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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 29th, 2008, 02:55 PM   #1
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choosing A1, FX7 OR DVX100b

HI everyone, I'm a newb here and I need some help. Last I was involved in Video was in the Hi8 days early nineties. I want to do some more and have narrowed it down to these three camera's, the Sony HVR-A1U the HDR-FX7 or but not likely the Panasonic DVX100B. They are all somewhat older technology which makes them more affordable I guess and I realize they are all a compromise. Which one would have the best picture quality overall, which one has the best features package and which one has the best Bang for the Buck. I know about the audio limitations of the FX7 (I would add an XLR box w/audio control) but the rest is a but of a mystery, I have never seen more widespread results between reviewers on any camera? Both pro and private. The DVX100 has great potential even upressed to 720x1240 (HD) But beyond? and my concern about the A1U is that it might be too small for my rather large and arthritic hands. All the footage I have seen was on Vimeo and the exposure room and I am worried that it is not always fair to judge it from those types of down streams versus home HDV set. Any tips and opinions will be most apreciated. Thanks, Ed
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Old October 29th, 2008, 05:01 PM   #2
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Well, you've sure opened a can of worms here. You will likely get many strong opinions here -- that's what I like about this site -- advocating or denigrating each of those three choices.

I have eight Sony HDV cams spanning four different models, and if I could only keep one it would be, hands down, the FX7. And with the FX7 supposedly being re-introduced next month at a new, much lower, price, to me it is unquestionably the best bang for the buck as well.

I originally chose the FX1 over the FX7 for its heftier build and more solid feel, and now I have three FX1s and two FX7s... yet I hardly ever use my FX1s anymore. On my monitors, the FX7 is much sharper, has better autofocus, truer colors and even better low light (which I know makes no sense, what with the 7 having smaller chips, but the FX7 is much cleaner in low light with identical gain). And most people actually like the audio abilities of the FX7, given that there are no "pro" connections.

The Sony A1 is much beloved, but at their respective prices, unless the form factor of the HC1 is a critical plus for you, I think the FX7 is your best bet.

We have a very knowledgeable and experienced poster here who will undoubtedly weigh in, who just *hated* his FX7 and found it unusable in low light. But his experience was so opposite mine that I have to think he got a bad one -- or a series of them. Or else my old eyes are just going...

Another thought: If you can go up to $3000, and can wait a month or so, you might want to check out the upcoming Sony FX1000, which looks fantastic on paper and should be out the end of November. I will be selling my FX1s to buy one (or two).
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Old October 29th, 2008, 11:05 PM   #3
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Second vote for the FX7, at least of the three you mentioned. The A1U is an older design (not sure if it's older than the DVX100), I'm thinking the DVX is SD not HD since you mention uprezzing, and frankly trying to create info that ain't there never made the tinyest bit of sense to me...

Personally, I love the FX7 for the intermediate size/weight, the features of more expensive cameras, and if you know how to tweak it, it's about as good as any other HD cam in low light (no taking video of black cats in a dark room even if it is halloween!). For the $, it's a great deal - although there may be "better" cameras, realistically you've got to raise the budget to get to them.

I've downsized due to the economy (shooting SR11/CX12s heavily accessorized - small but incredibly good image quality for the $$), but wouldn't hesitate to recommend the FX7, though as already noted, there are new cameras that show some promise if you raise your budget (is that an option? what IS the budget?).

Remember that to edit HD in any flavor, you're going to need a computer with some ponies under the hood and don't forget to budget for that!!

If your total budget is high enough, the FX1000 and the Panasonic HMC150 both look like pretty nice cameras - since I've shifted to tapeless, the HMC150 intrigues me, Sony is sleeping in the lower end of the prosumer market and staying with tape, for reasons beyond me... but those are at least not so far up the foodchain that they are completely out of the question... figuring you're budget is 1500-2000 for the camera (more if you want to accessorize w/lenses, batteries and such), another 1000 for computer, less if you can upgrade, and a couple hundred for a decent editing/DVD authoring program.

Fill in the blanks a bit on the budget and your expected shooting situations and it may help us guide you to the right solution.
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Old October 30th, 2008, 01:08 AM   #4
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choosing A1, FX7 OR DVX100b

"Well, you've sure opened a can of worms here." I like to rock the boat a bit ;-) Thanks Adam and Dave, 2 strong endorsements for the FX7 right of the bat, not what I expected but I like it. let me answer a few questions that Dave asked, my budget was $2000.- (Canadian) but when I found out more about the A1U I upped the budget to $2200.- then looking again at a few more (used models) and reading more about the FX7 I found out that the FX7 is smaller and lighter then most and with the top handle would make a great candidate for me ergonomic wise (and that is an issue for me) reading a few more reviews, I had to include it so up the budget went. (I have $500.- for acces) But this is the max especially if I have to get a audio mixer/XLR unit and a descent mic (I hope to get by without for a while). I do have an almost new 2.8 Intel 24" Imac with 2GiG Ram and I will get the Final Cut Express editing SW. Adam you mentioned it yourself about the size of the FX1 it is a beast to hand hold and thank goodness to expensive for me ;-) I think the FX1000 will likely be of similar size also just a bit to much $. I will be using it for travel short films and nature documentary but purely for fun and hobby, so I can afford to compromise a bit. The one other reason the FX7 stood out for me is the highly rated 20X lens, the A1 would have to be fitted with a tele converter lens.
I am actually nervous about the A1U being to small for my rather large hands that tend to cramp around smaller things. It sounds like a great little camcorder. I would love to go for the Panasonic HMC-150 tapeless and all, but it is really to much $. The DVX 100B is a great unit and can now be had relatively cheap but I agree that upressing is not the ideal solution. Thanks a lot for the help so far, love to hear some more. Ed
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Old October 30th, 2008, 03:26 AM   #5
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I have a dvx100b and a relative new xh-a1, I think the dvx is superior in many way's compared to a fx7 but one and that's resolution. Especially with ntsc and working in 16:9 mode it doesn't look pretty on a big lcd screen because you even loose more vertical resolution. In pal country you get a bit more resolution but even downrezzed xh-a1 footage looks noticeably sharper when the lens is wide.

It also depends for what you will be using it for, if resolution is not such a big deal for you a second hand dvx will give you a lot of controll, xlr and 25p, a dvx has one of the best colors I have seen right out of the box, I still use it for paid jobs and clients often tell me how nice the colors look.

If you would use it mainly for the web, then hd is the way to go, you can get crystal clear footage with the h264 codec, the first video I place online from my xh-a1 had a "looking trough a window" look to it, that I never could have achieved with my dvx. The same should apply to the fx7. Even downconverting will still give you noticeably sharper images on a big lcd.

If I had to choose I'd also go for the fx7, it looks very similar to a vx2100 I had and that should mean you get the basic control you need but with much more resolution to work with.
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Old October 30th, 2008, 03:52 AM   #6
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Thank you Noa, exactly what I needed to hear about the DVX 100B, i suspected this but had no way to see it with my own eyes, the joys of living in the boonies. We have a 52" HDTV and it needs a pretty good picture to be pleasant to watch. So yes resolution is a big deal. We have a local troop of performers in town with whom we plan to do some short films and would watch those in peoples living rooms. Chalk up one more fore the FX7. Thank you so much, Ed
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Old October 30th, 2008, 07:49 AM   #7
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I'd find FX1 or Z1 in good condition instead of FX7, it's 1/3 CCD and FX7 is 1/4 CMOS,
if you put them side by side, you'll se the picture difference naked eye, that's what i did and went with FX1,
cheers :)
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Old October 30th, 2008, 08:51 AM   #8
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The DVX100 is fine for SD work but essentially obsolete in the era of widescreen TVs, unless you add an expensive anamorphic adapter to get a proper widescreen image. And the A1U is a single-chip camera which has limited potential for anything involving high contrast or low-light shooting. That leaves the FX7 as the best choice of the three cameras you mentioned, but I'd second the suggestion to save up for the FX1000 instead.

Not having XLR inputs on the FX series cameras is a bit of a downer, but someone pointed out to me that the level controls on XLR adapter boxes are arguably easier to use than on-camera controls. I've gotten by with XLR adapters for many years on both SD and now HD cameras, and the extra weight is a minor nuisance I've learned to accept.
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Old October 30th, 2008, 01:00 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Van Thienen View Post
... reading more about the FX7...I had to include it so up the budget went.
Note that the new list price will be $1999 so it shouldn't require an increase in budget. If you wait a couple months it should be lower still.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Van Thienen View Post
The one other reason the FX7 stood out for me is the highly rated 20X lens, the A1 would have to be fitted with a tele converter lens.
Yes, this is a huge advantage, particularly if you are doing sports... one that even the new FX1000 can't match (it's also 20x, but starts out much wider so you don't get nearly as much at the tele end). Also: the FX7 eases in and out of zooms very smoothly, while the FX1 (and I'm guessing the A1) doesn't. And yet another advantage: the FX7 shows all your camera data all the time in your LCD if you want it to, even in full auto, something none of my other cams do.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Buba Kastorski View Post
I'd find FX1 or Z1 in good condition instead of FX7, it's 1/3 CCD and FX7 is 1/4 CMOS,
if you put them side by side, you'll se the picture difference naked eye, that's what i did and went with FX1,
cheers :)
I've done that as well, and there is indeed a difference, but shockingly, it's the FX7 that's much better in nearly all lighting conditions, even low light (night sports, theater). It makes no sense but that's how it is on mine, across multiple units, and they are all using identical customized presets. Go figure.
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Old October 30th, 2008, 01:18 PM   #10
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Just to throw a clinker in here....

I have a stack of Sony cams, from Digital 8, to VX 2000, to FX1. I love their solid build and ruggedness....

But in place of considering the A1U, have you considered the Canon HV30 ? I think you would get as good an image, and have 24p to boot. I have the older HV20, but I am continually amazed at how much image these $ 700.00 cameras actually pack.

The first scene of this film, family gathering for picture, and the interview was shot with a Z1, but the rest of the present day insert footage was the HV20. Check it out here:

Uniform Changes on Vimeo

Admittedly, you have to dress this camera up to look professional to impress in those situations that you need to, and there are control issues that you will have to learn to work with, but this camera also disguises nicely as a tourist cam in those situations you want to be unobtrusive.
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Old October 30th, 2008, 04:03 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Gold View Post
I've done that as well, and there is indeed a difference, but shockingly, it's the FX7 that's much better in nearly all lighting conditions, even low light (night sports, theater).
well, that's not just mine oppinion :http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/digital-v...vr-z5j-10.html, read from post #138,
Ed, take the blank tape, go to the store where you can try both, play with both cameras, put the footage side by side on your screen, i don't think it'll take you long to make a decision
cheers :)
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Old October 30th, 2008, 08:03 PM   #12
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Yes, as I said in my first response, there are a variety of opinions on both sides of this, and the posts you refer to are the same ones I was talking about.

But it is indeed solid advice to do a side by side comparison and see which best suits one's needs.
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Old October 31st, 2008, 02:16 AM   #13
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Wow I love all the help and the opinions, I'll reply in order of posts received. Buba, I actually looked at those earlier but it seems that most go for very high prices especially when I account for the lousy Canadian dollar (it dropped 25% in a week and a half and they say we don't have much of an economic problem). either way more then a FX7 would cost. Kevin I'd love an FX1000 but being retired and not much to save it would take a long time. I want something soon so I can practice for when I want it for my daughters wedding during a cruise in the Greek isles next spring. Adam and others who mentioned the price drop, I hope we'll see it here in Canada at the same time, that does not always happen but I will check on it with Sony.ca Chris, I don't want to diss anyone but I am not crazy about Canon color, I kind of felt the same about their still camera's. (I chose a Fuji S5) As far as 24p goes I don't think that is much of an issue since that can be achieved afterwards as well. (afaik) Buba and Adam, I would love to pop over to the store and do that but the nearest one is a four hour drive (one way) and they only have the A1U in stock and the nearest store that has both is 10 hrs (o.w.) I love living here but sometimes it sucks ;-) I really appreciate all the opinions and will include the FX7 in the short short list and leave the DVX 100B. I probably have to take that long drive. Best regards, Ed
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Old October 31st, 2008, 02:23 AM   #14
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Kevin you mentioned having used various XLR boxes, how much of a difference in Quality is there between phantom powered or non powered mic's ? there is quite a difference in price for the CX211 unpowered and CX231 phantom powered juicebox? Is there a big difference in microphone price maybe? Thanks , Ed
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Old October 31st, 2008, 10:21 AM   #15
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I'm not an audio expert, but I've been satisfied using standard Beachtek adapters with Sennheiser G2 wireless microhones. By the way, you might consider buying a used Sony FX1 instead of the other cameras you mentioned, as it uses slightly larger sensors. You can see examples of FX1 footage in the deck shots from recent episodes of "Deadliest Catch".
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