PDX10 vs HVR-A1 purchase 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 July 17th, 2005, 06:55 PM   #1
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PDX10 vs HVR-A1 purchase

Hi all.

I’m after some advice and read with interest your discussions re the Sony HVR-A1, PDX10, PD170 and the Z1. I am about to replace my existing DVcam and local operators had pointed me in the direction of the PDX10 and the Z1 (all PAL). I am pretty new to the field and realized the PDX170 and Z1 were probably out of my league – however was interested in the high definition aspects of the Z1.

I then spoke to sales staff at a broadcast and professional video equipment supplier and was advised that the HVR-A1 was worth waiting a few more weeks for because of the new CMOS technology – but after reading your comments, I wonder if I wouldn’t be better off using the older technology - get proficient with something like the PDX10 – and then move on to CMOS technology at a later date in whatever model is around at that time.

My computer supplier indicated that HD cameras can really chew up the hard disk space. He also indicated that the high definition aspect of the A1 was a little irrelevant when most television in Australia is 540 (frankly I am still uncertain as to the benefits of HD and would appreciate being pointed to a good website detailing this). There were some concerns express in dvinfo re the low pixel count; loading from the bottom and lack of physical controls of the A1. Better to go with a lighter weight camera with proven track record (PDX10) than to venture into the CMOS HD realm especially when I’m a newbie? The ‘CMOS vs CCD Changing Technology to suit HDTV Broadcast’ posted by Chris Hurd a few days ago, indicated you’d have to be a fool not to embrace the new technology – but how applicable will this be over the next 3 years?

I am currently operating with Pentium[R] 4 CPU 3.00 GHz 2.99 GHz 1.00 GB of RAM; Matrox RTX.10 and Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5. I also have a 200GB external drive for all my media material.

I will be using the camera for a variety of material including training and short doco. Some of the material will be shot with the hope that the footage will be used for broadcast.

Thanks, SH
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Old July 19th, 2005, 03:29 PM   #2
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Do you need it to be 16x9? All of the cams you mention except the PDX170 are 16x9. The HVR-A1 has a serious lack of manual control threrfor requiring a much more skilled operator to work it well. If you must have 16x9 you should consider the FX1 or XL2. The Z1 has a huge price jump over every other cam you listed.
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Old August 9th, 2005, 02:49 PM   #3
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Hi Sara,

I owned a PDX-10P a while ago. What a gem, I must say. Widescreen is great! When there is enough light, the footage looks as if it was shot on DigiBeta. Sound quality is acceptable too. In other words, a definite buy.

However, if there is a replacement for PDX-10 in the form of HVR-A1, I would definitely give it some consideration. HVR-A1 can shoot in DV mode (or DVCAM) I believe. This should sort out the problem with TVs. Plus, you can shoot in HDV if you so choose.

I don't think any discussion would be enough to discuss merits of any camera against another. Let's face it - DV is being made redundant - why would you want to buy an old technology that is on its way out? Then again - only you should make the choice...!
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Old August 19th, 2005, 12:08 PM   #4
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To say that DV is made reduntant and is on the way out is of course not true at all.
You might want to look in to the compression problems on HC1 / A1

Cheers

Hans
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Old August 19th, 2005, 12:42 PM   #5
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I am new HDR-HC1 owner and fairly new to video.

This is my opinion.
- Decide on how much can you spend. More money will get you more fun toys. If you got a fulltime job you probably can get it on financing as well.
- Decide on what timeframe you need it. Now, some months a year? The Panasonic HVX200 is on it's way and in that pricerange (same as Z1) I probably wouldn't buy anything else than it.
- Decide what features and scenarios are essential it can perform well in. Especially low light and good sound comes to mind.
- Do you have alternatives? Lending from a friend, getting a used one for cheap e tc. You mentioned you had one. What's the downside with it? Why do you want to replace it?
- What deliveryformat do you need? SD (DV) is obvious but do you need HD? Maybe you can buy a HD-camera after you have done some SD stuff. I wanted HDV cause I am gonna do movies/shorts and if they go up on screen I want good quality.

This is what I think of HDV and A1 based on that I own the little brother of it.
- Bottom feeding tape - I hate it. I have a quick mount now so I can take of the camera more easily but bottom feeding is probably the most stupid thing since the beginning of time.
- Low light performance isn't good. But black stretch in A1 is supposed to solve it. I did a test and the HC1 can light up a dark area better if there is no light in the viewer than if there is. This made me think that they can solve it.
- Yes, HDV will eat a lot of space. You probably should invest in AspectHD for your Premiere and maybe even a special card to get better HDV-speed. You do seem to have a good computer compared to mine. I work with DV until I can cash up for a new computer. Working with HDV is a pain at the moment. I got a 1.8 GHz and 2 GB RAM. It works but not perfect.
- HD vs DVD quality is the same leap which we did from VHS to DVD. I have this confirmed from several sources (except my own opinion). One guy even hate he has seen HD because there is so little material out there and DVD sucks so much. And it's really a no brainer that more pixels on the same screen will look nicer. People who claim SD is good enough... yeah it is.. for now.. but next olympics will be shot in HD and probably any big sport event after that. Big sport event sells TVs.
- Next year there WILL be HD DVD and Blu Ray on the market. I bet that the big guys (Sony et c) will poor a pile of money into marketing and letting people now that DVD was good but HD is great!
- Back to the camera... yeah it lacks a lot of controls. But at least its possible to learn what it got and then move up to the next step in the ladder. Remember to ask yourself why you are replacing your old one...

Well, whatever you do I wish you luck. If you can take the A1 for a testspin and test it on things you want to shoot that will give you a better idea. Okay.. all from me now! /Fredrik
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Old August 19th, 2005, 01:39 PM   #6
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I have a VX-2000, a PDX-10 and an HVR-Z1. The VX is going to probably live out the rest of its life as a deck. I'll probably continue shooting with the PDX-10 for certain kinds of things, like our opera archive videos because the quality is terrific, the size is discreet, the audio is very good and I don't really want to invest in a telephoto adaptor for the Z1. If you don't really want to make the jump to HDV but you want to shoot widescreen then the PDX is a real value. If you can find one that is - Sony's European site says the PAL PDX has been replaced by the A1 so you may have to look around for one.

Having said that, the Z1 is certainly a much nicer camera as it should be for about 3x the price of the PDX. It will also let you shoot HDV on tape but send DV over firewire which gives better quality and also an HDV master if you want it in the future. The manual controls are way, way, WAY better than the PDX-10. The amount of image adjustment is also far beyond the PDX and it has a much nicer (higher res) LCD - although the PDX gets points for a big bright screen. Another big factor for me personally is the PAL/NTSC dual compatibility if you think you'll ever want that.

Regarding the A1, I haven't seen one but have been following the discussion. As others are saying, it appears to lack some manual controls, the LCD is pretty low res and the tape loads from the bottom. Sounds like it will produce some nice images though. It's going to cost a lot more than a PDX-10 though. An FX1 might be a better option for a similar price unless you really need the small size.
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Old August 20th, 2005, 07:04 AM   #7
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I have the the HC1 as well as the FX1 and VX2100 and used to have the pd's brother the trv950.
My opinion? Don't expect the A1 to be the answer to your prayers, unless they have really improved the 'enhanced' processing over the HC1's CMOS chip on the A1, the image will be a let down falling between two stools - not as good as the FX1 for HDV and for dv not having the manual options of the PDX10. I would love to be proved wrong but after spending a lot of time with the HC1 I can't see its brother the A1 with whatever they add on or put back in really being up to being a true pro cam.
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Old August 30th, 2005, 08:35 PM   #8
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Many thanks all!

Great site and great responses. Many thanks to all who replied. I should be able to make a better informed purchase now! Regards, SH
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Last edited by Sara Hardie; August 30th, 2005 at 08:36 PM. Reason: spelling error
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Old August 30th, 2005, 10:43 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sara Hardie
Great site and great responses. Many thanks to all who replied. I should be able to make a better informed purchase now! Regards, SH
Sara I'm sure you know this but i think Michaels which is about 10mins walk from Flinders St. Stn. is about the place to go for an early purchase of the A1.
I recommend speaking to Huw on the video counter on the right as you walk in. He's very very knowledgeable and is very clued up. Most of the guys in Michaels also shoot they're own stuff so they're users as well as sales guys.

I am fairly sure that i am going to get an A1 rather than an HC1 after reading numerous reviews and also one or two people have managed to sneak pre-production samples too and say that there is an unequivocal image quality difference between the two. B&H in NYC are shipping the A1, allegedly, this week. (so i hear)

rgds.
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Old August 31st, 2005, 01:08 AM   #10
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SH "My computer supplier indicated that HD cameras can really chew up the hard disk space."

FL "- Yes, HDV will eat a lot of space."

HDV uses roughly the same disk space as DV. 13gig per/min. So I don't really know what you are being told. If you convert to a different codec this can change, but that is the case with Dv as well. As a standard it uses the same tapes as DV so guess what? Same disk space!
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Old August 31st, 2005, 02:03 AM   #11
 
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It's true that 1080 HDV/25Mbps uses only about 13 gig per hour as DV does, but it's pretty tough to get DV converted to anything in the same resolution that gets as large as HDV does. HDV converted to CineForm codec for instance, becomes approx 40 GB per hour. Captured to uncompressed 10 bit with a Decklink, that expands a bit to about 560 GB per hour, and there are some other flavors in between.
I'm not sure why anyone would want to stick with m2t for editing, even though it's small in size, due to the decode, and lack of realtime playback.
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Old September 8th, 2005, 08:52 PM   #12
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I'm almost there...

Thanks for your further responses. Decision now is more about size leaving me with the large Z1 or the lightweight A1.
1. Have ruled out the FX1 as was told it had unbalanced audio - even with XLR jack. As intend to use wireless lapel mics for much of work and I want to have decent audio, I think this rules out the otherwise fab FX1.
2. PDX170 is not native 16:9. As it is also not HD, while it appears a great camera in every other respect, the lack of these 2 features is an issue.
3. PDX10 appears to be a favourite with its native 16:9 but as the A1 is offering similar features plus the HD capability at the same price…..

I know I’ll have to add
* AUD $850 for Sennheisser wireless mics
* $850 Sennheisser shotgun mic
* $500 Monfrotto Medium tripod
* ~$300 pelican hard case
* ~$180 battery plus recharger
plus lights – an unknown $ value as yet – get the camera first!

However I while all my output is on DVD, I have no need to upgrade my computer until there is a DVD format that will support HD (hence saving to me of $1,500 for dual processor 3.6GHz mother board and 2x250Gig of memory). That cost can be deferred for 2 years when technology catches up. In the meantime as Boyd suggested, can record in HD format and have HD master tape, but all output can be in SD and I’ll have Premiere batch lists in the unlikely event in the future that the client wishes to have DVD updated to HD.

What I am trying to ascertain now is whether the A1 is native 16:9. The specs are not conclusive and have read all the reviews I can. After reading all the PDX170 vs FX1 threads, it is clear that most people through the 16:9 wave was going to be the more significant over the next 3-4 years (in terms of demand from consumers/clients), then the HD wave would follow after that. As the PXD170 was not offering native 16:9 or HD, all the other great features paled somewhat compared to the FX1 (to bad about the audio). Similarly, if the A1 is not native 16:9…. am I looking at the hefty Z1.

Can anybody let me know about this spec for the A1. My retailers, who should know more about this than I, are a bit hazy on some of the details.

Thanks, SH
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Old September 8th, 2005, 09:14 PM   #13
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Sara - as far as i know the A1 will give true 16:9 image. There's no doubt that there'll be little wrong with it's 16:9 image.

Having said that the sensor's aspect ratio is 4:3. But that doesn't really matter as it still shoots 16:9 and doesn't stretch or 'letterbox' the image.

By the way, the first production A1U's have now been delivered.

pics: http://www.jeremyburns.com/Sony-A1U/

My honest opinion if you're now down to A1 vs. Z1 is to get the A1.
The Z1 is a pretty big camera and also pretty heavy. Yes it's very capable but in good light people say that HC1 footage is hard to tell any different from Z1. Law of Diminishing Returns and all that.
In low-light, sure the Z1 has it.

As the old saying goes : "The best camera is the one you actually have WITH you."
A1 more likely to be carried around all day than the Z1 IMHO!

Finally, i'm sure you've read DSE's review at sundancemediagroup, but here's a different A1 review which you may or may not have seen:
http://www.dvuser.co.uk/Reviews/Camc...y-hvr-a1e.html

rgds.
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Old September 8th, 2005, 10:25 PM   #14
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stu Holmes
My honest opinion if you're now down to A1 vs. Z1 is to get the A1.
The Z1 is a pretty big camera and also pretty heavy. Yes it's very capable but in good light people say that HC1 footage is hard to tell any different from Z1.
I would say that's a very debateable statement. I shot an entire tour of downtown Singapore as I was moved about on a pedal taxi, with the HC1 mounted on top of the Z1, and did something quite similar with a microdolly (but not with the 2mile track of Orchard Drive) in late dusk/almost dark conditions. The HD1 and the A1 were slightly brighter (more gain) with no visible noise, but the Z1 was significantly richer and deeper in color, and it matched the brightness once I kicked in 9dB worth of gain. The A1 tended to smear on the extremes, which I didn't see with the Z1. In other words, where I had a high contrast and motion, you can see smear on the still frame that you don't experience with the Z1.

The A1 is a very fine cam, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to any one. But I would hesitate to say that one can't tell the diff between the A1 and the Z1 in low light, or in any other kind of light.

Thanks for the link to Nigel's review, I hadn't seen that one yet.
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Old September 9th, 2005, 08:59 AM   #15
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Question for DSE...

DSE, I have a quick question.
I currently shoot weddings with a VX2100 and am going to be in the market sometime in the near future for a new camera.
I am looking into getting another VX2100 or either an FX1 or A1U.

I know you are a big backer of HDV right now, so I am not going to ask you about purchasing another VX2100.
But, if you had to choose between a FX1 or the A1U (the Z1 is out of my price range at the moment.), which one would you recommend?
I like the A1U's small footprint, onboard balanced audio, black stretch, and better manual controls compared to the HC1 (assignable buttons), but like FX1's better manual controls, and lux rating.

If you had to pick 1 to mix with a VX2100 until you could move up to 2 HDV cams, which would you do?

I will still be delivering SD footage on DVD, as there is no delivery format in the near future that consumers will have a large access to (I think 3-5 years before the mass public will have HD DVD players).
If I do go HDV with my next cam, I will capture and work in Vegas 6, (get GearShift) work with proxy video (I currently have a 3.4 P4 Hyperthreaded system with a ASUS P4P800E Deluxe Motherboard/2GB RAM, will probably upgrade to 4GB) and output as MPEG2 DVD video).

Also will, my VX2100 look noticibly worse than either of these cameras since I downsizing the HDV footage to standard DV?
And can Vegas work with both DV and HDV footage on the same timeline and output to standard DV right from vegas with just one render (granted probably let it run all night)?

Thanks,
Michael
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