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Doing What An iPhone Could Never Do

I got a Canon Vixia camcorder a while back, hoping to produce videos with it instead of my iPhone. My phone produces high resolution video but it is of course limited in what it can do.

This morning I was out at Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas when I heard a helicopter coming. Although I still had the camera in my backpack, I managed to get it out and to start filming before this helicopter went out of sight. Notice how the camera struggles to focus on something, anything, and then settles on infinity.

Watch the entire video to see how well this consumer level video camera zooms in and out on a moving target.

Shooting Zoom With a Canon Vixia from Thomas Farley on Vimeo.


The excellent detail is probably due to the memory card’s speed and from shooting at twice the resolution the video is eventually viewed at. I think I was shooting at 4K at the time, 3840×2160 for this camera, then converted to 1920×1080 for the web. Shooting at a higher pixel count allows better processing in post and smoother looking video when down converted. The real key, I think, though, is the speed of the memory card.

I bought my Vixia HF G50 at BestBuy and a memory card off the shelf to go with it. 128GB seemed plenty for my short videos. What I didn’t realize was that speed is now as important as capacity. Still images don’t need as much speed in a card as with video, when 4K is slamming the camera with a continous torrent of information. My first 4K videos stuttered and I soon realized that the memory card was responsible.

The first card I bought was a SanDisk Extreme PLUS 128GB SDXC UHS-I Memory Card, advertised to read up to 150MB a second, along with write speeds up to 70MB a second. This card sells for between $40 to $60. The Vixia’s documentation, however, says the camera needs 150MB/s to carry off 4K at 30 frames per second. So, that card would never do. Shooting 1920 X 1080 natively only requires 35MB/s.

I then bought online a SanDisk 128GB SDXC SD Extreme Pro UHS-II Memory Card. This was expensive, at $213. The description read, “Can read/transfer speeds up to 300MB/s and write speeds up to 260MB/s.” Much better. Write speeds over three times faster than the slower card. And well above the 150MB/s minimum.

There doesn’t seem to be a faster card for the Vixia than this one. I’ve been very happy with the results and there is no more stammering to my videos. As for the original card, the Vixia has two memory card slots. The slower one is now a backup and for still images in case I want to take those.

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By thomasfarley01

Business writer and graphic arts gadfly.

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