Is Super VHS as good as DV?
Some analog video enthusiasts claim that Super VHS — or SVHS for short — was as good as DV. To test this claim, I shot several scenes with two camcorders standing for these video formats.
These camcorders do not represent state of the art of the respective standards; both of these machines are made in the spirit of the original Kodak Instamatic Super8 camera: they are boxy, inexpensive, portable and easy to use. So, I believe that in relative terms this comparison is still useful.
The JVC GR-SX950 employs a quarter-inch CCD sensor and a 16x zoom lens, a setup that JVC has been using in many other VHS-C and SVHS-C models. It is interesting that JVC’s website shows the resolution of this sensor for lesser VHS-C camcorders: 270 thousand pixels. But the resolution for SVHS camcorders is conveniently omitted. Sony employed 320 thousand pixel sensor for its Hi8 camcorders as early as in 1992, so it is no surprise that JVC did not want to advertise a competitor to Hi8 having lower resolution.
The camcorder has digital image stabilization system. When it is engaged, the frame “zooms in”, which is a sign that the sensor does not have enough pixels to provide both for stabilization and for full frame capture, so it uses some of the pixels on the perimeter of the sensor for stabilization.
There is a widescreen mode, but instead of extending the field of view the camcorder simply crops the top and the bottom parts of the frame.
The camcorder has built-in time base corrector, which is useful to preserve the geometry of the frame when playing video back. To cope with more serious issues like drop-outs, an outboard time base corrector may be needed.
There is no flip-out screen, a tiltable viewfinder employs a half-inch color LCD.
The Canon Elura 100 is another exercise in compact boxy pocketable design. Because the cassette is smaller, the mechanism and the camcorder on the whole is smaller too.
Its 1/5-inch CCD sensor has about 1.3 MPixels, of which about 700 thousand pixels are available when shooting video. The camcorder shoots interlaced video in both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios, properly expanding field of view for the widescreen mode.
Like the JVC, it also has digital image stabilizer. With the stabilizer engaged, the frame size is not reduced, indicating that the sensor has enough extra pixels.
It has a flip-out screen as well as an eyepiece, which does not extend.
For SVHS video I used a proper SVHS-C cassette to squeeze the maximum quality from the JVC camcorder. For DV, it does not matter what cassette you use as long as there are no dropouts.
Image stabilizer: off. White balance: daytime. Everything else: set to auto. Ready for a shootout!
This is a still frame from the JVC. The video has been captured with VirtualDub through S-Video cable. I applied deinterlacing, temporal smoothing and color denoising filters. The still image was grabbed from Sony Vegas timeline and was not further processed. What do you think?
From the comparison shots it is clear that the JVC has very fast shutter speed, everything is sharp including the moving car. At the same time it is noisy. The automatic exposure control on this camcorder is weird. Or maybe its iris has a fixed opening, and the only option to control the amount of light is with shutter speed?
Sadly, exposure parameters cannot be controlled individually on the JVC, it only has a single Exposure control.
This shot combines SVHS and DV to show whether they can be cut together. I did not adjust color saturation on either of the shots, but I did correct the color of the Canon footage to match the JVC.
Watch the video, linked in the beginning of this entry, to see actual moving images and more examples.