I am considering the Sony HDR-HC1 or Panasonic GS-400. Need advice! 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 January 3rd, 2006, 01:31 PM   #1
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I am considering the Sony HDR-HC1 or Panasonic GS-400. Need advice!

Some background information:

My ambition is to become a filmmaker. I have many ideas for short movies and I want to start working on them. I have read many books on cinematography, short filmmaking, screenplay writing and have seen like a million of movies (not literally). I have also read many books on photography, have shot almost 10.000 digital photo's last year and have been shooting with a Nikon FM-10 SLR with old-school 35mm film.

I want to use the camera for indie filmmaking. I think I will use it for this purpose for around one year, after which I will move up to more expensive gear (DVX-100, XL-2, HVX200, VX2100, FX1 or something like that).

Again, I am completely new to video/filmmaking (practical).

The decision:

I want to make a decision between the Panasonic GS-400 and the HDR-HC1. The Panasonic GS-400 costs 1050 EURO, the HDR-HC1 costs 1399 EURO. Both are PAL models, from an official retailer.

My thoughts:

I like to have manual control, the more the better. The Panasonic GS-400 offers a great amount of manual control. Furthermore, it has a normal hot-shoe mount instead of the proprietary one on the Sony. Finally, it is somewhat cheaper and I guess it will be easier to work with the output files of the Panasonic GS-400 then with the HD files of the Sony.

The HDR-HC1 however has an amazingly crisp image. I have seen footage that users have sent to me and I am truly amazed. Furthermore, I like the color of it and the fact that I am able to shoot normal DV as well.

What I do not like about the Sony is that there is no true manual iris and gain control. I also do not care much about the viewfinder that is uncomfortable when you attach a larger battery to the camera. Furthermore, I am not sure how well my computer(s) will be able to handle HD editing and how much storage I need for it. I also think Sony has not thought well enough about some design decisions on the HDR-HC1.

But then I think that there is a difference between a HD workflow and a SD workflow. As I believe that HD is the future, I think that it might be wise to adopt this technology from the start, so I start from scratch with HD. This way, I would learn a lot about the HD format. Even when the camera is inferior when looking at manual control, this might be an important factor.

On the other hand, the HD format is still immature. There is no physical distribution medium yet (Blue-Ray/HDVD), players and recorders are not yet rolled out, the internet is not completely ready for it etcera. So I also think it might be wise to wait with HD untill 2007.

I also have not decided upon a program which I will use for editing. I am considering Sony Vegas, Final Cut Pro and Avid Xpress Pro.

I own the following computers:

Powerbook G4, 1,5Ghz, 1,25GB RAM (maximum), 60GB harddisk in combination with an external 320GB firewire/usb2 disk. It is connected to a 19" monitor through DVI so I can work dual-screen.

The other one is a Pentium IV 2.4Ghz with 512MB ram, a 80GB harddisk and a 17" Dell TFT monitor. I can upgrade the ram and harddisks.

I am really lost in the woods. Everytime I think I made my mind-up, I suffer from anxiety and start thinking it all over again. I am really looking forward to your advice and hope it will help me.
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Old January 3rd, 2006, 02:49 PM   #2
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Panosonic v. HC1

I have a panosonic GS 120. Compared to my Sony VX 2000 (both NTSC), it has a lousy image. I don't know if the GS-400 improves with larger chips, and lens, but I am not that excited about the Panosonic choice because of that.

HC1 does give you the ability to shoot both DV and HDV. I just started shooting the FX1 which does the same, and find that I am shooting most everything in HDV, and downconverting via camera or software to the DV level. The consensus on this forum is that a better overall result can be obtained.

Having owned quite a few Sony products, I am sold on the durability, and design features, though others believe they should be providing more options in their shooting modes.

I have also heard on this forum that the HC1 reds are not as good as some want.

To capture and edit in HDV, you will have to add some hardware upgrades, and or software. Look and Connect or Aspect from Cineform, and Vegas 6 or Premiere Pro 1.51 on the PC side. Final Cut Pro seems to be preferred on the Apple side. I don't know what issues you will have there.

Good luck in your decision.

Chris Barcellos
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Old January 3rd, 2006, 05:42 PM   #3
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As the owner of an HDR-HC1, it's hard to say (without bias) which one is better. I've seen the GS-400 and fooled around with it, and the two features i like best about it over my HC1 is the massive screen, and better manual controls.

The reason i took the HC1 over the GS is HDV/DV switching, as well as it's smaller size.

You're pretty much ready to capture HDV on the mac side. Remember, you can always down convert to dv when capturing so itll be compatible with any DV NLE out there.

For the short term, i'd pick the GS-400. As long as you promise to get one of the cameras you listed.
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Old January 3rd, 2006, 10:53 PM   #4
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Wow, your post sounds like me. Here's what I can tell you, which may help your decision (or confuse you further). All my info is based on using the PC option, since that's all I know.

I have a GS400, and a PC with a Pentium IV 2.4 processor (mine has 1GB of ram though), and Vegas Video, and I use it for making short films. The GS400 is a wonderful camera -- I LOVE IT -- and can, with practice, make some amazing images. (I have some stills up on my last two films, all shot in frame mode.) The controls are nice, since I was able to play with sharpness and saturation to get what I wanted. On a 2.4, you have more than enough to edit with, although you may want more harddrive space for bigger projects, and perhaps 512 mb ram. Quick, easy, and not frustrating. This would perhaps be the safest choice -- you can get a lot of filming in without waiting for days for your computer to render. (And oh yeah, it's a top loading tape drive.)

That being said, I would still recommend the Sony, despite the lack of manual controls -- simply because the HDV in Cineform or using Gearshift as a proxy is much better than the image of the GS400. Period. I just got an FX1, but I've seen the HDV of the HC1. (Using straight DV or using the HDV to DV downconvert on the camera did not impress me however...) Delivery method should not be an issue -- because 1) few filmmakers make something distributable their first time out, and 2) converting the Cineform or using Gearshift to regular DVD with a good bitrate still produces a better image.

However, the HDV workflow is not as easy, and sucks up way more time, both in preparing files and rendering. I edit using Cineform, and I don't get realtime previews in Vegas unless I watch in draft mode (the 2.4 processor problem). HDV renders take forever, even on a short film. If you choose HDV, you must be prepared for this. It's not impossible on your system -- heck, I'm doing it -- but it can be a major source of pain and impatience.

Both cameras, however, aren't that good in low-light (so night shots are tricky -- in fact, doing night shots or dark rooms with the GS400 is still a pain in the butt -- I may be able to jack up grain, but I still need lots of light, and the image is still noisy). Both will require either a XLR adapter or a Rode Videomic to get good quality sound. So really, they are quite comparable. I personally think you will regret not having the higher quality image more than you'll regret losing the manual controls -- but that's just my personal preference.

The only thing going for the GS400 over the HC1 is the manual controls. And while the manual controls on the GS400 are nice, I don't really manipulate them much. (I only had to do it to turn down sharpness for use with Magic Bullet, and for shifting the color and saturation to match a GL2 secondary camera.) Most of the rest I do in post. The manual controls on the GS400 aren't nowhere near the level of detail or specification as say of the DVX100.
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Old January 4th, 2006, 02:39 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Kirkpatrick
Wow, your post sounds like me. Here's what I can tell you, which may help your decision (or confuse you further). All my info is based on using the PC option, since that's all I know.

(...)
Thanks for your great reply. It is very insightful and I will really take into consideration what you just told me. About the computer, the thing I will do most likely is upgrade the memory to 2GB. I figured that I could store 24 hours of HD footage on the 320GB firewire disk, which is plenty.

As I explained, a new computer is expected in march/april and it will be a dual core Pentium IV or Athlon with the 2GB that I will put in the Pentium IV at this moment. That is of course, if I go for the Sony.

As long as I am able to get the files from the HDR-HC1 on my computer without too much problems, I am satisfied. I can save the editing for later when I have the new computer which is more HD-proof.
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Old January 4th, 2006, 08:21 AM   #6
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I just bought a Sony HDR-HC1. Need advice on accessoires!

I have finally decided which camcorder I am going to buy. I have chosen for the HDR-HC1, because of the incredible image quality compared to SD camcorders like the Panasonic GS-400.

Thanks for your advice!
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Old January 11th, 2006, 12:54 AM   #7
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? for Robert Kirkpatrick ?

Hi Robert, I have a panny GS400, and was just wondering what settings you use on your GS400 -Saturation, Exposure, Contrast, and Sharpness?

My Dad has a 2 year old Canon (not Optura - nexst line down, Elan?). While watching shots with his Canon vs my GS400- the canon seems to have much more saturation then the GS400. GS is sharper and more detailed. I was quite surprised to see this. When I purchased my GS400 a year ago, it was praised for its great color and saturation.

Is there something wrong or unusual with mine? Until recently I had all settings at Factory standard, but I have since set color/sat to +2 and Contrast to -2 to -3. I'm still experimenting. Thanks - PK
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Old January 11th, 2006, 08:43 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Kepen
Hi Robert,
Hi, Paul. I don't want to derail the thread too far from the original question, so feel free to email me.

Quote:
I have a panny GS400, and was just wondering what settings you use on your GS400 -Saturation, Exposure, Contrast, and Sharpness?
I don't have the camera in front of me right now to look, but if I remember correctly, I have the Saturation, Sharpness, and Contrast turned down to around 1/4 of the bar. This is because I manipulate the footage in post a lot -- usually color curves or Magic Bullet -- and that tends to give me more room to work with. And I tend to leave the Cinegamma off as much as possible, because it screws up the contrast in post. (I had the Cinegamma on for my short, "Therapy", and regretted it when trying to play around with the image.)

I probably wouldn't recommend you turn down the settings that far, if you don't plan on doing lots of image manipulation in post. I might suggest turning down the sharpness, because the GS400 is indeed a sharp camera.

Check out Joshua Provost's post in this thread -- he really helped me out when I was trying to figure out the best settings for the GS400 and using Magic Bullet: http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=44105

Quote:
When I purchased my GS400 a year ago, it was praised for its great color and saturation.
I don't know about the Canon Elura, but I did do a short film with both the Canon GL2 and the Panasonic GS400. I thought they were about equal in color representation, EXCEPT the Canon tends to be colder (bluer) while the Panasonic tends to be much warmer in color tone (orange). I had to fiddle with the Panasonic to make it match the Canon. (I could not get the Canon to match the Panasonic no matter how hard I tried.) So basically, I liked the greens and the sky better on the Canon, but I like the skin color and deeper reds better on the GS400.

This is from comparing both cameras shooting in frame mode without any Cinegamma on. If you have Cinegamma on with the GS400, the footage will have more contrast and the colors will not be as rich, imho.

Quote:
Is there something wrong or unusual with mine?
I don't think so, but I can't really say without watching comparisons. I think you're just comparing a Panasonic to a Canon, and from my eyes, they tend to record color differently.
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Old January 21st, 2006, 03:20 PM   #9
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Floris, don't expect to be able to move your new 2 GB RAM from your old PC to your new PC. New P4's use DDR2 memory that is MUCH faster than the memory used in older P4 PC's. I have a Dell P4 2.4 GHz. and it still uses 133 MHz SDRAM, while the new Dell XPS 400 I'm ordering this week for video editing uses 533/667 MHz DDR2 RAM. So you might want to hold off upgrading the RAM in your old PC and spend that money instead on more RAM for your new PC.

Good luck with your films, and be sure to tell us where we can see a clip when you have one done!
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