SD700 Camcorder Testing

 

In this section:

SD700 reviews; forums; viewing 1080/50p clips; editing 1080/50p on a Mac; slow motion; capturing frames


Links to other relevant sections:

Procedure for editing 1080/50p on a Mac

SD700 Still Image Mode

SD700 on a Trip

SD700 with Teleconverters

The 700 Series Neutral Density (ND) Filters




The Panasonic 700 Series Camcorder


It was the middle of May 2010 before I finally managed to buy a Panasonic SD700 Camcorder here in Australia after trying unsuccessfully for about two months.  The only models sold here are the HS700, which has an inbuilt 240Gb hard drive, and the SD700 which has just an SD card slot.  I decided to buy the SD700 it is $Au600 cheaper and it's slightly smaller and lighter in weight than the HS700.  Also, SD cards are getting cheaper all the time and are easily carried and stored, and there is no danger of losing all the stored videos as there could be if a hard drive fails.


Not having previously owned a dedicated camcorder I can only compare it with taking videos with my FZ38.  In that respect I am finding the SD700 much easier to handle and the controls are very much better.  It has a manual ring around the lens barrel that can be used for zoom, manual focus, WB, shutter speed, and aperture.  The zoom can also be controlled by a lever on the cam body and by using the touchscreen LCD (for fine adjustments).  I found that the zoom can be changed much more smoothly and slowly on the SD700 than on the FZ38.


The TM700, which is the most commonly reviewed model, has 32Gb of inbuilt storage as well as an SD card, and it has received some very favourable reviews, particularly for what seems to be generally agreed as the outstanding quality of the AVCHD 1080/60p (NSTC) or 1080/50p (PAL) video.


Reviews:


Camcorderinfo: http://www.camcorderinfo.com/content/Panasonic-HDC-TM700-Camcorder-Review-37681.htm


InfoSync: http://www.infosyncworld.com/reviews/camcorders/panasonic-hdc-hs700/10929.html


TrustedReviews: http://www.trustedreviews.com/camcorders/review/2010/03/22/Panasonic-HDC-TM700/p1


DigitalCameraReview: http://www.digitalcamerareview.com/default.asp?newsID=4347&review=panasonic+tm700


Siaphoto:  http://siaphoto.com/2010/06/panasonic-hdc-tm700-hd-camcorder-2010


Digital Versus:  http://www.digitalversus.com/article-363-8510-60.html


US Camcorders:  http://hdcamcorders.art-speck.com/panasonic-tm700-full-hd-camcorder/


SecondChair Video: http://www.secondchairvideo.com/?p=2529


DVX User: http://www.dvxuser.com/articles/article.php/29


B&H Video: http://video.bhinsights.com/content/panasonic-3-chip-champions.html



Forum Discussions:


As there are unfortunately no dedicated forums for camcorders on DPReview it is necessary to go to other sources for user discussion of the Panasonic 700 series.  Some good forums are:


AV Science Forum:  http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1225613


Camcorderinfo (located below the review pages):

http://www.camcorderinfo.com/content/Panasonic-HDC-TM700-Camcorder-Review-37681.htm


AVForums:

http://www.avforums.com/forums/camcorders-video-editing/1194280-new-panasonic-700-series-camcorders-launched.html


DVXuser (generally more technical in nature):

http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?t=199450&highlight=panasonic+tm700


I have found the first two forum sites to be quite helpful, and in fact that is where I discovered how to edit the 1080/50p video on my Apple Mac.  As 1080/50p is outside the usual AVCHD format, the available software is just catching up with being able to edit it.  Also, it requires considerable computer processing power and graphics card speed for editing and viewing the 1080/50p video on a PC.  This tends to mean that an older PC may not be up to the job.



Editing of AVCHD 1920 x 1080, 50fps video from the SD700


As I use an Apple Mac the following discussion refers to that, but there are extensive discussions on the forums given above on how to edit this format using a PC.


My iMac is about 18 months old and it seems to be able to handle 1080/50p quite well.  However, iMovie '09 can't import the AVCHD files directly from the cam.  A workaround has been developed by Alan Somers who has created a very useful application called "Rewrap2M4V":

http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2380085&ts%20tart=0


After copying the AVCHD folder to the Mac, the mts files in the BDVM > STREAM folder are simply dropped onto Rewrap42V and they are virtually instantly rewrapped into MP4 files without any transcoding being required.  The original mts files or the resulting rewrapped MP4 files can be viewed on the Mac very smoothly without any stuttering by using a free application called Movist:

http://mac.softpedia.com/get/Video/Movist.shtml   On my Mac I find that Movist provides smoother playing than does Quicktime Player 10.0 or VLC player.


The rewrapped MP4 files can be imported directly into iMovie. However, when initially set up for PAL or NTSC, when iMovie ’09 v. 8.0.6 imports files, even when “Full - Original Size” is chosen in the “Optimize Video” pulldown menu, a conversion to Apple Intermediate Codec (AIC) takes place within iMovie for editing, and this creates a video that is not 50p but is actually 25p (or 30p for NSTC).  This can be verified by using the maximum “Frames per thumbnail” setting of 1/2 sec, and then moving the cursor through the movie one frame at a time.  Despite this, the “Export using Quicktime” options do include 50p (or 60p).  Hence the Quicktime movie that results after exporting by choosing the 50p option is a .mov file that appears to be 1080/50p, and has a 50p frame rate, but is actually 25p with every frame duplicated.


To overcome this problem there is a workaround that has been discussed on the Apple forums, which is to use a free software program called “PlistEditPro”. 

This can be downloaded from:  http://www.fatcatsoftware.com/plisteditpro/

This enables access to the normally hidden iMovie preference file which sets the frame rate for the AIC conversion to be changed from 25p (or 30p NSTC) to 50p (or 60p NSTC).


After doing this change iMovie will import and automatically convert 1080/50p video clips in the form of the above rewrapped .mov files to 50p AIC for editing.  Unlike interlaced clips, there is no danger of losing resolution when using any iMovie Effects during the editing process, and the 1080/50p is preserved throughout.


Roxio Toast can be used to burn to a DVD-R disk with the "Blu-Ray Plug-in", although this involves a conversion to 1080/50i, as Blu-Ray does not accept 50p.  A DVD-R disk can hold about 20 minutes of full HD 1080/50p video which can then be played on a Blu-Ray player and viewed on a HD-TV.


I have written a step-by-step procedure for this which is given in section 1 of this page: here.


I used the above procedure to create a short 1080/50p movie from clips I took with my SD700 at a local botanic gardens.  The clips were taken hand-held, in iA (auto) mode with default settings.  I have uploaded the movie to Vimeo at: http://www.vimeo.com/12007022


A procedure for simple editing, equivalent to the HD Writer AE 2.1 software for PC that comes with the camcorder, is described using the free MPEG Streamclip software in section 2 of this page: here.


I used this procedure to make a movie of a yellow-tailed black cockatoo by just trimming and joining clips, and uploaded it to Vimeo at:  http://vimeo.com/12612270


Update Feb 2011:

An alternative free software program for rewrapping mts files called “Remux” may be easier to install and use than “Rewrap2M4V”. 

Remux can be downloaded here: http://www.nef.wh.uni-dortmund.de/%7Emt/remux/


I am grateful to Karsten for alerting me to this.  Karsten has also published a very useful website about various aspects of iMovie at: https://sites.google.com/site/karstenschluter/imovie09tricks


Another useful site about iMovie is Aaron’s website at: http://www.unlockingimovie.com/


Slow Motion


One of the clips in the above movie showed a honeyeater (an Australian native bird commonly called the “noisy Miner”) feeding from Salvia flowers, but it all happened very quickly.  I tried converting the clip into slow-motion, hoping that would make it easier to see how the bird feeds from the flowers, and yes, It did in fact seem to help quite a lot.  In fact it was also possible to see a bee at work on a flower, just to the left of the bird: http://vimeo.com/12095740


I used iMovie to create the slow-motion and I was surprised how well the 1080/50p video at 50% held up in terms of IQ and smoothness.  Even at 25% the IQ was still OK and the motion was still fairly smooth.  A similar effect can be achieved directly with the normal speed video using certain video player software by simply reducing the playing speed.



Still Frames


I extracted a frame from the honeyeater clip and cropped it somewhat, as shown below (click on image to see larger version):



II

I also extracted a frame from the above cockatoo movie as shown below (click on image to see larger version):



IA

Although not as good as still shots would be, the frames seem quite OK.



Continue to Still Image Mode


Continue to Testing the SD700 with Teleconverters


Continue to SD700 on a Trip


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