Jon Fordham's HD10 Review II, "Run and Gun" at DVinfo.net

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Old December 1st, 2003, 08:04 PM   #1
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Jon Fordham's HD10 Review II, "Run and Gun"

First let me apologize to those of you who are following my posts regarding the comparison between the HD10 and the 27F Varicam. The downconverts that I need to sit and fully evaluate the image comparisons between these cameras have been stalled by pesky post production issues. They are on the way. And I promise to sit and fully evaluate and report my opinions to this board as well as deliver the tapes to Heath for him to do the same and possibly post some clips. So please be patient. They're coming.

Despite the frustrating post production pace on "3 Days", I have had the opportunity to do some more shooting with the HD10 outside of a "structured" (if you can call it that) filmmaking environment. Being a New York City resident, I had the pleasure of braving the mild cold last week to stand amongst thousands of others to view the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I took the HD10 with me to see how the camera performed in a "run and gun", "on the fly", "ENG", whatever you want to call it situation.

I was positioned at 50th and Broadway, right at Times Square. The weather was great with plenty of sunshine. However, even with the clear skies, being in the shadow of one or two tall buildings kinda kills the warmth of a clear and sunny day. Standing in the midst of a few people limited my movement. But I still had plenty of decent shots of the parade and surrounding area. I only shot about 20 minutes of footage since the experience of the parade was my real motivation for going. And I'm of the opinion that such an experience is better actually experienced live than watched on television after the fact.

OK, so I knew and saw how the lack of manual control was a pain in the ass on a set when I had control of the lighting and what was actually going on in the frame. But I gotta tell ya that I experienced a new level of frustration when I had absolutely no control what-so-ever over the lighting, the lighting ratio, and the action in the frame. Raw natural daylight is a bit of a challenge for any digital camera. But when you have no control over how the camera handles that light, you end up with an image that is incredibly varied in its quality and continuity. When panning from a balloon passing through a break in the building shadows to the street below to catch a float as it passed, the auto iris shifted dramatically to expose for the difference in levels. And no amount of Exposure +/- shifting did anything to lock down or help even out the ever changing auto iris as the camera panned from sunshine to shadow. Add to that the movement and exposure level constantly kicked the auto shutter into wildly varying gears as it attempted to clearly capture the movement of the juggling clowns on roller skates in conjunction with the slow moving marching bands.

While shooting, I found the rotating hand grip to be nice, but less of an advantage than I thought (or hoped) it would be. All the rotating hand grip really did for me was allow me to give the hand grip a slight "tilt" forward to match the positioning of the hand grips found on most standard industrial and broadcast lenses. And while this did provide a more familiar and relaxed feeling to someone who has had plenty of those standard industrial and broadcast lenses in his hand, it didn't really do much more for me in achieving unique camera positioning. Positions such as holding the camera above my head to get above the crowd as JVC makes reference to...

In addition to the frustration of not having manual control, the conclusion was finally reached that the HD10's LCD blows. Blows hard. Blows, sucks, up down and sideways, not worth a damn. I've shot with a lot of LCD's. From one chip Hi8 LCD's to $5,000 HD LCD's on top of F900's. And all things considered, the LCD on the HD10 is just not up to par. Unfortunately, neither is the viewfinder. I wouldn't go so far as to say that either the LCD or the viewfinder significantly hinders an experienced operator from reasonably evaluating the image. But it certainly is not very helpful. More appropriately stated, the LCD and viewfinder simply do not perform on the same level as LCDs and viewfinders found on similar cameras.

When I returned home, I eagerly connected the HD10 via Y/C to my 27" Sony television and checked out the footage. Once again, to my relief, actually seeing the footage on a monitor was worlds apart from what the images looked like on the LCD while shooting.

And as before, much of the same issues held true as those of my first impressions. The colors were as expected, a little desaturated and the contrast painfully too stark.

What stood out in this round and under these circumstances were two things.

First the positive. As I mentioned in my last review, the resolution is there. Not the level of subtle detail that a CCD with enough pixels for 72 could deliver. But the 720 recording was able to deliver clean and sharp images of the tall buildings in the distance. Wide shots are where Standard Definition video has historically fallen short. But HD's higher resolution is remarkable in its ability to deliver clear wide shots without looking muddy or soft. And the HD10 also did a great job of resolving clean and clear wide shots without looking muddy or soft. Part of me immeadiately wondered if the sharpness of the wide shots were primarily due to the 'way over done' edge enhacement. The edge enhancement is painfully obvious in many situations. Including many shots from the parade that day. But upon careful review, I was able to discern that the sharpness of the buildings in the distance was in fact "genuinely" due to the higher resolution of the HD10's 720 recording. And even though the edge enhancement did give a bit of a boost to the sharpness of the wide shots, I think that even with a better tuned detail circuit and/or reasonable diffusion, the wide shots still would've turned out with decent clarity.

Second the negative. The focus system is certainly less than suitable. The autofocus system simply does not have the speed and accuracy to effectively hit the mark in a reasonable and suitable amount of time. Now as a Cinematographer, working with a lens that even has an autofocus system automatically makes me sigh in resignation. However, when in a documentary or "live" run and gun situation, there exist many moments when autofocus can be and often is a nescesary tool. Autofocus has always been a flawed function. But many cameras in this class have reached a very accurate and very effective level of performance. Unfortunately, the HD10 does not have that level of performance in its autofocus system. And the servo assisted manual focus system doesn't benefit in the slightest from the lackluster LCD and viewfinder.

In most situations similiar to this, I think a camera such as the Sony PD150 would deliver superior results. In this particular situation, something like the PD150 would most certainly have delivered a much more even, stable, and better color staurated image due primarily to its full manual control, excellent autofocus system, and 3 CCD chipset. The PD150 most likely couldn't have matched the clarity of the distant buildings in the wide shots due to its interlaced scan system and 480 resolution. But for this application, I think I would've gladly sacrificed sharp buildings for better shots of that which was actually in front of me.

Well, those are my first impressions of a run and gun situation with the HD10. My DVX100 is back from rental and I'm in pre-pro on a short film to be shot in the next couple weeks. I anticipate putting the HD10 next to the DVX100 for a few informal tests before doing some side by sides when I go to shoot next project.

Jon
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Old December 1st, 2003, 09:10 PM   #2
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Very comprehensive -- many thanks as always, Jon!
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Old December 2nd, 2003, 09:31 AM   #3
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Thank you very much for your review of "run and gun" for the HD10u!

I specfically appreciate your intelligent presentation of facts. It's very clear and understandable. I'd suggest considering doing camera reviews for money - I think you write well for that purpose. I'm sure Steve Mullen would help you get some gigs at Video Systems magazine. If only he'd pop back in here!

Where is Steve?!

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Old December 2nd, 2003, 11:22 AM   #4
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Murph,

You're welcome, and thank you. You're certainly not the first to tell me that I should write reviews. Many have told me the same and quite often at that. However, no one has ever offered me a gig writing reviews. Not that I'm terribly interested in such, but I probrably wouldn't turn it down if it came my way and I had the time. Having the time is probrably the biggest factor. I often leap from film to film and rarely have much down time to sit and focus on writing. But if the opportunity presented itself and I was available, I'd certainly give it some thought.

Jon
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Old December 2nd, 2003, 12:10 PM   #5
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You should go after some of those gigs, Jon! (Review writing gigs, that is.)

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Old December 2nd, 2003, 03:20 PM   #6
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Well considering you have little free time, I for one am very pleased you chose to spend some of it here. Thanks.
I look forward to your further insights.
Ken.
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