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Old January 1st, 2008, 12:33 PM   #1
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HD??? Which way to go?

Okay, I know this is kinda like an open ended questions... But, I am about to start a couple of documentary projects and am looking about filming them in high definition. Am am wanting to buy one or two cameras. I know that you can't do a straight comparison with all of them, however, I am interested in some feedback and opinions. My first questions is if I should wait till one of the two Sony's are released in February? The Sony HVR-Z7 ($ 6,850.00) and Sony HVR-S270 ($10,500.00) that record to disk or tape and has interchangeable lens. I really like the feature of tapeless filming. If I am correct there is only the Panasonic AG-HVX200 ($ 5,199.95) that also records to disk or tape and the new Sony PMW-EX1 ($ 6,699.00) only records to disc, which means you have to have a lot of disc or be able to download footage often.

Then we go from there to the other HD cameras...

Canon XH-A1 ($ 3,299.95)
Sony HVR-Z1U ($ 4,900.00)
Canon XH-G1 ($ 5,999.95)

or even the JVC GY-HD200U ($ 6,495.00) and the JVC GY-HD100U ($ 4,599.00).

Thank you in advance for your feedback and input. I know that in the next six to twelve months it will all change, but I want to make the best informed decision I can now. So, I'm wondering if my best options are between Sony HVR-Z7, Panasonic AG-HVX200, Canon XH-A1 or JVC GY-HD100U/200U?

Thanks,

Bryan


Ps. Does anyone know if the Panasonic AG-HPX500 comes with the lens for $10,499.95. The describe on B&H's site doesn't say one way or the other.
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Old January 3rd, 2008, 01:03 PM   #2
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This won't be much help, but.....

....in your "other" HD camera section, you need to add the Sony HVR-V1 to the list of cameras to consider. It is certainly in the same class as the other cameras you listed.

You also mentioned a couple of cameras that recorded to "disk or tape." The Panasonic AG-HVX200 and the Sony PMW-EX1 do NOT record to disk. They record to flash memory cards. Also, the Panasonic does NOT record HD to tape. If you want to record a Hi-Def image, you MUST record it to the flash memory cards.
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Old January 3rd, 2008, 01:14 PM   #3
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You also don't mention what you ultimate market is. Are you doing a spec documentary, hoping to sell to a particular Network... Some networks have minimum standards for the cameras, though I have to admit the HD stuff I have seen on most of HD channels looks like HDV to me.

On just what you are indicating, I'm thinking I would use the EX or wait for the Z7.
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Old January 3rd, 2008, 01:42 PM   #4
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Our company will be getting the Canon XH A1's. Why?

1. Solid state recording is at this point, no option for us
2. Canon offers one of the most bang for the buck at this moment, with this cam
Resolution, 24f, 20x zoom, XLR, this camera seems to have everything we need.
3. I like the Canon controls
4. Don't very much like the Sony controls
5. To our opinion, too much troubles with the JVC's (don't want to start a flame war here)
6. Z1 is overpriced compared to the Canon XH A1, although the LCD is really nice.

The Sony EX is VERY tempting, but sometimes we have to do long shoots, and the solid state recording is, at this point, not the best option for us, unfortunatelly. Otherwise chances are big we would have opted for the EX.
Well, the RED is actually our favorite contender, but we have a budget to look at :-D
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Old January 3rd, 2008, 03:00 PM   #5
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Thanks for your feedback guys. This is good conversation. Tim, I thought about the HVR-V1 but thought it was a little over priced when you match it up against the other cameras. Sorry for not using the "technical term" for the HVX and the EX1.

Chris, you are right most HD channels are using HDV along side with HD footage. I am currently looking about documentaries that are being produced for DVD sales and consideration for local market airing.

I think the Z7 might be a good possibility or option compared to the HVX.

Mathieu, thanks for you list of why you chose the A1. I too like the controls of the Canon and the Panasonic better than the Sony cameras. I would be interested in your thoughts and comments about the JVC GY-HD100U.

Ditto about RED!

Thanks again,

Bryan
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Old January 3rd, 2008, 06:02 PM   #6
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I haven't got many chances to play with the JVC but I think it has pretty nice controls, a GREAT balance on your shoulder, but there have been many reported problems (for example timecode issues, the split screen effect) and my partner who I work with, his previous company had to send them back because it constantly dropped frames.
I don't want to risk that with customers that are expecting quality. I know every camera can fail, but it seems the JVC HD100 had more faillure rapports then other camera's in it's class. There are indeed the higher end JVC 250 etc, but they are a bit more expensive then I would like them to be.
We also don't really need Genlock and that jackpad. That's why we also don't opt for the Canon XH G1.
The resolution from the JVC also is only 1280x720 (or something like that) which is a tad low, although I think that resolution isn't near half as important as the ergonomics of a camera, how it feels, how it performs, colour,...

The Panasonic has a nice filmlook going for it, and nice variable speeds, but I think that covers most of its advantages. The chips are very low resolution (and as I said, resolution isn't the end of everything, but in the case of the Panasonic, you are pretty much getting SD chips which render a very soft HD picture in comparison with the rest), it also uses solid state recording - not a very good option for us at this point.
The P2 media is also very expensive, even in comparison with the media the new Sony EX will use.
The filmlook can be achieved trough postproduction too, and the variable speeds is something I'll have to live without... trying to do it as good as possible in post.
Some people will say that the codec of the Panasonic is better because of the 4:2:2 colour, but many people reported that pulling keys with the footage in comparison with HDV is pretty much the same, exept for maybe some instances here and there.

All in all, I really think that as for this moment, in it's price class, the Canon XH A1 gives a VERY good bang for the back, and is especially a very good all-round contestant. XLR, 24f, pretty good low light, 20x zoom, many image controls, and the same chipset used in the 8000 dollar XL H1, with images
looking quite identical.
If solid state recording IS an option for you, I would take a good look at the Sony EX1: the 1/2 inch chips and all the benefits that come with that, are really attractive at this pricepoint.
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Old January 3rd, 2008, 07:52 PM   #7
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Sorry Mathieu, but I have to disagree with you. Two weeks ago I shot an event with three diferent cameras, a XH-A1, a HVX200 and a GY-HD200. We shot in DV mode, the Canon compared to the others looked a consumer camera... the image was really bad. Besides that, the zoom control is terrible and you can't focus while zooming... it's unacceptable for me.

The JVC has some reported problems... but how many units are around the world? More than any other low cost HD camera. I use these cameras a lot and never had timecode issues or drop outs. Only on one unit that needed a head cleaning, sometimes it happens even on new cameras. The important thing is to never change tape brand and always use good quality tapes for HDV recording.

The JVC does not have less resolution, you've got to consider that numbers do not always mean what you see. First of all you are comparing 1280x720 PROGRESSIVE against 14480x108 INTERLACED. The JVC is the only HDV camera that uses progressive CCDs with a full HD native resolution of 1280x720 square pixels. This means that there is a higher picture fidelity because up-scaling and down-scaling like on the Canons are eliminated. Other affordable HD cameras use rectangular CCDs that capture partial HD resolution, a down-sampled HD signal is than recorded. To be able to use these full HD ccd's, JVC developed a CCD redout method that sometimes causes a split screen efect on the 100's series. The 200's have a much better firmware that is able to completely eliminate it.

So, please... if you can spend a bit more forget the Canons and go for the JVC, besides the image better quality there is nothing like professional ergonomics. Manual focus, iris and zoom are priceless... in my opinion. If you can wait, try these new Sony's and than decide.
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Old January 3rd, 2008, 09:12 PM   #8
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About to get the HVR-V1U, been watching the price drop like mad on that.
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Old January 4th, 2008, 01:37 AM   #9
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For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure the Sony HDV cameras have outsold other low-cost HD camera brands by a wide margin - followed by Canon and Panasonic with JVC at the back of the pack. That means nothing if you like what JVC has to offer, but let's keep sales estimates realistic.
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Old January 4th, 2008, 05:42 AM   #10
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For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure the Sony HDV cameras have outsold other low-cost HD camera brands by a wide margin - followed by Canon and Panasonic with JVC at the back of the pack. That means nothing if you like what JVC has to offer, but let's keep sales estimates realistic.
Really? I've been working every week on the European Union meetings in Portugal where there are hundreds of cameras from all Europe, most of them Digibetas and DVCAMs. I've seen some JVC's and a Z1... but not a single Canon. I don't know if this means anything or if is just coincidence, but on that event you can find all TV broadcasters from Europe. I'm not aware of sales numbers, so I can't discuss that. My impressions are based on what I read and see.
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Old January 4th, 2008, 10:27 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Diogo Athouguia View Post
Sorry Mathieu, but I have to disagree with you. Two weeks ago I shot an event with three diferent cameras, a XH-A1, a HVX200 and a GY-HD200. We shot in DV mode, the Canon compared to the others looked a consumer camera... the image was really bad. Besides that, the zoom control is terrible and you can't focus while zooming... it's unacceptable for me.

The JVC has some reported problems... but how many units are around the world? More than any other low cost HD camera. I use these cameras a lot and never had timecode issues or drop outs. Only on one unit that needed a head cleaning, sometimes it happens even on new cameras. The important thing is to never change tape brand and always use good quality tapes for HDV recording.

The JVC does not have less resolution, you've got to consider that numbers do not always mean what you see. First of all you are comparing 1280x720 PROGRESSIVE against 14480x108 INTERLACED. The JVC is the only HDV camera that uses progressive CCDs with a full HD native resolution of 1280x720 square pixels. This means that there is a higher picture fidelity because up-scaling and down-scaling like on the Canons are eliminated. Other affordable HD cameras use rectangular CCDs that capture partial HD resolution, a down-sampled HD signal is than recorded. To be able to use these full HD ccd's, JVC developed a CCD redout method that sometimes causes a split screen efect on the 100's series. The 200's have a much better firmware that is able to completely eliminate it.

So, please... if you can spend a bit more forget the Canons and go for the JVC, besides the image better quality there is nothing like professional ergonomics. Manual focus, iris and zoom are priceless... in my opinion. If you can wait, try these new Sony's and than decide.
I'll give the JVC's another try if I can before the purchase, see if it can change my mind. Now finding stores in Belgium or The Netherlands that hold these camera's to try them out (as good as impossible to find, really...)
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Old January 4th, 2008, 12:02 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Mathieu Ghekiere View Post
I'll give the JVC's another try if I can before the purchase, see if it can change my mind. Now finding stores in Belgium or The Netherlands that hold these camera's to try them out (as good as impossible to find, really...)
Send an email to JVC Europe and ask them who is the authorized dealer in Belgium. I would also wait for the Sony models before deciding.
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Old January 4th, 2008, 12:57 PM   #13
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Send an email to JVC Europe and ask them who is the authorized dealer in Belgium. I would also wait for the Sony models before deciding.
Hi Diogo,

the sony EX1 is very interesteing, but the solid state recording of the EX1 doesn't fit our needs, and the other 2 camera's they've announced, at that price point with those specs, didn't really got my attention, although I sometimes read about them here and there.
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Old January 4th, 2008, 01:57 PM   #14
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I was in your shoes this fall. I needed a camera (HD or HDV) for a documentary.
For me it came down to this 3 in the end:

XL-H1
JVC 100 or 200
EX1

I had spent 3 months with the JVCs in the spring on a TV show.
I really like the look of the footage from this camera I loved the manual lens and the "pro" layout.
Felt like a "proper" camera that I´m used to from the TV world (Digi, IMX, DVCpro etc).
The down side was the compability with Avid and FCP (at the time, not sure how it is now).
We also had to send the cameras in for service at least 4 times in those 10 weeks, reliability really was an issue with the JVC´s.
The lens that comes with the camera is not very wide, and a wide angle cost more than $10000 at the time. I need a WA for my work, an adapter is just not enough

The Canon is expensive and although the lens produces great footage, I can´t stand the handling of the lens. I wan´t something with proper manual focus ring.
Another problem is that you can only playback footage shot in the 25F (or 24F) mode from a Canon HDV camera. A Sony deck won´t recognize them.
That is a problem for me, as I mostly hand over the tapes to the production after shooting.

The EX1 only records to solid state cards, so I would have to dump footage onto a laptop during shoot and burn a DVD to havd over to the production at the end of the day. Bit of a pain, but I could maybe live with that.
I would have loved the handling of the lens and that it´s 1/2 inch, but the ergonomics didn´t seem to look good for handheld work.
I like the overcranking possibilities and all the shooting modes. No DV though, and that still can be handy to shoot DV in camera, not having to downconvert or do it in post.
And it has a fixed lens, something I don´t like very much

So what did I do?
The EX1 wasn´t ready in time for production start and then I got an "offer I couldn´t refuse" on a Demo XL-H1, it had never rolled tape, just been on display.

What do I think?
I have produced some great footage with this camera, but the handling of the lens was driving me crazy.
I bought the manual lens and the new 6x wide angle lens from a member here on the forum for a very good price (they very in excellent conditions, thanks Steve)
The viewfinder is also not very good

Then I had to buy a HV20 to use as a playback deck.

So it added up, but I´m very happy with the set up now. I used it in -20 C and it still worked well
As an afterthought, my next camera will be a tapeless format. I would love to have a EX1 as well. They would have been a perfect combo for me.

So my recommendation for you is the A1, or G1 if you can afford it.
The HD-SDI on the G1 might not be of use for you now, but Convergentdesigns are coming out with a HD recorder that uses CF cards and records the "full" HD that the G1 and H1 outputs from the HD-SDI plug. Check out their web page.

I hope this can be of some help. Unfortunatly, buying cameras in this pricerange, there will always trade offs.
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Old January 4th, 2008, 02:03 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Diogo Athouguia View Post
I've been working every week on the European Union meetings in Portugal where there are hundreds of cameras from all Europe, most of them Digibetas and DVCAMs. I've seen some JVC's and a Z1... but not a single Canon.
Could be a regional thing, plus TV broadcasters are just part of the HD camera market these days. In the U.S. most indie HD shooters are using Sony cameras with a secondary number of Panasonic and Canon owners, and I rarely hear any talk about JVC. But that's just a side debate which won't help the original poster make a decision, so enough about that.

Any of the cameras discussed here can produce great footage, and none of them are perfect, so the best thing to do is try the cameras which sound most interesting and decide which one fits your shooting style. If you don't like the way the camera handles then other issues won't matter, so it really helps to get your hands on them before buying.
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