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Old January 20th, 2011, 06:25 PM   #1
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Upgrading to HD from PD-170

Hi

I am currently looking to upgrade my PD-150 and PD-170 to something capable of 16:9 footage, HD, and online video for youtube, etc. I have done some research of various models and I would like to stick with Sony as I have a lot of sony accessories. I would also be purchasing used, roughly with a max price of $2500. I may not need all the options of the PD-150/170, but I do not think I would be comfortable with much less. I have looked at the HD1000U, but that would be as low as I would feel comfortable with, and then I woudl have to buy a beachtek to go with it.

Basically just looking for an all around good camera such as the PD-150/170 was an overall good camera for SD. I do not have a preference over HDV or AVCHD as my workflow is not too intense. I have also looked at the Canon XH-A1, but I would again prefer to stay with Sony, unless the Canon is much better than others in the same price range.

Also any known issues with used models of particular cameras to watch out for?

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks
M
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Old January 20th, 2011, 07:19 PM   #2
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Mark, I to am looking to possibly make a move from my 170s. I've like Sonys alot and have had many of them over the years so I've been looking at (in no particular order) Z5, Z7, NX5.
I know a lot of folks love their EX cams and I would also but frankly at this point in my career I can't justify spending the money especially I'm looking at 2 cams possibly 3. I also know a lot of folks poo-poo tape anymore and want solid state exclusivly but I have corporate clients that I shoot for that get the tapes at the end of the day so strictly solid state doesn't work for me. At this time the Z5 (with a card writer for work I'll be editing myself) is leading the pack. Also the price, however since it's $3900 less a $200 rebate from Sony (good until 3/31/11) so it seems out of your range. The FX7 is about $2000 new, don't remember if it's got a rebate, or a pre-owned Z1 might be worth looking at. I know a bunch of folks here use the HD1000 but I have tried it and frankly I can not get comfortable with it. I've used full sized cameras for many years and it just doesn't give me the feel I want. It feels too plasticey, too light. Anyway, maybe look at the FX7 or Z1 (used), it might just do the job for you.
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Old January 20th, 2011, 07:54 PM   #3
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HI Don,

Thanks for the info. I haven't really looked at the FX7, but i have looked at the z1u. I have used a few of them before and they're not too bad. I do not know if they have any known issues being over time but they seem very nice. I see the FX7 does not have XLR, but that could be remedied with a beachtek. I would too prefer the newer Z5, Z7, AX2000 or NX5U they look very nice indeed particularly with the new G lens. I would like the 3 servo rings rather than a wheel or a knob and the 20x zoom looks 'sweet', but unless I get a remarkable deal, I think it will have to wait until another upgrade.

Also another thing i should consider is that i have an imac Core 2 Duo at the moment. I suppose i should look at HDV over AVCHD for editing in that case.

Just looking for a comparable camera that can do HD as good as the PD170 could do SD (4:3).

Thanks again
Mark
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Old January 21st, 2011, 07:44 AM   #4
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I jumped into the HD wagon last year, I bought a used HD1000 for $ 1K. The camera performs poorly in low light but if you light the subject or if it is an outdoor shoot the HD1000 gives great results.

The one thing great about it is the quick return on Investment, one wedding and the camera is paid for.

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Old January 21st, 2011, 12:22 PM   #5
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My thoughts exactly about the return on investment. I do very scattered video work so I dont need nor can I afford top of the line HDV or AVCHD. When I do work however, I like to have something appropriate to work with. The PD170 was very appropriate for my work, however seeing the shots from an AVCHD palmcorder compared to mine on a computer screen, I had to have better (even if it was just for the better 16:9 SD). I think i have settled on the Z1U. I have seen a lot of videographers use them locally and they seem reasonably happy with them. There are better cameras out there now, especially since these are older, but I would like to stick with Sony and the prices of used ones seems to be in my price range. I know Z5 and AX2000 are only $1000 more, but thats $1000 more i don't have, especially when i need 2 cameras.

I have decided on the Z1U and possibly an FX1 for B roll. Is this a good combination, or would it be better to just get 2 Z1Us. Most of my shooting does not require XLR audio, infact some shoots do not require audio at all so that was my thinking on that.

Also, any issues or concerns with the Z1U and FX1? I know they are getting a bit old now.. Anything to watch out for?

Thanks
M
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Old January 21st, 2011, 01:06 PM   #6
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I think the Z1 is aimed right at you Mark. Of course you'll have to buy second hand but if you've got a keen eye, a bargaining way and the ability to read the hours meter you should be fine.

Z1s are generally tough as nails and I had mine 4 years before moving onto the NX5. In many ways the Z1 is the better camera - it's got a much better (and bigger) top screen and the iris control is a delight - I'd swap my silly three rings approach any day.

Of course HDV is on its last legs but you're right to have concerns over the Apple/AVCHD interface, so HDV makes sense. Coming from a 170 you'll be right at home with the Z1 in an afternoon, really. I don't think you should be messing with Beechtek boxes - there's enough to worry about on a shoot without that as well.

I used the Z1 with an FX1 - the latter wonderful for its LP DV mode in situations where it had to be unmanned for long periods. One test that's worth doing. Wind a 60 minute tape to the 55 minute mark and go play, stop, rewind, play, eject, load, play, FF and so on. If the cassette deck is worn or needs realigning this test will show it up and the camera might keep insisting that you eject the tape.

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Old January 21st, 2011, 01:46 PM   #7
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Mark, the Z1 and FX1 were pioneers in their day and many are still being used; they are incredible workhorses. But I think you may find their picture a bit soft by today's standards.

The four cams you suggested you'd prefer in your prior post (Z5, Z7, AX2000 or NX5U) are close to the four I was going to suggest (with the exception being I'd sub in the FX1000 for the Z7, which I think may be more than you need and is older anyway). They're all basically the same cam. They're all newer so there aren't that many used ones out there, but if you like the tape-based workflow I'd say the FX1000 is the best choice, especially if XLR isn't that important to you.

The FX7 is still, in my opinion, the best bang for the buck out there, but as others have noted it's not great in low light and the picture on the more recent four is vastly superior. It does, however, have the longest tele reach of any cam in its class.
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Last edited by Adam Gold; January 21st, 2011 at 02:28 PM.
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Old January 22nd, 2011, 07:34 PM   #8
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Don't know what your time frame is on this, but just noticed that as of tonight, B&H has a very large selection of Used Sonys, including all the models you are considering. Not sure what caused this sudden bump in inventory but you might want to take a look. Their prices aren't always the lowest -- not, for example, as low as eBay -- but they're reasonable and I've never had a problem buying used at B&H.
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Old January 23rd, 2011, 11:49 AM   #9
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Actually I posted around and someone i worked with on a few shoots was interested in selling his Z1U for sale locally without accessories as he just upgraded so i went with that. Also, he owed me for some work I did for him previously so he gave me a bit of a discount for it. Picture looks great for what I will be doing. I was seriously looking at the FX1000 but for another $1000, for what im doing, I can wait until my next upgrade. Thanks again for all the comments and suggestions.

Also, this is only one camera. I may look at an FX1000 for the second camera, if it makes sense, or would the picture quality for both be too different to be able to match?

Also looking at a shoulder mount for it. I have a relatively cheap one from ebay that i used for my PD-150 and PD-170m but it does not have a quick release so you have to leave it on all the time. It is kind of hard to lay down anywhere. I have looked at the Sony one for the Z1U and similar. Has anyone used these, or would they recommended something else? Looking for something for up to $150

I am always checking the used section on B&H. They have some good prices for a lot of things.

Thanks again
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Old January 23rd, 2011, 02:07 PM   #10
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Mark -

One thing you might consider, that a LOT of the guys here do - have one "big" camera (that Z1 should do fine, although it's "dated"), and a second (or third) "small" camera for the other angles/B-camera - it also gives you a 'stealth" camera that won't attract attention. It helps the budget immensely and you can't usually actually man more than one camera at a time anyway, unless you use other camera ops.

I was looking back on some footage I shot of my kids plays over a 3 year span... small "handycams", but it's illustrative - first year would have been with cameras about the same era as your Z1, up to the current Sony models - the earlier footage looked distinctly soft and less detailed and clean - where the current crop of cameras produced a cleaner, more noise free image, with better dynamic range and crispness.

You can probably mix different generations/models of Sony cams together fairly easily, depending on your post/CC wizard level. The challenge comes when you look at the image quality and you realize a sub $1K consumer camera looks subjectively "better" than your "big", "pro" camera, because the technology is being pushed so far so quickly... something you've already realized.

As for your shoulder mount, what do you already have, can you just put a QR onto it (I've used the Bogen 394 for my "standard" mount on tripods/shoulder rigs/etc., but there are others)? MANY options out there, some cheap and fairly good, others not so much - probably should start with what you've already got and are OK with, then it's easier to go from there. Keep in mind that while some rigs (like the DV Multirig) cost a bit more up front, it's just like a decent tripod/monopod, you'll be using it for quite some time and the investment starts to look a bit less painful in that context!
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Old January 24th, 2011, 03:03 AM   #11
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Mark - you'll love your Z1 I'm sure. I 'upgraded' to an NX5 from years of owning a Z1 and I can say with hand on heart that the Z1 is a better designed camera from an ergonomics viewpoint, it really is.

And remember that picture quality (whatever that means) has far more to do with you and your artistic flair, your ability to frame well, to expose correctly and to plan ahead - than ever it has to do with kit, however old or new it is.

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Old January 24th, 2011, 02:17 PM   #12
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I'd agree to some extent that it's always the CONTENT that matters, which comes down to the skills of the operator/editor, BUT when you're sitting editing something you shot, and you realize you wish you just had "a bit more of this", or a "bit less of that", and you realize the camera just couldn't do it...

That's where things like low noise, sharpness, color fidelity, dynamic range, or simply resolution begin to raise their ugly little heads. That's when you start looking around to see what technological advances will do to help you out!

FWIW, I liked the Z1 as well, very well designed camera, although the FX7 was probably even more of a favorite, as I prefered lighter and smaller!
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Old January 24th, 2011, 02:37 PM   #13
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My ten penneth is that the Z1 is too soft especially compared to the PD170. May sound strange but I've found the 170 produces a better picture than the Z1 - amazing camera.

Also went on a trip recently with a Z1 (my friend's) and Canon XH-A1 (mine) and editing them back to back there was no doubt that the A1 produced a better picture - sharper, better colour space and less odd artifacts. The A1 also has more capacity to alter the camera settings to suit the conditions and handy features like an auto-focus button - it's more tricky to use however and requires a bit of work on it to get the best images. I use it in conjunction with an HV-40 which is amazingly good for its size. Mind you they're all tape based HDV which a lot of people here will say is a defunct format and codec!
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Old January 25th, 2011, 01:58 AM   #14
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Geoffrey - you're talking nonsense of course. Even with crud smeared on its front element the Z1 comfortably outperforms the PD170 picture quality wise. And I'm talking using the same tapes, nothing special. And if both cameras shoot 16:9 then the gap widens hugely - the PD170 looks like something analogue in comparison to the Z1's HDV filling a large TV screen.

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Old January 25th, 2011, 04:04 AM   #15
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Well Tom to avoid sounding like a fool and to give a false impression I'll backtrack and say that in *qualitative* terms I prefer the 170 to the Z1 - certainly I have some great footage from the 170 which couldn't be replicated on the Z1 but then again the opposite it also true and as an HD camera, the Z1 outperforms the 170 in quantitaive terms, of course. And yes that is in 4:3 as the 170 is not 16:9 native so suffers in that mode. Mind you I would also say that certain images I shot with the modest Canon XM2 were qualitatively better than the A1, much as I love that camera. I can say all this as I did a project where I edited footage from all these cameras so was able to compare things very closely.
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