HD Stealth Cam for Indy Videographers?

Sanyo-HD1Camcorderinfo notes the announcement of a Hi-Definition pocket camcorder from Sanyo that records to SD flash memory cards instead of tape. The HD1 is not quite full HD like you can get with HDV camcorders — it records 720 progressive at 30 frames a second, which is mathematically superior to the 720×480 interlaced 30 fps you get with DV. The cam records to MPEG-4 rather than MPEG-2, which I see as an advantage, since it’s easier to edit MPEG-4 and it’s a more efficient codec, giving better results at lower bitrates.

Now, there a number of “camcorders” at the low end of the market ($100 and up) that record sub-DV quality video to flash memory, typically marketed by low-end brands like Aiptek. I haven’t played with any of them myself, but the specs alone tell me that they’re fine as toys, but not too reliable for anything more.

Sanyo is not known as a high-quality camcorder manufacturer, but I have to admit that “HD” quality MPEG-4 video from a camcorder that will fit in your pocket and has no moving tape transport parts does intrigue me. If the quality of the video and audio is on par with what you’d expect from a DV camcorder at its $800 retail price, then this could be a very useful little cam, specially for Indymedia purposes.

With no moving parts and no tapes to keep track of, this kind of cam could be very useful for protests and other actions, where a small, light, easily hidden and hard-to-break camera can be an asset for keeping tabs on the cops.

The question I have is, will this produce better video than the video function on pocket digital cameras? The video mode on digicams has started to get quite credible in the last year or so, and the smallest are very small indeed. But if the HD1 will produce something much closer to the quality of DV (or even better), then it would be a much better choice for capturing footage that will eventually go into news programs or documentaries.

A quick Google search turned up an impressionistic user review of an earlier Sanyo SD camcorder over at unmediated.

According to Kenyatta and Eli the Sanyo Xacti line is already pretty popular with videobloggers. That makes a lot of sense to me, since these little cams free you from being tied to a PC or laptop with a webcam, and spit out better quality video that can very quickly be imported and edited (more quickly than with DV tape, I reckon). But the needs of videographers producing for broadcast–public access TV, DVDs, VHS or internet–are a little different, requiring higher quality all around, especially if the piece will be more than length of a typical videoblog post of a few minutes.

I’ll admit that I am intrigued by the HD1, and will have play with one if it turns up at a local electronics store.







4 responses to “HD Stealth Cam for Indy Videographers?”

  1. […] Last month I posted about Sanyo’s newly announced high-definition camcorder that records to flash-memory cards, instead of tape. I admit that the concept is very enticing, but that most attempts at a flash-memory consumer cam have been lackluster. […]

  2. […] Camcorder Info is one of the best review sites for consumer camcorders. Unlike a lot of reviews you’ll read, they’re critical of picture quality and take a look a features like manual controls. Yesterday they took on Sanyo’s new Xacti “High-Def” camcorder that records to SD memory cards, and find that while it’s a good idea, it simply doesn’t deliver: This test confirms what we expected with the VPC-HD1, while the picture is sharp, and it might technically be HD, it certainly doesn’t perform in the “spirit” of HD. The resolution performance is nowhere close to any existing HD camcorder including the Sony HDR-HC1 and the performance we’d expect from its successor, the HDR-HC3. You’re going to get a sharp picture out of the VPC-HD1, but it’s not going to come with the same brilliance that people expect when they hear high definition. […]

  3. […] continue to be intrigued by these little “Hi-Def” camcorders (scare quotes intentional) by Sanyo, even if not enough to acquire one. I haven’t been able […]

  4. […] 2nd, 2007 · No Comments I continue to be intrigued by these little “Hi-Def” camcorders (scare quotes intentional) by Sanyo, even if not enough to acquire one. I haven’t been able to […]

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