know, but it shoots in 1080i – 1920 x 1080 and I use the enhanced setting to get 24p as well. The files are MASSIVE. I usually export from Final Cut to a Quicktime and then into a 720p for AppleTV and also to share online.

    I looked at the HDD cameras, but kept coming back to the main issue of storage. It’s great if you want to rip something quickly, but you need to archive the footage (and would have to do so as well from a memory card) before you can record again. With the HDV system I can just get another tape. Capturing is real-time, but you get a great deal more flexibility and security.

    JG

  • Thanks Jonathan… great review… I love those guys at dpreview…

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