One of the most impressive features of my Sanyo VPC-CG10 camcorder has been its audio recording quality. But sometimes you don’t realize how good something is until you have a chance to compare it. This weekend I made an inadvertent comparison and I came away all the more pleased with the CG10’s audio performance.
On Friday night I brought my Sony NEX-5 with me to see the legendary rock band Killing Joke at a very small club here in Chicago. My primary purpose for brining the camera was to take pictures. But when the intro music started I decided it would be nice to at least shoot some video of their entrance. When I reviewed the footage the next day I found that the sound with the band playing was distorted beyond repair.
Now, I wasn’t really surprised that the audio was so distorted. While it’s a great camera, the NEX-5 doesn’t have pro audio features like manual levels, any sort of level meter or a headphone out. The camera uses auto-gain (AGC) exclusively, and under normal conditions it works well. But Killing Joke is a loud band, and I was pretty close to the stage. Apparently that was just too much sound pressure for the NEX to properly deal with.
However, I’ve used the little Sanyo at a lot of different concerts, both indoor and outdoor, and it’s been able to handle loud amplified music like a champ. The Sanyo also doesn’t have any manual audio controls or meter, but somehow its combination of microphones and AGC is able to outperform the much more expensive Sony. Searching around the internets I’ve heard similar complaints from people using the NEX cameras, as well as other video dSLRs from Canon and Nikon. And, really, that makes sense. The NEXs and other dSLRs were designed as still cameras with video as an afterthought. Even tough the Sanyo Xacti is a very inexpensive video camera, that is its primary function. Nevertheless, I am glad that it does so well.
So my lesson here is that if I want to have just one camera to shoot some concert video the Sanyo CG10 is the best candidate. If I want to get better quality video using the NEX-5, then I should consider using dual sound, bringing along my Zoom H2 to record audio. Dual sound is slightly more complicated, mostly because it requires bringing more gear and having to futz with it all.
One option that many recommend now is the newest Zoom recorder, the H1, which is even smaller than my H2. Folks using dSLRs sometimes get adapters to mount it to the camera’s flash hot shoe. The NEX-5 has no such shoe, so a different mounting method would need to be found.
I will probably just use the Sanyo CG10 for impromptu concert recording. I’ll use the NEX-5 when I’ve got time to set up and do a more thorough job, such as when recording gigs put on by friends.
Still, I continue to be impressed by my now-$109 little palm-sized Sanyo VPC-CG10. If you know how to exploit its strengths, it’s hard to beat.