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Old October 15th, 2004, 01:45 AM   #1
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AG-DVC30 / PDX10 in summary

I am planning on buying one of these in the coming days. I have read all of the posts on this site for both models, and of course I am torn between which one to buy. They cost the same.

The PDX10 Pros:
- Small, nice size
- Audio / mic system
- 16:9 performance

The DVC30 Pros:
- Build, ruggedness
- Low light ability
- According to most reports, fabulous picture quality (4:3)

The problem is that I want both 16:9 and low light ability. I like to shoot my family indoors and I don't care to use a video light or extra lighting - I like available light shooting.

Q: How well does the PDX10 do indoors at night with ambient lighting from TV, lamps, etc?

Q: Can one set a fast aperture to get a shallow depth of field with the PDX10 - does it have Av mode?

Q: Does the supposed great picture and color quality (Cine, etc) of the DVC30 make up for the lost resolution in 16:9 mode? It seems possible that even on a wide-screen TV, better color, contrast, and exposure might be more pleasing that high res clarity in many cases. Am I right here?

Q: I own Vega+DVD 4 - is there a way to handle 16:9 in that app? I have used it extensively but have never even looked for 16:9 features in it.

I am an experienced DLSR user so I want to control some of these aspects, but mostly I need indoor performance, and 16:9 for viewing on my large TVs.

Thanks, sorry to beat a dead horse on this but I am torn up here.
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Old October 15th, 2004, 06:38 AM   #2
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Here's how I look at your situation as if I were in it:

The PDX 10 is a great low cost 16:9 camera. It is well suited to uses where it sits on a pod shooting lit up scenes etc. It is a rather gangly configuration that I think lowers it's practical factor as a family camcorder.

In contrast, the DVC30 delivers an excellent 4:3 picture in a design that offers you an overhead handle. This will be handy and you will appreciate it in non-pod uses.

Both cameras deliver picture quality far ahead of one chip consumer camcorders. I think criticism of the PDX 10 low light performance may be in the context of it for comercial use not home movie use where you may find it just fine. If you are making your decision on low light performance, factor out the infrared on the DVC30, compare apples to apples, and then evaluate the value of low light footage in black and white that you can get from the Panny and not from the Sony.

Lastly, DOF on a camcorder does not perform the same as on a DSLR. That is, something shot on a camcorder at 1.8 has a deeper DOF than a DSLR at the same aperture. So I wouldn't stress that factor too much.

Only you can evaluate if something shot on the Panny at 4:3 but post produced to 16:9 is satisfactory. Because we know how these cameras and NLEs work, the the resulting image shot at 4:3 and poste produced to 16:9 is lower resolution tan something shot natively at 16:9 but if you and your "customers" don't notice when it happens, then it isn't a big factor. For some it's a factor because their product is going into a profession production but I gather yours is going to friends and family.

FWIW.
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Old October 15th, 2004, 07:05 AM   #3
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Re: AG-DVC30 / PDX10 in summary

>>They cost the same.

Not really true, based on B&H pricing. The DVC30 is $2,115 including the XLR adaptor but the PDX-10 is $1,850. For this price the PDX-10 also includes the short shotgun mike which is not included with the DVC-30.

>> The DVC30 Pros: - Build, ruggedness

Is there some reason to think it is more "rugged" than the PDX-10? The PDX-10 feels very solid.

>> The problem is that I want both 16:9 and low light ability.

Well I think you will need to make a choice here. You won't get the same 16:9 quality on the DVC-30. I haven't used one, but perhaps it performs better in low light, but my guess would be that we're only talking about 1 f-stop.

>> I like to shoot my family indoors and I don't care to use a video light or extra lighting - I like available light shooting.

I suspect the PDX-10 will be fine for this, unless you're shooting in a pitch black room.

>> Q: Can one set a fast aperture to get a shallow depth of field with the PDX10 - does it have Av mode?

Shutter speed and aperture may both be controlled manually. Of course with both these cameras the chips are so small that you won't get a very shallow DOF unless you have zoomed in.

>> Q: Does the supposed great picture and color quality (Cine, etc) of the DVC30 make up for the lost resolution in 16:9 mode?

According to the DV Magazine review by Adam Wilt, the frame mode on the DVC-30 is acheived by line doubling which cuts vertical resolution in half. I think you may get superior results in 4:3 on the DVC-30 but not likely to match the PDX-10 in 16:9, but I really don't have any personal experience here.

>> Q: I own Vega+DVD 4 - is there a way to handle 16:9 in that app? I have used it extensively but have never even looked for 16:9 features in it.

I use a Mac, but am pretty sure all modern software can handle 16:9. Actually you don't need anything special for 16:9, it's still 720x480 but is stretched horizontally on a widescreen TV.
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Old October 15th, 2004, 07:07 AM   #4
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<<<-- Originally posted by Ernest House : It is a rather gangly configuration that I think lowers it's practical factor as a family camcorder. -->>>

You can easily slide the XLR adaptor and mike off the camera, which makes it pretty compact. It will still record audio through two builtin mikes.
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Old October 15th, 2004, 09:46 AM   #5
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[Is there some reason to think it is more "rugged" than the PDX-10? The PDX-10 feels very solid.]

It's made entirely of metal.

On low light:
I currently have a Canon Optura PI, which I bought after reading nearly unanimous accounts that is a great low light performer even by todays 1-chip standards. Does anyone have an idea of how well a PDX10 or DVC30 might perform compared to the PI?

On 16:9:
I have no way to sample a non-native 16:9 video currently. I can assume that the PDX10 will look great with its full resolution at that ratio. Can you advise me of how a DVC30 might look in this mode on a nice large Panasonic (or any other) TV compared to, say, VHS? I assume it will be better since VHS is 240 lines.

Mechanism:
Does the PDX10 have a good tape mechanism? Is it responsive and solid sounding, or slow, week and springy sounding like a lot of consumer models? My PI sounds solid but I have tried others that decidedly sounded like toys that are not meant to last more than a few light duty years. All accounts say that the DVC30 is like a Mercedes in this manner.

Thanks again
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Old October 15th, 2004, 01:12 PM   #6
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<<<-- Originally posted by Hank Meyne : It's made entirely of metal. -->>>

Well the reviews and user reports on the DVC-30 have all been good, but that just sounds like marketing hype. What are the PDX-10, PD-170, VX-2100, etc. made from? I have no idea, but no doubt there's a metal chassis somewhere in there.

After years of reading this and other forums I don't recall users of the PD-150, VX-2000, TRV-950, PDX-10 or GL-2 complaining about problems with their camera bodies. No doubt the DVC-30 is well made but I fdon't think its "entierely metal" construction should be a factor in choosing it over another camera in the same price range. Sort of like Apple bragging about their titanium PowerBooks...
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Old October 15th, 2004, 07:14 PM   #7
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Indeed, I have even heard from some that the PDX feels more solid than the DVC30. Judging from such symmetrically countered subjective reports, I would venture to say that both are "rugged".

Flip a coin?
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Old October 15th, 2004, 08:52 PM   #8
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<<<-- Originally posted by Boyd Ostroff : <<<-- Originally posted by Hank Meyne : It's made entirely of metal. -->>>

snip

What are the PDX-10,

PD-150/170, VX-2000/2100 have a Magnesium exoskeleton

, etc. made from? I have no idea, but no doubt there's a metal chassis somewhere in there.

snip -->>>
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Old October 18th, 2004, 10:34 AM   #9
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I played around with a PDX-10 and found it's low light to be comparable to my vision. By that I mean that the color faded as the light dimmed, and the cam would pick up images that I could see with my naked eye, but no more. I found that performance satisfactory.

What I found objectionable about the pdx is its propensity toward vertical smear. I was constantly mindfull of the shooting direction, exposure, adjacent lights, etc. to avoid those obvious and ugly verticl whilte lines in my shots. While it is an avoidable condition, I found it difficult to both enjoy the moment and shoot the memories with the pdx.

Sure you'll find reviews, comments et al pooh poohing the pdx smear issue but I think these are professionals (or wannabees) that take the time to set up the shot, the lighting, the camera... I liken it to the photographer taking photographs and the tourist taking snapshots. In my opinion, the PDX is not a snapshot camera.
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Old October 18th, 2004, 10:45 AM   #10
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Even though it's controls are a bit like those of a snapshot camera.
:-)
What am I saying, I agree with you!

For shooting planned things such as interviews and scenes and lecture speakers, the PDX is great. I brought one home from the office after a slight hiatus from shooting, and rediscovered the pleasures of the PDX.
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Old October 18th, 2004, 12:28 PM   #11
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Another difference...

DVCAM, anyone? Many professionals prefer the DVCAM format to regular DV.

Personally, I've not worked with DVCAM so I have no preference. Still, others swear by it. If that's a factor at all, get the PDX10. You get your 16:9 to boot, and all is right with the world.
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Old October 18th, 2004, 06:19 PM   #12
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<<<-- Originally posted by Joe Garnero : Sure you'll find reviews, comments et al pooh poohing the pdx smear issue but I think these are professionals (or wannabees) that take the time to set up the shot, the lighting, the camera... -->>>

That's an interesting point. I leave it to you to determine whether I'm a "professional" or just a "wannabe," but I very rarely have trouble with vertical smear. I shoot performances, and even exposed stagelights against a black background do not invoke the smear, unless they are pointed directly at the camera. In other words, it has to be a blinding bright light.

I do use manual controls exclusively though. But I think the main culprit is the shutter speed on the PDX-10. If you keep it locked at 1/60 you will have very few problems.

All the same, if you're someone who doesn't want (or need) to use manual controls, and you just want video of the kids on Christmas morning, then I'd agree the PDX-10 probably doesn't make a lot of sense. Remember, it is a product of Sony's professional division.

Regarding low light, I don't quite agree with Joe. Just two nights ago I was shooting performance video during some extremely dark scenes. The gain was set at either the max or one click below duringmost of these scenes. When I looked at the stage with my naked eye it actually surprised me that I saw almost nothing, but the PDX-10's LCD screen showed it all. Now you will certainly encounter some noise in the image at these settings, but it can portray a very dark scene and make everything visible. Now of course my VX-2000 would have done a better job of this, and my tests have shown it's about two and a half f-stops faster.
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Old October 19th, 2004, 04:14 AM   #13
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I have the PAL DVC30, and it produces very nice 4:3 50i video. In lower light, using medium gain level, you get a fairly noise free clean image.

After recent revelations, I have stopped using its frame mode, and am sticking to interlaced - which is sharp and vibrantly colourful, especially using cinegamma.

As to 16:9, well if you need this then you might want to consider the PDX10, as it has 'true' 16:9. Another option is a Pana GS400, which from reports has a high quality 16:9 and frame mode. It is probably still only high end consumer level gear though compared to some other cams.
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Old October 19th, 2004, 07:35 AM   #14
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When I looked at the stage with my naked eye it actually surprised me

Boyd,
I think you missed the point I was trying to make. My eyes don't see any better, any more but possibly less than the camera. But Hanks was complainiung about the poor quality low-light issues. I don't think Hank is interested in seeng more albeit noisy content, just the clean content in low visibility situations. So my take on the pdx is if you can see it, it will record cleanly - for the maost part.

I used the pdx extensively in "auto" mode as one of my requirements was to have my wife be able to use the camcorder. Just shooting living room and outside stree scenes I recorded noticable vertical smear. The source in two instances was from light bulbs that weren't even in the frame. By my experience (photographer not videographer) I found that need to be constantly mindfull of shots an unnecessary nuisance.

Not to condemn or recommend any camera; I just wanted Hank to know what is involved with the next step up cam's. Most any cam from the pdx, gls, dvc, vx, and dvx all benefit from the knowledge of full manual control. If full auto is your preference stick with the high-end consumer cams.

In my hunt for a camera to own I've learned two things. There is not a camcorder made that will satisfy all my needs and desires - regardless of price. And (possibly the most important): Good content from an inferior camcorder will be more valuable than crappy content from the best camera.

Good Day!
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Old October 21st, 2004, 02:12 PM   #15
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I wanted good 16:9 as well, but there are only a few cameras that actually do it native, and those didn't have all of the options that I needed either.

Now I may be completely wrong in this, but this was my descision process (amongst many other features):

Most DVDs that you buy are not really anamorphic. IF they were, when you viewed then on a normal 4:3 screen they would look tall and skinny. I *think* that they take the widescreen footage and letterbox it. If you have a 16:9 High-def then it probably uses "16:9 zoom" where it knows that the image is letterboxed, so it "zomms" in on the picture to fill the whole screen.

Of course it could be that DVD players can tell if the video is anamorphic, and they stretch it and letterbox it for you, unless you tell it not to do so in the players menus. If that is the case, then what I explained above is totally wrong.

Anyway, from what I have seen of still captures of resolution cards, the digital 16:9 stretch is not very good. It probably looks better and much less noticable on moving images displayed on a TV rather than a resolution chart still displayed on a PC! It might be that the 16:9 digital is good enough. I guess I'll know when my camera arrives in the mail sometimes next week.

My plan is to get a wideangle lens adapter to get that feel of the widershot, and then letterbox it in post. I know that the VX2xxxx has this feature, so I am assuming (hoping) that the PD150 that I am getting does the same thing: put an image on the SD Memory card, and then you can superimpose it over the video in the viewfinder (though it doesn't print to tape). That way I can frame my shorts for letterboxing in post, and I will hopefully still get that 16:9 "feel".

BTW, looking for a good, cheap wideangle lens that has minimal barrel distortion (hopefully zoom through). Any recomendations? I see that quite a few folks that have the Sony VX2xxx have gotten one of the Canon Wide angle lenses because they are pretty decent and very cheap compared to others... thoughts?

Alex F
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