Once chosen, these parameters are easily altered by the tiny joystick. The iris can close from f1.8 to f8 only, while the shutter speed ranges from 1/1000s to four seconds in photo mode. There is a self-timer, which is only useful if you angle the screen for balance or have a tripod handy, as the unique pistol-grip design doesn’t really allow the camera to stand steady on its own.
Balancing act: self-timed pics will benefit from a tripod
The joystick also controls the manual focus, which ranges from 1cm to infinity. You can also adjust the ISO rating from 50 to 3200. There are lots of other things on the menu to play with, such as three filters: Monochrome, Sepia and Cosmetic, with the latter failing to make any discernible difference.
Eight different sounds can be assigned to the shutter and the joystick separately. Although practically all of these noises are unnecessary and irritating, when taking stills in low light it’s handy to have audio confirmation that the shot has been taken, as the focusing and execution - without flash - won't be as quick as expected. The flash seems to be effective up to 4.5-5m but bear in mind that when set to ‘auto’ the bulb won’t necessarily pop up.
Stills can be taken while simultaneously shooting video, and the Xacti also allows image capture from footage during playback. Rotate and resize operations, aspect ratio conversion, and an anti-delete ‘lock’ can all be applied with a few simple nudges of the mini joystick. It’s a useful facility, which enables inexperienced still photographers to achieve decent results.
Video footage is recorded in MPEG 4 format and even though a copy of Nero 8 Essentials is included in the package, it may be worthwhile looking around for editing software with more to it. For those lacking confidence with editing apps, the camera has a fun ‘cut and join’ facility which provides an easy option for splicing clips, so long as they are filmed in the same mode. You can’t join slow-motion clips to real-time ones, for example.
Deep joy: the mini joystick helps penetrate the Xacti’s depths
From empty, the battery charges in 200 minutes and will last just over two hours whilst shooting video in Full HD or nearly six hours in playback mode. Although the Xacti comes without a storage card, a 16GB SD memory card will take up to 2h 11m of HD footage which, conveniently, is about as long as the battery will last.
>really.. 2 decades ? I mean I only know one person who still has a CRT tv.
I guess my target audience (extended family members) aren't so much into keeping up with technology. They keep tellies around until they break or otherwise deteriorate into being unwatchable. Old PAL sets may or may not be able to lock into 30fps.
So my solution is to stick to 25/50 rates in all cameras (except for mobile phones, where there is no choice but which have crappy quality anyway).
ok. I hear you. but really.. 2 decades ? I mean I only know one person who still has a CRT tv.
and how are you pumping your home vid into them ? DVD I assume ? Most of which will cope with 25/pal/ntsc/30 fps anyway. i.e. they will do the best they can to interpollate to 50 fields per second.
and yeh, you shoot in HD if you want to. But I was like you 5 years ago, and I shoot all HD now. It just gives you soooo much more freedom for editing even if you end up sticking something on youtube ( http://www.vimeo.com/3084247 .. one of my flights).
sure, compiling clips with different resolutions and framerates is tricky. But it will always be that way - some content needs more temporal info, some more definition (e.g. sky tv broadcast some stuff in 720p30, some in 1080i60.. same datarate. different tradeoff). A decent NLE takes care of it (I use sony vegas).
And yeh.. I know 'ntsc' is 29.97. But even then some digital cameras shoot in true 30 fps, so you ALWAYS need to be aware of source fps.
@stu (on 50hz rates)
"What exactly is a '50hz tv set' in 2009 ? It does not exist."
Everyone I might want to share videos has one. I expect it will be at least a decade or two before I can assume everyone has a flat-screen HDTV- capable set (so why even shoot HDTV ? In the hope the full resolution can be seen and shared in the future).
"I have numerous video cameras, some shoot 25fps, some 30fps, some 60 fields per second (i.e. AVCHD interflace). As long as your edit sticks to the same fps as the source footage, there is no problem."
But when you edit a combined film that contains material from them all, you have to pick one common frame rate for the result, and anything not in the common rate will turn jerky.
By the way, the NTSC rate is not really even 60hz (that would be too easy), but a funny fractional 59.94 or something like that. As I said, Blecch!