HC3 vs. HC5 vs. HC7 vs. HC9 at DVinfo.net

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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 April 30th, 2009, 11:22 PM   #1
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HC3 vs. HC5 vs. HC7 vs. HC9

I wonder if anyone can point me to a handy dandy summary of the key differences between these four cameras? If so ... thanks in advance!
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Old May 1st, 2009, 03:28 PM   #2
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Not sure there is one, but here's a short summary of the key differences:

HC3&5 - use the same sensor block, and it's lower resolution than the HC7&9 ( which also use the same sensor block) and the HC1.

The 5 added H.V. Color and lost the control wheel/button, otherwise fairly similar to the 3, although they may have dumbed down the menus/functions in the 5, been a while, so my memory is dusty...

The 7 has more manual controls, the wheel/button and mic/headphone I/O (the 3&5 lacked those).

The 9 added a center marker, peaking function, generally felt to improve low light just a tad over the 7, and of course came in BLACK rather than silver.

If you've got specific questions, I've got the .pdf manuals floating around so I can probably look up specifics. Owned all of them at one time or another, but now am tapeless except for a 5 for tape dump and an HC9 I'm trying to restore that will take over that position if the tape mech replacement works out!
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Old May 2nd, 2009, 09:08 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst View Post
The 9 added a center marker, peaking function, generally felt to improve low light just a tad over the 7, and of course came in BLACK rather than silver.
Both HC7 and HC9 have the same picture performance. Electronics and Optics are all the same. You have forgotten the plus HC9 Hood though :)

Of all I think the HC7 is the reasonable choice. It has the same performance as the newer HC9 but it's much cheaper... Considering if you can find one forgotten in some store shelf like I did!
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Old May 2nd, 2009, 06:50 PM   #4
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OH yeah, forgot the hood... oops. While the HC7 and 9 share optics and electronics, the general feeling was they tweaked the 9 and got a bit better performance out of it in low light (not a lot though). Obviously you can have the same hardware and tweak the firmware, thus the peaking and marker suddenly appearing out of the same basic camera.

Plus you forget how sexy black is... <wink>! But yes, if you can catch a 7 on the cheap, it's not that much different from the 9...
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Old May 3rd, 2009, 12:02 AM   #5
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Thanks guys!

And for others reading this thread ..... the 3 and 5 do 2304x1728 stills, while the 7 and 9 do 2848x2136.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 08:44 PM   #6
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I own an HC3 for home use and use a HC7 extensively at work. The HC7 has the X.V.Color which adds a little oomph to the colors. The biggest difference is the HC7 has much better zoom control and a built in mic jack. The HC3 essentially has only 2 or 3 zoom speeds, so you can't creep into or out of a zoom very gracefully. The HC3 doesn't have a mic jack so I use an adapter to provide a jack (looks really goofy and is another thing to pack). The HC3 is a great camera for the price and size. I use it all the time when I don't want to lug the XHA1. I'll risk loosing it, exposing it to guerrilla baggage personnel, dropping it, or carrying it through water to get a shot. For a 3 year old camera, I find its performance very respectable. The second clip below (Savannah) has a good mix of video and stills from the HC3 last weekend.

Fall in Vermont on Vimeo

Savannah on Vimeo

If you get either camera, spring for the Sony blue-tooth microphone and the 3W Sony light. I know they look cheesy, but they are very useful and you can pack them in a very small case. That tiny light has salvaged many a spontaneous moment for family events and will add a little detail to faces in good-but-not-great atmospheres. You can also get a great Sony watertight enclosure for any of these cams for underwater or splashy situations.

A plus for the HC3 is it will take the large FP90 battery (lasts forever) and for some reason the HC7 won't fit this larger battery.

Last edited by Roger Shealy; May 28th, 2009 at 04:29 PM.
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Old May 28th, 2009, 08:42 AM   #7
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the hc3

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Originally Posted by Roger Shealy View Post
I own an HC3 for home use and use a HC7 extensively at work. The HC7 has the X.V.Color which adds a little oomph to the colors. The biggest difference is the HC7 has much better zoom control and a built in mic jack. The HC3 essentially has only 2 or 3 zoom speeds, so you can't creep into our out of a zoom very gracefully. The HC3 doesn't have a mic jack so I use an adapter to provide a jack (looks really goofy and is another thing to pack). The HC3 is a great camera for the price and size. I use it all the time when I don't want to lug the XHA1. I'll risk loosing it, exposing it to guerrilla baggage personnel, dropping it, or carrying it through water to get a shot. For a 3 year old camera, I find its performance very respectable. The second clip below (Savannah) has a good mix of video and stills from the HC3 last weekend.

Fall in Vermont on Vimeo

Savannah on Vimeo

If you get either camera, spring for the Sony blue-tooth microphone and the 3W Sony light. I know they look cheesy, but they are very useful and you can pack them in a very small case. That tiny light has salvaged many a spontaneous moment for family events and will add a little detail to faces in good-but-not-great atmospheres. You can also get a great Sony watertight enclosure for any of these cams for underwater or splashy situations.

A plus for the HC3 is it will take the large FP90 battery (lasts forever) and for some reason the HC7 won't fit this larger battery.
I agree with Roger on the HC3. I have the adapter for the audio, and a tiny 3 watt light, that is not much but can be useful at times. The infra red can be useful too for emergencies. Most cameras don't have IR anymore. I also have enough batteries to go for about 5 hours of shoot. I'd probably run out of tape before batteries.

I paid U$1,500 for with 2 stock batteries in it, a hdv tape and a cleaning tape 3 years ago. Can you imagine that? You can buy an GH1 now for that price. I also paid another U$300 for 2 extra batteries long life batts, the mic-in adapter, a 3 watt light, and an external charger. For a small camera, it's pretty good especially in low light. Well, it will not be as good as my VX-2000, but in good light, they match up well in post. If they don't, a little tweaking and they are the same.

I've used this camera with my vx-2000 for pro gigs for the past 3 years. Not a bad camera. I like it when I am travelling. It is small. I just hate tape though cause I have to remember bringing some. If you forget, it can be very expensive, if not available if you are in the province. :(

Oh, the HC3's image stabilizer is electronic, not optical. However, I find that it is still very good and did not degrade the image to the extent as other brands does when it has a non optical stabilizer. It's pretty good an it did steady the shots. At least, it's on par with my newer canon hf-100 w/c is optical stabilized.

But a lot has happened in 3 years. Right now, my HC3 is with sony for a busted motor on the tape cage that swings out and in. U$80 to fix it. I decided to have it fixed cause it is a decent camera and I will still be able to read my old tapes just in case for the future. But once it gets to the hospital again, I may not have it repaired if it is expensive as I am moving to tapeless solutions.

If you are not averse to tapeless or HD, better get one now. I just got the canon hf-100. It's not top of the line or the latest, but it's a very good camera. It's as good in low light as the HC3 and no more tapes! My 16gb can shoot to about 2hours 45 of footage! That's about 3 tapes I don't have to lug and 3 hours to transfer before I can edit. The HF-100 has mic in, audio out, has a built in flash (for stills), has a small video light to fill in or save you. I got a bp-827 (4:30 hours batt life). Together with the stock battery, I can now go for 5:30 hours of shoot. Not bad.

If you can still find an HC3, it's a good camera. Color is a bit on the warm side, although it could be that my canon is on the cool side. I think the hc7 and later models did more improvements.

However, and this is just me, I am moving away from tape based cameras as the future is tapeless. Also, the pain of moving data from tape to PC is too much and I have been doing that for 3 years. It is tedious. Maybe for small shoots it isn't. But once you've moved a 3 hour 16gb in just 30 min or less, you know that that same 3 hours is also 3 hours in tape. Plus -- the tape hdv files will occupy about 40gb vs 16gb for the avchd files. So, that's 30 min vs 3 hours of transfer and 24gb less in storage requirements.

Mind you though, avchd files require quad cores cpus to handle heavy duty editing. Otherwise, you have to transcode (or maybe use proxies). If you transcode, the files size may even be bigger than HDV files.

So for me, the HC3 is something I love and not like at the same time. It's hard to hate it because its' very good. It's even better than the HC1 for low light, though the HC1 has a better form factor and other features. I like the HC3 because it is solid and a good camera. AF and stabilization is good. Images are sharp, etc. I don't like it because you have to buy stuff for mic in, lights, too much batteries, and it uses tapes. My hf-100 is cheaper at U$550 + U$129 for the 4:30 battery or a total of U$679. It has built in light, flash, has mic in, audio out, and uses cheap SDHC cards. So, after 3 years, the newer cameras are really much better. So, if you are not averse to non tape solutions, try to get a canon hf-100 or something like it.
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Old May 28th, 2009, 12:21 PM   #8
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Just to correct a couple errors...

Mel - all the small Sonys still have the nightshot/IR option. And yes, cameras have come a long way in a few short years. Aside from the computer load of AVCHD, tapeless is nice, about 8G for 1 hour at max bitrate, vs. 12G for HDV, so there's not really a lot of space saved unless you record at lower rates, and you pay for the higher compression when time comes to edit (more decompressing/compressing required of the CPU, thus the higher computer requirements)

Roger - When Sony transitioned from the HC3 generation (FP series battery), they also switched battery formats to the FH series, including the FH100 which is the equivalent or better than the FP90 for battery life. The FH batteries are backwards compatible to the cameras which use FPxx batteries, but the cameras requiring FH batteries will NOT accept the FP batteries either physically, or electronically if you defeat the physical tabs that prevent inserting an FP into the FH camera. The camera will protest and shut off.
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Old May 28th, 2009, 04:56 PM   #9
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Dave,

Thanks for clarifying the FP/FH battery issue. If I need another battery I'll be sure and go with the FH series. To tell the truth, a single FP90 (and I'm sure the FH100) is all you need for several days of heavy, casual shooting unless you use a light. Once you start using an on-camera light, however, you need a spare battery and charger handy.

Sometimes after using the HC3 I wonder if its worth all the hassle of the larger prosumer rigs. Then I'll shoot a scene where I can't quite get razor sharpness or the tiny chip can't quite capture the colors and textures. These small cameras are 90% as good in 70% of the situations, and 60% as good in the remaining and more demanding situations.

One thing is clear; if you don't have a camera with you or if you are afraid to risk it to real life, you can't capture anything!
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Old May 29th, 2009, 08:54 AM   #10
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Dave,

Thanks for clarifying the FP/FH battery issue. If I need another battery I'll be sure and go with the FH series. To tell the truth, a single FP90 (and I'm sure the FH100) is all you need for several days of heavy, casual shooting unless you use a light. Once you start using an on-camera light, however, you need a spare battery and charger handy.

Sometimes after using the HC3 I wonder if its worth all the hassle of the larger prosumer rigs. Then I'll shoot a scene where I can't quite get razor sharpness or the tiny chip can't quite capture the colors and textures. These small cameras are 90% as good in 70% of the situations, and 60% as good in the remaining and more demanding situations.

One thing is clear; if you don't have a camera with you or if you are afraid to risk it to real life, you can't capture anything!
To Dave B.

Thanks for the clarifications.

As for avchd, I guess I prefer the smaller files. That's still 13gb vs 8gb and when I shoot events, I use about 5-6 hours. In my last project, I used up close to 90gb including scratch files and temp files for almost 6 hour hdv footage. I would have gone to a fraction of that with avchd. And my quadcore rig and sony vegas can handle the editing chores :-)


To Roger,

Using my HC3 as a 2nd camera for 3 years, it has its limitations. But it can also do things my vx-2000 can't do. Just play to its strength. The small camcorder can be used to shoot overhead shots for example. A 3-5lbs vx-2000 is hard to lift and keep steady on overhead shots. OTOH, the HC3 and other small cameras don't have a handle so I can do low shots while moving. That's where the larger 3-5 lbs camera comes in. Plus, the bigger cameras, have their manual controls readily available and easily accessible so you can change settings faster. The smaller cameras need for you to fiddle with buttons, joysticks, or screens. The delay in doing this can cost you the shot or make you move the camera, w/c still means losing the shot.

Eventually, I'll leave tape. But since my existing equipment can still do the job, I'll slowly just retire them or relegate them to 2ndary status. The canon hf-100 will serve as my new 2nd/semi-1st camera, the hc3 will be the static camera to record events non-stop.

Again, unless cost is really a big thing on your part, you can get an hc3, hc5, etc. They are still fine cameras. But if you can spring for an HV-30, I can tell you it's much better overall. It's still tape, so if you are squimish about tapeless solutions, this is the way to go.
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Old May 29th, 2009, 11:03 AM   #11
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I agree that the small format cam has a lot of advantages - when I first got the HC3 (long retired), I loved the size - gives you a camera that you can take anywhere without thinking about it.

I just switched over to the XR500V, but the same "Sony HDNA" is there. The new "R" sensor is a HUGE leap forward from the one used in the HC3, and a lot of other improvements too. It is sort of amazing how much the small cam CAN do - lots of bang for the buck and low hassle because of the compact size!
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Old May 29th, 2009, 01:22 PM   #12
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Thanks guys. For the record, I'm not considering another HCx camera, just commenting on the usability of the design today. I'm headed toward tapeless in the near future, perhaps something like a progressive scan version of the TG1 for a convenience camera and the next gen DSLR (EOS5 mk IV????) with proper manual controls and mic inputs and/or Scarlet.

Love the HC3 for what it is, but I'm not reinvesting in that technology. I only hope whatever I buy stays as relevant for as long as the HC3 has!

Last edited by Roger Shealy; May 29th, 2009 at 09:53 PM.
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Old May 29th, 2009, 07:35 PM   #13
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I agree that the small format cam has a lot of advantages - when I first got the HC3 (long retired), I loved the size - gives you a camera that you can take anywhere without thinking about it.

I just switched over to the XR500V, but the same "Sony HDNA" is there. The new "R" sensor is a HUGE leap forward from the one used in the HC3, and a lot of other improvements too. It is sort of amazing how much the small cam CAN do - lots of bang for the buck and low hassle because of the compact size!


Actually, Dave, in its heyday, the HC1 was quite a surprise, revolutionary even! It was HDV, in an "affordable" price with lots of feature set that people then thought twice about getting the FX1. Maybe that was why the HC3 was released just about 6 months after the HC1 release. Of course, the HC3 didn't look as impressive and a lot of features were "crippled" or thumbed down. Even it's appearance was more "consumer-like." But one thing I liked about the HC3, the newer sensor was better at low light than the HC1. It's probably the reason why I got that instead of the HC1, spiffy and mean looking the HC1 was.



To Roger,

A wise choice to get something better than the HC3 (though the latter isn't bad really). Without hesitation, I can say now that the Canon HV-30 is the HDV camera that probably would still be very useful even 3-4 years from now. It has everything except IR and true 24p (it's 24f and 30f for its "p" implementation). If you want true 24p, get the HV-40. For me, though, the extra cost is not worth it. The HV-30 is the best bang-for-the-buck in terms of small/compact HDV. If there would be a HV-50, I think it will have larger sensor as it's major upgrade, so low light might be better. Maybe even a better stills option. But I doubt if there are other features you can add there that would really matter greatly. After these hv-40, I think Canon would not release anymore on the HV line as to move to tapeless would be their goal. I am guessing here of course, but the future of hdv consumer is bleak. Bu the hv-30/40 are fine models that would be viable even 3-5 years after.
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