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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 November 1st, 2005, 02:44 PM   #1
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A puzzled mind: PDs or HVRs? Please help!

Hi,

Im the kind of guy that reads a lot and thinks a lot before making decisions. Ive read everything I could about the cameras I plan to purchase, which could be PD-170, PDX-10, HVR-A1 or HDR-FX1. Pretty different cameras, for different purposes.

Now, after a lot of reading, Id like to hear from you experienced users, from a practical point of view, what you suggest.

Here is my current situation:

- 90% of what I do is recorded in studio (no CCUs, no sophisticated thing. Only decent lighting, teleprompting, good mics and a PD-150). Mostly, I do Talk Shows and training videos. Also, sometimes I do event coverage.

- Right now, I already own a PD-150, which seems to fit my needs at the moment. Also, I do chroma keying once in a while.

- A good part of this content is turned into DVD or goes to the internet (live webcasts)

- I always use XLR mics.

- Im not concerned about camera size. I dont bother using a small device as long as it does the job well.




So, here are my needs:

- Although real 16:9 seems a good thing to have, its not an absolute must for me.

- HDV is not a must as well (but I could pay for it, thinking about the future, if the price is worth it)

- Decent audio is very important

- Sometimes I do have to record in low-light situations



And here are my thoughts:

- The easiest decision would be to buy the PD-170. After all, it would be a good pair for my PD-150. Nothing new to learn, no big differences. However, as much as I like PD-150/170, I believe its old technology and that I could have a lot more functionality for every $1 spent on the new models. Something tells me that sooner or later, PD-170 might be discontinued and that Sony already faces the new HDV and the upgrades for the PD-170. Also, I think that we have to keep an eye on the future. HDC and 16:9 are definitely the next page on the books (well, they may actually be the current page already) and we have to keep that in mind.

- I dont know if you agree, but I tend to believe that PDX-10 is a downgrade from what I current own. I read good reviews about it, but its about the same as a PD-170 (except for the native 16:9, right?)

- So Im tending towards HDR-FX1 and HVR-A1. The lack of XLR inputs on the FX1 might be an important issue, though. Would the BeachTek audio device provide good audio quality? Also, Im concerned about the adoption of this new CMOS techonology (used by A1). Will it really substitute CCDs? In terms of image quality, is it comparable to FX1 and Z1?

- Also, in terms of usability, how "painfull" is the bottom loading mechanism on the A1?



Obviously, Id buy a Z1 without hesitation. But its out of the price range I can afford now.

So, Id like to hear from you: what do you suggest? My main focus is on the final image quality (remember SD is my main priority now), chroma sampling (targeting at keying possibilies, although Im aware that none of them is ideal of this purpose), and good manual controls.

Right now it seems to me that A1 is the way to go. But I need your expertise to guide me on this. Thanks in advance for the help.

Helder Conde
Atitude Digital Media
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Old December 11th, 2005, 10:13 AM   #2
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Too many purchase decisions.

It sounds to me like you're considering the purchase of multiple cameras. If this is the case, stop right now, add up what you've got, and get the Z1.

Whether you're looking at shooting HD or SD the FX-1 is a good camera, and can (in post) be fairly well matched to the PD-150.

The Z1 shoots DV, DVCAM, and HDV in both 50i and 60i and is switchable to/ from these formats. So, you've got NTSC, Pal, SD and HD how much more flexibility could you want.

About the A1. CMOS is not new. In fact, the first solid state imagers on professional 2/3" Ikegami cameras (back in the 80's) were CMOS. The problem with them is you couldn't get the low light capabilities from smaller 1/3 CMOS sensors that you could from the available CCD's until now.

Sony has a new proprietary image processing system that allows the smaller, less sensitive CMOS chip to compete with its CCD counterparts.

To me, the choice is simple. Get the Z1, and if you can't, Get the FX-1 or the A1. I don't think you'll be disapointed.

Rob


P.S. Avoid the PDX10 like the plague it is so "hobbled" it makes it really difficult to shoot with.
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Old December 11th, 2005, 10:26 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Rock
P.S. Avoid the PDX10 like the plague it is so "hobbled" it makes it really difficult to shoot with.
Robert: I guess I'm equally "hobbled" since I've been shooting with a PDX-10 since 2002 and have been very pleased. Do you say this from personal experience or just hearsay? Yes, it has its limitations and in todays market probably the only argument for buying it would be price, but the audio, high quality 16:9 and DVCAM capabilties are all notable. At $1,700 (B&H) it's quite a deal. In 4:3 mode it won't look quite as good as a PD-170, and it's 2.5 f-stops slower than my VX-2000. It has a very clean gain boost with 14 bit DSP however, so that probably closes the gap by another f-stop.

I have a VX-2000, PDX-10 and HVR-Z1. Without a moments thought I'd toss the VX and PD if I could only have one camera. The manual controls and multiple formats on the Z1 alone would put it at the top of my list. But honestly, the Z1 is only slightly better in low light than the PDX-10 (perhaps 1 f-stop).

Helder, you seem to contradict yourself. First you say you work in a studio with good lighting, then you say you also need low light capability. Then you say 16:9 isn't really important, but later you say HDV and 16:9 might be good for the future.

I think you need to resolve these questions for starters. If you want to work in 4:3 and in dark places get a PD-170. If you want 16:9 DV and future HDV capability (plus PAL/NTSC dual capability) get the Z1. The Z1 also has nicer manual controls and much more ability to tweak the image than the PD-170.

You might find the following links helpful:

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=50112
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=54414
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Old December 23rd, 2005, 03:14 PM   #4
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If you do chroma keying, you might want to stick with a 3CCD camera. Because you have a PD150, you're probably used to a bright picture in low light, so the PD170 would be the closest thing to what you are already working with but I'd look into getting an HDR-FX1 because the higher resolution balanced with "similar" light handling to the PD150 will ensure that you don't have as much "blooming" around the edges of the subjects you are trying video, so you won't have to give them a soft edge when you go to chroma key them.
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Old December 24th, 2005, 12:25 AM   #5
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I nearly bought a pdx-10 until I had the chance to use one. I'm just old fashioned I guess, and like to have separate controls for everything, and have the ability to adjust everything independently from eachother, so I guess my statement was a bit subjective and biased. The pdx-10 does give a very nice picture, and under the right conditions it performs well. I just wish sony would stop mucking around with firmware, and give us exactly what the camera is capable of.

Lately, I've been working with the Z1U, and it's a wonderful camera. It does a few things that I don't understand, like...

Why the F-Stop reading doesn't remain constant while zooming. It drops from F:1.6 to F:2.8 from full wide to telephoto, but I can work around this.

The A1u even though it has a single sensor, has a CMOS sensor, and smear and things like that don't usually occur with CMOS. The first solid state camera I used was an Ikegami 3CMOS sensor camera (way back in the eighties), and it was beautiful... as long as you had enough light.

The only real advantages of CCD's is their low light characteristics and low cost. Sony has done a good job of correcting the light sensitivity with their CMOS sensors, and I've seen some footage from the A1 in low light, and it is fantastic.

As far as chromakey, a 3CCD/CMOS camera is irrelevant. In the old days, you had to have a 3Tube/sensor camera because you had to have either the solid blue/green channels for reference. Now since the advent of software keying, this is no longer the case. I've actually gotten better keys from some higher end single chip cams than I have from a JVC GY-DV500.

The only real advice I can give without sounding biased though is as follows.

If you like the features, picture, and form factor, then get the camera. Compare several different models in a controlled setting, then ask if you can wander the store with the cameras, and compare them that way. Then, be sure it falls into your workflow. I personally wouldn't buy a DV only cam anymore. HDV or HD, be it the HVX 200, the HC1, or any of the others in between, just be sure your happy with it, because if you don't, you're stuck for awhile, and as you know, these things aint cheap.
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Old December 24th, 2005, 12:29 AM   #6
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Sorry.....

You know, I really shouldn't post on here when I'm sleepy..... I tend to repeat myself.

Many apologies.

Rob
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Old December 24th, 2005, 07:57 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Rock
It does a few things that I don't understand, like...

Why the F-Stop reading doesn't remain constant while zooming. It drops from F:1.6 to F:2.8 from full wide to telephoto
To the best of my knowledge every prosumer camcorder does this, including the PD-170, DVX-100b, XL-2, GL-2, etc. It's a trade-off in lens design which makes it slower at the telephoto end. But of course on the Z1 if you set an opening of f2.8 or smaller, then it will remain constant through the zoom range.
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Old December 24th, 2005, 12:29 PM   #8
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I have two Sony FX1s and love 'em, except that they do struggle a bit in poor lighting. Other than that, I can't see any reason to continue investing in SD-only cameras when you can get a camera which shoots both SD and HDV for basically the same price. If you can, arrange to borrow or rent an HDV camera and try it for yourself before making a final decision.
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Old December 24th, 2005, 12:55 PM   #9
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Camera choice

I have just received the FX1 and continue to own the VX2000. I was thinking of buying another VX or PD model, but settled on the FX1. I m glad I went that route. There are a lot more features such as picture profile, scene transition that make this the logical next step. I do find myself relying on the VX2K in lower light situations if I'm shooting DV, though, and I am sure you would do the same..

Chris Barcellos
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