Pros Video quality, ease of use (while filming), records on SDHC cards
Cons Editing AVCHD, low light performance is ok (not great)
Summary I like this camcorder a lot. After 2 years with a JVC GR-D650 I decided to upgrade to a high-def camcorder, and I am extremely happy I did. I watch recordings on a 46" 1080p screen (using HDMI connection) and it looks really great. Difference with SD is very obvious of course. Only con is that Low-light performance is just ok, not great.
I just use this as a point-and-shoot (don't use any manual controls) and I find it's great for that. I've seen some complaints about the little joystick next the the lcd screen but I don't have any issues with it.
To me AVCHD seems to be the way to go since you can play native AVCHD files directly on a blu-ray player, and Blu-ray will be rapidly replacing DVD.
The software that comes with the camera is basically only for downloading the AVCHD files - pretty useless for editing but that is similar to other camcorders I've had.
Please keep in mind that software is still catching up with AVCHD format. I was using Adobe Premiere El, but that doesn't support AVCHD. So I switched to Powerdirector 7 Ultra.
Editing the footage is a bit of a challenge. You need a powerful computer! I'm running Powerdirector 7 Ultra on an AMD 2.2GHz dual core with 2GB of RAM and it's slow going. I consider this CPU is a bit too weak so I got a quad core on order. So far, I have been editing in AVCHD format and then burning to DVD in SD(unfortunately). I'll get a blu-ray burner later when prices drop. The rendering/burning to DVD takes some time but is OK. Please make sure you install latest DirectX 9 or higher, or your soundtrack will be off.
I like a lot that the camera uses SDHC cards. Downloading is very fast compared to DV tape, plus you don't get the whine from the DVI tape rolling on your soundtrack.
Having large hands I struggled a little bit with the small size of the camera and location of the controls. I think Canon should move the record button to the left side of the camera so you can wrap your hand around it. Since I put an extended battery on the camera I found out that I can rest my thumb against this battery that sticks further out of the back of the camera. This makes it much easier to hold the camera.
In conclusion, I highly recommend this camera. Just make sure your computer is powerful enough or you are willing to upgrade.
Pros Sharp Video,
Cons Sharing Content
Summary We just bought this for baby video and could not be more pleased. With a 16GB SD card (an A-Data purchased on Amazon for under $80) the whole set up came in under $740.00. SD is the way to go. A Blank DVD holds a little over 4GB, a Mini-DVD holds even less. With a built in hard drive if the drive crashes your camcorder is probably toast. SD is fast, small, and a 16GB card will hold a lot of footage without the need for a large amount of quality degrading compression.
I was concerned about image quality in low light. It has not been an issue to shoot indoors with just conventional indoor illumination (lamps, fixtures, florescent etc). The video is crisp and sharp. I am shooting in 24P Cinema Mode. The audio is clear (no tapes means no tape noise artifacts in recording or playback). If you compare this camera with a $3,000 3-CCD, Mini DV system or HD Discovery Channel you will be disappointed. If you comare it to any Mini-DV, HD, or DVD camcorder under $1,000.00 you will be delighted. For the price and size this is a superb great camcorder. Your amateur home video of friends and family has never looked this good before. The only problem is how to share the video once you shoot it.
Pros Unreal video and images
Cons Haven't found any yet
Summary I read the reviews on CNET and decided to buy from buydig.com which was the lowest price on the web ($649.00). I can not believe the video quality on this camera and how easy it is to use. I'm not a professional by any means, but this camera is nothing short of spectacular..I can't tell the difference between this quality and an HD broadcast. Watch the demo's on Youtube the HD quality is insane. I just hooked it up to my 56in Samsung and played the footage....UNREAL! I was suspect reading the reviews, but now I am a believer. YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.
"Excellent!"on by rob_runkle
Pros Small, great image.
Cons Slow to change modes, Included software is weak.
Summary I held off updating my standard DV camcorder for years. Finally I found a camera that was HD, and used flash memory. In my research no one complained about the compression quality either. I think that this technology has finally matured to work with good compression, with class 6 flash ram, etc..
I love the small size. That - along with the flash memory - was my strongest buying point.
I used it extensively over a recent hiking trip. Only had two issues. 1) It is slow to change modes from video to photos. Especially in that direction (video to photo). I think this is from having to read the card to verify space available. 2) I found myself sometimes erratically hitting the zoom button. No sure if my fault; probably.
The included software is ok, but weak. My computer can't handle the HD files very well, but I could upgrade the PC if I wanted to. The included software does have several options for me though. 1) I can export clips to SD file type, and that seems to work great. 2) I can save to standard DVD, and that seems to work fine also. I did find that there is a limit of 99 clips that can be written to a DVD at one time. I haven't gotten a chance to use the software for editing because my PC can't handle it.
I cannot get the camera to play into my HD TV through the mini HD. I think this is because of copy protection software in my TV, but not sure. I can get to play through the component out for video and audio out for audio. I think this is suppose to be HD quality (equivalent to HDMI) anyway. The picture looks great on HD. But, at this point the only way that I can see full HD is to run directly from the camera. I do not have an HD burner.
The video and photo quality is excellent. Even in low light, this is 10x better than my standard DV camcorder which is only 5-6 years old. A big part I believe is the large lens required for HD quality. So, even if you want to record in SD, this is a good purchase.
Pros I love the video quality of course. Crystal clear HD! Also, image stabilization is rather good. Easy to make dvds for standard definition if your home is not HD ready (like mine is not). Love the cinema fliming mode. What fun!
Cons Hard to even complain, but: Tends to have a little trouble focusing really close on certain things. Camera and software manuals could be better. Software very basic. Strap is uncomfortable and hurts my hand after a few minutes. Short battery life.
Summary Buying this camera was a great decision. I bought it used (not refurbished) for $525.00 (what a deal!!!) My fiance will be graduating from the United States Marine Corps Bootcamp in July, so I wanted to make sure that I had a really good camcorder to film this VERY big and important day. I also wanted to make sure that I gave myself enough time to get to know the camera ahead of time.
At first I had actually purchased a Canon FS11 and very quickly returned it. It was just terrible! I was back at square one. Trying to decide which camcorder to buy can be overwhelming, especially during this transitional time going from standard definition to high definition. But I am SO SO HAPPY I PICKED THIS ONE!!!
As soon as I got it home and started using it, I was immediately THRILLED with the quality of the picture both on the camera and on my HDTV. I also hooked the camera up to my old tv just to see how that looked. It was okay for what it is (not even close to HD of course). Now I was ready to make some copies for my family and friends to have. Here is where my troubles began. I couldn't figure out how to do this! I got all stressed out and was actually ready to return this camcorder as well, because I thought it was too user-unfriendlly and limiting as far as viewing options go. Especially in a time when so many still do not have HDTV ready homes. I myself do not have any blueray, or blueray recorder. As far as easily sharing movies with others, I thought I was doomed. I read all of this stuff saying that I had to buy all of this expensive and complicated software just to enable me to convert these movies so I could put them on a regular DVD and I thought that perhaps I had made a mistake in my choice afterall. Well... that is just not so. There is an option in the Image Mixer software, when you first plug your camera in and it says "make disc". That's all you have to do. You don't even have to put the video on your pc if you don't want to. Just make sure that you are using DVD-R discs. Nobody tells you that, and that is why I was freaking out, I was using the wrong discs which weren't supported. Once I put a DVD-R disc in my PC, I was good to go. I find that watching the movies back on Standard Defintion TV from such discs is not too bad (better than my FS11 footage - LOL. I mean, eventually we will be ALL HD (all of us will... you included, no matter how much you might want to fight it), so all of this conversion stuff is only a temporary issue anyway.
A word of caution. If you plan on doing any type of editing on your movies in the future (i.e. after you get some good software, etc.) make sure that you keep a copy of the HD version (avchd / m2ts) on your pc or sd card.
I am really looking forward to purchasing some editing software and having some real fun with this baby. After reading what others have to say, I am thinking of getting Sony Vegas Studio 9 Platinum. I've also heard some good things about Pinnacle Studio 11 and 12, But the Sony sounds better to me. Let's also remember that avchd / m2ts is quite new, and therefore we are just seeing the tip of the iceburg with the editing software, etc. that will be available.
Also, one of the highllights of this camera for me is the cinema mode. It's just great. I also think that the light they they put on the camera is pretty decent for filming in a dark room (much better than using the night setting on the camera, which I personally think is horrible).
If you don't absolutely LOVE this camera, try reading up on it a little more and playing around with it. I think that for many of us this new HD thing can seem a little scary and overwhelming at first, but take a deep breath, research and have some fun. I'm glad I did. Returning this baby would have been a huge mistake.
I hope that my review here has helped someone else to NOT have to go through the dilemma that I did.
This camcorder is wonderful!!! AAA+++ and 1/2!