Canon’s Latest Camcorders: Standing Out to be Outstanding

Canon-XA252

With even the cheapest compact cameras, digital SLRs and more recently wearable devices like the GoPro possessing high quality video recording potential, you may think the market for camcorders has somewhat deteriorated.

There is no longer much need to buy a specific video recording device, as even our smartphones and tablets have the ability to not only capture footage, but also edit the results. What used to be a job for the professional is now easily performed by almost anyone with the inclination.

Therefore, if you’re a camera manufacturer, it seems essential to either develop a device that possesses a multitude of capabilities, or produce a camcorder with unrivalled features and quality. One camcorder specialist in particular appears to be targeting both.

Expanding its range of handheld video cameras, Canon has unveiled three camcorders aimed specifically at a professional market. You can replace the word professional with rich if making movies is just a hobby or interest. From the high-end XA25 priced at £2099, to the £1699 XA20 and finally the most affordable LEGRIA HF G30 that costs £1299.

Canon-Legria-HF-G30

All three camcorders have been developed using a brand new picture taking system, which concerns the lens as well as the image sensor and processor. The 20x zoom wide-angle lens featured on all models offers a 26.8-576mm focal range and has borrowed technology from Canon’s premium XF305 camcorder.

As you can imagine, these cameras look to cover all the basics and overcome the common stumbling blocks such as low-light performance and noise reduction.
In addition, an improved Optical Image Stabiliser (IS) system enhances picture quality on the move while an 8-blade circular aperture ensures any background blur is ‘beautiful’ according to Canon. I didn’t even realise this was possible, but even high-quality blur is important apparently.

In some respects, the additional technology and newly developed systems are arbitrary; as for the price you would expect exceptionally high quality images. The respective camera’s ease of use and additional intuitive features are therefore what matters when it comes to differentiating itself from competitors like Panasonic.

Canon-XA20

The XA25 and XA20 feature a removable handle, which can be added or taken away to suit the shooting situation. A new OLED touchscreen gives greater resolution and colour, allowing the user to control exposure as well as aperture, shutter speed, iris, gain and exposure with a customisable control dial.

One interesting additional feature is that each camera features integrated dual band Wi-Fi support (2.4GHz and 5GHz). This handy addition means the user can look at recorded footage on a smartphone or tablet browser without the need for playback software. You can also transfer footage to FTP servers at up to 150Mbps via a wireless access point and play back videos on a supported TV or computer. Even though you’re likely to use the camera for high-quality video, the possibility of uploading to YouTube or Facebook at bitrates of up to 24Mbps exists.

Therefore these cameras appeal exclusively to filmmaking professionals or highly dedicated and passionate amateur video producers. There is no doubting Canon’s ability to develop a camcorder that produces the best possible images, but its additional features and functionality is where it hopes to gain the upper hand.

Tascam iM2 review: CD quality recording comes to the iPhone

One of the best things about iPhones and by extension all smartphones, is the amount of amazing things they put in your pocket. The humble mobile phone was transformed into swiss army knife – at a moment’s notice it was a games console in your pocket, a camera in your pocket replete with editing and uploading abilities or a pocket music studio, where multi-track recording and effects processing, once expensive studio luxuries, could be done whilst waiting for the bus. The old adage that the best camera is the one you have with you is even more apt in the smartphone era – as at any given time you have a camera, games console, mobile recording studio and more in your pockets. Oh brave new world that hath such apps in it.

Tascam-iM2

For people who record audio on the go, their “best” option just got better with the new Tascam iM2 – a high quality stereo microphone for the iPhone. I’m a big fan of such devices and used to adore my Blue Mikey for recording podcasts on the go from a few years back (up until the release of the iPhone 4 when the device regrettably stopped working).

Featuring a pair of 180 degree adjustable condenser microphones of the same high quality as TASCAM’s best-selling DR-series recorders, the iM2 plugs into the 30-pin dock connector at the base of iOS devices. The iM2 contains its own microphone preamp and analog-to-digital converter for low noise and premium audio quality. Unlike mics that use the built-in iPhone preamp, the iM2 can handle up to 125dB SPL sounds for the loudest concerts and instruments.

Worried about unexpected background noise throwing your record off balance? The iM2 packs a built-in stereo limiter to tame sudden loud sounds. You can adjust the microphone level via a knob on the side, making it quick and easy to adjust without looking at the unit. The iM2 is powered through the dock connector so no battery is required. If you intend to be recording for lengthy periods of time, there is a micro USB socket on the side that enables you to charge your device. This means with the right set up – a tripod, iPhone 4S, Glif tripod adaptor and an iM2 you can record high quality audio and video, edit it on your phone and share it with the world.

There is also the free Tascam PCM Recorder app which works wonderfully with the iM2 for recording pure audio. The TASCAM PCM Recorder app has input and output level faders with an “on-screen” meter to help check levels. High and low EQ is built-in, as well as stereo limiting and a low cut filter to prevent overload. Users are able to record mono or stereo files at CD-quality for up to 12 hours. After recording, files can be accessed through iTunes or uploaded to SoundCloud right from the iPhone. TASCAM PCM Recorder app is available now as a download from the iTunes store.

iRig Mic review

Every other weeks comes a new app or accessory that helps the iPad scream “I’m a real boy.” From Pages at launch, to Garageband a year on there are a fair few apps that mail the tablet a serious contender for producing work on. The iPads (and tablets in general) are only useful for consuming content idea, which was much touted at launch could probably be put to bed (it won’t ever be put to bed). Adding to the vocal chorus of things screaming take iPads (and iPhones) seriously is IK multimedia’s iRig Mic.

iRig

Musicians and podcasters already have Garageband to sink their teeth into and the iRig gives them a (semi) professional level input solution. The iRig is fairly sturdy to the touch (rugged metal housing) and apart from the rubber connector, feels like a “real” mic and not a toy. The unidirectional condenser-electret capsule comes with a windscreen and plugs into the headphone socket of your iDevice. The plug also features a dual mini jack for real time monitoring – either to another set of headphones or to a speaker of some sort.

There are three input levels you can select – high, which records everyone in the room, mid for conventional use and low for “intense” vocal performances such as more extreme singing. The audio quality is excellent and recorded a few podcast interviews that sounded excellent.

Less excellent however is the VocaLive app. The buggy nature of the app means it crashes on almost every other load, which is immensely frustrating. It’s also not optimised for iPads – running in the quite frankly ridiculous emulator mode. Even the icon isn’t optimised for Retina displays. The software team needs to look into these as they detract from an otherwise promising app – the built in effects are really impressive for an £11.99 app (think how much hardware effects used to cost) and there is a lovely looking 4 track record available as an in-app purchase. Of course you can use the iRig with a number of applications – it plays nicely with Garageband and is excellent when paired with Everyday Looper.

A flawed yet promising start. But as must have accessory for anyone into recording audio on the iPad.

Swann DVR4-2000: Unwired for sound and vision

Back in September, we took a look at Swann’s DVR4-2000 security recording system, which offered a well-priced pair of security cameras, but was missing the wireless connectivity of its rival the Y-Cam Bullet (unless you wanted to splash out on some wireless cameras to add to it).

Swann-ADW-200

Now, Swann has upped the ante with the Swann ADW 200 Digital Wireless Security Camera and Digital Receiver, which offers you the chance to view your images on a TV.

The ADW-200 also offers a secure digital transmission, to cut down on interference or static from other wireless devices such as cordless phones, web routers and Bluetooth,

Swann says the wireless transmission is good up to 50m, and that night vision on the camera works at up to 8m. The camera itself has a metal, weather-resistant case and a built-in microphone.

To set up, simply install the camera so that it covers the area you want monitored, plug the receiver into your TV and the camera and receiver will automatically pair up when they’re set to the same channel.

The ADW-200 comes in at the budget price of £139.99, which includes one camera. Extra cameras are available at £79.99 and are available from Argos.

For more details go to http://swannsecurity.com/

Blue Mikey iPod microphone review

Looking to take your iPod audio recording to the next level? Yes? Good thing I asked. The Blue Mikey is a portable microphone and recorder for the iPod and iPod touch. When I last crossed paths with Blue to review the Yeti Microphone I was blown away by how good the audio quality on a simple USB microphone was.

Mickey

The Mikey attachment easily converts your iPod into a stereo field recorder. The two custom-tunes capsules provide high-end (or at the very least higher end) recording capabilities for your iPod. There is also a 3.5 mm line-input so you can pop a guitar (or any line input really) and record direct to your iPod. If you plan on doing some heavy duty recording, the Blue has a USB pass-thru connection enabling you to record and charge at the same time.

Connection is simply a matter of plugging the unit in. BUT, before you fire up the in-built Voice Recorder app (and you were going to weren’t you), download the free Blue FiRe App. The in-built Voice Recorder app only recorders in low quality mono – rather defeating the point of getting the fancy audio peripheral. Blue FiRe provides CD quality stereo recording and basic file management and editing. There’s even an ftp feature built in. And of course you can use Mikey with other high quality recording apps – or which there are many.

Mikey features a toggle switch for sensitivity so you can record soft sound sources, podcasts, acoustic instruments or (according to Blue) monster truck rallies. The head is adjustable to about 7 different positions to allow you to fine tune your recording.

So is it all rainbows and lollipops? Well it doesn’t work with the iPhone 4. So bear that in mind before heartbreak ensues. But if you own an iPod or iPod touch (or even a 3GS), and millions of you do, then the Blue Mikey is yours for £59.99.

Olympus LS-5 Linear PCM digital recorder: Mobile mini sound studio

Listen up journalists, musicians and podcasters! Olympus is launching a new digital recorder this month, which it claims allows you to record and edit your work while you’re on the move.

At a tad under the 200 quid mark, the Olympus LS-5 Linear PCM Digital Recorder records 24but/96kHz PCM audio files, which can be edited in the device at the touch of a button.

Olympus-LS-5

It comes with 2GB of memory (which at the highest quality offers around 55 minutes of recording time according to Olympus), which can be expanded up to 32GB using the SDHC-compatible SD card slot. To help you make the most of the space, files can be divided, partially erased and transferred between the internal memory and SD cards.

It’s vital to be organised in this kind of work – whether you’re recording a series of interviews, a step-by-step podcast for your website, or laying down a track – so the ability to set practical index marks both during recording and playback is vital, allowing instant access to your files. You can also use the supplied Olympus Sonority software to save files to multiple folders on a PC or Mac, where they can be split, marked, indexed, partially deleted and browsed by intro.

Running on two AA or Ni-Mh rechargeable batteries, you should get an admirable 23 hours recording time on full batteries, which should be enough for most tasks.

At around £99 less than its predecessor, the LS-11 (which had 8GB of internal memory and garnered some decent reviews for its rich and crisp sound, while acknowledging it was pretty pricey), the LS-5 may well have hit the right mark pricewise, so whether you’re at a concert, covering a breaking news story, or even doing professional voiceovers, the LS-5 is offering quite a lot for a little outlay.