New point-and-shoot cameras capture video in the 720p high-def format you've seen on TV networks such as ESPN. But all HD is not equal. The algorithm, or codec, that compresses the video onto a memory card affects the quality of the footage and your ability to edit it. We tried out three cameras, each sporting a different codec, to find the best mobile movie rig.
Kodak Easyshare Z1012
Codec: MPEG-4; 8 min. per gigabyte
Video was soft and full of artifacts -- errors created during compression -- such as jagged lines in place of straight edges. That's a shame, since the color was generally good, and the 12x zoom lens is handy. The Z1012 can shoot up to 29 minutes of continuous video (versus 10 for the Sony and 15 for the Panasonic), and most software can play or edit the footage.
Editors' Rating: 5 out of 10
Sony Cybershot T500
Codec: AVC/HD; 12.5 min. per gigabyte
The T500's sharp video had only minor artifacts, such as fuzziness along the edges in a cobblestone path. And it packs the most footage per gigabyte. High-noon sunlight didn't wash out colors, but low-light footage was grainy -- most likely a product of the sensor or processor, not the codec. One caveat: Only the latest editing software supports AVC/HD.
Editors' Rating: 8 out of 10
Panasonic Lumix LX3
Codec: M-JPEG; 4 min. per gigabyte
The LX3 had the clearest low-light video, but it faltered in midday sunlight, with overexposed highlights and faded colors. (They looked better under soft lighting.) And objects weren't quite as sharp as on the Sony. The M-JPEG video hogs memory cards, but viewing or editing it on a computer is easy; nearly all programs read the codec.
Editors' Rating: 6 out of 10
I recently purchased a Sony a350 DSLR any tests or comments would be appreciated.......
These two sites are pretty well respected:
I've seen mixed reviews on comparing the Sony with equivalent products from Canon and Nikon -- choosing a product from one of these two is usually the best bet. The following of Canon and Nikon is almost religious.
Back to this quick comparison of three sizes and styles of camera with HD video capabilities, here's the DP Review site and the conclusion page of their review of the LX3:
In short, the LX is for folks wanting a compact camera that rewards the photographer. For a camera that is more "point and shoot, every setting left at the default or 'automatic'" a camera, in my humble, like the Sony T500 is an astonishingly good pocket-sized compact point-and-shoot. I'm just waiting for prices to make the T500 one more thing my wife keeps in her shoulder bag for those "get the camera!" moments.
And one final question: where's the GPS?! One of my favorite new things to do with photography is keep all the photos on Google Earth (using Google's "Picasa" photo album tool.) This all works superbly on the Mac (and I imagine on PCs) but the one missing link is an automatic GPS function. I've taken to snapping one "reference" shot on my iPhone, then manually "tagging" all the shots I take with other cameras. Automating that process would be great. Viewing photos in time and in space is a wonderful innovation and prompted me to upload a lot of photos I'd previously relegated to "when I'm old and want to look at those old photos." GPS tags on photos is great!