I'm unhappy

I became quite unhappy with the image quality of the HF100. It's always the same. First there was Super VHS and VHS suddenly looked bad. Then came miniDV, then HDV or AVCHD. Every step looked like a big progress. But in fact they where tiny steps, the sensors in the cameras always remained smaller then the fingernail of your pinky. The actual resolution makes one cry. Will there ever be an end to this? I think so. Image quality from large sensor still cameras is at a point where little improvement can be done. Photos look just great. Now movie quality has to catch up and all will be good. At least for 2D since we'll probably progress to 3D visualisation in our living room then :-)

I watched a lot of Nikon D90 DSLR videos recently at vimeo. This model has a sensor of the same size as a 35 mm cinema camera. The depth of field and the colors and the overall look of the videos makes my HF100 pale. Sure the D90 shows a lot of JPEG compression artefacts and has a low bitrate and no control but nevertheless it looks very good at 640 x 360 size. And it will only get better with upcoming models.

I recommend watching these videos from the D90 to get the feel of the "new look" future cameras promise. The D90 has bad resolution but the images feel warm and analog.

Now the HF100 is FullHD but can you watch it at that size on a computer monitor? I also have to scale its video down to 360p in order to look akzeptable. Still the HF100 images look "muddier" than the D90 ones. Sure you can do some "color grading" but if the material isn't optimal its frustrating. I always said that it's a miracle how such quality can come from such a tiny, tiny sensor but imagine what the HF100 could deliver with a large sensor. It can't be this small any more but who cares? In the past 35 mm size meant heavy, expensive cameras but it can be done in a very small package. E.g. the Micro Four Thirds standard promises small still/movie cameras with "huge" sensors and fast autofocus during movie recording. Autofocus is important since the shallow depth of field of large sensor cameras makes it difficult to focus manually, especially on the lcd screen (the viewfinder is disabled in movie mode). Vimeo is full of unsharp D90 videos because of this.

Pentax K20D(21f/s) + DA55-300mm from ligar on Vimeo.

The above movie represents the holy grail (Download and watch the original!). Some day there will be no difference between the quality of a photo and a movie frame. Until then we have to live with the crippled products the industry is willing to give us consumers.

After seeing the "look" of big sensor movies I will never ever buy a small sensor camera again. Period. By the way I observe all these changes at myphotomoviecam.blogspot.com


LYTECUP exposure control device

Canon HV20/HV30 users also have no manual control over gain, arperture and shutter speed. The LYTECUPTM looks like a useful device. It seems to have a dimmable and diffused LED light source inside and allows to set arpertures and shutter speeds while keeping gain at zero.

I have no experience with this device but I think it would work just the same on the HF100. Maybe some adaption to the smaller lens diameter of the HF100 would be all that is needed. For someone experienced in electronics this could be an interesting DIY project using a LED, a diffuser, a battery, potentiometer, some capacitors, resistors and a NE555 integrated circuit to produce the pulse width modulation (PWM) for dimming the LED but its probably not worth the time if you can buy it readymade for a fair price.

You could use a light meter (expensive) or your point and shoot pocket camera to determine the correct exposure of a scene at a low ISO and 1/50 shutter speed. After this set the HF100 to Tv50 then set the correct arperture using the LYTECUP device. Some experiementing will be required though to find the corresponding ISO value of the "zero gain" HF100 setting.