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Old March 22nd, 2010, 05:36 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by George Peterson View Post
Thanks for both the initial write up and the video. I have only 1 question: I'm assuming that the camera has manual control over the external mike input, but cant find any info on this on the Sony website.

Can you confirm this and is it easily accessible?
Thanks.
The menu item is "AUDIO REC SET" and is easy to find by just scrolling down the main menu.
The choices are indeed just LOW and NORMAL.
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Old March 22nd, 2010, 05:42 PM   #17
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OK, does the manual indicate any db level assigned to these setting? I do a lot of field recording using an external mike.

More I forgot to ask..does the audio levels appear in the lcd and/or viewfinder while recording, and can the audio AGC be turned off?

Really appreciate the answers as there's very little info on this anywhere that I can find.
Pete

Last edited by George Peterson; March 22nd, 2010 at 06:04 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old March 22nd, 2010, 06:32 PM   #18
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no, and no, AFAIK. Your primary "indicator" would be monitoring through headphones I'm afraid.

It's a lot to ask for on one of these pocket monsters to have advanced audio capability, although it's possible that the new small Panasonics and Canon have these features? I know Sony tends to simplify and intelligently automate functions, where the others leave a few more controls exposed.

Frankly if audio is critical, a dual system with a dedicated digital audio recorder is probably a better chioce, sync in post.
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Old March 22nd, 2010, 07:38 PM   #19
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Thanks again Robert.

I'm going to switch from an HV-30 to one of the new AVCHD cameras and I'm looking at this cam and the Canon hf-s11 and Panny 700 also.

I'm going to assume that the hf-s21 will have the levels, etc. as the hf-s11 does. I've got this camera dedicated to u/w use, and using SD cards instead of tape is really nice.

Yours was the first post on the Sony and it certainly sparked my interest. I do have a digital audio recorder (H4F) but having the capability to also record with my Rode videomic at the same time provides a nice backup.

Thanks again.
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Old March 22nd, 2010, 08:42 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by George Peterson View Post
OK, does the manual indicate any db level assigned to these setting? I do a lot of field recording using an external mike.

More I forgot to ask..does the audio levels appear in the lcd and/or viewfinder while recording, and can the audio AGC be turned off?

Really appreciate the answers as there's very little info on this anywhere that I can find.
Pete
One possibility - that the Low mic ref level turns off the AGC. I filmed fireworks with the auto-zoom mike off but the Normal mic ref level. Someone pointed out that I should have disabled the AGC so the background music continued to be heard fully when the loudest fireworks went off. The "Low" level is listed as something to use for grand sounds such as a concert, so it could be that it has some kind of overall volume filter to avoid distortion at really high volumes, but otherwise does no AGC up to that level?

This is on a CX500V - I suspect the CX550 works the same way.
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Old March 22nd, 2010, 08:43 PM   #21
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You could always attach the small BeachTek unit to the bottom of the cam for more audio control, but if you can't turn off the camera AGC it might not accomplish all that much for you.
I think that audio is not the strong suit of these teeny cams, but if you are using a good mic, maybe, with some editing in post, it would be good enough.
Interesting idea about the Low Mic Ref/AGC. Could it be true???
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Old March 22nd, 2010, 11:00 PM   #22
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The "Low" level is listed as something to use for grand sounds such as a concert, so it could be that it has some kind of overall volume filter to avoid distortion at really high volumes, but otherwise does no AGC up to that level?

This is on a CX500V - I suspect the CX550 works the same way.
Now ya got me interested again! I've been using the hv-30 and the audio can be adjusted with a shuttle button and it works very nicely with the Rode mic.

My (nice) problem is that both the Panasonic TM-700 and Canon Hf-s11 cameras aren't out yet so I'm dealing with only assumptions that they'll be like their predecessors. Both of em have manual audio controls as well as auto, agc, etc. On the Sony, It would be nice to know if it works as you say it might.

I guess I'll just wait until they come out and someone reviews them that doesn't also sell them.
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Old March 23rd, 2010, 12:20 AM   #23
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Might be a good mate to your S11, if you can share accessories.
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Old March 23rd, 2010, 07:32 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by George Peterson View Post
...
On the Sony, It would be nice to know if it works as you say it might.
...
Sony Support could probably tell you if you phrase the question to cover all the bases of interest. Certainly whether or not the Low mode applies AGC or when would not be something secret...
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Old March 23rd, 2010, 03:08 PM   #25
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I'm going to send something off to them today and if I get a response I'll post it. Your comments on the camera have really got me interested in it.

UPDATED: Just finished talking to Sony support. They said the audio agc is not turned off at any time. Just the audio input ref level is altered. Even using a Beachtek the ambient sounds would be amplified.

Kind of a bummer considering the other two cameras have this option.

Last edited by George Peterson; March 23rd, 2010 at 03:55 PM. Reason: upodate
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Old April 1st, 2010, 02:08 PM   #26
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Audio control on CX550V

The camera handbook says "LOW" records the ambient level "faithfully". Although it may be just an AGC reference level, if you change the level to be low enough, it may be for practical purposes the same as turning it off (?). I don't have this camera, but I'd be curious to hear from those who've tried this.
---

MICREF LEVEL (Microphone reference level) You can select the microphone level for recording sound.

> NORMAL Records various ambient sounds, converting them into the appropriate level.

> LOW Records ambient sound faithfully. Select [LOW] when you want to record an exciting and powerful sound in a concert hall, etc. (This setting is not suitable for recording conversations.)

p.78, Sony HDR-CX550V Handycam Handbook 4-170-534-11(1)
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Old April 3rd, 2010, 08:24 AM   #27
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Robert, compared to the CX500, would you say this is a upgrade in video quality or just features?
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Old April 3rd, 2010, 08:22 PM   #28
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Personal opinion since the person you asked hasn't responded yet: 90-99% upgrade to features and 10-1% upgrade to video quality. Remember that the CX500V was released only about 1/2 year before the 550 and has very similar specs including the same sensor chip.

Changes that arguably represent quality improvements:
1. The EIS for filming while walking sounds like it was improved.
2. Ability to film at 24Mbs - might be useful in very specific cases.
3. I-Auto may produce better quality video for the range of cases where it applies. But I suspect that range is narrower than people think, based on reading the documentation about what it turns on and off.

I'm not counting the wide-angle lens as a "quality improvement" because I'm projecting it's a change in specs, not a change in performance. That is, I'd expect a CX500V with the good Sony wide-angle converter mounted to produce video of quality equal to the native CX550V filming the same subject.

Similarly, some people might argue that adding a few new "manual controls" allows for better-quality video, but I'm a bit skeptical about that. I think the manipulation of light going on inside the computer chips here is way more sophisticated than in analog cameras and camcorders. That is, I'm a little concerned that using manual controls a lot is actually equivalent to "dumbing down" the camcorder - 180 degrees away from what it used to be with analog devices where the human judgement was generally superior.
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Old April 5th, 2010, 02:57 PM   #29
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video quality, and manual vs. auto

regarding whether video quality is better in auto or manual, I think this is very dependent on the operator and the scene, and I suspect that for the majority of the people, in the majority of situations a good auto mode is better overall. However, I have had situations where auto-adjustment (on other cameras) drives me nuts.

For example in a theater where there is a couple waltzing: she wears a bright colored dress and he is in a dark tailcoat. They are turning around each other and when she is towards the camera, the camera thinks "bright colored dress! must turn down exposure!" and then a few beats later, the dress is eclipsed by a black coat and the camera thinks "too dark, must increase exposure!" and this goes on and on. Because of the constant auto-exposure shifts, the background brightness of the video goes up and down repeatedly, which is very distracting, and also hurts image quality because so many bits are used up encoding the bad news that every pixel in the scene is changing brightness. That specific problem is much reduced by selecting a "slow" mode for exposure AGC, on cameras that offer that option, but in a theater you have all kinds of intentionally artificial lighting situations that the camera tries to "correct", with often disappointing results.

Note: this is "in general", I don't actually have the CX550. I do have a HDR-XR500 which I almost always use in auto mode, and it works well, but I haven't tried a theater show with varying lighting. I had the problem above (ironically enough) with a HDR-FX1 set to full-auto mode.
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Old April 6th, 2010, 12:56 PM   #30
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Robert, compared to the CX500, would you say this is a upgrade in video quality or just features?
I just finished shooting a lot of low light/night shot clips this weekend. I'll try to get them together over the next few days and post a short video.
I think the improvments over the XR 520 are:
1) I do think the low light images are cleaner
2) Autofocus seems quicker and more accurate
3) the OIS is noticably more effective
4) the "auto" features seem equally excellent on the two cameras
5) I'm sure that the 24 mbs data rate confers some downstream benefits, but casual inspection of the raw footage doesn't reveal much obvious difference from the XR 520. Something might show up with complex motion capture, but I haven't specifically looked at that issue.
6) The extra manual controls are nice, but I haven't actually needed to use them so far. The touchscreen "spot exposure/focus" seems to cover most of the situations where the standard "auto" needs tweaking.
7) the native wide angle lens is a huge feature for me personally, others may have little use for it.
8) It really is small. Many times over the weekend I actually dropped it into my front pants pocket.
Basically, it's a lot of small improvements, but I can definitely say that I'm more than satisfied to replace my XR 520 with the CX 550
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