Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Movie Time - the 1080p competition HX1 vs SX1 vs GH1 vs 5DII

Thanks to a very nice fellow who lives nearly exactly on the opposite side of planet earth from me there is comparable footage from the
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1
  • Canon PowerShot SX1 IS
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1

Thank you Gordon from Camera Labs well done.
You will find more general info here. Also you can download the short clips for yourself on vimeo and compare for yourself.
So I downloaded all the clips, made a capture from the same view and cropped the 1920 to 1600 because of the restriction here on blogger. The lost area is not important to make up your mind. In case of the HX1 the 1440 wide original was stretched to 1920 (as a player would do).
I chose that particular frame because you have lots to compare in it:

  • the mountains far away
  • the thin rigging of the smokestack
  • writing on the boat an farer away the sign on the house
  • bright reflection on the water and water reflection on the boat
  • dark reflection under the pier
  • detail in the dark area of the green house
  • the white pole next to the green house for purple fringing 
Let´s compare side by side
HX1 GH1*
HX1e GH1 720
 The GH1* footage sadly is out of focus in the are where I would grab the frame so this is the closest I could get.
The HX1e had the saturation raised by 40% to come close to the Canon blue
The GH1 720 is there just for aditional comparison


EOS and SX1 dominate with an extreme blue water.  There is a bluish hue over the mountains with the SX1 while the HX1, EOS and GH1 show them more natural.  The Lumix looses lots of detail in the water between the boats. The HX1 has the softest contrast setting and looses detail in the reflection under the pier. An up to 10% increase in contrast recovers the detail nicely. That is easy to do in the player or tv.  When I compare the water reflection on the back of the Fiordlander, the SX1 lost the right half of it and seems blown out.
The HX1 shows a tiny bit of purple fringing on the pole.The 720 mode from the GH1 shot in 60p  seems darker than the 30p shots from all others. The clarity off all shots is good and the 1.5 MP of the HX1 compared to the 2 MP of the other cameras seems to be irrelevant. I could not make out more detail.

Now let´s ask your friendly neighborhood histogram what it thinks about the footage.


Both Canons did blow out some highlights. Comparing the videos and seeing the problems in zooming and focusing the DSLRs having plus the 20x lens from the both superzooms and the nearly identical quality in full HD my conclusion is that the both superzooms are the clear winner in this simple video shoot out. I would love to see some footage in low light situations.
Hey Gordon next time when you go to church to do the high ISO shots how about a 5 second footage in full tele and full wide to add to the video comparison. That would be swell.
To me it seems the Canons are over saturating and need a negative exposure compensation from at least -0.7 to prevent blowouts.
There is also no visible reason that the SX1 file should be 4 times that of the HX1. I am very pleased with that since the HX1 can put the same footage on a 8 GB memory stick where the SX1 would need a 32 GB SD card.

From the footage we have here I would declare the HX1 the winner since she is the cheapest and needs the least amount of memory. She has the easiest to use codec and the 720p should play on most machines without a stutter it the right codec and player is installed.
A last word on image quality:
A while ago after careful comparing pictures from the Canon PowerShot SX10 IS vs Panasonic FZ28 vs EOS 450D / XSi  outdoor shootout I had some trouble seeing the big DSRL difference in shots at 100 ISO. Over 200 ISO the DSLR was the clear winner. But since the HX1 has a powerful twilight  mode I think Sony has a real winner here.
Please tell me what you think about the video image qualities of the 4 contestants and if you agree or disagree with my findings (as a HX1 owner since 4 days I might be biased) either by the HX1 only forum or by leaving a comment.
Update 2009.8.6
It seems, that the reason why there is not much difference from the video quality between a more than $3000 Camera and a less than $500 camera is that they both do not even come close to the 1920x1080 resolution.
A test from digitalcamerainfo.com states that:
Video Sharpness
The sharpness that a camcorder actually produces is rarely the same number that the manufacturer advertises. For instance, camcorders that output a 1920 x 1080 picture are not actually capturing one thousand nine-hundred and twenty horizontal lines of information. That's simply the size of the "container" that the camcorder outputs (also known as the resolution). In fact, there are lots of ways that manufacturers can play with the numbers, emphasizing capabilities of the lens, or the sensor, or something else.

The 5D Mark II captured decently sharp video. In our testing, the camera measured 700 line widths per picture height (lw/ph) horizontal and 650 lw/ph vertical. This is very close to the results we measured on both the Canon T1i and Panasonic GH1. The Canon HF S100 had the best sharpness of this bunch, coming in with 800 lw/ph horizontal and 650 lw/ph vertical. When testing the vertical sharpness on the 5D Mark II we noticed its image had similar aliasing and blur to the Canon HF S100. All this data is taken from testing the cameras and camcorder in their Full HD (1920 x 1080) modes.

Read more about this topic here:
How We Test Camcorders
For additional reading regarding the video capabilities of the DSLR´s look here for the GH1 and here for the EOS.

I will start digging into that and so could you. The way I understand the simple truth is that when we hear resolution we think that is x absolute pixel times y absolute pixel makes the resolution. It seems when the industry thinks video resolution they say this is the output container and lets see what we can fill in to it.


  1. Can Smart zoom be used in movie mode in both hx1 and sx1?

    If so what is the max smart soom for these cameras?


  2. i believe it's 26X optical zoom on 5MP/w smart zoom.