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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 9th, 2006, 09:37 PM   #1
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Resolution vs. Other HD/HDV Camcorders

Ok, these cameras have 3 or 4 megapixel CMOS sensors. With 1.9 or 2.1 million active pixels...equal to 1920x1080i resolution, and more than the 1440x1080i HDV recording.

The other HDV cameras...Panasonics HVX200, JVX HD100/110/200/250, Canon H1, and Sony Z1/FX1 have 3 CCD sensors, however all of lower resolution. Other then the HVX200, I believe all record in 4:2:0.

How does the image in the HC1/HC3/A1 compare? How do the lenses compare? Is the HC3's lens different and have any issues?

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Old July 10th, 2006, 01:07 AM   #2
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The sensor isn't 16:9 though, so not all the pixels are being used for video.
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Old July 10th, 2006, 02:12 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Graham Hickling
The sensor isn't 16:9 though, so not all the pixels are being used for video.
The Sony info says 1.9M active pixels for the older CCD in the HC1/A1 and 2.1M for the HC3. That would be consistant with masking the 3M and 4M pixel sensors to 16:9.

That compares to less than 1M pixels in the HD100 and under 600k pixels in the HVX200 in 720p mode.

The videos I've seen from the CMOS Sony seem to have lots of detail...however I've never seen a resolution chart shot from them in any reviews. Colors look good to my eye...however again no color chart.

What I really would like to know is how the resolution compares on the charts.

Some videos have had what appears to blown out whites (typically in darker scenes) or crushed blacks (more so in light scenes). Most seem to have good range and operator error may be the issue. It also seems few of the A1/HC clips (none actually) were shot with any filters which may have improved the image further.

The A1/HC lack some of the controls and features of the HD100/HVX200, most noticably a progressive sensor (which should have been easy to do with the CMOS...isn't it really a progressive sensor anyway?). However those cameras are in the $5200-5500 range plus required accessories (tripod adapter for the HD100, digitial recording media for the HVX200) than make them more expensive. By comparison the A1 is $2000, the HC1 is $1350, and the HC3 is $1200.

Maybe the A1 will gain the HC3 chip and side loading soon...
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Old July 10th, 2006, 02:13 AM   #4
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The high-resolution sensors in the HC1/HC3/A1U are mainly relevant for taking still photos, which they do pretty well. For video, the image quality isn't as good as any of the more professional HD cameras, but isn't bad for the price.
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Old July 10th, 2006, 08:49 AM   #5
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Using a single chip with a bayer filter does kill the resolution a bit because of interpolation. We also have to look at the tiny lens that comes on these cameras compared to the larger clearly higher quality glass on the more expensive cameras. Glass is one of the single most important things when looking at HD. That being said I really am amazed at what this little camera can do.
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Old July 10th, 2006, 11:43 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Ziegelheim
Ok, these cameras have 3 or 4 megapixel CMOS sensors. With 1.9 or 2.1 million active pixels...equal to 1920x1080i resolution, and more than the 1440x1080i HDV recording.

The other HDV cameras...Panasonics HVX200, JVX HD100/110/200/250, Canon H1, and Sony Z1/FX1 have 3 CCD sensors, however all of lower resolution. Other then the HVX200, I believe all record in 4:2:0.

How does the image in the HC1/HC3/A1 compare? How do the lenses compare? Is the HC3's lens different and have any issues?
You are correct in suggesting that the HDV format is limited to 4:2:0. The HDV format is also only records 1440x1080 anamorphic pixels for 1080i, so the resolution of the actual sensor doesn't matter as much, though higher sensor densities may sample better.

The more expensive cameras are generally better but the A1U is such a tremendous bang for the buck. One person I've talked to says that he's compared the A1U with the Z1U and is happier with the picture quality A1U, I think the suggestion is because the A1U probably has a better MPEG encoder.
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Old July 10th, 2006, 11:57 AM   #7
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In various tests, the 1280x720 HD100 CCDs have higher resolution than the spatially offset 960x540 CCDs in the HVX200. This CCD really is 1980x1080. Overall, the 4:2:2 has some advantage over the 4:2:0, however the difference in resolution minimized that.

The A1 doesn't have the various adjustments and degree of control of those cameras. However it does have a higher resolution CMOS sensor. I'm just wondering if it actually records higher resolution. And I can't find any actual comparison...and I don't have access to cameras do to the comparison myself.

My guess is that it does have a higher resolution, which is effectively 1440x1080 on the tape.
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Old July 10th, 2006, 12:14 PM   #8
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Some posters, either on this forum, or on the FX/Z1U forum, mentioned that video from the HC1/A1 intercuts perfectly with video shot with those larger Sony 3-chip cams.

It's an argument that could say that the FX/Z1U's are no better than the HC1/A1's or that, if properly used, the HC1/A1's could get very decent results.

I do understand that the images from the larger Sony cams are noticeably sharper than the HC1 (my gut feeling it's based more on the sensor and not the Vario-Sonar lens, which I believe can actually resolve more details than the chip itself). Otherwise, simply comparing to various sources on the web, considering proper implementation and operator error, it's a shot in the dark.

I tend to agree with other posters here that the HC1/A1U are good for the money. That is, for 1/4 the cost of their larger cousins, you can get very close in a majority of uses.

Putting it another way, it's not a matter of good cam/bad cam. It's recognizing the right tool for the job.

Practicing what I preach, I'm going on a job tommorrow and plan on taking the HC1. It's a walkthrough/test run of a new postop procedure, and management decided to hold off on renting the Z1U's for this. I do plan on shooting most of my B-roll then, and will use the HC1 for that.

Why? Because I'm very confident that shooting straight video in well lit rooms, locked off on a tripod, will yield some very appreciable results.

I am simply amazed with the camera. After getting my new HDTV, I can stand the watch SD stuff anymore. After getting my HC1, I can stand to edit in SD either.
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Old July 10th, 2006, 01:44 PM   #9
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Quote:
It's an argument that could say that the FX/Z1U's are no better than the HC1/A1's or that, if properly used, the HC1/A1's could get very decent results.
In my experience the HC1 has more problems in dim lighting and high contrast situations than the big-brother FX1/Z1U cameras, so there is a quality difference. And it's not the same sensor setup between the two product lines, so it makes sense that there will be some differences.
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Old July 10th, 2006, 05:43 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Kevin Shaw
In my experience the HC1 has more problems in dim lighting and high contrast situations than the big-brother FX1/Z1U cameras, so there is a quality difference. And it's not the same sensor setup between the two product lines, so it makes sense that there will be some differences.
I can understand the low light...3 CCDs would probably be better than 1 CMOS sensor. However, by high contrast do you mean dynamic range? Why would the CCDs have an advantage there? Don't still cameras like the Canon 30D use a single large CMOS sensor (22.5mmx15mm, 8.2Mpixels)?
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Old July 11th, 2006, 09:48 PM   #11
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I'm not sure if it's a matter of dynamic range or what, but I had a situation with my HC1 where a bright area was completely washed out in a way I wouldn't have expected to have happen on the FX1. Might have been the way I had the exposure set, but I think it was more than that. In any case, the FX1/Z1U and HC1/A1U definitely use different sensors, so video won't be the same in all situations.
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Old July 11th, 2006, 09:53 PM   #12
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I just read this writeup on HC1/A1 exposure: http://hdvforever.com/hdv/exposure/. It appears that it starts loosing dynamic range after F4 is first hit from F4.8.
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Old July 16th, 2006, 04:23 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Ziegelheim
Ok, these cameras have 3 or 4 megapixel CMOS sensors. With 1.9 or 2.1 million active pixels...equal to 1920x1080i resolution, and more than the 1440x1080i HDV recording.

The other HDV cameras...Panasonics HVX200, JVX HD100/110/200/250, Canon H1, and Sony Z1/FX1 have 3 CCD sensors, however all of lower resolution. Other then the HVX200, I believe all record in 4:2:0.

How does the image in the HC1/HC3/A1 compare? How do the lenses compare? Is the HC3's lens different and have any issues?

Thanks,

David

About a year ago, I tried to shoot resolution targets with my HC1 and found that on this kind of targets, I would get a resolution similar to 1440x1080. So indeed Sony is using enough pixels to resolve that, but...


...but the other side of the equation is that:
-you only get that resolution if there is enough light. When noise reduction kicks in, resolution is compromised. A friend of mine pointed his camera at the coliseum (in Rome) at sunset for a few seconds every 15 minutes and you could see the resolution degrade slowly with the light.
-the lens has obvious chromatic aberrations. Nothing really bad for such a small zoom, but quite visible.
-chroma subsampling can be quite obvious depending on the subject
-mepg artifacts, although not worse than DV artifacts, can be quite noticeable on some subjects (eg tree leaves or grass).

The conclusion is: it's a great camera if you have good light and avoid brightly colored objects on a grey background or objects with many repetitive details (tree leaves). It's wonderful for the money, for the size and weight and it beats any DV camera hands down. But there are better cameras on the market.


As to the HC3, I have seen pictures which tend to show that the HC3 apparently shows as much fine details as the HC1, but those details sometimes bear little ressemblance to the reality (apparently the mpeg encoder sometimes goes crazy or they oversample on the CMOS, and the combination of noise reduction and oversampling does weird things). I don't know if that is true, I don't own a HC3.
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Old July 16th, 2006, 07:23 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Jerome Marot
-you only get that resolution if there is enough light. When noise reduction kicks in, resolution is compromised. A friend of mine pointed his camera at the coliseum (in Rome) at sunset for a few seconds every 15 minutes and you could see the resolution degrade slowly with the light.
There is the exposure setting that I think is called here "sun and moon". I've seen absolutely stunning nighttime footage that was recorded on this model camera, unfortunately it has to be set right.

Quote:
The conclusion is: it's a great camera if you have good light and avoid brightly colored objects on a grey background or objects with many repetitive details (tree leaves). It's wonderful for the money, for the size and weight and it beats any DV camera hands down. But there are better cameras on the market.
I don't think anyone has said that there aren't better cameras on the market, but you'll be spending twice as much to get the next camera model.
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Old July 16th, 2006, 10:12 PM   #15
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Jerome and Jeff,

Is some of the footage or stills you referred to available in native format?

Thanks,

David
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