A1 and Sony FX1 comparison out there? at DVinfo.net

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Canon XH Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XH G1S / G1 (with SDI), Canon XH A1S / A1 (without SDI).


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Old April 25th, 2007, 08:43 AM   #1
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A1 and Sony FX1 comparison out there?

I`m looking for any kind of comparison article with info, screen grabs etc. The cameras are in the same price range so I`m looking to get the most from my money. I will be shooting martial arts, a bit of low light, lots of wooded areas, perhaps some weddings, indoor and outdoor, so the whole 9 yards. If you know of any comparison thats been done (or if you own both) your input would be greatly appreciated.

note - I am not looking for a sony vs canon battle, I just want facts and visuals.
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Old April 25th, 2007, 08:53 AM   #2
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i own both. they're both phenomenal cameras. if you're just shooting interlaced and want to save money, get the FX-1. if you want image customizability (and yes, you do!), progressive options, and bigger zoom, and XLR inputs, get the A1.

image quality-wise, i think (opinion here, no testing....) that the A1 handles motion in progressive mode slightly better.

they handle similarly. i was in love with the ergonomics of the FX-1, which made me reluctant to switch, but they're pretty similar, so i didn't give up anything there.

i'd give the A1 the edge, but for the money you save, a used FX-1 is a great cam...
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Old April 25th, 2007, 09:02 AM   #3
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thanks for the input, I`ll be buying it (whichever one) new, I wouldn`t spend this kind of money on used goods ;) Especially since it`ll be putting me in the hole for a few months. How would you compare the low light handling of each?
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Old April 25th, 2007, 10:45 AM   #4
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I shot with the Sony Z1 quite a bit before buying my XH A1. It should have the same quality of footage as the FX1, but it has XLR inputs and more controls, etc.

In a low light situation where the XH A1 might need, say a +6 db gain, the Z1 would want a +12. So the Canon requires a little less light. However, if you have to use a high gain position, the Sony is better. In other words, +12 on the Sony looks about as good as +6 on the Canon.

Most all my available light shooting I've done with the Canon, I use -3db as standard, and I have plenty of light in offices, rooms, etc. The Sony would probably be at zero db or possibly a +3.

The XH A1 compares to the Z1 more than it does the FX1, even though it's priced lower than the Z1. I was all set to buy a Z1 until the XH A1 was announced, so I waited. My reasons for getting the Canon over the Sony were mainly twofold: first, the lens, and second the 24p capability. Both lenses are about the same at the wide end, but the Canon is a 20:1 zoom, a lot longer than Sony's.

I think the Z1 is better balanced, and I like the LCD screen up on top of the handle. It's auto focus shift is better. Both cameras are about the same weight, although the Canon is a little more compact. If the lenses were equal and Canon didn't have 24p capability, I most likely would have bought the Sony. However, when looking at them side by side, I do like the look of the Canon's images better. There's not a huge difference, but it's there. The cameras are really more alike than different, but the higher resolution of the Canon and the 24p make the look what it is to a large degree.
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Old April 25th, 2007, 11:15 AM   #5
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Being the owner of a Z1 but having played with the Canon A1, here's a couple of thoughts. The Z1's top screen is bigger and better, plus it can be folded back to be on-axis with the camera - great for the run 'n' gun you sound to be aiming at.

The Canon's 20x zoom is a delight, but although they both start out as f/1.6, the Canon drops to f/3.5 at tele (Sony: f/2.8). I just love the Sony's alloy knob that falls just above your left thumb and smoothly varies the iris, but the Canon idea is more 'historical'.

Sony's info-lithium battery technology is the envy of the camcorder world (excepting the lap-top recall fiasco) and protruding from the rear allows bigger batteries to be used as well as the newer 'power take-off' batteries. The Canon's battery is enclosed.

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Old April 25th, 2007, 04:34 PM   #6
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I also like the Z1's battery placement. I think that contributes to the better balance. However, the Canon also takes the standard Canon large battery as well as the small. You get 5 hours off the little one and can shoot about all day on the large one. I thought I wouldn't like that slide-in battery, but it's no big deal, thought it would be marginally better on the rear.

And I agree with Sony's placement of the LCD. This is very nice for an assistant to follow focus, since with the lens on both cameras you have to read your distance off the screen or viewfinder. You can see the Canon screen from the right side of the camera if you tilt it just right, but it's a little awkward. Some people complain that Canon's screen is small, and it is smaller than Sony's, but it is of a very high resolution and also easy to see in daylight.

As far as the stopping down of the lens when you zoom, the Canon's goes down an additional stop because it zooms in a lot more. If you stop it at about the length of Sony's maximum zoom, it'll also be at about a 2.8--it varies. This is an annoying thing that all the electronic lenses do. If you start out wide and want to zoom in to a really tight shot for some reason, you have to open up the aperture. I don't use zooms because that makes the show look like a corporate video, but on rare occasions when shooting with our old DSR250 I wanted a quick zoom in to a really tight shot, and that stopping down of the lens made it unfeasible (so I did a quick dolly move instead).

I think what it gets down to between the two cameras is more a question personal preference than anything. Some like the 24p look and the Canon image, others prefer the Sony. That's why you need to have some hands-on time with both cameras.

As I said, for me the big things about the Canon were the lens and 24p. The main thing about the lens for me wasn't the 20:1, although that has turned out to be useful. It was the aperture ring which is where it oughta be, in my traditional feeling. The above poster likes the little wheel, but I never could get accustomed to that. I'm sure in time I could, but it's a minor annoyance.

Oh there is one audio thing the Sony is better at, if you want to get picky. With the Canon, while you can record with one mic to channel one and the other mic to channel two, you have to pick either mic in or line in. You can't have one channel line and one channel mic. This isn't a big deal for me because our mixer has line and mic outputs, but if you were getting a line feed at an event off the sound board and wanted to record ambient sound with another mic, you would have to run the other mic to a mixer, rather than direct in to the camera. I believe the Z1 allows you to do mic and line together. There have been times when I've shot events with a line feed, and I always liked to keep the camera mounted mic on too, in case the guy on the sound board screwed up (this has happened). However I don't use the Canon for events because I have cameras that take full size cassettes for those situations. If you did shoot those kinds of events, you would want to have a mixer with you if you got married to a line input from a sound board.
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Old April 25th, 2007, 08:36 PM   #7
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I used 1-Z1 and 2-FX1 for almost 2 years, I am very happy with the Sony PQ, when the A1 came out, I wanted it just for more zoom power to suplement my Sony when I needed more zoom power, after the first shoot, I said to myself, I really screw up, now I have to buy more A1, no matter what I do in post, I can not get the cameras to match, the A1 is in another level, Z1 can not match it, it is very evident when you watch it on a 1080P monitor, especially on a bigger HD monitor like 61" or so, Z1 PQ is good watching it by itself but when you have A1 shooting the same stuff, compared it side by side it is so much sharper and smoother than the Z1, I think the reason some of you don't see much difference is because you are not looking at it on a big screen HD, but for me it is much better. The only think that I missed is the built in lens cover of the Z1.
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Old April 26th, 2007, 12:52 AM   #8
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<A1 and Sony FX1 comparison?>

pic's from native hdv-stream FX1/A1 (1920x1080):

http://www.fxsupport.de/19.html [19.02.2007 07:08]

http://www.fxsupport.de/14.html [09.12.2006 18:17 + 15.12.2006 11:11]
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Old April 26th, 2007, 02:40 AM   #9
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Great sites, Wolfgang.

And a small correction Bill. You say, ''it varies. This is an annoying thing that all the electronic lenses do. If you start out wide and want to zoom in to a really tight shot for some reason, you have to open up the aperture.''

This isn't anything to do with 'electronic lenses'. This ramping of the aperture is simply a design parameter that keeps the zoom a lot more compact, lighter, cheaper and with a smaller filter thread - all good news on the sales counter. In Super-8 days there were many 10x zooms that maintained their f/1.4 maximum aperture throughout the zoom range, so it's perfectly feasable to design such lenses today.

Again, if you're shooting at wide-angle using f/4 (say) and zoom into full telephoto you don't have to 'open up the aperture' as you claim. F/4 is f/4 whatever the focal length, whatever the camera.

But you're right to point out that when the Canon reaches the Sony's full tele position it's quite possibly f/2.8, and loses the next 3/4 of a stop on its way to its 20x zoom position.

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Old April 26th, 2007, 09:58 AM   #10
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The Super 8 lenses weren't electronic. Maybe that's not the correct word. All the lenses on today's "handycam" style camcorders that do everything internally is what I'm callling electronic lenses, as opposed to manual aperture rings, etc. I think you're right in that they could be designed to work better, but that would probably make the lens cost more than the camera. To me, when I zoom it's like switching prime lenses--the longer ones usually are slower. The only problem is you can't zoom in too far if you start out shooting wide open. I shoot a lot of interviews and like to get in closer and usually try to zoom in quickly at appropriate pauses. If I'm too far back from the subject and have to zoom in too far, that's a problem; so I usually get in closer to the subject so when I zoom in I'm still within the range where there's no aperture shift. It's an annoyance...but when you spend $3500 bucks for a camera with lens, you're not gonna get a $10,000 lens.
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Old April 26th, 2007, 10:25 AM   #11
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regarding low light performance, i believe that both cameras are fairly similar, but HDV is simply not great in low light, period. with the release of its V1, Sony also released this fantastic on-camera light:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...ughType=search

i have one that i use on our A1s, and it is becoming an absolute must-have. it's completely controllable, with a dimmer switch and built-in diffusers, so you can cast just the amount that you need. and it's half the price of the similar Litepanels. great design, great build.

the other point i'd make is, that i've had the A1 for a month, maybe six weeks, and i'm pretty sure that with the custom settings, i could build a good low light custom preset. the existing library of presets don't work as well in low light as the factory presets (not even the one named "lowlight"), so i'm going to make my own, when i get some time for camera experiments. i think it will be an essential addition--but meanwhile, that Sony camera light works wonders with HDV.
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Old April 26th, 2007, 10:47 AM   #12
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The HDV format has nothing to do with whether a camera is good in low light. It's the size of the chips and density of pixels, for the most part. Even though the 1/3" chip cameras aren't as good in low light as larger chip cameras, or older lower resolution cameras, they are still better than even 2/3" chip cameras of a few years back. An on camera light is good for TV news, or maybe if you diffuse it for just a little added fill, but generally it's not something you'd use in production work.
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Old April 26th, 2007, 11:04 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meryem Ersoz View Post
regarding low light performance, i believe that both cameras are fairly similar, but HDV is simply not great in low light, period. with the release of its V1, Sony also released this fantastic on-camera light:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...ughType=search

i have one that i use on our A1s, and it is becoming an absolute must-have. it's completely controllable, with a dimmer switch and built-in diffusers, so you can cast just the amount that you need. and it's half the price of the similar Litepanels. great design, great build.

the other point i'd make is, that i've had the A1 for a month, maybe six weeks, and i'm pretty sure that with the custom settings, i could build a good low light custom preset. the existing library of presets don't work as well in low light as the factory presets (not even the one named "lowlight"), so i'm going to make my own, when i get some time for camera experiments. i think it will be an essential addition--but meanwhile, that Sony camera light works wonders with HDV.
Could you post a few pict sample of that lights indoor? I know that it is 5600K, I just wonder what it looks like when you use that light indoor, how does it blend with incandescent light?
Thanks.
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Old April 26th, 2007, 01:46 PM   #14
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saying that something won't work "for production" is really a blanket statement that doesn't mean anything. every tool has its application. i have used mine working inside of a pop-up camper on a commercial video and most recently doing run and gun doc work in bhutan where the lighting conditions were beyond hideous. would i use this in a studio environment, no of course not. but this light has saved me in a number of low light situations where studio lighting was either impossible or inappropriate. you'll find quite a few wedding shooters (i'm not one) who use on-camera lights in their productions.....

koi pham, i'm in the middle of digitizing some of the video i just shot using this light. when i get a sample, i can post it, but the stuff i shot with the light most recently is somewhere in the twenty tapes of footage that i just shot....i'll see what i can do.

i don't know if HDV as a format is worse in low light or not--i'm just offering up an opinion based on experience. i don't know of any existing HDV camera at the A1/FX-1/Z1 price point that can match a PD150/170 for low light shooting, however. the "why" of this is sort of academic....the real discussion is that, yes indeed, low-light performance suffers somewhat on all of these mid-range HDV cams compared to some DV cameras, and therefore, what can be done to mitigate the compromise in low-light performance. if you think an on-camera light adds no value, then don't use one...
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Old April 26th, 2007, 03:56 PM   #15
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This isn't a big deal for me because our mixer has line and mic outputs, but if you were getting a line feed at an event off the sound board and wanted to record ambient sound with another mic, you would have to run the other mic to a mixer, rather than direct in to the camera
Or alternativerly, for board sources that do not offer mic level output use an attenuator to drop it to mic level. An attenuator is a lot smaller and lower cost than mixer. In some venues you may want to use an isolator/direct box to prevent possible gound loops or other electical interference from the sound board.

As to smaller aperture at higher focal length zoom:

Remember that the f-number is essentially the ratio of the focal length to the effective aperture diameter. So a 90 mm focal length f/1.6 lens would require about a 56 mm (over 2 inches) diameter aperture, not exactly handicam size. The loss of aperture with zooming is a common feature of wide range, long zoom lenses, and is very common with still camera lenses as well as with camcorders. A zoom lens with constant aperture over the full zoom range will either have a rather slow aperture, or be veeeeeeery large and be heavy both to carry and finance.
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