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Old January 11th, 2006, 12:46 PM   #1
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Sony HDR-FX1 vs. Panasonic DVX100B

I'm looking to purchase either the Sony HDR-FX1 or the Panasonic DVX100B to use in documentary production (and some other independent film projects). From what I have read on this website and other research I have conducted, both are excellent cameras that offer different advantages. I would like to know the following:

1) Which camera you would recommend? Or, essentially which camera is a better purchase for the money?

2) Film-like image: Which camera will give me as close to a 35mm image? I realize that lighting, camera movement, and post-production "touches" are all very important to achieving this film-like quality. But, if you replicate all of these external influences exactly with both cameras which one will ultimately give me the closest film-like image. I assume the Panasonic will edge out the FX1 on this issue due to the true 24p, but I would like to hear your opinion.

3) Overall image quality: I assume the Sony edges out the Panasonic in this area due to 1080i, but if the film is being shown on SD television sets will there actually be any difference?

4) My other concern is camera size and weight. The FX1 appears to be a larger, heavier camera. During long shoots this can become an issue. Whereas the DVX100B seems to be more manageable. I would be interested to hear your comments regarding this.

Thanks!
-Kevin
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Old January 11th, 2006, 01:30 PM   #2
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Hi Kevin, you should very closely examine the types of projects you plan on doing and base your camera choice on that. The FX1 and DVX100 are practically an apples vs oranges issue. You've got 24P 4:3 standard definition vs 1080i 16:9 high definition there. Now don't take this the wrong way, but if you're having trouble deciding between these two vastly different cams maybe it would be prudent to keep shooting with what you have until you're a little more sure of your needs.

Now having said that, I'll throw my 2 cents in on the two cams. If it was my money I'd go with the FX1 unless I absolutely had to have 24P. The DVX is a great cam, but I'm hooked on HD. For a more film-like appearance I actually like the CF30 mode too.

Another option would be to cover all your bases and purchase a Sony HC1 and then scour for a used DVX100A. Probably would only put you a couple of bucks over the price of the new FX1 or DVX100B and you'd have your 24P camera and an HD unit.
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Old January 11th, 2006, 01:51 PM   #3
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Thanks Philip for the advice! I have heard some mixed reviews on the Sony HC1. Have you used this cam? If you have, what was your experience with the image quality (1 CMOS vs. 3 CCD) and features?

-Kevin
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Old January 11th, 2006, 03:18 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Howard
Thanks Philip for the advice! I have heard some mixed reviews on the Sony HC1. Have you used this cam? If you have, what was your experience with the image quality (1 CMOS vs. 3 CCD) and features?

-Kevin
Haven't used the HC1 but I've downloaded some of the raw footage and it looked pretty good. I know the HC1 doesn't perform as well as the FX1 in low light, but that's to be expected from a 1 chip cam with a primary color filter. Overall people seem very happy with this cam. I think if you spend some time searching this and perhaps a few other forums you should be able to find some good native HDV files to examine.

These look like they might be good:
http://www.sonyhdvinfo.com/showthrea...&highlight=HC1
Look for the posts from a guy named Ligou, he's got 5 links to videos (1 HDV and 4 WMV).

By the way I notice you're from Portland, have you gone to Cameraworld and checked these cams out yet? You can also check out the HC1 at Best Buy.
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Old January 11th, 2006, 03:34 PM   #5
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As Philip mentioned, the choice really depends on your needs. But I'd be happy to give you my thoughts on this as well.

1) I would recommend the DVX personally. Whether you are going for a full 35mm film option or a 4:3 TV output, you're still better off with the DVX. Why? Because the DVX with its progressive images can hold up on film. The extra resolution from HD will certainly help with a film out, but the DVX will transfer more readily to film because of its progressive frames and because it is true 24p. Having never done a film out myself but having read about it, it is my understanding that most labs do not like to work with CF30 footage. They prefer 60i. So, that limits you to 60i, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But I'd go with the DVX. The Sony HD cameras are fine cameras in their own respect, but lets get to your next question to support my recommendation of the DVX.

2) Most film-like appearance?? The DVX100, hands down. Any of the CineFrame modes on an FX1 or Z1U don't come close to what the DVX offers with true 24p. The motion rendition from true 24p is different from anything faked in camera or in post, but that's not to say that it is out of the question. But if you truly want the most film like appearance, go with the DVX.

3) The Sony will certainly have higher resolution, but there is more to image quality than resolution. The DVX (with its CineGamma settings) allows quite a bit of latitude in the image. Plus it's a progressive image, not interlaced. Also, if you were to shoot with an anamorphic adapter on the DVX, you'd have the highest resolution widescreen image from DV possible. The HD would still be higher, obviously, but you'd get a great film out option if you did it this way. Not necessary, but it would give you 16:9 footage at higher quality.

4) I've shot with a Z1U (almost identical to the FX1) and the DVX. The FX1 probably won't be much more cumbersome than the DVX. They don't vary that much in weight. I'd so go with what you are most comfortable with, but the FX1 really isn't that bulky. It is bigger than the DVX, but not by a huge margin.
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Old January 11th, 2006, 05:17 PM   #6
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Thanks Philip and Mike for the great responses! I've shot very briefly with the DVX100A before and the image quality was very good, but I was a little disappointed with the "film-look" it produced. I was expecting more based on the reviews I had heard. Of course, this brief experience wasn't shot with ideal lighting and sufficient pre-prod time (somewhat shooting on the fly) which makes the world of difference. And I saw the footage without any post-production software used to enhance the image.

One of these days the manufacturing prices might drop enough so I can afford both 24p and 1080p in one camera. But, in the meantime I'm working on a budget. And who knows if manufacturers will continue to allow the price gap between prosumer and pro cam's shrink?? Canon, Sony and Panasonic make hefty profits off their professional lines and they are probably not too eager to let that slip.

Anyway, not to stray off the subject any further, I've decided the best decision is to rent both cameras and do some testing of my own. For me, what it comes down to is the highest quality image I can obtain in the $3,000 price-range with the ability to emulate 35mm. Both cameras can produce a 16:9 aspect ratio (the FX1 producing it with a lot greater resolution), but can post-production software compensate for the lack of 24p on the Sony?...
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Old January 11th, 2006, 05:26 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Howard
<snip>For me, what it comes down to is the highest quality image I can obtain in the $3,000 price-range with the ability to emulate 35mm. Both cameras can produce a 16:9 aspect ratio (the FX1 producing it with a lot greater resolution), but can post-production software compensate for the lack of 24p on the Sony?...
One more note, I'd recommend you check out the PAL version of the FX1 if you're trying to emulate film. Test 50i with deinterlacing and test CF25. Then slow it down to 24fps and see how it looks.
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Old January 11th, 2006, 05:36 PM   #8
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Good tip! I'll try that.

*What a beautiful camera the Sony HDW-F900 Cine Alta is! O.k., I'm coming back to reality now... :-)

Thanks Philip!
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Old January 11th, 2006, 09:20 PM   #9
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Quoting Ned Stoltz from Ken Stones Site

"Let's Start With HDV

As I began to write this piece, I was discussing with a documentary filmmaker a project on which I am doing some consulting. He is just getting to the shooting stage and told me he was just about to follow my advice offered about six months ago to buy a DVX100A. "Whoa", I said. Six months ago the DVX was the best option in the price range with the greatest flexibility owing to both 29.97 and 24p possibilities. The world has changed a bit now and HDV is becoming the new DV. "But I really don't want to deliver in HD. DV is fine for this project", he replied. I had no choice but at that very moment to award the first Circle N. It goes to DV footage downconverted from Sony HDV material. No visuals available yet, but I shot a PD150 and an FX-1 side by side. The downconverted FX-1 material simply blows away the DV-originated material. More about that process, though, when I get into workflows."

http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage...aid_soltz.html

You can go to the bank with a Circle N endorsement. Check Stones' site out, perhaps the greatest collection of free info for the video professional on the web.

Last edited by Jerry Mohn; January 11th, 2006 at 09:58 PM.
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Old January 11th, 2006, 11:13 PM   #10
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DVX100B all the way. Do not even factor in film out, the ONLY way that will ever come into play is if your content is compelling enough to trump the medium on which is was acquired.

I shoot some HDV but I am not a fan, it is not a viable post production codec for serious effects or CC work. It works best when captured analog to another codec. DV25 (what the 100B will give you) is a solid proven codec that will work on NLE or on any deck (still best to do uncompressed for CC).

Unless you are doing a nature doc or something like Dust to Glory based on amazing spectacle visuals, HD does not matter for a doc. I have a doc currently getting a great reception and some notable press that was shot all in 4:3 on a hodge podge of DV cameras.



ash =o)
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Old January 12th, 2006, 02:30 AM   #11
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Get the FX-1. There is no comparison - and there is not much future for SD material, unless you don't want to future-proof your content.
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Old January 12th, 2006, 10:09 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Howard
Anyway, not to stray off the subject any further, I've decided the best decision is to rent both cameras and do some testing of my own. For me, what it comes down to is the highest quality image I can obtain in the $3,000 price-range with the ability to emulate 35mm. Both cameras can produce a 16:9 aspect ratio (the FX1 producing it with a lot greater resolution), but can post-production software compensate for the lack of 24p on the Sony?...
I think that's your best bet. Find what works for you. You can take opinions from us for months and it's worth it to listen and consider what is said. But what it all boils down to is what fits your needs and the needs of your project. We all have a bias (there's obviously the HDV vs DV issue) and we all have a favorite cam. Good luck with your research. Also, Vegas 6 should handle HDV just fine without any additional software. Granted, Gearshift and other products do allow additional features, but it's not required. Then again, with Gearshift being only $50 I'd get it. One last thing. Post-production software will never take 60i material and make it look exactly the same as true 24p. You can get close, and I would definitely convert your footage using software instead of filming in CF mode on the Sony cam if you go that way.
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Old January 12th, 2006, 01:50 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Petr Marusek
Get the FX-1. There is no comparison - and there is not much future for SD material, unless you don't want to future-proof your content.

That is such a fallacy. What does that mean anyway? Future-proof? The way to make your content viable in the future is to make it COMPELLING... PERIOD ENDSTOP. A crap story shot in HD is nothing more than a hi-rez piece of crap. Think of all the historic docs shot in SD... are they now unwatchable or not viable? Does more rez make your story better? What about when 3D video happens or some other tech?

Bottom line is to choose the camera that is within your budget that will help you tell your story the best. Always factor in your post-production workflow. once you get to a 3CCD camera with some manual options you are good enough, especially in run and gun doc world. The successful doc-style show Breaking Bonaduce was shot all with DVX-100a cameras and has received praise for the "look."


ash =o)
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Old January 12th, 2006, 02:48 PM   #14
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I was curious, so I checked. At least at B&H, the DVX100B is more expensive than the FX1. After rebates and all, the DVX is about $275 more but it includes a soft case. A soft case should cost no more than $75, so that still leaves the DVX $200 over the FX1. A minor issue for most is the rebate. The FX1 has none and the $200 rebate on the DVX is a mail-in. So, the DVX is $200 more and requires a rebate to get it there. I hate the hassle of rebates, so I consider that a down side.

Has anyone checked with a production house that converts video to film to see what media they prefer? Is 24p video truly required. I've seen a number of movies converted from video that couldn't have possibly originated on 24p video. I have my doubts about the 24p video requirement for film transfer. I have also seen the FX1 projected on an HD monitor and there really is a difference with HDV.

Since the costs are similar and 24p is given as the primary reason to choose the DVX, I would like to hear a real answer from a post house about video to film transfer. Has anyone here done this?
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Old January 12th, 2006, 03:01 PM   #15
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More rez is always better for a film out... but my arguement is always that the only way you are going to get a film print is if your content can trump the format on which it was shot. People fail to realize that most budgeted movies SHOT ON FILM, dont ever get to theaters on a film print. Even then, your run will be what, 2-6 weeks? After that your project lives forever on DVD, HD-DVD, etc. etc. etc. Why focus on the one aspect of your production that is the least likely and has the shortest exposure?

ash =o)
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