Thursday, May 21, 2009

The 4GB file limit test

I'll be away for two weeks with my HD2000 in Turkey so there will be no new posts and I will not be able to respond to comments until I am back. The lowlight capability of the HD2000 will be tested since there will be many visits to mosques, churches, museums and other indoor sites where flash and tripod are not allowed.

Meanwhile I did a test on the 4GB file limit and the gap between files. This 4GB limit arose because the SDHC cards are formatted in FAT32 and 4GB is the largest file that the system can handle. (This is also true of all other camcorders that uses the same file system.) Once the video reaches 4GB during recording, it will stop and the file is saved and recording then continues with a new file. This is all done automatically and will continue until the recording is stopped manually or the card capacity limit is reached.

This is what I found out for the HD2000. There is a 30 seconds countdown counter in red on the LCD screen before the 4GB limit is reached. The gap between files (end of the first file to the beginning of the second file) is about 10 seconds in my measurement. These files are marked with a special icon in the playback selection screen and during playback they are continuous, i.e. it moves from one file to the next without stopping, like one continuous file. In fact using the fast forward and reverse will move across files as if they are one continuous file but each file has a separate name.

Hope this is of help to those interested in these details.

Ronald Kwok

Monday, May 18, 2009

Comparing with Sanyo VPC FH1

The VPC HD2000 and the VPC FH1 are both top of the line camcorders under the Sanyo Xacti range. They appears very similar in the specifications except for the major difference in their form factor. The FH1 is of the conventional camcorder box design while the HD2000 is the pistol grip design.

However there are some other differences which may be of some importance for those deciding on which camcorder to pick. I could not find a detail review of the FH1 but the following are the major differences that I can find when looking at the specifications sheet of the FH1 and comparing with my HD2000. This is not exhaustive and readers may point out other differences or errors if there are any.

In all cases, the HD2000 is quoted first.

1. Size and form
90 (W) x 54.5 (D) x 112.6 (H) mm, volume about 272 cc
53.3 (W) x 105 (D) x 57.3 (H) mm, volume about 253 cc

2. Weight (with battery and SD card)
311 gram
342 gram

3. LCD monitor
2.7" (230,000 pixels)
3.0" (230,000 pixels)

4. Lens
Focal length, f=6.3mm to 63.0mm
Aperture, F=1.8 (wide) to 2.5 (tele)
Focal length, f=5.95mm to 59.5mm
Aperture, F=2.0 (wide) to 2.8 (tele)

5. Interface
Via docking station.
Directly on camcorder body.

6. Microphone
Built-in plus external input terminal.
Built-in only.

7. Headphone terminal

8. Filter size

9. Shoe mount for external devices

The rest of the specifications for both the camcorders are identical as far as I can see. Owners of FH1 may want to point out other differences or make corrections in case of errors. Cheers.

Ronald Kwok

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

SDHC card classes

Just a short post on the type of SDHC cards that can be used on the Sanyo HD2000. This camcorder can take both SD cards (up to 4GB) and SDHC cards (up to 32GB).

(The following information are taken from Wikipedia.) The SDHC cards have different grades or classes depending on the speed or data transfer rates with the minimum speed below (and the minimum equivalent x-rating.)

Class 2 - 2MB/s (13x)
Class 4 - 4MB/s (26x)
Class 6 - 6 MB/s (40x)

In the HD2000 manual, the class of acceptable SDHC cards are not mentioned but I read somewhere in one of the forums that Class 4 is the minimum recommended for the highest resolution videos. You can use a class 2 for some of the lower resolutions but why take chances? Go for the Class 4 at least or Class 6 if cost is not a major issue.

This is specially for readers in Malaysia. I was in Low Yat Plaza the other day and I noticed that the various brands of SDHC cards on offer have the class as indicated below.

SanDisk - Class 2
Kingston - Class 4
Transcend - Class 6

They may have the other classes available as well but these were those on display. So be careful and check the class of the SDHC card before you part with your money. The class is indicated on the card itself, example below.

Ronald Kwok

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Xacti Library and External Hard Disk

One of the lesser known features of the Sanyo HD2000 is the ability to use an external HDD directly without having to use a PC or laptop for files management. Sanyo call this the Xacti Library and over the last weekend I bought myself an external hard disk to test this out. The unit I bought was the 640 GB Maxtor Basics HDD.

When the provided USB converter cable was connected to the docking station, the Xacti Library screen came on. As the HDD was not turned on, the following message appeared.

"HDD not on, disconnect converter cable if not using Xacti Library."

Once I turned on the supply to the HDD, the Sanyo offered to Format the hard disk. This was because the Maxtor HDD came preformatted in NTFS and the Sanyo can only work with the FAT32 format. The formatting took about one minute.

One this was done, I was able to transfer files from the SD card to the HDD. The process was a bit slow. In the case of a 8GB card, it took about 15 minutes for the actual file transfer and another 20 minutes for some processing; the screen says Sort by Date but dunno why it took so long. Anyway, it worked.

You can watch the proceedings from the LCD screen or from a TV if one is connected. One use of this will be if you are on a long holiday, you can bring along an external HDD and after a day's shooting, transfer all the videos from the SD cards to the HDD in the hotel and reuse the emptied SD cards for the next day. In this way you do not have to carry too many SD cards and the cost of a HDD is much cheaper than getting the equivalent capacity of SD cards and it is much easier to manage. The only downside is that you need an external HDD that is self-powered and thus only the 3.5 inch HDD can be used. It will be more convenient if the USB powered 2.5 inch HDD can be used.

You can watch any files from the HDD and also create and edit albums for playback. Files can also be copied from the HDD to the SD card for basic in-camera editing.

Here are the specs for an external HDD that can be used.

1. USB 2.0 compatible. 2. Powered by self power. 3. FAT32 format only. 4. A maximum capacity of 1 TB.

Looks like I need to carry some extra load for my trip to Turkey later this month. Sigh.

Ronald Kwok

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Photo mode on HD2000

To answer some questions asked by viewer Kobi, I tried some photo shots and this is what I found. You half-press the photo button to focus and full-press to capture just like in normal camera. In low light, the auto-focus takes a bit more time to focus since there is no assist-lamp in the HD2000. In bright light , the auto-focus is comparable to Lumix FZ-18, my de facto still camera. After the capture, the screen turns blank, presumably the file is being saved during this time. The captured image then appears for review (or Post View as Sanyo call this) for a while and the screen turns blank a second time before it becomes live again. Thus there is some elapsed time before you can take a second shot. The timing is about the same with or without flash but I cannot give the actual timing itself. You can hasten the process by turning off the Post View since it is defaulted to 1 second.

I am not too concerned about this since the main purpose of my HD2000 is for video and not for the photos. As in all camcorders, I presume you can capture shots while shooting a video without pausing. It may be better to use the remote control unit that comes with the HD2000 for this purpose since pressing the photo button on the camcorder itself while recording may shake it a little if you do not have steady hands.

The only dock function that you can do on the HD2000 itself without the dock is charging the battery inside the unit by connecting the AC main to the DC-in using the AC adaptor. All other connections to the outside world (TV, PC, external HDD, etc) must be done via the docking station. All connecting cables are supplied except for the HDMI cable and this is the normal size cable and not a mini HDMI as used by some other camcorders. Note that you need to purchase a separate battery charger if you want to charge the battery outside the camcorder.

Hope this answers some questions viewers may have.

Ronald Kwok

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Burning DVD's and File size

My next task was to burn some of the videos onto a DVD and see how they look on TV. Since I did not have any suitable software for this task, I made use of the one included with the Sanyo HD2000, Nero Vision Essentials which is essentially a cut-down version of the full product.

After selecting the videos to be burned, the program determined that most of the videos were in NTSC format and offered to use this format rather than the default PAL. Since my TV system is using PAL, I stuck with PAL. Half an hour later, I had my first DVD at my first attempt, thanks to my LG DVD burner. I then tried it on my DVD player with my PAL TV and I found the video rather jerky. I read in some forums that conversion from one system to another will result in this jerkiness and they are right. So I burned the same videos again, this time using the NTSC format. The results were better and smoother than the one done in PAL. However, the video quality was not as good as when watching directly from the videocam. Later I found out that the DVD videos were burned with a resolution of only 720x480 with a frame rate of 30 fps.

I am not sure if this resolution is a standard for videos burned onto DVD or there are other DVD burning programmes with a higher resolution. Thus there is still a lot to learn about this subject.

These are my preliminary opinions and findings after playing with the Sanyo VPC HD2000. The video quality is great if your watch it on HDTV; there is no problem to watch the video on older type of TV but the quality would only be as good as that of the TV. It is easy to just drag and drop the video files from the videocam to a PC, since the files are in MPEG4 format.

However, not many programs can play these files, especially at the highest resolution and you will need a high-end PC to play these videos satisfactorily even if you have the right software. (BTW, I upgraded my PC memory from 1G to 3G RAM but the result of playing the video on Nero Showtime was the same, still jerky at the highest resolution. This means I would need to upgrade to a faster processor or need a dedicated graphic card or both if I want to watch these videos on my PC or shoot at a lower resolution.) As for my Lenovo S10, it can handle only the 640x480 resolution, beyond that it is all jerky. There's no problem to burn the videos onto DVD but at a lower resolution and quality.

I suppose all these points are also applicable to other HD videocams since this high quality is too much for normal PC and software to handle. You need to have a high-end PC to run these video effectively. And the files size of these video are huge. Here are sample sizes of the video files for the various resolutions for a one minute clip each. The names are those used by the HD2000.

TVSHQ - 640x480, 30fps (30p) 23.2M

HDSHQ - 1280x720, 30fps (30p) 62.4M

FULL SHQ - 1920x1080, 30 fps (30p) 89.1M

FULL HD - 1920x1080, 60 fields/s (60i) 117.9M

FULL HR - 1920x1080, 60 fps (60p) 175.2M

The manual also lists the recording time for various sizes of SD card. For a 8GB SD cards, the times are as below.

TVSHQ - 5hr 32min

HDSHQ - 1hr 50min

Full SHQ - 1hr 27min

Full HD - 1hr 5min

Full HR - 43min 50sec

You will need a lot of SD space to shoot your videos at the higher resolutions and I suppose this is the price of quality! I believe this is also true of other makes of videocam with full HD and not just for the Sanyo HD2000.

Thus it is a good thing that you can connect an external HDD (Hard Disk Drive) directly to the HD2000 via the USB port for storing and managing your library of video files without the need of a PC. I am not sure if this function is also available in other makes of videocam. This will be great if you are travelling and you need not invest in too many SD cards. I will detail my experience on this function in my next post once I get hold of a suitable external HDD.

Ronald Kwok

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Impressed by First Impression

First thing first, just a quick post on my first impression of the Sanyo VPC HD2000.

My wife spent the Sunday trying out her new toy. I was pleasantly surprised by my wife's video shots since this is her first videocam and the videos look great. She took both indoors and outdoors shots (during the day) and output was clear and smooth. The video quality is definitely very good.

I shot some videos using super macro mode (that can go down to 1cm) on flowers and they look good and the auto focus picked the right subjects most of the time but in a few cases it focused on items in the near background. When closing in, you can see the focus changing and settling on the right subject. I tried the zoom but the result is shaky especially at the maximum end of the 10x optical zoom. This is the main weakness of the Sanyo, the unstable EIS. You'll need a tripod if you need to zoom with the Sanyo.

Color was very natural under normal daylight.

The built-in mic was very sensitive and the audio output was realistic and life-like with very little noise. During playback, I was transported back to the scene of the video.

When browsing at some of the forums, I saw a number of concerns on how the video will playback on TV because of the PAL/NTSC systems, the frame rates used and the different frequencies employed. Have no fear, I tried playback on both my analogue and digital TV and both were smooth with perfect audio sync. Of course, the quality of the videos depends on the quality of the TV used. I used the supplied S-AV cable to connect the Sanyo to my old CRT TV and the component cable to connect to my Sharp LCD TV. Also used a standard HDMI cable (not supplied) to connect the Sanyo to the Sharp LCD TV. BTW, all connections are via the docking station as shown below.

You have to set the TV Output options to suit the TV to be used for viewing.

Under TV System you can select NTSC or PAL, under TV Type you can select 4:3 or 16:9 format.

I tested using a CRT TV with 4:3 format under PAL to display the highest HD mode of 1920x1080 (60p) without any issues. You need to select the recording resolution if you use the component cable and using the HDMI is easier by just selecting auto and the output will match the recording mode used. My LCD TV is not full HD, just 1368x768 and so it can go to 1080i only but playback was no issue.

The problem is viewing on the PC. The video is recorded using MPEG4/H.264 (whatever that means) and not many media player can playback MPEG4 files. One of the software provided with the Sanyo is Nero Showtime 4 and I used this to view the videos. Those recorded at 1920x1080 (60i), the second highest resolution, playback without problem but those at the highest resolution of 1920x1080 (60p) was jerky on my desktop. I suspect that there's not enough RAM memory for this task since there is only 1G RAM. I will test again later when I increase the RAM.
(Apple Quicktime showed only colour pixels!)
Playback on the Lenovo S10 (with the maximum 2G RAM) using Nero Showtime was even jerky for the lower resolution so using this netbook for viewing is out of the question. I will shoot some videos later at lower resolutions to see which is the highest that can be playback on the Lenovo S10. I suppose this is the price of quality, the typical PC just cannot handle this high resolution of the Sanyo. I suspect editing the videos will also be PC resource demanding as well. Will test this later as well.
Next I will get some blank DVD's and see if there is any issue burning the videos onto DVD. And finally test how the DVD will playback on a normal DVD player. So there are plenty of tasks to be perform. Sigh.
Ronald Kwok

Friday, May 1, 2009

Why I choose Sanyo VPC HD2000 videocam

About a month ago my wife suddenly informed me that she wanted to have a video camera and I nearly fell off my chair. So I thought she must have watched too much videos in Facebook and also Youtube in her Lenovo S10 and wanted to join in the crowd and post some videos online as well. So OK, I thought I would just get her one of those web-standard video camera and that should serve her purpose. But when she told me she wanted a full HD (High Definition) videocam, I really fell off my chair this time. What, these HD videocam will cost me a bomb!

Apparently she has told my elder daughter who has a friend whose father owns a camera shop and the friend has recommended the latest Sanyo Xacti videocam, the VPC HD2000. She told my daughter that this is a craze in Hong Kong and she will give us a good offer when she has her warehouse sale later in the month. (Maybe her company is the distributor for Sanyo stuff!) This model is apparently the only consumer videocam that has progressive HD recording currently. (The stuff that says 1080p instead of 1080i which is supposed to be twice as good!) Since my daughter is always looking for the best, she convinced my wife that this is the videocam to buy.

I know Sanyo make fridges and other electrical goods but don't remember them selling any cameras, let alone videocams. Of course I was very skeptical about this and I went around looking at the camera shops. All the videocams I saw were Canons, Sonys, Panasonics, JVC or even Samsungs but no Sanyos and finally I found only one shop selling this model. So I googled and was presently surprised that Sanyo do make videocams and this model is getting some good reviews as well.

This is an unconventional shape, very much like a slightly oversized shaver or a mini hair dryer. They call this the pistol grip since you will aim and shoot your video just like you aim and shoot with a pistol. Sanyo has been producing this style of videocam for a number of years but this is their first progressive HD model which replaces the earlier HD1000 and the HD1010 which came out late last year.

This post will be purely on my point of view as a user and not on the technical aspects. The most complete review so far for the HD2000 is to be found at the camcorder info site here and my post will mainly cover items not touched by this review plus my views on the items covered as an end-user. Since this is my first videocam, I have no previous experience or videocam to compare with and my comments may be very subjective.

To cut this intro short, I went ahead and bought the Sanyo VPC HD2000 as an advanced birthday present for my wife last weekend so that she can get some practice using it before our holiday in Turkey later in May (if the swine flu has not stopped the world by then.) Below is a shot of my latest desktop with the unholy trinity of Lenovo S10 netbook, Sharp HD (ready) LCD TV and the latest Sanyo HD videocam as each has its own Blog. Will they work together? I'll soon find out. You can see their relative sizes in this shot; the Sanyo videocam is sitting in the docking station.

Actually, the trio are only together for the shots since only the Sharp LCD TV is mine that belongs to my desktop; the Lenovo S10 and the Sanyo videocam belong to my wife but I will be borrowing them from time to time for testing and writing this and other Blogs. I use a Dell Inspiron for my normal work.

I decided to buy the Sanyo because of some good reviews that I have read. Though it is not the best in the market, it is good value for money with the features that it has. Sure, you can get better videocam but at a much higher price. Actually the main reason is that my wife has more or less made up her mind on this model so if I get her anything else she would not be happy inside. Thus to keep her happy so that she will not make me unhappy, I took this model. Ladies sure have their way around, sigh.

Anyway, stay tuned.

Ronald Kwok