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Old August 13th, 2008, 03:21 PM   #16
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Wow! It has been a busy week...

Thanks everyone for your feedback! It has been very helpful.

I just confirmed how much money I'm going to be able to spend and it looks like it will be enough for either a Sony FX1 or Canon XH-A1. Now I need to decide between these two cameras (or anything else interesting in this range).

This last weekend I went out to Vimeo as Pietro Impagliazzo and David Beisner recommended to look at video from both the Sony and Canon. I have to admit to being a bit disappointed by the video from the Sony. The color fidelity and saturation in the videos just did not seem to match what I saw from the Canon.

However, I don't know if this is typical or if it is because the people who are using the Sony do less set up in camera or fixing in post or whatever. Then again, perhaps what I was seeing are limitations due to Vimeo compression for web streaming. Though this held true whether I was viewing in SD or Vimeo's "HD".

Have many of you had a chance to work with both of these cameras? Is what I am seeing inherent to the cameras or the videographers? Or am I just seeing something that is not there?

As for my editing system, it is AMD Opteron 165 (dual core) based, with 2 GB RAM, over 1.5TB disk space (C: 250GB RAID 1 boot, D: 960GB RAID 5 for video, 400GB RAID 1 for backup of all PC's on my home network), and an ATI Radeon X1950XTX video card. It is fairly good, but not a powerhouse by any means.

As you can see, it used to be state of the art a couple years ago, but is now about average (power-wise). When I am processing my video, all the effects/cuts/etc. happen in real time (at least for now) with the SD footage I'm working with.

Anyway, to recap, I'm looking at the 1/3" Sony FX1 and Canon XH-A1 ("entry level" HD prosumer cameras) right now because of their low light performance and for future proofing. The Sony FX7/V1U are out, IMO, because they use CMOS and/or 1/4" chips and suffer a bit compared to the 1/3" chips in lower light levels (at least from what I have read). If anyone has any other ideas for cameras (in the Canon XH-A1 price range or lower), please do let me know as I am open to new ideas. The Sony and Canon appear to be the best at this level at this time.

Thanks for all of your help!

Best regards,

Scott
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Old August 14th, 2008, 06:28 AM   #17
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Your observation is accurate: out of the box Sony cameras have a sharp, cool look (slightly blueish) while all Canons capture a more saturated but somewhat softer picture. The reason is that the two companies cater to two different user groups: Sony is mostly broadcast oriented, in most TV studios you will find predominantly Sony cameras, while Canon develops cameras for the independent producers, event- and wildlife videographers and such.
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Old August 14th, 2008, 09:15 AM   #18
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Ervin,

So this difference would explain why I have read people saying that they recommend using Canon's to cut with Canon's and Sony's with Sony's because it is difficult to match them in post?

Since my preference is for the way the Canon looks (color/saturation-wise), I assume that the Sony can't be made to look like the Canon by white balancing, etc. either in camera or post?

Also, does anyone have a feel for how they compare in lower light situations?

Thanks.

Scott
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Old August 14th, 2008, 09:32 AM   #19
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Generally I find it more successful and it looks technically better to warm up footage in post rather than cool it down, so it's Sonys for me.
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Old August 14th, 2008, 10:23 AM   #20
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1. That is correct; it's not impossible, but it's very hard and takes a lot of time to match different cameras.

2. Theoretically it can be made but if the Canon look is the one you're after to start with, why work extra?

3. That's a religion in itself. Most videographers hold Sony's the kings of low light, but the difference might not be as significant, depending on your shooting conditions.
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Old August 20th, 2008, 10:11 PM   #21
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Thanks everyone for your feedback. It has definitely been a learning experience.

However, I am curious to know if the Sony FX1 and Canon XH-A1 are equivalent cameras or if the Sony Z1U is more equivalent to the XH-A1?

Also, if you had the choice of buying one of the three above at these prices (FX1 @ $2K-2.5K, XH-A1 @ $2.5K-$3K, and Z1U @ $2.5K-$3.2K), which would you buy?

The only differences I can see between the FX1 and Z1U seem to be XLR inputs and the ability to shoot both NTSC and PAL with the same camera. The Canon appears (to me) to have better (more natural, saturated) color, has that wonderful 20X lens, and can shoot in 24F and 30F, but has slightly worse low light performance. For the life of me, I cannot figure out how to balance these out at the various price points.

Another thing that has thrown another wrench in the works is I was watching the Olympics the other night and saw at the end of the program that the cameras were supplied by Sony and the lenses were from Canon. IMO, the video of the Olympics has been fantastic. I would be ecstatic to get video like that. Just before the 100m finals, there was a moment when one cameraman was trying to cover Usain Bolt's mother and another (the camera the feed was coming from) and it LOOKED like the camera in the bottom of the picture (the non-feed camera) looked to be one of the FX1/Z1U/Z7U family. You could see the LCD screen and fixed lens that is common to these cameras. When they briefly switched the feed to that camera, I really could not detect the difference from the rest of the program... at least in that short a time frame.

If that is the quality video these Sony's can provide, I am amazed!

With mostly videoing home events and some sporting stuff, I think the Canon will be the best option for me, but I'd hate to miss something and regret the purchase later. I need to be mindful that the auto functions need to be "good" so that I won't get poor footage if family are running the camera.

Anyway, I'd appreciate one more round of input, if anyone has anything further to add. I just wish there was somewhere here in Memphis to check out these cameras before I make a purchase...

Scott
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Old August 21st, 2008, 02:25 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Surbrook View Post
The only differences I can see between the FX1 and Z1U seem to be XLR inputs and the ability to shoot both NTSC and PAL with the same camera.Scott
Whoooah - there are 43 differences all told. Of course there's the XLRs, but there's also some amazingly useful extras that mean I never ever pick up my FX1 when the Z1's on offer.

The undescan screen, the fine tune of the manual wjite balance, the focus assist (not expanded focus, note), the assign button choice, the v'finder's zoom readout and lots more.

The progression order is FC1, XH-A1, Z1 in my view.

tom.
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Old August 21st, 2008, 06:45 AM   #23
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Actually, 44 differences...

... at least as listed by the attached PDF file.

Scott, if you can afford it, please go for the Z1. As picky as you seem to be, you will never be happy with an FX1.

I am not sure the info about Sony and Beijing is accurate... according to several websites, most of the cameras are Thomson and Panasonic. See Cameras being used at the Beijing Olympics - Camcorders and Panasonic HD selected for Beijing Olympic Games, Panasonic USA Pressroom.

Now, if we're talking about the NBC coverage, that's another story, and it does look like that's all Sony:

"Sony cameras NBC is using include:
30 PDW-700 cameras ($29,800, 2/3-inch CCDs MPEG-2 1080i)
42 Sony HDC-1400 studio cameras, ($65,000, 2/3-inch CCDs, 1080i memory stick camera)
HDC-3300 3x Super Slow Motion cameras ($118,000.00)".

So I don't think there are any HDV cameras around the stadium, it's all studio cameras and XDCAMs for NBC , with 2/3 inch chips, an entirely different league, and $100K+ Gras Valley/Thomsons for the actual games. What surprizes me is that they all shoot interlaced (excepe maybe the slowmo ones?).

By the way, according to the same websites, the Beijing Olympics are the first to be covered entirely with HD cameras!
Attached Files
File Type: pdf FX1 vs Z1.pdf (98.4 KB, 1600 views)
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Old August 21st, 2008, 07:56 AM   #24
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Unless you need XLR inputs the FX1 should be fine for your purposes, and XLR can be added via a third-party adapter (eg Beachtek) if necessary. The Sony colors are muted at default settings but this can be enhanced significantly using the "picture profiles" - I shot a dance performance this way which looked great with no post enhancement. Color balance can also be modified the same way and I've been warming it up a little in situations where Sony defaults look bluish. The FX1 is also easy to use with excellent autofocus and decent auto exposure plus a one-touch "backlight" button, so it's suitable for handing to family members with minmal explanation. All things considered the FX1 is still a good value almost four years after it was introduced, and can be used for pro shoots as needed.

The Z1U is a beefed-up version of the FX1 with some nice pro features and a hefty price tag to match, with images indistinguishable in most situations. The Z1 is largely being displaced by the newer Z7U, but I wouldn't recommend the latter in this situation.

The Canon XH-A1 has a better zoom range and 24-fps recording than the Sonys, plus XLR inputs at a reasonable price. The Canon images are grainy in low light at default settings but this can be mitigated by adjusting various camera options, similar to comments I made about the FX1 above. Autofocus on the Canon appears to be less reliable than the Sonys based on user comments here on this board and elsewhere, so is arguably less friendly for
novice users.

For general use and value I'd rate the FX1 first, then the XH-A1, then the Sony Z1U. Any can produce great images with some care, so you can't really go wrong compared to your current camera.
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Old August 21st, 2008, 10:20 AM   #25
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The Z1U is a beefed-up version of the FX1 with some nice pro features and a hefty price tag to match, with images indistinguishable in most situations.
Well I will take Scott at his word in the post above - he indicates a $500 difference between FX1 and Z1 prices. Of course "your mileage may vary", but assuming you've narrowed the choice down to these two cameras I would definitely spend the extra $500.

The chips and basic guts are the same, but the features which Tom mentions above really to set the Z1 apart from the FX1. Black Stretch is another important difference, and it can clearly make a difference in the image plus it gives you a bit of an edge in very dark places.

And let's not forget that the Z1 can shoot PAL as well as NTSC standard definition. AFAIK, this is the only reasonably priced camera which can do this out of the box without factory modification. It's the only reason I bought my Z1 in 2006. I was doing a big PAL project at the time and didn't want to buy a PAL-only camera.
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Old August 21st, 2008, 10:29 AM   #26
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Well I will take Scott at his word in the post above - he indicates a $500 difference between FX1 and Z1 prices.
I'd agree that at that price the Z1U is worth the extra money, but I'm surprised to hear such a small price difference. The FX1 can be found on eBay for $2500 or less - is someone selling a Z1U for $3000?
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Old August 21st, 2008, 10:36 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Scott Surbrook View Post
...I have read people saying that they recommend using Canon's to cut with Canon's and Sony's with Sony's because it is difficult to match them in post?
It goes beyond that. You should also consider the advantages of having *one* battery type, *one* AC power supply type, *one* menu and controls system to learn, etc.
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Old August 21st, 2008, 11:40 AM   #28
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I have an FX1 and an XH-A1. You can certainly shoot some great footage with an FX1, but I like the A1 much better overall. I doubt I'll every buy another camera that is limited to shooting interlaced video (cineframe on the FX1 is for the birds - 24F and 30F on the A1 works well). The A1 is way more tweakable than the FX1, and the instant auto focus on the A1 is actually useful (blows away the AF on the FX1).
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Old August 21st, 2008, 12:05 PM   #29
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Another difference worth considering: should you need service from Sony, the Z1 is handled by the pro division where usually a phone call takes care of the problem, while the FX1 by the consumer division, which we all know how it works...
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Old August 21st, 2008, 12:32 PM   #30
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I'd agree that at that price the Z1U is worth the extra money, but I'm surprised to hear such a small price difference.
Surprised me too. I haven't done any real research, but just now I looked on B&H's site. The Z1 is selling for $3,900 which includes a $400 rebate. The FX1 sells for $3,300. The price gap certainly has narrowed over the years. When I got my Z1 I think it cost $4,700 and the FX1 was somewhere around $3,500 IIRC.
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