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Old August 21st, 2008, 12:49 PM   #31
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Another thing I like about the A1, is being able to use either an XLR mic or a mini-plug mic (like the Rode SVM) easily. I don't know if you can do that with a Z1 or not.
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Old August 21st, 2008, 02:42 PM   #32
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Just a quick post on the prices...

As I noted toward the beginning of this thread, I'm looking at used prices. And, for example, I just missed out (got home 4 minutes too late) on an A1 with matt box w/flag, and a bunch of other extras with <50 hours that ended up selling for $3K.

Anyway, that price range seems to hold for used equipment on eBay. At least it has been for the last month or so. Sure some are selling for more, especially new, (FX1 ~$2500, A1 ~$3200, Z1U ~$3900), but they usually have a lot of extras like wide/tele lenses, filters, extra batteries, etc.

Now, I have probably stuck it to myself because a bunch of new people will begin buying equipment and I'll have to wait another 2 weeks for prices to settle down... :D

Personally, I see this as a function of the economy rather than a statement of the intrinsic values of the respective cameras.

I was just reading an article on the FX1 on dv.com and they mentioned an "excessive horizontal aliasing" problem. I wonder if this extends to the Z1U?

From what I'm reading, I should keep the Z1 and A1 as my front runners.

Now my question is how much of a difference will I notice (for family bdays, church events, sporting events, etc.) between the 20X Canon lens and the 12X Sony lens on the Z1U?

Thanks for all of your help, it really is helping me narrow down my choices. I just hope I'm not "picking fly manure out of the pepper" (where you end up with all fly manure and no pepper, after all how can you really tell the difference?). ;D

Scott

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Old August 22nd, 2008, 01:39 AM   #33
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I was quite surprised by Boyd's revelations regarding the price of the FX1 and the Z1 - but perhaps I was more surprised that both cameras were still in production, and for all intents and purposes selling well.

I'd have thought the FX7 would have taken over from the FX1 and the Z7 from the Z1, but Sony as always is sub-dividing the niche again, even introducing the V1 and EX1 to grab more of the undecided. It makes Canon's range look very limited.

On paper the '20x zoom' wording grabs a lot of attention and alongside a 12x sounds to be a whole lot better. But if you attach a 1.6x teleconverter to the 12x zoom a lot of people are rather disappointed at how 'little extra' such a lens brings to the telephoto reach - and that's the difference between the 12x and the 20x zoom.

Of course adding a tele converter is not a nice way of doing things. You can't zoom far before vignetting takes hold, it's a heavy and lumpen optic but at least it doesn't lose you lens speed (well, not noticeably). The 20x zoom on the XH-A1 drops from f/1.6 to f/3.5 if I'm not mistaken.

tom.
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 09:27 AM   #34
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I haven't heard of any major aliasing problems for the FX1 and haven't seen that in own footage, but if there were such it would apply to the Z1U as well. These two cameras are very similar and look like they come off the same assembly line when you put them side by side.

As far as zoom range is concerned, for family videos you'd notice the maximum wide angle more than the telephoto, and I think the Sonys may have a slight advantage on the wide end.
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 09:53 AM   #35
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I use the Century Optics 1.6x teleconvertor on my Z1 to get close shots when shooting our opera performances at a distance of about 110' from the stage. If you do this sort of work you will definitely want a teleconvertor.

As I mentioned, B&H sells the Z1 new for $4,300 and a $400 Sony rebate drops it to $3,900, so unless there are a lot of extra goodies and the mileage is very low, $3,900 is no bargain for a used one.

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Old August 22nd, 2008, 10:20 AM   #36
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I was quite surprised by Boyd's revelations regarding the price of the FX1 and the Z1 - but perhaps I was more surprised that both cameras were still in production, and for all intents and purposes selling well.

I'd have thought the FX7 would have taken over from the FX1
Well the FX1 is still going strong, in spite of premature rumors of its demise: http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/area-51/8...continued.html

Meanwhile, the FX7 has actually been discontinued... go figure!
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Old August 26th, 2008, 01:45 PM   #37
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This thread has been very helpful and I would like to thank everyone who has participated and provided their experience/insight!

I think I am getting a handle on most aspects of the two cameras I have narrowed this down to, the Sony Z1U and Canon XH-A1, and would like to confirm one final question.

A big factor I have to consider is having other family members running the camcorder while I am busy. Not only that but there will likely be times when I will need to be able to just turn the camera on a "run and gun" it with little or no time to configure it for the current shooting conditions. You know, the old, "Oh, look, isn't that cute how she is doing THAT? Quick, get the camcorder out and get it on video!"

Because of what I've read here so far, it appears that the Z1U would be the best for this, in most situations with the XH-A1, while not bad, a fair amount behind. Am I understanding this correctly?

Scott
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Old August 26th, 2008, 02:32 PM   #38
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I'd say there was nothing in it Scott, and that both cameras would need a clear head as they were lifted from the kit bag.

Unless youíre getting actors to perform for your camera, most of us are using our camcorders in a real-time, Ďcapture it now or its goneí situation. This raises many issues, as the opportunity to recapture the footage may be lost forever. In real life many things happen fleetingly and fast, and to capture such things successfully means both you and your kit need to be well prepared.

This means knowing that you have fresh tape in the camera and full batteries on board. For speed and near fail-safe operation itís as well to have the camera set to the full auto mode, and this means focus, audio levels, white balance and exposure.

In situations such as this itís as well to know your camcorder inside out. As you bend down to pick the camera out of your kit bag youíll be mentally stepping through the actions you need to take next. Youíll know that as you raise the camera to your eye youíll need to have turned it on to the Ďcameraí mode, removed the lens cap with your free hand and be ready to zoom out to wide-angle to make sure focus errors donít lose you the shot.

With more complex cameras you have to assess the situation youíre going to be filming in. You have to make sure the camera is switched to record either from its in-built mics or from the external mics you may have plugged in. I like to be in full control of my camera settings and donít much like leaving things to the automation, simply because it makes so many assumptions.

Consequently if after filming outside I suddenly decide to move indoors Iíll be switching off the ND filters as I head for the door. Experience will have me thinking of adding +6 or +9dB of gain up and Iíll be switching to a warmer white balance setting. Iíll remember to check how much light is being supplied by the overhead filaments and how much daylight is being allowed into the room, as this will determine the manual white balance setting I lock in.

I unlock the iris as I walk so that I can quickly lock it again once the camera has had a look at its new surroundings without the NDs in place. My fingers immediately go to the iris control to be ready to make fine adjustments and my zoom rocker is zapped to max wide-angle as a less dangerous and more useful starting point.

You now see why you need to know your camera so well. The simple fact of stepping indoors has meant you flipping 2 switches into a possible 4 positions and pushing 3 buttons a possible 7 times. Thereís no time allowed to fumble or forget; this day will never come again.

tom.
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Old August 27th, 2008, 12:27 PM   #39
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A big advantage with the A1, for run and gun, is the instant AF.
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Old August 27th, 2008, 12:42 PM   #40
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A big advantage with the A1, for run and gun, is the instant AF.
I've heard that the AF on the XH-A1 is a bit dicey, so I'd be interested in any user comments to the contrary. The FX1 and Z1U autofocus definitely work in most situations, with an occasional miss but little or no "hunting".
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Old August 28th, 2008, 02:40 PM   #41
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Hi Everyone,

Well, after all of the great information I have received on this forum, I finally dove in and purchased a camcorder.

Before I tell you which one, I'd like to thank everyone for their help and their guidance which convinced me to avoid purchasing a SD camera. While I know there are many out there that take very fine pictures, I have to face the fact that I want to shoot nice looking 16:9 video onto DVD... now... and be able to deliver full resolution Blu-Ray's in the future. Buying HD now allows me to do that and to get what I see as the best bang-for-the-buck picture. Of course, having a birthday coming up and getting some cash presents helped a lot also! :D

The choice between the Canon XH-A1 and the Sony HVR-Z1U was a tough one. Especially since I could not find any place here in town that had either one for me to go look at. This is where the experience here really came into play. Not being able to touch them myself made your knowledgeable insight invaluable in helping me make the decision.

I should note that I had taken a serious look at the Panasonic HVX200 because these were available, at their lowest end prices, within my top end, but the lack of recording HDV to the miniDV tapes AND the exorbitant prices of the P2 media cards (what's up with that? why not readily available CF cards or a P2 host card that you can plug micro/mini/full SD cards into?!?) and their relatively short recording time put it out of the consideration for me.

The Canon XH-A1

The video I have seen on both Vimeo and YouTube that was taken with the Canon has, IMO, been excellent.

Pros: On the pro side the resolution and color rendering has really been excellent. It has a nice warm presentation, though without having been at the various shoot locations, I cannot say how much it influences the color. Oh, and then there is the 20x lens. (Seems like a 16-20x lens should become standard at this price point for the shooting flexibility it provides!) The 24F mode is supposed to be quite helpful for aspiring film makers, though at this time, it is not a factor for me. These are available used at a price that is about $500 cheaper (on average) than the Z1U's.

Cons: On the con side, the color saturation is usually lacking. Also, reports of a steep learning curve and difficulty in getting the low light settings correct are, for my needs, worrisome. Also, because of its relative complexity (translating to flexibility in the right hands) it is more difficult for a novice to use and for "run and gun" situations. In addition, at times, it can appear over sharpened.

The Sony HVR-Z1U

On the other hand, the video I've seen from the Sony Z1U is also very good, especially for a 3-4 year old design.

Pros: On the pro side, the low light capability, smoother grain in low light, and a slightly softer presentation are nice. Also, it appears to be the most novice/run and gun friendly with the best out of the box performance. The color saturation appears to be a bit better with this camera, too.

Cons: On the con side, it has a noticeably cooler color presentation. To me, this can be especially irritating in situations where you have a relatively pale or reddish faced person in the frame because it gives them a slightly purplish cast. However, it appears that this is something that can be relatively readily addressed with the use of Warm Cards (or equivalent) during in camera white balancing or in post. These are available at a used price that is about $500 more than the XH-A1. No real usable 24F mode, though based on my needs and from what I have read about conversion software, this may be more of a pro than a con as the software is now supposed to be able to do a great job converting from 60i to 24p.

The deciding factor for me was seeing what appeared to be a Sony Z1U at the Olympics (on NBC) and the banner at the end of each broadcast saying that NBC was using Sony cameras. The picture from any camera, including the Z1U, I saw during those broadcasts was, to my eyes, fantastic. I cannot imagine being disappointed with video in this league.

I guess I just gave away my decision in this last paragraph. Yep, I picked up a Sony Z1U with <150 drum hours for just south of $3000. Another of the deciding factors for me was that the XH-A1 does not have a screen that shows how many hours it has on it, so you are having to trust the seller that it has what they say it has. When spending $2000-3000, that made it easier to spend the extra few hundred dollars. At least I know how much use it has. It should arrive tomorrow (Friday, 8/29).

Now to learn how to use the darned thing and to find a good price on Sony HD MiniDV tapes (what it has been "dining on" to this point according to the former owner). One thing I have learned from reading posts here and elsewhere, "Don't mix tapes!"

Thanks again for all of your help!

Best regards,

Scott
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Old August 28th, 2008, 02:43 PM   #42
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I used to have both of them, all in all A1 is a 'better' ( if I can say so) camera, but in full auto Z1 looks noticeably better ( including auto focus) and has larger LCD, I never use EVF.

(edit)
a bit late with my advice, anyways,
great choice, congrats, you won't be disappointed

:)
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Old August 28th, 2008, 02:54 PM   #43
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Scott - a good read and you've done your homework well. I was slightly surprised by the outcome because of your pros and cons listings but I can't fault your conclusions.

Bottom line is that whichever camera you'd chosen it's still only an inanimate lump of glass, plastic and magnesium. It sits there on the shelf waiting for input - any input. By itself it's mantelpiece junk, so get to know it so that on lifting it from the kit-bag it's an extension of your hands.

Nothing in this life is free and all cameras have their compromises, but take a look at this. The Canon has a 20x zoom yet costs quite a bit less than the Z1 with it's 12x zoom. In today's cut-throat and competitive marketplace something has to give to make this possible or the maths won't add up.

So you chose well my son.

tom.
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Old August 28th, 2008, 03:18 PM   #44
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The deciding factor for me was seeing what appeared to be a Sony Z1U at the Olympics (on NBC) and the banner at the end of each broadcast saying that NBC was using Sony cameras. The picture from any camera, including the Z1U, I saw during those broadcasts was, to my eyes, fantastic. I cannot imagine being disappointed with video in this league.
I strongly suspect that the banner reference was to their use of the new PDW700, I'm sure I've heard reference to them taking delivery of an early batch of several dozen especially for the Olympics. It's highly likely that they also had the use of a number of Z1's as "B" cameras.

Will the pictures from the Z1 be as good as from the PDW700? Highly unlikely (it's 2/3" 1920x1080 XDCAM-HD with 4:2:2 50Mbs recording), but since a lens for a PDW700 is likely to cost several times as much by itself as a Z1, that's hardly surprising! ;)
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Old August 28th, 2008, 05:41 PM   #45
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Tom,

Yeah, I know what you mean. Then again, I found that out with my old (fully auto only) camcorder which is why I wanted to upgrade so that I COULD delve deeper into manual options to get better pictures.

However, you bring up a good point about learning how to use a camcorder of this class, especially without any local support (user groups, etc.) available. Any suggestions for tutorials for me to look at? Oh, please keep in mind that I have already blown most of my budget in buying the camera... :(

Scott
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