New HF11 model!

Canon in Japan just indroduced a new HF11 model that finally offers the maximal possible AVCHD data rate of 24 mbits/s. It has 32 GB internal storage and looks like the HF100 model. It will be available in September 2008 for 1.299 Euro.


What settings do I use?

You can't do much wrong with the HF100 just make sure it's in FXP High Quality mode. If you want to shoot interlaced and you want to be on the safe side the "Easy" button isn't a bad idea.

If you're concerned of best possible motion capture of fast moving objects you may want to use 50i. I use PF25 exclusively and set the shutter speed in Tv mode to 1/50s because higher shutter speeds tend to show stuttering motion. Slower shutter speeds don't work well when the camcorder is handheld. It's the same as with photo cameras if the shutter speed gets too low you have to use a tripod.

At the moment I'm experimenting with Cinemode which looks promising. Here are some comments about this mode from different web forums:

"Cine mode uses a low contrast gamma - it gives more detail in shadows and highlights, creating a flatter looking image."
"Cinemode attempts to keep the shutter speed at 1/48 (NTSC) or 1/50 (PAL). If there's either too little or too much light to compensate with aperture, the shutter speed will be automatically adjusted. In very low light situations, some gain is applied too, but it tops out at 9dB."
"There's no manual control over shutter speed in cine mode."
"Cine mode turns off in-camera sharpening, so the resulting images are softer than with other modes. Generally, this is a good thing, because there are no halos caused by sharpening around edges. Most of the apparent sharpness can be applied back by sharpening in the edit, but unfortunately it also causes some real, unreversable loss in low contrast detail."
"The Cine mode on the HV30 matches the Canon XL A1's Cine V mode (Custom Preset #8)."
"The parameters of the Cine V preset are Gamma: Cine 1, Knee: Low, Black: Stretch, Sharpness: -4, Color Matrix: Cine 1, Color Gain: -20, Color Phase: +5, Red-Blue: -5, Green-Red: -5, Blue-Red: +5, and Red-Green: +12."

My experience with Cinemode so far is that in good light and with some contrast enhancement (and/or color correction) on the computer Cinemode gives very good results. It keeps gain low, stays around 1/50 shutter speed and rather opens the aperture to compensate for low light than increasing the gain. But again it needs enough light. You don't want this mode to go below 1/50s unless you shoot from a tripod.

Whatever you choose test it carefully first!


PIXO C1 Universal Charger

This clever designed charger allows to charge Li-on batteries from almost any photo camera or camcorder. Just adjust two pins and insert the battery. The polarity is automatically dedtected and the battery is charged with all neccessary saftety protections. This seems to be a great alternative to the Canon charger, especially if you also have to charge Li-ion batteries from other devices. The street price is below 30 EUR. I don't own this charger but according to the manufacturer website it also charges "intelligent" or "smart" batteries. The C2 model additionally charges NiCd and NiMH batteries.


Fair priced battery from Hong Kong

I bought a "Battery+Charger For Canon BP-809 BP809 HF10 HF100 Vixia" from the eBay merchant "lo100us" and I'm positively surprised. The product image at eBay was a generic one and I didn't expect much. The first shipment never arrived but a replacement sent on June 24 arrived today.

I payed around 30 USD including shipping. I call this a fair price. After all we talk about a small simple battery and a low tech charger and when Canon wants $120 for these items it's nothing else than a rip-off.

As you can see above the BP-809 clone has exactly the same shape and color as the original. The only thing missing is the "i" on the battery and in fact it's not "intelligent". The HF100 displays a battery symbol with a question mark instead of the remaining usage minutes. Since the battery info in the menu is also disabled there's no way to see the charge status of the battery. All you can do is waiting for the "Change the battery pack" warning.

The charger has a built in battery protection and fault detection circuitry. It automatically stops charging when the battery is full. The supplied charger also charges the original battery which is great.*

The charger comes with a plug adapter and can be operated with 100-250V 50/60Hz a.c. voltage.

Unfortunately the supplied adapter doesn't fit into German or Austrian power outlets which require a round plug.

Fortunately the two pins on the charger seem to conform to a standard because the problem was quickly solved after a visit to an electronics store. The charger even looks better with the new black plug adapter.

The battery seems to be of equal quality as the original one. I put an 8GB SDHC card in the HF100 aimed it at a clock and started recording. When I returned recording had stopped because the card was full which equals 1 hour of continuous recording.

The manual states that "intelligent" batteries may only be charged with chargers that are compatible to the "i" system. So far charging the original battery with this external charger works fine. The HF100 displays the usual 83 min usage time with the fully external-charged original battery inserted.*

Before someone comes and says the "intelligence" justifies the price difference lets put this straight: there's no computer built in. I'm pretty sure the circuit for the "intelligent" part of the original battery is veeery simple and cheap.

Some important things to know from the eBay merchant "91deals" which was mentioned in the comments (on his eBay product photos the charger and battery appear to be identical to the ones I've got):

  • Don't charge the clone battery in the camcorder always charge it externally with the charger that came with the battery.
  • Charge 2-3 hours more after the light on the charger turns green. (I don't understand this one. Any comments?)

*UPDATE: Charging the original battery worked fine the first time but after charging it several times over night problems appeared. The HF100 didn't recognize the fully charged original battery correctly. It displays a "Change Battery Pack" warning and displays a striked-through battery symbol. If I ignore the warning I can use the camcorder but the power button LED blinks green. Seems like the "intelligence" got offended by the cheap charger. The battery is full but it doesn't report that to the camcorder. I successfully restored the "intelligence" by emptying the battery in the camcorder and then charging it again with the supplied power adapter. I'll better charge the original battery in the camera from now on.