Cheap Camera Audio Braindump

The other day, I set up three cheap cameras (and one expensive camera) in the studio, stood a distance away, and rambled. Every camera was using all the default settings, and fully zoomed out. The goal was to see how the onboard mics compared, without any post processing or anything fancy.

The contenders are the Sanyo HD1000, Kodak Zi6, Pure Digital Flip Ultra and the Sony XDCam EX1. The last one was just for fun.

To start with, you can watch the video, where I cut between the various cams. I won’t speak to the video quality right now, as I want to do some more extensive tests once I get my replacement Zi6, and the results weren’t particularly shocking – the XDcam wins soundly, particularly when looking at dynamic range, and the rest are various levels of crappy.

If you listen to the audio though, you’ll hear a pretty wide range of results. The Sanyo is by far the loudest, the Zi6 is in the middle, with the Flip and the XDCam being the quietest. The XDcam is also far less noisy than the others – accurately reproducing the hiss in the room, without introducing its own noise – as you’d expect. The Flip also does a nice job, particularly with a bit of normalization.

The Zi6 picks up the audio well enough, but introduces horrible compression artifacts. I’ll withhold final judgement until the replacement comes, just in case it’s just another issue with my example, but i doubt it.

If you had to pick a camera from this bunch for audio that wouldn’t get the benefit of any post-processing, it’d have to be the Sanyo. If you were going to do a normalization pass, it’d be the Flip.

But, my ears suck, so lets look at the charts.


Amplitutde, no normalization


Frequency response

It’s a bit tough to see in the unnormalized charts, but the Sanyo doesn’t pass any audio above 18khz, the Zi6 above 15khz. The Flip and the XDcam pass all the way up to Nyquist.

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