Now, you may know that I’m a big proponent of high definition — that is to say, images that look good at high resolution. Usually you’ve just got the resolution part. Canon has actually been bucking this trend occasionally, for instance with the G11, which lowered its megapixel count in order to improve low light and image quality.
They’re taking a similar approach with the new Vixia camcorders, whose image sensors actually just have 1920×1080 pixels, supposedly allowing for larger pixel wells and better low light performance. I applaud them, though a 1/3″ sensor is still pretty tiny to be packing that many pixels onto. Consider that the sensor on the T2i I reviewed is actually 8 or 9 times larger by area (a rough estimation).
And I do want to point out that although the sensor does 1920×1080 pixels, there are two red flags in this press release. One: they scrupulously avoid using the term “1080p.” This may be a simple licensing thing, but it also may be that they’re doing an interlaced pulldown or something and it’s not technically progressive. Though later on it does say “native 24p.”
I haven’t heard back from Canon on this. Canon stresses that it is indeed 1080p. Why not just say it, guys! Two: the release says “Video resolution of 900 horizontal and 800 vertical TV lines, for Full HD video with professional precision.” In what world is 900×800 HD? Is that a typo?
But assuming those two things are just hiccups, the new Vixias look nice. Here are the standout features (the first two are the G10 model only):
- Highest per-pixel light sensitivity in any “consumer HD camcorder”
- Major improvement of dynamic range (good, good)
- Dual SDXC slots
- Improved microphone with various recording modes
- Tele-macro: essentially letting you zoom in to get a macro shot, though 1.3 feet isn’t particularly macro. It’ll still look nice.
- 922,000-dot (640×480 pixel) touchscreen LCD
Then you’ve got a couple different models.
Ooh, it’s got an 8-blade iris! No pentagonal bokeh, then. It’s got a fixed 10x zoom lens and is in brief the main model, with the HD CMOS Pro sensor described above. It’s also got 32GB of internal storage. Nice! $1500, though. That’s-a spicy meatball.
The more traditionally-sensored HD cam. Much the same features, primarily missing the new sensor. If you don’t trust Canon about this image quality thing (I’m on the fence), you can pick one of these up for $1099.
These actually also have the new sensor, and cost about half as much. Why, you ask? Well, it’s got a smaller screen for one thing, but it’s also got what looks like a significantly smaller lens (less light) and has far fewer manual controls and likely generally pared-down insides. No 8-blade iris, here. That said, I think this is probably the model I’d recommend as the best value. $650-$800, depending on the fixins. You can also get a sweet waterproof case.
The smaller form factor and lens combined with the old-style sensor. Nothing really new here, but the price is much lower: $380-$500 depending on whether you want internal storage or not.
Nice looking cameras, these. It must be mentioned, however, that you can pick up a T2i or another video-shooting DSLR of your favorite brand for around the same price as a mid-range one of these new camcorders, and that way you’re getting (if you ask me) a much more versatile device. However, if you’re looking for a dedicated camcorder and the new sensor intrigues you, just go for the M-series. If the sensor provides the benefits they say it does, that one’s a bargain. We’ll have to see it in action first, though.