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Canon Vixia HF100 - Two steps forward, one step back.

Out with the old - Canon HV10 HDV Tape-based camcorder...
I have long struggled with the Canon HV10 Camcorder that I purchased about 9 months ago. It takes great video, but dealing with importing video from tape was getting tiresome. I longed for something as convenient as a Point-and-shoot camera, which could record my high definition movies to a memory card. I have since imported all of my old DV and HDV Tapes, allowing me to sell the Tape-based recorder and replace it with something more convenient.


Tape-based Canon HV10 (left) vs. SDHC-based Canon HF100 (right).


In with the new - Canon Vixia HF100 SDHC Camcorder...
I was excited by the positive reviews of this camcorder. It was touted as the first AVCHD camcorder to surpass the qality of HDV. (AVCHD is based on h264 instead of HDV which is based on mpeg2. h264 should allow lower file size with equal quality.)


MiniDV Cassette (left) vs. SDHC Card (right).


How does the new HF100 compare???
Clear Strengths vs. the HV10:
  • The video quality of the HF100 is very high. I find the HF100 image to be clearly sharper, although compression artifacts do surface particularly in low-light situations. This is likely the result of the additional resolution and h.264 which is a more advanced compression algorithm. The AVCHD format appears to be growing in popularity so playback support should eventually surpass HDV support. (I should note that the softer image of the HV10 can be smoother and more pleasing at times, albeit less detailed.)


  • Importing from the SDHC-based HF100 does not require me to rewind a tape. I can copy movies to the computer faster than realtime with a USB cable or SDHC reader.


  • The HF100 offers a 30fps 1080p option in addition to the 60fps 1080i option. The HF100 can record at a full 1920x1080, which exceeds the only option on the HV10 which is 60fps at 1440x1080, interlaced.


Missed Opportunities:
  • I expected a Solid-state camcorder to function just like low-end digital cameras which can take photos or record short, low resolution videos. I expected to have a single folder on the memory card with sequentially numbered files, some Photos, some high-definition video files. I coudn't have been further from the truth.

    The AVCHD format includes a inefficient, annoying folder structure to mimic Blu-ray. (More info at elurauser.com.) To obey the AVCHD format, I end up with a memory card filled with meaningless folders. The video files are numbered sequentially from 0001 and start over every time you empty the memory card. The photos are stored somewhere entirely different so I worry that I will delete them by accident after downloading just the videos. (I should note that the camera comes with a terrible "PIXELA" application that will import the videos with more intelligent names. This does not substitute for an intelligent organizational system on the disk.)


  • The h.264 video format is so compressed that it cannot play smoothly on several of my reasonably fast computers. Windows Vista (or XP) does not undertand the format so you need to install a 3rd party codec. The popular K-lite codec pack will only play the format after an additional step. (disable "MPEG TS splitter (Haali)" using the "Codec Tweak Tool" per these directions at avsforum.com


  • The 30fps, 1080p mode is actually saved as an interlaced file. (More info at elurauser.com.) As such, playback apps need to know that it is actually 30p to play it most accurately. Likewise, compression of a progressively-stored image should be more efficient than this allows.

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