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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 May 25th, 2006, 01:13 PM   #1
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HC1 being used professionally

I've read all the facts and differences in this cam vs. the Z1 and A1, etc. I'm more curious to know if anyone has/is using this camera on the job, and if they are getting good results.

I have tested the camera for my own needs, and so far it can create a much sharper image than my Canon XL1s (of course the XL1s are the lowest rez in the league). I do plan on using the HC1 to spot locations and for setup during walk throughs, etc. (More likely I'll rent something bigger for the actual shoot).

However, some folks here wanted the camera for it's small size for hiking, or travel, and confined spaces. Not sure if anyone is using this camera for weddings or run and gun. However, I'd like to hear about your experiences, if any, in using the camera for real work. Thanks.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 04:22 PM   #2
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Hmmm. 24 hours, over 100 views and not one reply.

Anyway, I've tested the HC1 in three scenarios: In the studio (controlled lighting), and in an open foyer (available lighting -overcast day), and finally in a manufacturing environment, shooting lots of machinery in motion.

I then compared with the results with a Canon XL1s used in the same scenes. Ignoring charts, and all the technical data. I wanted to know more about work flow, and each camera's ability to adapt and play well in a working environment.

Finally, both I and our art director viewed the final results. Not the rez charts, or monitors. But what goes on tape, and winds up as a compressed windows media file for CD and web delivery. (Not for broadcast, faking film, or projection. But the other stuff that fills 90% of what I do). The end results is what our clients critique.

Setup for the studio was three light setup for interview. A key, a fill, and a back light. Actual setup time for both the XL1s and HC1 was similiar, (about 15 minutes).

The XL1s was the decisive winner in this however. It's a night owl compared to the HC1 and I was able to easily dial in the camera to get the look I wanted. The HC1 was very limiting in it's exposure and settings. Even under controlled lighting, I didn't have as fine or minute adjustments to get things quite right. Exposure was more quess work. I had to move the lights closer to subject, but risk blowing out highlights in the process. It was doable, but compared to the XL1s, it was a struggle.

Setup for the foyer only required a tripod and white board for bounce. I wanted available light. Here is where the HC1 had it easy, and no more difficult than the XL1s. I did use white balance to a white, grey, and even a light blue card to push the red skin tones on the HC1. However, the XL1s was the clear winner. A simply white balance was the only setting to get it right.

Setup for the manufacturing floor was a tripod and using available light only. the HC1's resolution was the clear winner obviously. The XL1s, even when viewed at it's native resolution, is simply too soft for shooting small moving objects.

Taking a step back and looking at the final results, both the art director and I came to the conclusion that the HC1 was not up to professional work. That image resolution and sharpness is not the only decisive factor. He would prefer that I continue to shoot my interviews, training, and events with the XL1s, and look into getting a camera that has both the resolution and color.

Some of you may cry foul, that such comparisons are not fair. However, the XL1s is considered a prosumer or low end pro camera as well. It is clearly the lower resolution camera of it's peers. But resolution was not why I purchased it. For the last five years I've heard nothing but praise of it's image quality. Therefore, to be fair, I had to judge the HC1 (and the possible purchase of an A1) for the same reasons.

In the end, my initial enthusiasm is wearing off. I'm not happy with these findings, but for me, it's reason to budget for a better camera.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 05:15 PM   #3
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Hi Peter

The conclusion doesn't really surprise me to be honest.
HC1's trump card (obviously) is it's resolution, particularly in good light. Then it shines and you can forgive it its faults.

What is doesn't do very well, in comparison to your XL1 is low-light stuff, full manual control, flexibility etc.
But this is what i'd expect since the XL1 is designed to match fairly well the pro-type use you're putting it to, and the HC1 is, frankly, designed as a consumer cam.
So i think your comparison definitely has value and is interesting to hear of your findings. -nobody should be particularly surprised and nobody should take it as a sleight on the HC1, which is very good in certain situations.

Pro-type filming is not it's forté as you've confirmed.

For HDV footage for the sort of stuff you do, you'd have to go FX1 or Z1.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 05:29 PM   #4
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No surprise in terms of the results: the HC1 simply isn't as good a camera as the FX1 or Z1U, especially in challenging situations. Have you tried comparing either of the more expensive HDV cameras to your XL1, and if so what did you conclude from that?
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Old May 27th, 2006, 12:47 AM   #5
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Stu,

I'm happy with my HC1 for what it does for the money. But, I have to be brutally honest and see if it answers the question I've always pondered (and a weakness I've known in the XL1s): Is higher resolution the answer? No. The HC1 was the perfect test. I'll use it as the family cam, a B-roll and setup maybe.

In a way I feel some respect for and justified in my choosing the XL1s. It has been faithful to me for the last five years. However, it's showing it's age and needs to be replaced.

Kevin,

I am considering the Z1U, it's added skin tone settings is appealing. Plus the balanced XLRs, etc. I don't think I'll miss not having an interchangeable lens, as I've always used the lens that came with the canon, only swapping in a rented wide angle from time to time.

My local dealer decided not to get canon H1's for rentals, and upgraded to the Pany HVX200's. I got a close look at one two days ago. It's build like a tank and not consumerish as I initially thought. However, it raises a lot of work flow issues for much of the long form shoots that I do. Unfortunately, it would be another fun toy to have, but like the HC1, just won't fit.

I could get an H1, but for the price, I could stretch a little more and get two Z1U's, or upgrade the rest of my kit. I discussed this with the art director and he seems to agree. He pointed out that I shouldn't get bogged down in all the tech, and let my eyes and hands be the judge.

I do plan on renting the Z1U. I have to find a source close to the Reading, PA area. I also have the perfect shoot for this scheduled in July. A real job, not a test.

I have some questions about the Z1U, but I'll ask in the proper forum. It's very late and I'm about to take a nose dive into my keyboard.

I appreciate the responses.
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Old May 28th, 2006, 12:34 AM   #6
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I'd be curious to know if the A1U would have made the difference, as it apparently allows more control than the HC1.
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Old May 28th, 2006, 02:17 AM   #7
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The A1 would...

I tested it out for the day. the image is much better than the HC1 and it has the options for control and although its a quite colder picture to the canons, it does have some controls to make it come close...

Otherwise, I'd go for the FX1 or Z1. The skin tone controls are to die for in my opinion. I have put my FX1 up against the XL2, and although resolution isnt the answer to everything, it does have sharper picture and better image control.

Although, using an HC1 up against an XL1, I think the comparrison is a little had to digest and take seriously in my opinion... but *shrugs* his to his own.
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Old May 28th, 2006, 08:59 AM   #8
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Seeing is believing. Resolution aside, the HC1 would come close to the XL1s in full automode, but the menu/settings were too limited to allow me to achieve a similiar look in manual mode. Not being able to see in the dark was the other issue, and the speed to apply settings while under the gun was yet another issue. Granted it's a consumer cam.

However, I've read all the positives about this camera's image and wanted to know how it applies to my job. I purchased it as the family cam, and thought about getting an A1U for work. I don't think the A1U, from what I've read, will provide the extra settings and features I need. So, I'm looking at the Z1.
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Old May 28th, 2006, 06:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leo Pepingco
The A1 would...

I tested it out for the day. the image is much better than the HC1
That's strange considering that the hc1 and a1 are basically the same camera. As in fx1 = z1u. Except without the pro-features like xlr's.
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Old May 29th, 2006, 11:00 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikko Lopponen
That's strange considering that the hc1 and a1 are basically the same camera. As in fx1 = z1u. Except without the pro-features like xlr's.
While they are very equivalent mechanically and sensor wise, The FX1 is more than a Z1U with XLR, and the A1 is more than an HC1 with XLR. There is more to the firmware. The pro versions have a little more flexibility in control on capture settings, more capture modes and so on. I forget where the feature comparison is, but there are a couple out there that can help explain why an experienced person can get a better image with the A1.
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Old May 30th, 2006, 08:27 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff DeMaagd
but there are a couple out there that can help explain why an experienced person can get a better image with the A1.
There's the black stretch feature, but other than that the picture should be exactly the same. Unless you use cinegamma or such, which I wouldn't anyway.
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Old May 30th, 2006, 09:09 AM   #12
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Do a search on "colorimetric and resolution HC1 Alan Roberts"

Mr. Roberts provides a PDF that explains in great detail, all the settings and difference between the two cameras.

However, my test were not based on getting the image alone, but more importantly on how easy was to get the image in the first place. This site is full of rez charts and technical comparisons, but one forgets that "camera usage" is also a very important test.
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Old May 30th, 2006, 10:58 AM   #13
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The A1 has double the settings available over the HC1 in a number of key areas. It has the black stretch to help a bit in low light.
They will allow you to get some stunning footage. But some people simply don't like how the settings on these cameras work, preferring the standard f-stop approach rather than having to lock down the shutter sped and having to learn what Exposure setting is equivalent to which f-stop.

And for those people a Z1 maybe the better choice.
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Old May 31st, 2006, 12:18 PM   #14
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My friends are using the A1 and HC1 in professional areas of work with great results, incl. short films, documentaries and jumping out of planes with the A1 strapped to a helmet. It's an awesome little camera!

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Old June 1st, 2006, 05:38 PM   #15
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I shot a wedding this past weekend with an HC1, but I had to use my Panasonic 3-chip camera for the reception because of the poor lighting.

Peter, small world! I live in Shillington, right across the street from where Wyomissing begins.
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