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Sony HVR-A1 and HDR-HC Series
Sony's latest single-CMOS additions to their HDV camcorder line.


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Old October 31st, 2008, 11:40 AM   #16
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The FX7 only has 1/4" chips, doesn't it? I'd go for an FX1 if possible, or as somebody mentioned above, look for a used Z1. Just because the cameras have been out more than 2 years doesn't make them obsolete.

The A1U provides a nice image for a single chip camera, but it is, for me, a pain to use. First, it's a bottom-loader, which means you have to remove it from the tripod to change tapes. Second, it has that cursed touch screen, and just about everything you need to do is deep in the menus and cumbersome to adjust, especially audio. If you set it on automatic and are doing hand held run and gun type things, then it would be great. The quality of the image is excellent, better than you'd expect from a single 1/3" chip, but I find it very awkward to use.

The DVX100b looks good for SD, but it does not have 16:9 chips and we're rapidly becoming a 16:9 world, also an HD world. I'd stick with 16:9 chips and HD.
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Old October 31st, 2008, 11:42 AM   #17
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Thanks Kevin I like the idea of going wireless. I heard (and listened) to a recording test on the Juice box and they where quieter then the Beachtek, plus they are cheaper ;-) As far as the used F1X goes, I went through the Ebay listings again last night and they are consistently expensive for used units all though some had very few hours on them but by the time I convert to Can. $ they are all 1000 or more over my budget and some FX7's were more then they are new in the store??? Then there is the size the FX7 is smaller and lighter then all the other except for the A1U which is why I looked at it in the first place. so that gives me the middle of the road in $ size and Quality, I would be happy with that. Thanks for your help Kevin
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Old October 31st, 2008, 01:38 PM   #18
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Ed -
You've gotten a pretty good set of non-biased advice, and I stilll would lean towards the FX7. I've owned the FX1 and the Z1U - they are noticeably bigger and heavier, which you indicated was a consideration - the FX7 is just enough smaller and lighter to make it a bit more practical for the sorts of use you describe.

For a short time I had the Z1 and the FX7 side by side, the image differences are not huge, and the only potential downside is the smaller CMOS vs the larger CCD - you can read up on that and decide, but as the price differences may be too much, it may be moot. You CAN pick up used FX1's on rare occaision for around what FX7's are currently going for, but presuming the re-issue press releases/prices are correct, a new FX7 will be a great deal.

The FX7 is a great cam for the price point, and any criticism must be balanced with that. Used there's always the "deal" that comes up here and there, but you don't have the time luxury to wait around too long, and I don't know that you're OK with "used", some people are, some aren't.

I never owned an A1U, but I've owned a gaggle of HC1's from when they first came out. I'm thinking that the extra added mic module and all have to make it less than balanced, although the HC1 was a nice handling camera (if you could overlook bottom loading and touch screen). The practical fact is it was the FIRST HD camera in the prosumer space, and the technology is aged enough that it really won't cut it against the current crop of cameras when it comes to image quality. Handling wise it beats all of them, but IQ is not able to keep up in lower light (shooting in good light most HD cams do phenomenal). Don't get me wrong, 1/3 CMOS single chip can provide amazing image quality, and even the HC1 will knock your socks off when compared to SD, but put it up against the current generation or against the FX7 (about one generation back), and you might be a bit disappointed.

If someone said "grab a camera and shoot" and the FX7 and A1U (and any of the others mentioned for that matter) were all laid out on a table... I think I'd go for the FX7 without hesitation - big 3.5" screen, dual VF and LCD simultaneously, easy control layout with the buttons at your fingertips, easy to drop the shutter to 30 to get a smidge more low light, not too big, nice focus assist function (meaning you can leave the cam in auto, but you can adjust manually at the same time), and so on. Some of those functions are only available on the Z1U... at WAY more $$.

As far as wireless, you might want to check on conflicts before you buy anything - I've had several venues that used so much wireless gear that it wasn't practical to try to even try to figure out which channel was "open" - we live in a wireless world, and a small dedicated recorder with a lav is the weapon of choice for many of the wedding/event guys here (I myself have droped wireless except for a couple of the Sony bluetooth mics that work ONLY with their small cams with the AiShoe...), for the reason noted above. You mentioned Greece, and I seem to recall something about problems with wireless in Europe... may want to search the DVi forums or post in the audio section for more info.
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Old October 31st, 2008, 04:45 PM   #19
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No Kidding Dave, a great bunch of people here. Yes size is important but it does not hurt that the Fx7 rates good for IQ as well. As far as the A1U goes I saw some stills compared to the Z1U and they were pretty close and the reviewer said he frequently cut A1 shots into his Z1 productions, but it is getting older and "behinder" and I believe the FX7 is worth the extra $ even if it does stay the same here. I just found a news letter from B&H talking about the reintroduction of the FX7, SONY'S HDR-FX1000 BREAKS THE MOLD | B&H Photo Video Pro Audio And they already show the new price on the cat. page, of coarse for me it is still $2400.00 by the time I get from them or here but I'll give it a few weeks and see if we get a break to. (The $ is also bouncing back a bit) patience may be rewarded. On the wireless, thanks for the heads up on the conflict issue, I don't very often work in busy urban events but it is a concern when I do. What do you think of the blue tooth sound quality? is it worth the $? but then the FX7 does not have the Aishoe anyway. And I will look into the Euro/wireless issue.
One more thought, what kind of tape do you use, do I need to use $30 HDV tape? Or will $5/6 DV tape do. Thanks a lot.
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Old November 1st, 2008, 12:32 AM   #20
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Handling-wise, when comparing the FX1 to the FX7 I think there is one thing you need to consider; the zoom range. The FX1 goes wider but is shorter at the tele end with a 12x vs 20x on the FX7. Personally, I've found the wider view at the wide end of the FX1 to be more useful than the higher magnification on the tele end of the FX7. If you are a wide shooter like me, you may need to get a wide adapter (0.8x) for the FX7 and this will significantly affect the superior handling balance of the FX7.

Also I prefer the FX1's placement of the LCD to that of the FX7 and heard a lot of people who felt the same. The HC1/A1's menu-based controls will take a lot of practice and getting used to. I never liked it. You mileage may vary.

Best
Wacharapong
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Old November 1st, 2008, 11:47 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Van Thienen View Post
One more thought, what kind of tape do you use, do I need to use $30 HDV tape? Or will $5/6 DV tape do. Thanks a lot.
Tape rules:

Don't waste your money on HDV tapes. There is no difference in picture quality between these and regular MiniDV tapes -- it's all digital. Sony Premiums are fine and can be had online in bulk for a little over $2 each.

Tape manufacturers often say that HDV tapes are built to higher standards than regular MiniDV tapes. That's frequently claimed but so far no one has ever presented any statistical evidence, anywhere, that this is so.

Even if it is true you need to do a cost-benefit analysis to decide if overpaying for all your tapes is worth the reduced chance of a dropout, especially if such dropouts are easily cut around (as they are in all the shooting I do). If it's a once in a lifetime event and you want to maximize your chances of having every frame be perfect, then the more expensive tapes may be worth it for you.

When I first started shooting DV I used the TDKs available at Costco for about $2.50 each. I used a couple of hundred without a dropout or any other problem. Later I switched to the Sony Premiums because even with shipping they were cheaper. Iím on my fourth case of 100 and have had maybe three dropouts total in two years. Costco now sells the Sony Premiums instead of the TDKs.

Don't mix tape brands. Sony uses a different lubricant than others and switching could gum up your heads. If you do switch brands, run a cleaning tape for 10 seconds and then pick one brand and stick to it.

Never re-use your tapes. They should go through your camera exactly twice: once when you shoot and once when you capture.
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Originally Posted by Wacharapong Chiowanich View Post
Handling-wise, when comparing the FX1 to the FX7 I think there is one thing you need to consider; the zoom range. The FX1 goes wider but is shorter at the tele end with a 12x vs 20x on the FX7.
This is an excellent point and one you should consider. Note that the FX7 is nearly twice as long at the tele end as the FX1 (390mm vs almost 750mm in 35mm equivalent). For me it makes a big difference in shooting sports.
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Old November 1st, 2008, 06:18 PM   #22
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Wacharapong Chiowanich, Good point indeed about the zoom range, for me this is actually an attractive one living in the mountains and often finding myself in places where I need as much zoom as I can find (I do still photography of birds of prey and other wildlife) of-coarse there are times that I would like to have a bit more wide angle Which I can find with a $200.- wide conversion lens while a good tele converter can easily cost up to $1000.- So for me this will work. The Lcd placement may very well be an issue for those who have experienced the new layout but since I have not (my last camcorders where 2 Sony V5000 Hi 8's) I don't think it will border me. The A1U drawbacks you mention are the reason why I am still looking and realized that I discarded the FX7 from the list to soon, I had read a 2 reviews which hammered al the short comings of the FX7 but left out all the great features. Now I am strongly leaning to the FX7 al though I still need to feel how it handles and see if it is not to big or heavy. I don't think it will be. Adam, Thanks for the Tape info, that makes me feel a lot better I was worried about the ongoing cost of tape and if i would have to resort to reusing them, but at those prices I can use them once and archive them. good to know about the no mixing brands to, I actually always tried to stick to those rules with my previous VHS and Hi 8 equipment. Bill Pryor, I think I failed to respond to your post, I appreciate your point on the advantages of the FX1 sensor and features but for me it is to big and to expensive, even for a low hrs. used one and the Z1 is even more. I know it is a compromise but this is not to make money with and I have to stay reasonably within budget, Nonetheless thanks for your insight. Best regards, Ed
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Old November 1st, 2008, 09:27 PM   #23
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i have an fx7...a1u...and a dvx100a not b...fx7 hd is my fave of the 3 and shoots sd also if you need it and the fx7 sd footage i feel looks better than the sd footage i get out of the dvx100a...i like all 3 of course for different reasons but if i had to just keep 1 it would be the fx7...
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Old November 2nd, 2008, 12:23 AM   #24
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Keep in mind that it's the HC1 that is really the closer equivalent to the FX7 than the A1 (since neither of the first 2 have black stretch or XLR connections). New HC1s still show up occasionally on EBay, for around $1000.

I have the HC1 and FX7 and the pictures cut well together. The FX7 has the edge on image quality and handling - however I carry the HC1 with me far more frequently because it is so portable. It is a bit fiddly with its menus - so the key consideration between the two (and the A1) really come down to: priority on portability or on handling? Since the FX7 is lighter than the Z1 and other similar camera, it is not too shabby in portability itself. Remember to factor in a Beachtek with both the HC1 and FX7.

If I was interested in 24P (I'm not) on a tight budget I might go with the HV30 (though it has no Lanc, darn it!).

If you could bump your budget 2-3X, and aren't detered by avhcd, then right now the Panasonic hmc150 does look tempting (slightly lighter than the FX7 with a wider 28mm-equivalent lense and lots of nice shooting modes)
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Old November 2nd, 2008, 02:39 PM   #25
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Sony premium tapes are cheap and I've never had a problem with them... so you're safe there. As far as the size/weight of the FX7, it's not too bad, and it's the smallest cam you'll get that has any kind of usable manual controls nowadays. It handles quite well overall, I was hoping Sony would come out with something solid state memory based but similar size and controls (sort of an answer to the HMC150)...

The old TRV900 would be a good model for Sony to dig up and follow, basic controls, but all easy to access... in a "slightly larger than 'handycam' size"... but that's not likely to happen anytime soon.

They seem to either like to make super compact cams with little control (don't get me wrong,the little AVCHD cams are great fun to shoot and work quite well), or big really expensive cameras... not much in the "in-between" realm.

The vision I think many of us share is something with big glass and decent size sensor(s) for good low light, but compact so it's not so noticeable or a pain to lug around, and basic easy to access buttons and knobs to adjust the manual functions... and around the 2K price point. Sadly this vision seems to escape the manufacturers entirely...
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Old November 2nd, 2008, 05:08 PM   #26
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Sounds like another strong vote for the FX7 from Mathew. Graham I can't quite see the HC1 being closer to the FX7 then the A1 It still being so much newer, in production and readily available but I'm not very familiar with the HC1 other then what I've read. If I had to choose between the A1 and the HC1 it would not be a hard choice even though it is a bit more you get more, A1 all the way. I can see your point on portability though. When you mention the FX7 and portability and then factor in a Beachtek or Juice box are we still ahead of the FX1 or the Z1? 24P is for me also not much of an issue, I wouldn't mind having it to experiment with but that's it. I do want Lanc though since plans for a jib crane are in the making. If I could bump my budget I would be buying the HMC150 with out a doubt, even if it meant hiring a assistant to cary it ;-) just kidding. Dave also mentions it, and later when you (Dave describe the perfect camera, in my mind you describe the HMC150 "MINI" maybe with a little longer glass. My first Video was a JVC (can't remember the model#) first portable color home unit with a 7.5lbs camera and a 24lbs cassette recorder over the shoulder, I lugged it around for 6 weeks around Europe and 1yr around N.America. I know I'm not that tough anymore, but all of the choices of today are a very far cry from those early days. The FX7 sounds like the cam for me and since the worry I had about expensive tapes is once again put aside by you I have no excuse to spend to much and buy the HMC150. I do however still plan to go to Calgary (closest town where they have 3 stores to shop and compare) to hold the A1U and the FX7 in my hands to make sure I do the right thing size wise. I don't believe it would be a better option but where does the V1U fit in ? I thought it was the same size as the FX7 just more features and $, but no one has mentioned it. I have not found one on ebay or elsware for less then $3400.00 Can. so it is really not an option for me but I was curious about it. Also running a single Camcorder is there a big advantage to still have Time code? like the A1U has but not the FX7? I didn't think so but I have never worked with it. Best regards, Ed
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Old November 2nd, 2008, 06:05 PM   #27
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No problem, but be aware the HC1 and A1 are the SAME physical camera except for the XLR module and firmware. In Sony's line-up the HC1 parallels the FX7, and the A1 parallels the V1. The HC1 and A1 were released about the same time.
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Old November 2nd, 2008, 07:03 PM   #28
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Grahm about covered it, HC1 is the "consumer" version of the A1U (when you mention "A1" I think there is some confusion with the Canon "A1" - which is more in the FX7 class...)

So too, the FX7 is the "consumer" version of the V1U.

In both cases there are firmware options for more control of the video parameters in the "pro" versions, and "better" audio (the XLR module for the A1U and the XLR inputs for the V1U, which incidently ELIMINATES the onboard stereo mic of the FX7.). The actual "guts" are otherwise supposed to be identical... mainboards/sensor blocks/lenses and probably the major portions of the shells pop out of the same molds for the most part. IOW, basically the same camera with different capabilities in the firmware...

I'd be sure to call ahead on BOTH the A1U and the FX7, as they may not be stocked just anywhere... NEITHER would be at any of the "big box" retailers anywhere around me... I'd have to drive an hour + I'd guess, and I'm not that far out of Los Angeles...
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Old November 2nd, 2008, 07:24 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Ed Van Thienen View Post
Also running a single Camcorder is there a big advantage to still have Time code? like the A1U has but not the FX7? I didn't think so but I have never worked with it. Best regards, Ed
All DV and HDV cams record timecode, which is necessary for editing. Some higher end models allow for external input of timecode and syncing multiple cameras to the same timecode.

Your lovely V5000s (I had six at one point, but they all died... <sniff>...) didn't have this feature, not even the Sony RC timecode offered on some of their other Hi8 analog cams.
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Originally Posted by Graham Hickling View Post
Keep in mind that it's the HC1 that is really the closer equivalent to the FX7 than the A1 (since neither of the first 2 have black stretch or XLR connections).
...In Sony's line-up the HC1 parallels the FX7, and the A1 parallels the V1.
I think I know what you mean here but it has the potential to be confusing. The HC and FX are parallel in that they both lack pro features, but I wouldn't say the HC1 has much in common with the FX7 other than that they are both "consumer" level. They really are quite different cameras in form, design and function.

Briefly:
A1U=Pro version of the consumer HC1 (1-chip CMOS)
V1U=Pro FX7 (3-chip CMOS)
Z1U=Pro FX1 (3-chip CCD)
Z5U=Pro FX1000 (3-chip Huge 1/2" CMOS)
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Old November 2nd, 2008, 07:29 PM   #30
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Adam, I just meant that the HC1 is more like the FX7 than the A1 is like the FX7. But you sum it up nicely.
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