In the past month I’ve been working an article that starts like this:

In the last year, a lot of cheap (or not so cheap) HD video cameras came onto the market. These cameras are targeted towards consumers or professional users at the bottom of the scale (“prosumers”). This page tries to give a comprehensive overview of the different cameras and their characteristics.

It’s not finished yet, but Mike Curtis has beaten me on speed anyway. So, if you’re interested in a shiny new “cheap” HD camera, go read his article for an overview of the market in the next couple of months.

A couple of remarks: the Panasonic HVX-200 looks like the camera to beat, but it isn’t out yet, nobody knows the exact tech specs and only a few have seen footage shot with it. The same goes for the Canon XL-H1 although that one will be on the market sooner. Please remember that Mike Curtis’ overview is written from the perspective of indy film makers. If you’re looking for run-and-gun, ENG or documentary camera, the Sony Z1 or the more expensive Canon XL-H1 will be hard to beat. The JVC HD-100 needs attention to get good images out of it (manual focus and iris) and has lousy low light performance. Battery perfomance is awfull, it won’t record 720p60 or 720p50 and there’s also the split screen issue. Panasonic P2-media is expensive and holds only 8 minutes at highest quality. You will have to fiddle with hard disk recorders and/or laptops if you shoot hours of footage a day with a Panasonic HVX-200.

Especially for European users, I’d like to note this:

  • The Sony Z1, JVC HD-100 and Canon XL-H1 are multiformat cameras, PAL and NTSC compatible. All others have a specific PAL or NTSC version.
  • The Sony FX1e doesn’t have a fake 24 p (CF 24) solution in Europe (although you wouldn’t want to use it if it existed).
  • The Canon XL-H1 will need a factory modification (meaning €€) before it will record 1080i50.
  • According to this post the Panasonic HVX-200 won’t be having a 24p feature in PAL countries.
  • The JVC HD-100 comes in two versions in Europe, a HD-100 without firewire input and a HD-101 with.
  • The state of HD in Europe is immature. HD television sets are rare and it’s not decided yet whether the HD broadcast standard will be 1080i50 or 720p50. The EBU leans towards 720p50 but the only European HD station is 1080i50. One of the biggest selling points for a Sony FX1 or Z1 is that it’s a damn good 16:9 DV cam. You can always edit in DV with it, even if you shoot in HD.

Update 2005-10-18:

According to this page, the Canon XL-H1 will be delivered as a 50 Hz camera in Europe (1080i50 and a pseudo progressive 25p solution called 25F) with the option to add 60i, 30f and 24f recording.