Nikon S8100... how is video auto focus in less than optimal light??? there have been some reports that the s8100 has trouble autofocusing video in less than optimal light. Any experiences you can report under such conditions would be appreciated!
I just noticed that there is a 1.1 version of the firmware available for the S8100 on Nikon's site. I have seen enough low-light video examples of the S8100 to realize that the AF problem is a real problem and extremely annoying. It essentially renders the video useless, and until I can confirm whether or not the firmware fixes this problem, I will not purchase this camera.
All the reviews of this camera that are negative complain about the video. So it's definitely a consistent issue.
OK. After a week playing with the S8100, it is going back to Amazon. Admittedly, pics are great with nice colors, but my main issue is with the poor video recording performance. I have confirmed that it looses autofocus when zooming in less than optimal light, but I could probably live with that shortcoming. What I cannot live with is how dark the movies are in less than optimal light -- I can't see the faces of my kids! Video is low light is much darker than the Canon sd8500 (which incidentally also got sent back for its autofocus issues). This defeats the purpose of this camera as I bought it to take pix and vids of my toddler and newborn over the holidays who will mainly be indoors in low light conditions. I just got a Panasonic ZS7 which I will be keeping because of nice low light vids and sharp autofocus even when zooming. The ZS7 also refreshes the flash much faster than the Nikon IMHO, and the GPS on the ZS7 is a nice gimmick that will come in useful when we travel. I love my new Panny, and thank you Amazon for facilitating my little camera experiment!
I am no means any expert, and I've only had the ZS7 for about a day or so, but there is nothing so far that I can bash. I guess its made of plastic, and I am not fond of the switches to turn it on and flip from review to shooting modes, but as far as features, it really packs them in. I guess I did prefer the look and feel of the Nikon, but the Panny can hold its own in the looks department (compared to for instance the Canon SX210 -- blah).
I had originally wanted the ZS7 over the ZS5 because of the AVCHD option, but I now know that iPhoto is not compatible with AVCHD (even though iMovie is), so I'm shooting in M4V mode anyways. The ZS5 would have sufficed for my needs, but now that I'm hooked on the GPS, and one day I may want to shoot over the 8min limit of M4V using AVCHD sometimes, so I'm just gonna keep the ZS7. (It was only a $50 premium over the ZS5).
The Nikon had some gimmicky stuff like a smile timer, but nothing I could not live without. Nikon shot 10 shots in its burst, but they were low res, so I'm not missing that. Nikon had a twilight / HDR kind of mode that's more for landscapes and inanimate objects rather than moving toddlers. Not sure id the ZS7 had that. The ZS7 is packed with features that I will probably never use like auto-bracketing because I'm just not that hard core. But other cool features like facial recognition I probably will use to keep my kids in focus out of a group of people. Overall the Panny just feels more polished. The Nikon did not auto-rotate pix!!! Thats just poor. And I hated the popup flash on the Nikon, although its supposed to be a more optimal flash placement. I would have liked to try the Sony HX5V but Amazon is not selling that one any more (some reseller is). Apparently the Panny and the Sony are very similar except the Panny has more manual options. The best part of the Panny is intelligent auto, which is exactly that: intellegent and automatic. All the manual stuff is always there if I need it or for when I have the time, but I doubt that mode dial will flip off the iA too often.
So AVCHD is a camcorder codec made for 1080 recording and blu-ray compatibility. Its a more efficient compression algorithm which allows for smaller file sizes than MPEG4. I say M4V in my prior post because that is how Apple refers to MPEG4 for some reason -- so MPEG4 and M4V are interchangeable in the Mac world. Also MPEG4 have a 2Gig limit on file sizes where AVCHD has no such limit. That means that if you record on the Panny using AVCHD you could essentially fill the card, where as if you record in MPEG4 you have like just over 8mins of HD video before you hit the 2gig file limit. So AVCHD is obviously superior because its better compression and unlimited recording. However, the HD video quality on either format is comparable.
I think sony and panasonic developed AVCHD which is why its featured in their camcorders. This year AVCHD has been trickling down to their point and shoots it looks like. THe ZS7 has AVCHD-lite which is the 720p equivalent. I actually prefer this because to full 1080 AVCHD because its easier to work with the smaller files. I think I read somewhere your TV actually upconverts to 1080i anyways. I can't tell the difference between 720 and 1080 in any case. FYI, the Sony HX5V records in 1080i natively in AVCHD, and the Nikon recorded in 1080p natively in MPEG4 I think. Anyways, I leave the ZS7 in HD MPEG because I rarely need to record more than a minute or 2 at a time. Then its just plug and play with iPhoto because cameras have been recording in MPEG4 for ever, and iPhoto is compatible with that. I guess its a matter of time before iPhoto supports AVCHD as its becoming more wide-spread in point and shoot cameras, and iMovie already supports it. However, its nice to have the option to record without limits in AVCHD for a performance or something if I need to. I could always convert to MPEG4 and then import into iPhoto as needed.
Finally I retract my gripe above about the switches on the ZS7 for turning on and switching from shooting to review mode. They came in handy on this freezing night as I did not have to remove my gloves to press some recessed button. Panasonic really put some thoughtful design into the ZS7, and I really cant find a fault with it as yet. Its a keeper! Good luck with yours. Please share your experiences.
Oh! It happened in very bright sun in my backyard. I noticed it during night shot as well. When I zoomed in on a street lamp in the night about 50 yards away, it went out of focus and stayed that way. Very strange focusing system. I tried all the AF settings, but the result was the same. In the tele mode, it looks like this system has some serious focusing issue.
I have the same problem with the autofocus for video recording (even when set to "Full AF"). It occurs mostly during zooming in and not as much when zooming out. Sometimes, after zooming in, it will lose the focus and then regain it or not at all at times. This problem has occurred in bright light and sun outdoors and indoors in decent and dim light. It's too bad since the quality (color and clarity) seems excellent.
If the AF during video recording is indeed a problem, I would think it would be a relatively easy fix by Nikon with a firmware update. Sounds like the camera IQ is a little sloppy when it comes to deciding when it needs to re-focus during video recording, with either Full AF on or off. I believe with Full AF turned on it is supposed to continuously re-focus and with it turned off it will only re-focus when you zoom in or out.