back to article Ten... active camcorders

Focus in on the camcorder market and you’ll find a boom in active compacts underway. Despite the ubiquity of video in smartphones, there’s plenty of demand for pocket shooters that are more rugged and versatile than the average mobile. Typically, these compact cams are used to create clips for YouTube and social media sites, but …


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  1. Jan 0

    We can read manufacturers web sites too. What I'd like to see are some video clips. Exactly how bad is the 15x digital zoom on the Panasonic HX-WA20, for instance?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The mobile phone is pretty much taking over this market now.

    2. Steve Knox Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      How Bad?

      Exactly how bad is the 15x digital zoom on the Panasonic HX-WA20, for instance?

      I've highlighted the relevant term. That should tell you all you need to know.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do the DEV-3's overlay a load of technical-looking crap (range finder, compass heading, face-recognition-uplink, a rapidly scrolling system log) on the image in green neon as you're peering through them? If not, not interested...

  3. miknik

    No GoPro?

    Seems a glaring omission. They have mounts for attaching to pretty much anything, waterproof to 60m and used often by TV shows to film their action content. 3D kit, wifi streaming/remote control available to satisfy the geek in you too.

    1. petur

      Re: No GoPro?

      In fact, not one really 'active' cam in the review: none can be mounted on bike/helmet/....

      1. Steve Knox Silver badge

        Re: No GoPro?

        none can be mounted on bike/helmet/....

        *Sigh* ALL of them can be mounted on your bike/helmet. You just have to work out how.

        1. TakeTheSkyRoad

          Re: No GoPro?

          Well don't forget you've got to look good plunging down that mountain side and duct tape just doesn't look cool

      2. Alan Edwards
        Thumb Up

        Re: No GoPro?

        Provided it's got a tripod socket you can mount any camera on a bike, handlebar mounts are dirt-cheap on eBay.

    2. phear46

      Re: No GoPro?

      Was also thinking this..... Seems like the obvious choice for action. The fish eye isn't for everyone I guess.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: No GoPro?

        If you record in the HD mode which is 127 degrees FOV, it's a lot better than the other modes, which are 170 degrees. There's a lot less distortion. I use it as a helmetcam on my motorcycle literally every day, and it's survived a hell of a lot of abuse, and the original battery is still going strong. I have the older one, not the new "2" with the improved user display & UI. It's quite sharp and crisp.

        Since it's become so popular, there's a LOT of mounting and lens options out there now.

        (My coat's the armored one, with all the branding ripped off)

  4. stu 4
    Thumb Down


    Can't believe that in 2012, Sony, Panasonic and others are still flogging cameras that shoot in interlaced 50i format - other than some advanced intelligent de-interlacing filters, the first thing thats gonna happen when you import the footage into iMovie, vegas, or whatever you use is that half the frames will get chucked away - unless the user edits in 50i in which case that is very rarely ever what is wanted - and they end up posting an interlaced video to youtube, etc which looks terrible.

    Sony in particular's continued use of interlaced AVCHD (even now that P is supported in the format) is a a great example of what is wrong with Sony as a company there days.

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Re: Interlaced

      Interlaced video is cheaper and easier I guess. Progressive scan has always required better hardware.

    2. Clive Galway

      Vegas can do a Bob and Weave deinterlace to produce double framerate footage.

      Agreed though, anything 25 based needs to be shot. Let us move on from differing framerates, nonsquare pixels, PAL and NTSC as quickly as humanly possible. It was a horrible nightmare best left in the past and made things confusing for non-savvy consumers.

  5. lutzray

    Riot gear

    Is there a model for filming riots in low light conditions? i.e. with an exposure control impervious to police strobing flashlights, with a strong strap for resisting assaults, and "hidden" internal buffer memory so no one can erase the last ten recorded minutes (or continuously uploading a lowres stream via 3G or 4G to a cloud backup site).

    1. Alan Edwards
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Riot gear

      Sounds like a job for a smartphone app, with the phone in something like an OtterBox securely tied to you.

      Start with something with a decent camera, like a Sony Experia S. You'd need to lock the exposure, or have it adjust slowly, if the camera API on Android allows that. Buffer the writes to SD via the internal storage with random file names, and/or dump the video to DropBox.

      If you already using a big case, you could duct-tape a big LED bike light to it for more light, and choose one with a flashing mode for a bit of "get-your-own-back"...

  6. Tascam Holiday

    Rolling shutter problems?

    I'd like to have known how bad the rolling shutter issue is with these. As Jan 0 says, some sample video from each camera would have been useful.

    For what it's worth I've got a Kodak PlaySport Zx5, it's completely bomb-proof, no discernible rolling shutter problem, standard tripod mount. I'd replace it with something similar with better low-light performance though.

    1. PC Paul

      Re: Rolling shutter problems?

      I have a Zx5 too. It's been fine too, plenty of 'active' use including quite a bit of snorkelling.

      The only issues I have with it are that the tripod mount is at the bottom so it stands up tall with the lens at the top, no use for a handlebar or helmet mount as it waggles about too much.

      The other thing I really miss is a decent optical zoom, but then again it's cheap and bombproof, what more do I expect?

  7. Fuzz

    the objective lenses on the DEV-3 seem very close together. I would have thought that to get a decent stereoscopic effect, especially at distances that would prescribe the use of binoculars, would require the lenses to be further apart. That being one of the reasons why binoculars have the objective lenses wider apart than the eyepieces.

  8. Joseph Lord

    The other question this spec sheet fails to answer is:

    How much recording time you can fit at good quality on each device? Depends on memory size, capture noise levels and the quality of the compression. That would be something you can't get from the spec sheet.

    1. Clive Galway

      Re: The other question this spec sheet fails to answer is:

      Not if it encodes to Constant Bit Rate and the bit rate is published.

      Even if it is VBR, generaly bit-rates are included in the specs to give you a pretty good idea.

  9. Clive Galway

    Errata - Incorrect terminology usage - 1080i/60 vs 1080i/30

    Wikipedia Link:

    When using the format XXXi/30 XXXi/60 (At least in Europe) the last figure means FRAMES a second not FIELDS per second.

    I seriously doubt that the Panasonic HX-WA20 does 1080i/60 as this would be 120 FIELDS per second (Which could be turned into 1080p/120 using a bob+weave deinterlace) and is data-rate wise comparable to 1080p/60, which the camera does not do.

    Doubling the last number in case of interlaced is only confusing the issue - even if manufacturers quote it in literature, please do not follow suit.

    1. Clive Galway

      Re: Errata - Incorrect terminology usage - 1080i/60 vs 1080i/30

      I feel I should maybe quantify this.

      If using the format you have, please omit the slash.

      eg 1080i60 = 1080i/30

      But I stick to my guns in saying 1080i60 meaning 60 fields a second is a stupid system. Probably invented by americans :P

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    I'm surprised another company hasn't bought the Flip line to continue it. It was the idea product in many ways and the only explanation is that Cisco wanted to keep parts of the technology to itself for use in other parts of its business,

    Shame really. I once worked at an event where 30 Flips were given out for groups to record stuff to be edited later. They actually seemed to be idiot proof as there were no cock ups at all by any of the groups. Quality was OK given the size and the price but the main thing that impressed me was the fact everyone came back with footage.

    Paris because she appreciates an easy to use video camera with good low light capabilities.

  11. Cupboard

    what is the point of interlacing still images to create pseudo-higher megapixel images? Surely it just uses more space for negligible benefit?

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Off track but can we have a review of reasonable video editors that can handle AVHCD without needing a Cray.

    I'd go for Serif Movie Plus but for two things, their purchasing system refuses to accept my debit card and now even if it did I've since learnt that when you use a new format you need to activate it either by phone or over the net. Can you imagine driving down the road in your new car and before you can stop you have to call Ford or whoever to be able to use the brakes.

    Other more powerful suites either wouldn't start or were too slow on my humble PC.

    Maybe I haven't looked hard enough and someone will come back immediately and suggest a no brainer answer.

    1. Alan Edwards

      Re: AVCHD

      Sony Vegas? I use it on a Core i7, and it copes well with 720p MOVs. Vegas Studio Platinum can be had for around £30 off Amazon or eBay.

      AVCHD is the native format for Sony camcorders IIRC, and Vegas can directly import from Sony cameras.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: AVCHD @Alan Edwards

        Thanks, I'll try the platinum demo, there's so much about on the pro version that I didn't realise there were other flavours. Vegas Pro wouldn't load, I don't know what processor I have other than it's a quad core probably an intel because I seem to recall that being my first intel machine and the first I'd bought ready built.

  14. MJI Silver badge

    Picture quality

    Do these cameras have any?

    How would they compare to my HC9?

  15. mrdalliard


    What also got completely missed was the Sanyo Xacti series. I've still got a (non HD) one, which has worked brilliantly for years. I've got one of the waterproof ones. They pretty much started off the "pistol" grip format, eight years ago.

    In fact, I've just had a look on Google and the HD versions are selling for under a hundred quid. I'd still recommend them...

    1. Mike Flugennock
      Thumb Up

      Re: Xacti?

      What also got completely missed was the Sanyo Xacti series. I've still got a (non HD) one, which has worked brilliantly for years. I've got one of the waterproof ones. They pretty much started off the "pistol" grip format, eight years ago...

      Hah, read my mind, man. I was about to post a "Where's The Xacti?" post myself, and stumbled over your post as I was scrolling down to the post form. It is interesting to see how many of the entries in this Top Ten are pretty much straight knock-offs of the Xacti configuration.

      My "main camera" is a Canon HV10 miniDV, which is a really sweet camera. It's getting to be about five years old, though, and is nearing the point in its life where it could start getting a bit creaky, like my old Canon ZR250, which I bought in '02, and wheezed out around '07. Money being tight lately, I knew I couldn't afford to replace something like the HV10 (at $US800-ish), and started checking out some of the ultra-compact tapeless digital cams hitting the market. I'd checked out the tapeless cams a bit around the time I bought the HV10, and had ended up going with the HV10 then because the tapeless cams with decent picture/sound quality actually cost more than an equivalent miniDV, and the ones in my price range had really crappy picture/sound.

      I ended up buying an HD Xacti a couple of years ago on the recommendation of a friend who owned one, and it was one of the best decisions I've made. There's a few features the Xacti doesn't have, such as auto-stabilization, but this was outweighed by the advantages: no wasting time while playing back a whole cassette into FinalCutPro, no dealing with the issues that come with "contact media" and a tape transport with hundreds of moving parts -- and really tiny ones, at that -- and no extra-cost issues that come with having to stock up on blank media (even when I can find them on special, miniDV cassettes run me anywhere from $5 - $10 each). My total expenditure for blank media last year was about $35, for a 16gb SDHC card (the Xacti shipped with an 8gb card). With the Xacti, I load the card into a card dock, pull the shots I want to use, throw out the rest, erase the card, and it's ready to roll again; no sitting around for an hour cooling my heels while I wait for the HV10 to play back a whole cassette into the computer.

      Along with the tech issues, there's also the issue of shooting street protests and such, which another poster touched on earlier. When not designing for a living, one of my avocations is shooting "underground newsreels" of protests and civil disobedience for the local Indymedia site, and up until I got the Xacti, I'd been shooting all those events on the HV10. The advantage of the Xacti made itself clear when the Occupy movement was emerging last fall, and the police started really freaking out on people with cameras. I've been very lucky so far, but, still... in any given situation in the streets, if the cops start freaking out, I'd rather have the Xacti snatched and/or smashed up by a cop than the HV10; at about $130-ish, the Xacti would be much easier to replace than the $800 HV10.

      These days, I pretty much use the HV10 only for times when I need the best picture/sound quailty I can get -- usually music festivals, my wife's band's gigs, stuff like that. The rest of the time, it's the Xacti.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Xacti?

      "What also got completely missed was the Sanyo Xacti series"

      Well, except that the review of the Pannies states that they own the rights to the Xacti tech which is now discontinued by Sanyo.

  16. Lloyd
    Thumb Up

    The Pannie's

    I didn't know that Panasonic had taken over the Xacti stuff, I've got an old 1.5 metre water resistant Xacti and it's perfect for snorkeling, I've managed to get rays (very jammy with a manta), sharks, turtles and very other coral and fishy type stuff and it's only packed up once in 5 years ( a day in a bowl of rice sorted that out). Hopefully Panasonic have improved the video in low light as it's bloody useless above ground unless it's sunny. Saying that, my main compact's a TZ12 and it's great in low light.

  17. Sandy Ritchie


    The Kodak ZX5 Playsport can also be bought in blue and green.

    I picked up a green one from Amazon, only £71, in part due to the colour, its the cheapest. That said if I drop it in a swimming pool I won't loose it.

    Just make sure you've got a beefy PC for processing the vids....

  18. Jamie Kitson


    What is an "active camcorder" when it's at home? I've always thought camcorders weren't active enough.

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