Lusting Sony’s HDR-TG1 // Loathing AVCHD

Sony m2 One of the most utilized gadgets on me is the Sony Cyber-shot M2. It’s small enough to holster as my sidearm, and flexible enough to take 5.1 megapixel photos and DVD-quality .mp4 videos (640 x 480px) for my blog.

I’ve mentioned to fellow bloggers how “just as the police officers carry pistols, citizen journalists should never be caught without a camera”. With cameraphones now packing heat (seen Nokia’s n96?), I think it’s time for serious videographers to think High Definition.

Just like gadget pornographer Kevin Tofel, there’s something new I’m lusting after: Sony’s HDR-TG1 Handycam

Set to retail at $900 sometime in May 2008, this is suppose to be the world’s smallest full HD camcorder. The ultra-portable camcorder weighs in at only 10 ounces and can record 1920 x 1080 HD video and 4-megapixel digital photos. The HDR-TG1 features a durable titanium body, 2.7-inch touch panel LCD screen, Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 10x optical zoom lens and 2-megapixel ClearVid CMOS sensor, face detection technology, and comes with a 4GB Pro Duo Mark2 media card. On a 16GB Pro Duo, expect to get full quality (1920x1080i / 16Mbps) video for up to 1hr 50mins.

There are just two problems:
1) it’s 900 dollars (ouch!)
2) it uses Advanced Video Codec High Definition (AVCHD)

Introduced by Sony and Panasonic in mid-2006, AVCHD is a high-definition recording format fairly popular in today’s high-definition video devices. As Paul Stamatiou explained, it’s not a format that’s easy to work with on a Mac. In fact, while the latest Apple iMovie and Final Cut apps claim support for it, AVCHD videos files (.mts) are merely converted to the Apple Intermediate Codec (AIC) format. This conversion process takes up more time and file space than converting typical Quicktime movie clips, but it’s the most accepted process Mac-based videographers.

Here are two workarounds:
1) Save time by batch converting HD video
2) Get a standard format HD camera (e.g. MPEG4)

1. Time-saving method
Since you’re literally left hanging with unwatchable / uneditable HD video, consider making a software investment. For $30, VoltaicHD lets you copy all your footage to your Mac, unplug your camera, then convert the footage while you (and your camera) go and do other things. An additional benefit is how VoltaicHD is Universal binary, so supports PowerPC and Intel Macs, while Apple’s AVCHD converter (in both iMovie’08 and Final Cut Pro) only supports Intel platforms.

2. Standard format HD camera
Granted, non-AVCHD HD cameras might seem impossible to find (Sanyo, you too?!?), but they exist. Paul Stamatiou tried the Samsung SC-HMX10, which is a HD camcorder which saves in regular mpeg4 (.mp4) video files, which is perfect for editing anywhere. If you discover anymore of such HD cameras (flash-based, no DV tapes please!), do drop me a line.

Am I still planning to get the Sony HDR-TG1?
Unless Apple somehow makes it easier to work with AVCHD video files, I’ll stay away for now.

Aside: No need for HD video, but want to get started with videoblogging anyway? Seriously consider the affordable and understated Flip Ultra Video Recorder. David Pogue does an excellent (read: humorous) review of this $150 camcorder which does surprisingly well under low-light conditions!

5 thoughts on “Lusting Sony’s HDR-TG1 // Loathing AVCHD

  1. Thanks, Kevin.

    Am working with lots of AVCHD files nowadays cos i film all my PHP Meetups using a HD Camera – Sony SR7E. Yes, its a real time-waster to convert everything to AIC… Batch conversion also takes up time you know.

    I recently got a Standard Def camera (HDD)… its easier to work with… but still…

    Miccheng’s last blog post..Social Media Breakfast Singapore

  2. The video imports basically in realtime in iMovie08. iMovie08 kinda sucks but it works.

    Also, AVCHD video plays directly in a Playstation3. You pop the card in and fire up the video, skipping around with the PS3 remote from scene to scene. It works so well im tempted to keep my video on the memory cards…anything else seems barbaric now (DVD).

  3. Thanks Joe, I did hear that AVCHD works like butter if you live in a Sony world. Too bad that ease just isn’t translated across other devices. Hopefully Apple will have a direct way to work with AVCHD soon. ­čÖé

  4. thanks- the Sony is great- but avchd and i movie 07 do not agree!

    Am using the 720 Canon TX1 when I dont want to carry a full sized Sony- and for web stuff- its great- and edits on any version of i Movie

    thanks again for the advice!


  5. Why don’t you just buy the camera you are lusting after. After that you should sell you Mac and buy a proper computer. It seems a shame you can’t have the things you want because you are chained to a poor, proprietary platform.

    (Very happy AVCHD and Sony Vegas user)

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