DV.com recently ran an article written by video guru Adam Wilt about a lab test of the main four 1/3″ CCD HD cameras – Canon XL H1, JVC GY-HD100U, Panasonic AG-HVX200, and the Sony HVR-Z1U. Unlike 24’s production trial, this test involves a side-by-side setup with lots of operators, observers, models, charts, multiple lighting , with everything routed through the same banks of recording, monitoring, and diagnostic tools.
For comparison’s sake, a Panasonic HDC27F Varicam and a Sony HDW-F900/3 CineAlta were also set up and tied into all the testing gear. Obviously, with so many cameras and so many independently adjustable features on each camera, there’s only so much that can be done in a single day, so the tests were really only focused on sharpness, clarity, latitude, and general quality of the CCD array and image processing of each camera.
Here’s the brief conclusion: the four little cameras are pretty similar in most respects, and are getting pretty close to the two big cameras in most respects. However, the 1/3″ CCDs tend to have about half of the crispness of the 2/3″ CCDs. Of the four, the Canon (1080) was the obvious winner in terms of raw, clear, unaliased image detail, with the JVC (720) second, and the Sony (1080) and Panasonic (1080) tied for third. In terms of overall (and more subjective) image quality, each camera had its own strengths and weaknesses. The Sony had the lowest noise. The Canon had more image control. The Panasonic handled highlights and skin tones well, but not quite as well as the very noisy JVC.
There’s more info in the article, as well as frame grabs and video clips. To read it you’ll need to sign up (free) for a DV.com account. This article alone makes it worth the trouble. However, I must offer a brief disclaimer. Bear in mind that the results of these experiments don’t necessarily reveal the best all-around camera for the independent filmmaker. There weren’t any motion tests, codec tests, stress tests, lens test, or power tests and none of the cameras were taken outside. Yet. Keep an eye out for more results.