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Old March 8th, 2006, 09:31 AM   #1
New Boot
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Cleveland, OH
Posts: 23
First impressions and my return to video

I finally spent some quality time getting to know the new camera, and so far I'm in love. As with all relationships, it's not perfect, but so far I'm really liking what I see.

First off, a little background. I studied radio/TV (and doubl majored in journalism) in college, graduating in 1995 when we had digital audio, but video was still too expensive. I fell into a job where I got to build, run and program a government access facility for three years. I was a fairly early adopter of DVCPRO and scored a Media 100. Spending $120k+ a year was fun. :) I later moved to a programming (as in writing code) career, but never entirely ignored broadcast. The Internet, in fact, just seemed like another form of electronic media to me.

Today I wanted to buy a camera to do a little for-hire work on the side, as well as shoot an indie film of my own. I also wanted something well-suited (i.e., 480/30p) for video destined for the Web. While the camera is relatively expensive, money is not so much an issue as much as it's just something I really want to do. This kind of thing feeds the soul.

Let me start by talking about the images it makes. Everyone seems to leave that out when they talk about this thing. I took it to my club volleyball practice and did some full-auto shooting of my girls hitting (including overcranked). I didn't even have enough time to get the battery fully charged when it arrived at work, thus the lack of time to start playing with settings. I tried various resolutions and frame rates. When I got it back home and plugged it into the 37" 1080p LCD, I was in awe. With absolutely no lighting or setting tweaks, the video was beautiful. Great contrast and detail all around, and aside from a little white balance shifting in auto, color and skin tones felt about the same as I had seen them live.

I'll address the alleged noise issue right away. Yes, there's noise. No, I don't find it offensive. Having watched countless hours of broadcast HD on the same TV, it looks surprisingly the same, and even a bit less. By the same I mean it's not distracting or serious when viewed at a normal distance. Remember, I shot this stuff full-auto. The only thing I changed was the AGC, which surprisingly was set to 6db max by default. The shadows didn't seem particularly bad either. All in all, it's about what I'm used to seeing on TV or in SD DVD's.

The build of the camera is really solid. It's an adjustment to hold it since I used shoulder cams pretty much forever, but the weight in your hand is about the weight I'd expect on your hand from a shoulder camera. I hope the Azden wireless receiver I ordered is light as well.

Controlling the camera is a mixed bag. The actual dedicated buttons are adequate and easy to find. Everything is laid-out about where it makes sense, and it's on par with any other pro camera that I've used. The menu system is a little awkward. The buttons don't make any sense, since they're oriented 90-degrees from the position that you view the viewfinder or LCD. Up is right and right is down. Duh. Why they didn't use a click wheel for menu control is beyond me. Sony was doing this in consumer cameras for menu navigation in 1999 at least.

And that leads to my next complaint, about clip mode. Whoever decided that it's OK to require the camera to be in the resolution mode that matches a clip to view it should be fired. As I mentioned, the first thing I did was try a bunch of different formats. When I went to play them back, I couldn't, and I had no idea why. In clip mode, the camera doesn't tell you anything, it just doesn't respond. The manual doesn't say why the clip numbers might be red, just that you can't play them.

Once I figured these things out it was a lot more fun to play around. There are a lot of setting tweaks I want to experiment with, so I'll set something up under lights and play. The next challenge is to figure out how the hell to get Avid Xpress Pro HD to import the P2 files, and which files I'm supposed to be importing. I keep seeing threads in various forums about using the capture mode, but that's pretty stupid since the whole point of P2 is to not capture. If it really doesn't make sense, I might have to think really hard about going to Final Cut Pro with a Mini.

So in summary, after a few hours of playing, I'm really impressed with what the camera can do. I'm a little surprised at the lack of a document that says for Avid to "do this, this and this," but the acquisition itself on the camera is killer, playback quirks aside.
Jeff Putz
POP World Media, LLC
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