Saturday, April 17, 2010

F80EXR versus ZS3 – video tests part 1

Sorry, it’s been a long time coming. The problem is that I wanted some music in the scene and could not easily do that as I’ve had several videos blocked here for copyright violations.

So the solution was to recorded my son playing and singing a brand new song for which he wrote both words and music. So stick your copyright issue … he owns it! :-)

I recorded with both cameras simultaneously … the ZS3 in my right hand and the F80EXR in my left hand, both pointing at Nick from about 5 feet away. He is sitting against a wall with a flashlight illuminating his face and a candle in the foreground. It was meant to be a low light video, and it surely succeeds at that.

But because both hands had cameras in them, there is no zooming or focus testing … that will come in part two. Before I show the actual videos, some observations.


I recorded both in motion JPEG format to make it easy to master them both and to playback samples without any special effort.

Each file was about 2:33 long, yet the difference in recorded size was staggering. The Panasonic used up only 175MB to record 720p video and audio and write an Apple formatted MOV file. The Fuji, on the other hand, used up a gluttonous 475MB to record exactly the same thing and save it as AVI.

What this means is that the Panasonic is able to store about an hour of video on a 4GB card, whereas the Fuji is able only to store about half an hour. And switching the Panasonic to AVHC mode gives over an hour of recording.

Time Per Recording

A subtle, but annoying consequence of the motion JPEG format is that you cannot record large files. Take, for example, a 32GB card. I have one of these, which I got from a web site for 30 bucks … steal of the century. Anyway … when I put this card into the ZS3, freshly formatted of course, it shows that it is able to recorded one file in AVHC format of 4:19:56. Over four hours in one shot … that’s cool.

But switch the camera to motion JPEG and suddenly it reports a maximum of 8:20 … which is just silly. You can’t even reliably record two songs at a time at a concert.

The Fuji fares a bit better in that regard, showing 11:03. You can usually get through two songs with that must available space, but you’ll cut into the banter between songs way too often.

The F70EXR, by contrast, shows 30:41 available, which works out very well when you want to record long chunks of a concert and grab all the banter between songs.


I mastered the two videos once in Pinnacle Studio HD. This application does a wonderful job with the AVCHD format, a very difficult format with which to work for most applications. And it handled the Panasonic MOV file easily. But when it wucked in the Fuji’s AVI file, it showed it as 640x480 with embedded letterboxed video at 19:9.

That issue caused me no end of grief as I could not get Pinnacle to master anything but a 640x480 video with letterboxing. Fuji uses some kind of crude internal format that is not only gluttonous, but confusing to a premiere editing application. Sheesh.

I finally gave up and tried them both in Windows Live Essentials, which has a switch to change to 16:9 output. That seemed to handle the Fuji properly and I was able to master a pair of WMV files in HD 720p format. Negatives to Fuji for file size and format so far.

Sound Quality

In a word, awful. The F80EXR has huge amounts of hiss whenever the audio is not really loud in the room. It overemphasizes bass notes, even on an acoustic guitar. It still has all the flaws of the F70EXR, noisy zoom, clicking when you focus (leave auto focus off when filming) …

Video Quality

Not as good as the ZS3. It’s definitely better than the F70EXR, though, so that is something. But considering its voracious appetite for storage, and the fact that it is still only 720p, I can’t say that I’m impressed. It gets grainy too easily in low light, just like the F70EXR. Simply put, it looks grafter on.

Zoom During Video

I think they changed this. It is faster now, and focus is instant. This is actually the wrong direction to go. It is very jarring. You won;t see this in today’s test, but I will definitely try to get something put together soon to show the difference. The ZS3, by the way, zooms very slowly and stays pretty close to focused because of that. It sometimes hunts a bit, but with face detect on it stays on the singer. No contest here.


Panasonic ZS3

Fuji F80EXR

Bottom line: Round 1 goes to the ZS3. It delivers a sound beating to the F80EXR on all counts.

1 comment:

danielle said...

hi there, thanks for posting this!

A question - have you tested the f80 at a concert with loud volume/bass?

I ask as i am looking to get a new compact to take to gigs, but seem to be let down (in ones ive tried so far) in their ability to cope with loud music, or even, anything louder than a cough. i tried a kodak, this was abysmal (and it wasnt even a loud concert) and i've tried a fuji f70 - which wasnt too bad, but the loud bass songs distorted really badly which disappointed me.

neither seem to be as good as my fuji f20 - its not perfect and if i happen to be in front of a speaker with bass, its not too happy, but it seems to be able to cope better...

anyway, rambling - what do you reckon to the f80 for a 'normal gig' or in fact is there any camera that can cope?