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Pick of the Camera Reviews

(Click the pictures for reviews & links) 

ACTION CAMS

Yi 2 - Best Budget 4K 

Gitup Git2 (My Pick)

Xiaomi Yi

 

 
DASH-CAMS (CAR DVRs)
 
A119
DR02 D - Best Budget Dual Cam
Yi

Yi Ultra 2.7K
   
    MINI CAMERAS
Mobius (also works as a Dashcam)
Polaroid Cube+
    HELMET CAMERA
Drift Ghost X

My favourite USB battery power Pack

This is the excellent USB power pack I use when I travel.

2 x 2.1amp outputs. 8400mAh capacity.

Two digit Led display shows battery level

 

What SD CARD should I buy?

If you want an SD Card for your camera - these are the ones I use and recommend. 

I'd strongly recommend not to buy any SD cards off ebay - I've heard about too many issues with counterfeit cards - often sold on by unwitting resellers. My inbox regularly gets messages from people who bought a £150 camera then cheaped out and bought a £3 memory card on ebay - Then when it doesn't worth they blame the camera! It doesn't make any sense. Good memory is cheaper than it's ever been - see the links above.

A lot of HD cameras will not work properly with cards larger than 32GB (cards over 32GB are usually SDXC rather than the SDHC standard used by 32GB cards. SDXC cards use the ex-FAT system rather than FAT32 - in short they are a different standard). - so don't just buy the biggest card you can afford - read the specs in the manual to see what it accepts.

UK & US LINKS & PRICES BELOW

RECOMMENDED CARDS (for action cams - see dashcams below)

CLASS 10 UHS-1 CARDS (For HD Cameras)

 

U3 CARD (For 4K cameras)

 

 

SPECIAL DASHCAM CARDS

The SD card in a dashcam is re-written over, more frequently than in other types of cameras. Some manufacturers void their guarantee if an SD card was used in a dashcam. So, no surprise, there are special High Endurance SD cards made just for dashcams...here's some.

 

VERY IMPORTANT. These links take you to the product, however Amazon have three different ways of selling. There's Amazon Direct - This means that you are only dealing with Amazon themselves, then there's other sellers that use Amazon's facilities - these show as Fulfilled By Amazon and finally there's Market Place sellers that advertise on Amazon, but operate independently.  I strongly recommend that you only use the first...the Amazon Direct - Sold By Amazon option. Even if it appears that you are paying a couple of £/$ more it is more than likely you are comparing the price of a real item against the price of a fake.

To give you an idea of the extent of the fake goods problem. In a 2016 survey by Apple - 90% of the 'Apple' chargers sold through Amazon - using the other the two methods..which includes the "Fulfilled by Amazon" option -  were found to be counterfeit....90%! 

 
« Sony Unveils TG5 Camcorder with Magnetic Lens Attachment! | Main | The Muppet Whatnot Workshop Experience »
Thursday
Mar262009

Elgato Turbo.264 HD. Hands on user test and review.

Elgato have sold the Turbo.264 for a couple of years now - but until now it only handled SD resolutions. The new  Turbo.264 HD handles resolutions all the way up to 1080p, but is it worth the £140 asking price? - Read on to find out.

elgato-turbo-264-hd

Anyone with an HD camcorder will tell you that editing AVCHD video is a hellish nightmare.

The camcorder manufacturers don't tell you this - they pretend that its all drag and drop. The glossy adverts show someone fresh off the ski slopes still garbed in their woollen hat watching their morning's antics on the TV. Now this is all well and good and is actually possible if you only want to watch everything you shot, in sequence, through the camcorder itself. However, if you want to edit down your footage (like everyone should) then it is more than likely that the snow will have melted long before you'll see your finished compilation.

I'm no pro camcorder user - just your average schmuck. I just shoot holiday footage on a normal consumer camcorder and edit the footage on my Macbook using iMovie09. In the days of DV tape this meant waiting whilst the footage was transferred in real time down the firewire lead to the Mac, but after that it was plain sailing. If I had four hours of tapes, it would take approx four hours to get that footage into the editing program - then the editing time - then another hour or two to export it as a DVD.

Flash memory HD cameras arrived on the scene with the promise of immediate access to any scene and drag and drop file transfer. This sounded quicker - however when it comes to HD  it can be much, much slower.

AVCHD is a very compressed format that requires some serious horsepower to decode. iMovie can't edit it natively and therefore the files have to be converted to a more edit-friendly format.To facilitate this, iMovie converts them to the Apple Intermediate Codec (AIC). This converted footage is a much larger, more verbose file - from my experience 6 times larger than the source file. It is relatively easy for the Mac to edit and play the AIC files. Once the editing is complete the user then generally exports the finished movie to another format - usually some kind of MP4 file.

To give you some idea of the problems I encountered with editing AVCHD I need to share a few numbers with you.

I shoot my video with a Sony HDR-TG3 (aka TG1 in the rest of the world) If I use an 8GB Memory stick it can store a maximum of 55 minutes of AVCHD footage at a resolution of 1920x1080i .

My Macbook (2.2ghz 4GB late 2007) model takes approx 2 hours to convert an 8GB stick of AVCHD footage into the Apple Intermediate Codec and in the process creates a folder taking up a massive 48GB of the hard drive to store the converted footage. That's if it doesn't crash somewhere along the way - which isn't entirely unusual.

The Turbo.264 HD's purpose is to speed everything up. It gets used at the beginning of the process and again at the end.

The procedure goes like this.....

Plug the Turbo.264 HD USB dongle in - run it's software - drag your AVCHD footage into it's window - and click to export it as an MP4 file.

Elgato Software

Then start up iMovie and import these MP4 files. iMovie is compatible with MP4 files and doesn't need to convert them to it's AIC format. Once editing has finished. the footage can be exported from iMovie using the special Elgato Turbo.264 HD encoding codec and USB dongle's processing power.

So what kind of improvements can be expected - well as always, mileage will vary based on your Mac but here are my results.

I started with a full 8GB memory stick from my recent holiday. It contained 352 clips at 1920x1080i resolution.

Without Turbo.264 HD


  • Import 8GB into iMovie09 @ 1920x1080i:  2hrs

  • The Size of the AIC workfiles folder created on hard drive:  48GB

  • Export 3 minutes of footage from iMovie09 as MP4  @ 1920x1080:  17 mins


With Turbo.264 HD


  • Convert 8GB of files into 1920x1080p MP4 using Turbo 264 HD:  1hr 10 mins

  • Import these MP4's into iMovie09 @ 1920x1080i:  20 mins

  • Size of workfiles folder created on hard drive:  2.6GB

  • Export 3 minutes of footage from iMovie09 as MP4  @ 1920x1080:  2 mins 15 secs


264 in action

Now bear in mind that my recent three week holiday generated 40GB (5 hrs) of unedited AVCHD video and you can appreciate the amount of time and space that can be saved by using the Turbo.264 HD. It actually saves me hours rather than minutes of rendering/conversion time. That 40GB would expand by a factor of 6 when converted to the AIC - that's 240GB of files (on top of the 40GB I've already used) and that's a lot of disk space to have free. The Turbo.264 would convert that 40GB of AVCHD into under 15GB of Highdef MP4 files.

One very useful feature of the Turbo.264  HD is it's ability to import just the .MTS files generated by the camcorder. iMovie 09 normally insists on the entire memory stick structure being complete before it will entertain importing any AVCHD files. This makes archiving of the original camcorder footage very difficult. Ideally you would want to just drag all the MTS files off your memory cards into a folder on your Mac so you could reuse the card. You could then import all the files at the same time instead of one memory stick at a time - the Turbo 264 HD finally allows you to do this.

The software provided with the Turbo.264 HD also has a number of additional useful functions. When importing footage you can actually play each AVCHD clip first to determine whether you want to include it in the conversion to MP4 process. The software also offers rudimentary editing of the footage by choosing a start and end point for each clip. It can then export these individually or combine the clips into one movie. If that is all the control you need, you can forget iMovie etc and just use the Elgato software on its own for a quick and easy editing and authoring solution. Predefined export formats include iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, PSP, 720p, 1080p - and these can be customised further too.

As I mentioned previously, my Sony TG3 records in 1920x1080i. The choice is to convert this to either a 720p or 1080p MP4. My Sony has a very small lens so there was very little noticeable image quality difference between the 720p and 1080p conversions. The 720p appeared slightly lightened/washed out so I used the darker 1080p video. The conversion seemed to take the same time for both resolutions anyway

There are of course a couple of niggles with the Elgato software (it is version 1.0) The ability to select multiple/all of the clips to effect  batch changes to the output format would be top of my improvements list [EDIT - See first comment for how to do this] and playing back the individual AVCHD clips sometimes behaved strangely.

The biggest problem I've experienced is that after about 40 mins of conversion,  the Turbo.264 HD USB stick gets red hot and then the Mac pops up a message to say  the device has been unplugged.  To sort this out I had to unplug it and give it  5 mins to cool down and then the conversion could continue  where it left off . This is a pretty significant limitation as it means means that I can't leave the Turbo.264HD unattended to convert all my 40gb of footage in one go. I suggest that constructing the USB dongle's case out of  sealed plastic might not have been the smartest idea - an aluminium or vented case might have helped with cooling. Perhaps the software should be updated to automatically pause for a breather every half hour - then it could be left running all day. (These comments have been deleted - see why at the end of this post)

closeup

In conclusion - if you are editing AVCHD on a Mac then the Turbo.264 HD has the potential to make it a lot easier. Without this device, editing AVCHD video is a frustrating and unpleasant experience. I've always had to spend days to import my camcorder footage one stick at a time - returning to the Mac every few hours to swap memory sticks and restart the import process. I could  never be confident that iMovie  wouldn't have crashed when I returned. This also necessitated leaving the computer and external hard drive powered up and running at full throttle for long periods of time. With the 264 HD I can skip past many hours of waiting and more quickly get down to the fun process of actually editing the footage.

The drastically reduced disk space required for the imported footage means that I didn't really need to get that 1.5TB USB drive to hold my temporary AIC video files after all. If the Turbo.264 HD had come out a couple of months earlier it could actually have paid for itself by enabling me to avoid this unnecessary hard drive purchase.   I've found that editing MP4 files is a more stable and responsive process than handling the larger AIC files and overall my editing experience has been completely transformed by this tiny device.

It's not cheap - but  to many people it will be worth every penny, especially for those who value their sanity.

I consider the Turbo 264HD  to be an essential purchase for anyone editing AVCHD footage on their Mac.

I got mine delivered direct from Elgato @ www.Elgato.com

UPDATE - My overheating Turbo 264HD appears to be a one-off,  no one else on the Elgato forums is reporting similar issues, so I'm going to get it replaced and I'll report back. It should also be mentioned that at the moment there is a known fault that prevents export direct from iMovie09. The problem should be rectified with the next software update. The Elgato team are aware and they should be congratulated for being very hands-on and responsive. The official forums are a useful resource for information and assistance for their users.

UPDATE 2 - Sure enough my Turbo 264HD was faulty after all. I've received a replacement unit that doesn't overheat. So don't worry about this issue when deciding whether to buy one. Oh, and while I'm here, I should mention that I've spotted the 264HD on the shelves in the Apple stores recently, so if you are near a store you can pick one up instead of buying mail order.

UPDATE 3 - Make sure you read the comments - there are some links in there to some test footage in 720p using the various deinterlace options. These might help you decide if the Turbo264HD would be useful for you.

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Reader Comments (42)

You can hold down the Option key, and then when you change the output format of one clip in your window (like to HD 1080p), all of the other clips will change to that same format.

March 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNick Freeman

Wow! This is a really kick ass blog post. Really really informative. I've been surfing around for hours looking for a HD camcorder that records in .264 with an external mic.

However, I think the way to go is to get a regular HDD or SDHC one that saves in avchd and then using the elgato convert it to 264 and edit it that way.

I was hoping to be able to take it off the camcorder and upload it to the web, unfortunately looks like I gotta do a bit of post production.

This is basically for recording and publishing talks online, so an ext. mic is essential.

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBenson Wong

Many thanks for the kind comments.

I was going to suggest that you should have a look at the Sanyo FH1
http://sanyo.com/xacti/english/products/vpc_fh1/index.html
but for some crazy reason Sanyo appear to have removed the mic-in socket that is present on it's sister camera the HD2000
http://sanyo.com/xacti/english/products/vpc_hd2000/index.html
I therefore think that the HD2000 might be the only camera that records straight to MP4 and has an external mic socket.

I'll update the Elgato review when my replacement one arrives to see if the overheating problem was really down to a faulty unit.

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTechmoan

Nice post! It's actually the only one i found about a decent workflow involving T264HD both at import and at export with efficient editing in the middle. I was really annoyed by the AIC conversion and size which would force me to use an empty 250GB working hard drive for my holiday movies...I'm not sure why i didn't find other people using the same workflow in several forums (elgato and others)...I have the feeling they mostly use it for export at the end of the editing process.

Of course, since i bought the T264HD this week, i had a ton of conversion to make and ended up with a 15 hour total running time batch to process...the first indication the software gave me is 20 hours remaining to convert AIC to 1080p H264. I honestly didn't expect it to finish the process without a single crash, but after 2 hours the USB disappeared and the software gave me the same error message you had : 'the device has been unplugged' or something like that. I'm not sure if it overheated because I was sleeping at that time but in the morning i unplugged and replugged and now it has been encoding 5 hours straight and no crash yet...

I guess i'm pushing voluntarily its limits to make sure if something happens it will happen fast so i can get a replacement if i also have a faulty one.

Thanks for the info and happy editing!

May 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLeopod

Thanks for the kind comments.
Elgato are really dragging their heels on delivering a fix for the Export from iMovie09 bug.

There isn't a day goes by that I don't check to see if there is a software update - but alas, we are still stuck with 1.0.1 (I just checked again).
I've asked about this on the forums and they confirm that they are working on it - but we need this fix asap.
I don't envy you with your 15 hours of footage - even if you trim that down by half - it'll still take literally days to render it out again until Elgato get the export acceleration working again.

Good luck and thanks again for contributing.

May 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTechmoan

1.0.2 Has recently been released - yet still no fix for the iMovie09 export. I'm beginning to think I'm the only person trying to use a 264hd with iMovie09 - it seems incredibly unlikely given that the 264HD is Mac only and all new Macs come with iMovie09 - but its the only way I can rationalise how no one else seems to be bothered about this.
Is anyone there.......anyone.......hello.............arse.

June 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTechmoan

I'd like to thank you for a good review. Your article covers some information which other guys don't, like the actual time-related data for the entire import/export process for AVCHD. Cheers from a Japanese guy in Tokyo!

June 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterA Man from Tokyo

Thanks for your kind comments - they are very much appreciated.

June 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTechmoan

Great post, really useful.

June 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

Informative review. Possibly a good solution. I'm about to venture into techy talk I virtually don't understand myself so bear with me....

As i mentioned in AV forum post, I was a bit put off by "jittery" quality of TG3 footage. It can be greatly improved by following this work flow:

http://blog.davidglover.org/2009/03/creating-hd-video-with-imovie-09.html

But it takes forever! In the end, it's a de-interlacing guide.

I have heard that iMovie '09 has certain "bad fx" (basically everything but simple transitions).
So my 1080i footage, when used with a single "bad fx" will be downgraded to 960x540.
Something to do with footage being interlaced possibly.
Do you know/have you heard if i process files from camera with Elgato 1st, getting 1080p MP4's and then importing them to iMovie, i'm then free to use all fx/transitions without having my footage brute down graded to 540? See this thread:

http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?messageID=9431180&#9431180

Cheers.

July 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercosmic68

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