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Old December 30th, 2017, 03:20 AM   #1
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My PXW-Z90 mini review

My Z90 arrived yesterday, and I was instantly happy with it.

Notable improvements to me:

1: AF works amazingly well, and doesn't suffer the "once focus is lost focus stays lost" of the older cameras. The X70 seems to be default programmed to go to full 0.3m MACRO when focus is lost, or dim, and stays there.

2: Manual focus has been made much better. It takes 2x as many turns of the ring to go from infinity to macro in wide angle. It now takes one twist, or 3x LESS turns of the ring, to go infinity to macro in full telephoto. That is a BIG DEAL for ENG shooting.

3: Gone is the X70 "green shadow shift" issue that both my old cameras suffered. That issue was also resolved in the Z150.

4: 5GHz WiFi networking has been added, as well as the capability to stream 1280x720 25/30p 3Mbps when in a 50/60p record codec, the X70 was limited to 640x360 25/30p 1.5Mbps when in 50/60p. AVCHD live streaming now available as well, but not at all in 50/60p.

5: PP's are retained when FULL AUTO switch is engaged. You still are forced into ATW, but at least your detail, knee, black gamma, and color corrections are not turned off like on the X70. Switching to AUTO on the X70 was always problematic for that reason, as my entire color correction system would be turned off, and the picture would gain a greenish cast.

Notable disappointments to me:

1: Wide angle infinity has still not been corrected. On the X70 at wide angle, you must turn the focus ring back from infinity (mountain icon) to 19f (5m?) for anything distant to really be in focus. On the Z90, infinity is still slightly out of focus, and you must turn the ring back to 66f (20m?) for critical focus. This is just slightly less of an annoyance than the X70, because the Z90 takes twice as much rotation of the ring to achieve this correction. On the X70, it was so sensitive at wide angle, it was difficult to turn back to 19f without overshooting and being too blurry the opposite side.

2: The old X70 LOW LUX feature, where putting gain and shutter into (A) would cause shutter to drop to 1/30-1/50 when maximum gain was achieved, is now gone. there is a LOW LUX menu option, but it doesn't seem to do anything. Auto shutter is now limited to no lower than 1/50/160 depending on NTSC/PAL.

3: Also gone is the X70's ability to AGC up to 33db. The Z90, when AGC limit is set to OFF, will only gain up to 27db, and no more. This flaw was also in the X70, but only in 4K record mode. This 27db AGC limit, as well as 1/50-1/60 auto shutter limit, make the camera less capable in low light than the X70. The Z90 is not a low light camera, especially when limited to 27db 1/60.

4: DIRECT MENU...this feature exists in the large shoulder Sony cameras, and in those cameras, it is extremely useful. Well, they gave it to the Z90, but it doesn't serve any usable function. In say the PMW320, you press the direct button, and can scroll on the LCD/EVF highlighting gain, iris, WB etc, and turn the menu dial to adjust them. For WB kelvin, you could use the direct function to select WB then scroll the color temp up or down. Anyway, on the Z90, you can scroll over to AF/iris/gain/shutter/and WB, but the only thing you can do is whatever the physical camera button for each can do. This is completely useless, as this requires pushing the oddly located direct menu assign button, then using the joystick to highlight the option, then toggling and pushing and menu scrolling to change it. Useless because a SINGLE PRESS of the dedicated camera buttons for each does the same in 10 less steps. Perhaps this can be useful if the left side of the camera is physically inaccessible for some reason, or maybe there is logic to it using the remote app on a phone...don't know, but it annoys me that it is not the same as the feature in the other bigger cameras. *rant off*

As for hardware, physically, the camera body is the same save for slight ergonomic modifications, larger raised rim around REC button and such, and the MIS shoe is now silver instead of black. The lens hood, lens cap, eyecup, entire XLR handle assembly, all are X70 parts. I actually just transferred all my X70 pieces onto the Z90, handle etc. Zoom speed is identical, LCD screen looks identical. NPFV70A battery is slightly larger, but feels lighter. Same watts, but higher voltage lower mAh's...older batteries and aftermarket are working on the Z90 just FYI.

So now I have an X70 that I can manually focus, that doesn't need +1 MG in WB to look proper, doesn't hard shadow shift green in the dark, can operate on clear 5GHz WiFi at 720p instead of 2.4Ghz at 360p, and is 6db cleaner...basically, I am happy. Anyone want to buy a couple of months old 4K X70 with all new parts and accessories? :-)

Paul
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Old December 30th, 2017, 04:55 AM   #2
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Re: My PXW-Z90 mini review

Thanks Paul. I like hearing the negatives before I buy. At least that direct menu feature sounds like something they can fix in a firmware update.
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Old December 30th, 2017, 05:11 AM   #3
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Re: My PXW-Z90 mini review

I am a very picky and critical person when it comes to cameras...it tends to bother me when I purchase something and it has things I don't like that no one had mentioned anywhere online. Best to go into a new camera with all the facts. :-)

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Old December 30th, 2017, 07:12 AM   #4
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Re: My PXW-Z90 mini review

Thanks Paul for all you do...it is appreciated.
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Old December 30th, 2017, 07:30 AM   #5
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Re: My PXW-Z90 mini review

LoLux on the Ax-700 only functions in auto mode when auto mode is set in the menu, Probably the same with the 90.
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Old December 30th, 2017, 07:57 AM   #6
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Re: My PXW-Z90 mini review

I can't underestimate the potential value of the AF functions. All the responsiveness controls seem to make it useful for a variety of situations where AF would normally be a detriment. I've never seen a camcorder before where I might find a benefit to using auto focus in some run on gun situations where it will respond faster than my ability to manually focus.

"Depth" and Subject Change" sensitivity as well as "Lock focus" all seem like I might use or, at least, enable them when I feel the may respond faster than I can. It's like having an "intelligent" focus puller who will actually follow an instruction set.

The test will come when I do some real world work throughs though.

For me shooting in S-Log may be valuable as well. Too early for me to give full comment but I'm seeing some interesting response to potentially blown highlights that I'm exploring.
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Old December 30th, 2017, 08:59 AM   #7
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Re: My PXW-Z90 mini review

There are limited times in my ENG work, such as holding my camera up over a fence and needing to zoom in, where I can see using the AF function, simply because it wold not be possible to manually focus. I will though still primarily utilize the manual focus, which is why I wanted to point out how improved it is over the X70.

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Old December 30th, 2017, 10:55 AM   #8
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Re: My PXW-Z90 mini review

With my Sony X70 I use spot focus (in manual focus mode). With the Z90 (I do no yet have it) I probably will use PDAF. The reason is: I film in the "Direct Cinema" style (observational filming) which means: No script, no direction of the protagonists, no repetition of shots, available light only. In these situatiosn a very fast Auto Focus will be extremely valuable.
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Old December 30th, 2017, 12:25 PM   #9
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Re: My PXW-Z90 mini review

In the ENG style stuff I shoot I often find I have to move from action to action which involves a radical change in focal plane and field of view (involves zooming) and no matter how fast I am I lose the first few seconds of the shot focusing on those radical shifts. Also there are times when I have to track a subject which would require "pulling focus" which can tricky especially with servo type mechanisms. For me the AF is sort of "John Henry vs Stream Drill" scenario. In this case, it seems the Steam Drill (the AF) may actually be faster than me (if I set up the AF properly).

While not something I'd normally do for ENG style I found I was able to execute a "dolly zoom" by moving away from the subject while zooming in. That the camera maintained focus made this possible. While it might be a bit out for Journalism it means I can easily change the field of view if I need to without ever having to manually refocus.
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Old December 30th, 2017, 04:12 PM   #10
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Re: My PXW-Z90 mini review

I like to think I'm pretty decent with manual focus in most normal situations. Hell, more than half the lenses I own are Rokinon, Canon and Xeen cine lenses. However, looking at my new NX80 (same as Z90),...there is no way I can manually pull focus as fast and as accurate the a signal phase cancellation lock that these cameras do. I was just tracking my dogs running around at full speed chasing each other in my back yard this morning...I mean, DAMN!,...this AF is crazy and shockingly good.

For gimbal work or holding over a crowd? These situations require great AF.

I love manually pulling focus as much as any guy does. It's a great feeling....when you have a true "geared" lens. It's no "joy" at all on a motion-buffered fly by wire lens with endless rings. This REALLY takes the satisfaction out of the skillful art of pulling focus.

I dont care what anybody says about manual focus....This technology will be faster and more accurate than most (or any) humans can do manually on these same electronic servo lenses.

CT

Last edited by Cliff Totten; December 31st, 2017 at 03:31 AM.
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Old December 30th, 2017, 10:54 PM   #11
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Re: My PXW-Z90 mini review

For those who have not played with the new cameras yet, the center has like a 4:3 box ring filled with the AF sensors...they bristle and blink in tiny green segments showing which part of the 4:3 box focus is being achieved...same type of green sparkling boxes you see in a DSLR when you half press the shutter button.

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Old December 31st, 2017, 10:54 AM   #12
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Re: My PXW-Z90 mini review

Owning the FDR-700, I turned off the Auto Focus (new) display green boxes as I found them distracting.
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Old December 31st, 2017, 11:10 AM   #13
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Re: My PXW-Z90 mini review

What does the focus lock menu selection do?

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Old December 31st, 2017, 12:03 PM   #14
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Re: My PXW-Z90 mini review

The Auto Lock....simply tap the LCD monitor on a moving object and it will follow on to that object. Focus will always be wide. Can not be adjusted

It should be noted two 'things" relating to the manual and camera menu.

The manual is very weak. A perfect example is engaging LOLUX. Nowhere in the manual or on-line instructions does it state that the GAIN must be turned off totally so the LoLux will function.

I have never owned a camera with so many grayed-out menus. One has to go to the on-line manual and actually observe what has to be turned OFF or what other feature should not to be used in order to work with a designated grayed-out function, For example, if one uses extended zoom, it shuts off THIS AND THAT or if you use a certain Codec, it shuts and grays out THAT AND THIS.


http://helpguide.sony.net/cam/1710/v1/en/index.html
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Old December 31st, 2017, 12:10 PM   #15
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Re: My PXW-Z90 mini review

I like how the menu is not greyed out until you joystick over to the submenu...until then, all the options are brightly enabled visually. :-)

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