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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 October 9th, 2006, 07:24 AM   #1
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HDR-FX1 or HVR-A1U ?

I'm new here and need some advice from more knowledgable filmers. I wanted to get input from both the FX1 gang and the A1U guys but cross posting looks like it's a no-no.

SO...more than one way to skin a cat - If you'd like to offer your advise (and I would truely appreciate it...) please visit the FX1 forum and respond to the posting entitled:

HDR-FX1 or HVR-A1U ? What's better for me?

Any and all educated and experienced opinions would be very much appreciated. Thanks,

Andy
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Old October 30th, 2006, 09:36 AM   #2
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Tape playback an issue?

As I wrote in the start of this thread, I film a lot of sporting events for the coaches, and to do highlight films for the kids every year. The Sony consumer camcorders I have been using have only been lasting me a year and a half or so before they start giving me problems playing back the recorded tapes. I shoot about 35 to 40 reels (tapes) over that time period. I clean the head with a cleaning tape about every second time I use the camera. Although I am very gentle with them, the transport mechanisms just don't seem to stand up and the video quality starts to degrade over that time period. This, and better quality video, are what is driving my decision to spring for a pro or prosumer model camera like the A1U or the FX1.

So, one more question I need to ask....is the fact that I play back these tapes through the camera for capturing going to continue to be a problem like this with the A1U or FX1 ? Is the transport mechanism any more robust in these cameras than the ~$500 consumer camcorders? Or..am I going to find that I need another playback device to save the camera anyway? This makes a huge difference to me, since it appears that a playback device for mini-dv tapes is a couple of grand in addition to the camera.
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Old October 30th, 2006, 10:55 AM   #3
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very surprised you're getting problems after just 30 or 40 hours of tape playback.

Maybe you've just been unlucky.
One thing i WOULD stop is using the cleaning tape every 2nd time you use the machine !! This is wayyyy too often. It isn't a good idea at all to use it that often and it just isn't necessary. In
fact this may be what is causing you problems - these tapes are inherently mildly abrasive (to do their job). you should use them infrequently and only when the camcorder either tells you to clean the tape heads or you are getting dropouts occurring. And only run it for 10seconds at a time, and never rewind the tape - once it reaches the end, throw it away.

I doubt the A1 and FX1 tape-transport is significantly different / more rubst from other cheaper Sony models, but i could be wrong on this.

you should choose one of those models for the performance and features that you need, not for "increased tape-transport reliability". I have never heard of anyone repeatedly encountering such tape-transport problems with sony camcorders. More info required i think, but for sure stop using the cleaning tape so much.

Finally, the recording heads CAN be replaced on these machines. Enquire with official Sony Service Center as to how much this would cost etc to see if the benefit is worth it etc.
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Old October 30th, 2006, 12:28 PM   #4
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First Sony I wnt through was a DCRTRV460. That started giving me "no tape" messages, or "cleaning tape inserted" messages after about a year and a half. This would happen even on brand new tapes. I would have to take the tape out, then reinsert it and sometimes it would be OK. Then it progressed to either refusing to play the tape back, or stuttering badly when it did. Sometimes if I FF the tape to the end, then REW the tape, it would play back ok, sometimes not. Sometimes it would not even recognise the tape as Hi-8.

A sony repair center told me they could easily fix it. I plunked down $200 to get it fixed and the guy told me afterward that it was dirty and needed alignment. He ask if I waas reusing tapes. Isaid that I did and he said to stop (I was using them 2x at the time) doing that and use the cleaner tape every other time I used the camera. I also stopped using Maxell tape and started using Sony. I did these things, and the camera was fine for a while. The exact same problems returned after about 2 months of use.

The next camera I bought was a more expensive DCRTRV530. After about 2 years of fairly heavy use, it has now started the exact same behavior. This camera has not totally screwed up yet, but I know by the signs that it is on its way. It is already starting to give me problems stuttering badly when playing tapes back sometimes. I have never abused either camera, never gotten them wet, or dropped them, or had them near salt water or sand. More often than not I shoot from a tripod, and no one uses them except me.

Frankly, I can't imagine anything that I might be doing to cause these problems other than the high rate of use. I am always very gentile when loading tape. I do shoot and capture video weekly, and the camera is used for the playback. The camera is out in cold conditions, or rainy conditions, at times, but it is always protected from getting wet. It is never left in the trunk or the car, it is always taken right back to the house, and is always in the house for at least 12 hours after a shoot before I capture video. If there is something I am doing to cause these problems, I haven't a clue what.
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Old October 30th, 2006, 12:56 PM   #5
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Yes, as Stu said, stop using the tape cleaning tapes so much.

Also, stop using your camera as a player so much. Stop rewinding and fast-forwarding so much. I would just shoot the footage, then rewind it once, then capture it once, the end. If you have a deck, even better - do the rewinding and capturing there to save your camera's heads. Or even if you have an external rewinder, use that instead of your camera.
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Old October 30th, 2006, 01:51 PM   #6
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Every one is giving you very good advise since the only time that you should be using a tape cleaner is when the camcorder tells you that it needs to be cleaned. Your camcorder obviously needs to be replaced so once you do get a new camcorder I’d stick with Sony tapes at all time.

If you have extra spare cash then I would suggest you get a HVR-DR60 and the HVR-M15U. The HDR-DR60 will allow you to stay away from the tape head of your camcorder for good and once you get home you can transfer all of your footage to the HVR-M15u tape deck for archiving and playback.


Sony HVR-DR60 http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...ughType=search
HVR-M15U http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...ughType=search
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Old October 30th, 2006, 02:04 PM   #7
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The HVR-M15U is a recorder/playback deck, yes? Is this the most cost effective playback deck out there? I see this is like $2400. On top of $2500 for the A1U, that's getting a bit pricey for me. I have seen hard drive recording units for $900 or so, that might be doable on top of the camera price....
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Old October 30th, 2006, 03:11 PM   #8
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If it makes any difference the A1u will cost you around 2100 dollars including rebate and B&H will give you a better offer by email for the HVR-M15U.

The HVR-M15U is mainly an alternative to using your camcorder as a tape deck since it is built to withstand constant usage for capturing, recordings and playback. Besides the standard DV cassettes, it also uses larger size cassettes with a capacity of up to 276 minutes.

If you were to choose either the DR60 or the M15U then the M15U would be a good choice.
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Old October 31st, 2006, 07:03 AM   #9
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OK, so what I think I am getting from all of this is that:

1) My consumer cameras are probably just plain wearing out the head from playing back and rewinding tapes much more frequently (about 80 hrs of video per year) than the casual user would.
2) Using the cleaning tape more frequently than is called for is adding to the premature head wear.
3) Going to a prosumer camera alone is not going to help the situation. I am going to need to use an external rewind and/or playback device (like the M15U) to avoid wearing the head at such a high rate.

So, I'm looking at $2500 for the A1U and another $2000 for a HD DV playback device, or direct to disk device to do this right. Thats about $1000 more than I can go.

Now I'm starting to consider SD again. I can buy a good SD camera for around $2000, and can use a cheap $200 consumer camera with ilink as a DV rewind/playback deck. If I go through one of those $200 cameras a year, who cares. Half the money of the HD setup and should be just fine for shooting sports highlight reels and vacation footage.

IS my thinking correct here ?
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