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Optical Zoom on High Definition Camcorders

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Old 06-07-2008, 02:24 PM   #1
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Default Optical Zoom on High Definition Camcorders

Newbie here and have a question.

How come the High Definition Camcorders only have 10x-15x on the optical zoom while my 5 year old Sony Handycam has 30x optical zoom.

I want a high Definition Camcorder but I'm concerned some about the optical zoom. I record football games from the stands and need a good zoom sometimes.

Whats the deal with High Definition Cam's having a lower zoom level?

Thanks for the help.
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Old 06-07-2008, 06:19 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhambone View Post
Newbie here and have a question.

How come the High Definition Camcorders only have 10x-15x on the optical zoom while my 5 year old Sony Handycam has 30x optical zoom.

I want a high Definition Camcorder but I'm concerned some about the optical zoom. I record football games from the stands and need a good zoom sometimes.

Whats the deal with High Definition Cam's having a lower zoom level?

Thanks for the help.
With a hi-def camcorder, you will need a tripod with 10x or more zoom. So, I hope that you are recording with a tripod, or at least a monopod or some sort of support. The reason is that any movement is much more noticible on a larger screen. My new Canon HF-100 has a 12x zoom, and at maximum zoom - I cannot hand-hold it steady enough for a good video.

Worst case, you can add an auxiliary lens to multiply the focal length. With a simple lens that screws into the front of your existing lens, you can increase the effective focal length by about 30 to 50%. So a 10x lens might become 15x if needed.

-Tom
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Old 06-08-2008, 11:12 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by rhambone View Post
Whats the deal with High Definition Cam's having a lower zoom level?
It's not actually about HD; it's about cheap cams vs. expensive cams. Better cams have larger lenses and to make them have a zoom factor of larger than 20 would be prohibitively expensive and result in huge heavy glass.

Little cheap camcorders have tiny lenses so to give them zoom ratios in the 30s and 40s isn't that big a deal -- but the picture is still crappy.

And you absolutely need a tripod with anything over 10x, as noted above, especially with HD, which is very sensitive to vibration.

You can find HDV cams with up to 20x zoom, but they tend to be expensive -- the Canon A1 and the Sony V1 are two examples; so is the now-defunct FX7. I think 12x is the best you'll find on the lower-cost models.

Sony makes some pretty good 2x extenders for their small cams. An HC7 or 9 plus a 37mm screw-in 2x extender would cost less than one-third of a V1 or Canon A1. But it doesn't increase the zoom ratio -- it would still be 10x or 12x, as before. It doubles the apparent focal length. So even at the wide end you'd be twice as "close."
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Old 06-08-2008, 01:18 PM   #4
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Thanks Tom and Adam,

That gives me something to think about. With my older Sony Handcam with 30x Optical zoom I can tape football games pretty good, I didn't use a tripod either I usually rest my hand on my leg and follow the action from left to right and could keep it pretty steady.

I am still shopping around for a HD Camera I like. Tom I seen your camera has the image stabilazation and it's still shaky? I think I have a pretty steady hand and I don't really want to carry around a tri-pod but I never used an HD Camera so I might need something to keep it steady like you guys said.

I was just really concerned about the zoom too, I guess future models might be cheaper and have a better zoom but I guess with HD like you said Adam it would be expensive to give that HD quality on a long zoom.
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Old 06-08-2008, 02:03 PM   #5
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I use a sony hdr hc7 to video long range shots while varmint hunting. A excellent tripod is a requirement. Also if you are going to use a doubler purchase one specifically for a hd camera as they use a better grade of glass.

One other thing to remember have fun. At 50+ yards there are not that many problems getting a good picture. I have videoed rock chucks at 800 yards that some times are as crisp and clear as a bell. Some times not so much. Wish I knew why
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Old 06-08-2008, 02:10 PM   #6
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Tom I seen your camera has the image stabilazation and it's still shaky?
No, I am shaky! There is only so much that stabilization can do. I don't think that I have ever seen better stabilization than what Canon has put into the HF-100/HF-10 camcorders. I am talking about the fact that on HD, any movement that doesn't contribute to the video is distracting. With SD, you can get away with a lot more movement and it seems acceptable.

I recorded a demonstration in HD at a plantation near Charleston, South Carolina a month or two ago. I recorded the video for about 40 minutes. I kept perfectly still! Almost as good as a tripod. But! When I moved, my arm was in terrible pain from a cramp! It took about 3 hours for the pain to go away! I now carry a mono pod in my car, for just this sort of occasion. An inexpensive, light mono pod or tripod is better than trying to hand hold HD. Especially using a high magnification lens setting.

Adam also made some good points about the quality of lenses in HD cameras. You cannot get away with the same resolution of lenses that are used in SD. The lens in the HF-100 is amazing! Aside from only 2Mp still photos, the camera is almost perfect (IMHO). I would rather shoot on to an SD/SDHC card and not deal with tape. Dirty heads, humidity issues with moisture on the head, and mechanical noise are no longer issues.

Good luck on your choice. But my vote is for the HF100! Especially with 16GB SDHC Class 6 cards now in the $50 to $70 price range!

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Old 06-08-2008, 02:21 PM   #7
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Good luck on your choice. But my vote is for the HF100! Especially with 16GB SDHC Class 6 cards now in the $50 to $70 price range!
I'll vote for the HF10. I just got this and it has 16GB built in. Plus it can use the same memory cards as the HF100. Otherwise I think they are near identical. With a 16GB Card, you'd get a little over 4 hours on the HF10 at highest quality.

And I used mine today to shoot a bird that was flying over head. Very shaky at full zoom, but even a bit further out than full zoom I was able to see a lot. I think you'll find you won't need a 30x zoom at all.
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Old 06-08-2008, 02:29 PM   #8
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Has any body found a 5x to 10x good quality zoom. I am using my spotting scope for now but want to upgrade. The lowest power on the spotting scope is 15x and if you try to use it you get that pesky black ring. I have a 5x now but the quality is crap and a doubler does not cut it at the ranges I video at.

Perhaps I am going at this wrong what should I do to video at ranges from 100 yrds to 1200 yrds. At 1200 my spotting scope works great at 100 the doubler works great. Its the other 1100 yrds that are kicking my butt
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Old 10-17-2008, 04:24 AM   #9
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Do you guys think it'll be any reasonable time soon before we will see a HD camera that is small, afforadable, and 20x optical or more? If not, which 15x model would you pick? There aren't many to choose from. The only ones I know in the $800 or less range are the Sony HDR-UX20 and HDR-SR10 (amazing how the newer SR11 and SR12 are only 12x!). Which of these two would you choose? Any others with 15x?
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Old 01-16-2011, 04:29 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhambone View Post
Newbie here and have a question.

How come the High Definition Camcorders only have 10x-15x on the optical zoom while my 5 year old Sony Handycam has 30x optical zoom.

I want a high Definition Camcorder but I'm concerned some about the optical zoom. I record football games from the stands and need a good zoom sometimes.

Whats the deal with High Definition Cam's having a lower zoom level?

Thanks for the help.
I too am a newbie, and similarly unimpressed by the optical zoom ranges available on HD cameras.

Incidentally the Panasonic ZS7 has a better range of zoom and many more settings than most Camcorders and records in HD with stereo sound. That is what I now carry as standard with several spare memory cards and batteries. The chunk of glass on the front is from the Leica stable and the results excellent. I mainly record plays in theatres (my work) and wildlife (my hobby). It is for the latter I require long zoom ranges as birdlife across estuaries still look fairly insignificant in HD, and find the current ranges deplorable.

Of course I am aware that a tripod is vital for a 70X optical zoom...that is what I want to see in a camera, however!
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:57 AM   #11
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See post #3 for the explanation. Even though the models have changed, the physics and cost factors remain the same.

If you want to see really long optical zooms on HD cams, go to your nearest stadium or ballpark. The lenses they probably use are the Canon DigiSupers, which have optical zoom ranges up to 100x. Their front elements are the size of dinner plates, they weigh about sixty pounds each and cost about $100K for the lens alone.
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Old 10-29-2011, 11:06 AM   #12
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This is a very good question and probably more to do with marketing and getting us to spend more buying more cameras than "expensive Plate size lenses". There is no other reason they can't add more zoom to the high end cameras--no were not talking about 60 lb 100x lenses.
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Old 10-29-2011, 06:47 PM   #13
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You can think whatever you want but you can't argue with simple physics. More zoom requires bigger and heavier glass when you're dealing with larger chips and bigger lens barrels and expensive fine-tolerance glass elements rather than cheap plastic and you can't get around that.

But the point is now moot with the ubiquity of video capable DSLRs and a variety of real Video Camcorders from Sony and others with very large chips that take interchangeable lenses that can accommodate truly massive zoom lenses. Something for everyone out there now.
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Last edited by acgold7; 10-29-2011 at 06:53 PM.
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