HVR-A1 or another PD-170 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 July 28th, 2007, 03:47 AM   #1
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HVR-A1 or another PD-170

Hello all.

I'm sitting with the issue of purchasing a second camera and was wondering if I should stick with another PD-170 or get a HVR-A1.
I will for now be exclusivley outputting to DV fromat.

The reason I was considering the A1 was because of the price and size.
I shoot mainly music videos and some corporate stuff.

My main question is. Is the DV footage from the A1 (wheather shot in HDV and downsampled or shot in DV mode) as good as that of the PD-170?

That's my main concern..for now..

Thanks.
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Old July 28th, 2007, 03:48 PM   #2
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I would lean towards getting the A1 personally. Downrezzed in post,the output should be as good or better than the output of a PD170. And the sound on the A1 is much better with attenuated XLR inputs with phantom power, etc. And you would be prepared as things head more towards HD in the future.
That said, the big concern would be the low light capacity of the A1 which is not great.
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Old July 29th, 2007, 09:24 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank Howard View Post
I would lean towards getting the A1 personally. Downrezzed in post,the output should be as good or better than the output of a PD170. And the sound on the A1 is much better with attenuated XLR inputs with phantom power, etc. And you would be prepared as things head more towards HD in the future.
That said, the big concern would be the low light capacity of the A1 which is not great.
Doesn't the PD-170 have the same Audio XLR inputs?

But I'm more concerned about the original question if anyone can elighten me. Thanks

Mike
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Old July 29th, 2007, 01:12 PM   #4
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The short answer to your original question is yes. But remember that the A1 will be 16:9 and won't match with the PD170's 4:3. And 16:9 on your PD will kill your resolution.

http://www.adamwilt.com/DV-FAQ-etc.html
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Old July 29th, 2007, 01:47 PM   #5
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You can also shoot 4:3 on the A1, so if that's what you want, no worries.
But either way you shoot, the footage from the A1 is definitely going to look as good as your PD170 footage, if not better.

Last edited by Chris Harris; July 29th, 2007 at 01:51 PM. Reason: more info
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Old July 29th, 2007, 03:12 PM   #6
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Yes, excellent point. Was going to edit and add that, but you beat me to it...
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Old July 30th, 2007, 03:57 AM   #7
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a1 or pd170

sort of satisfied a1 owner ; but IMO pd170 clearly outperforms a1 with respect to low ligth capablilities & image quality . So if you intend to work with SD and don't need 16:9 my choice would be clear in fawor of 170'.

a1 has advantages on portability and greaty battery stamina, but i guess you'll fid the "on screen command driven" interface quite annoying . quite annoying ....
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Old July 30th, 2007, 05:12 AM   #8
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I'm thinking you have a PAL PD170, in which case the 16:9 performance is very good. Not quite up to its 4:3, but as it's electronic anamorphic, quite acceptable. Have you tried it out?

If you're shooting with the A1 you can of course shoot in the 4:3 mode (in SD only, of course). But it's just way behind the PD in the gloom, and however good the lens, however lovely the 16:9 and Hi-Def options are - when the light gets low it just gives up.

Music videos and some corporate stuff you say. Well the latter may well still be 4:3, but the former surely aren't, so the A1 takes on added appeal, especially as it gives you the HDV option and is more future-proof. But there's little carry over (different batteries etc) so another 170 (while they're still available) might be a good idea. Or how about this - a second hand PD for half price as everyone moves to the Z1.

If you love the PD's shooting control the A1's hopeless exposure 'bar chart' will annoy you. You won't know when you're in gain-up or ND mode, or what aperture you're shooting at. But it's small and light, and in HDV and good light the results are eye-widening.

tom.
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Old July 30th, 2007, 05:35 AM   #9
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If you are looking to mix the footage I would definitely go for another PD170 unless you are always working in good light. As soon as the light drops away the A1 needs work in post as the saturation and sharpness deteriorate. Reds are difficult to match with a Z1E and I would think a PD170 with its excellent low light performance would really show up the A1's deficiencies.

When you want to go HD change both cameras is my advice.
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Old July 30th, 2007, 11:55 AM   #10
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A few things here:
The A1 is easily as good quality as the PD170 when downrezzed to SD and usually a bit better if you have a decent workflow and don't downrezz in camera. If you are not getting as good or better output, look to your workflow for the cause of your problems..

Again, low light is the A1's achille's heel. If you plan on doing any low light stuff you will probably want to stay with the PD170 which does extremely well in low light. If you will be lighting everything then the A1 is back in the running.

The exposure settings on the A1 is a little annoying at first, but there are charts around here that show the fstop equivalents, where the ND filters come in (7-13), and where gain starts getting added (19).

The batteries will be different so that will be a minor expense/hassle.
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Old August 3rd, 2007, 01:19 AM   #11
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Bit the bullet

Right, thanks for the info guys. After a lot of research, I eventually bit the bullet and purchased the A1. It's a lovley little thing, and of course I immediatley set it up against my PD-170 and did some comparative shots.

My results after extensive testing.
HDV footage donconverted in camera to SD, is better than shooting in SD.
Colours and sharpness is increased.
Lowlight = quite satisfactory actually, and not that bad at all. By the time it gets bad enough, I would be using lighting anyway.
Zoom/focus ring = quite flimsy and inconsistent, more of a gimmic i.m.o.

PD-170 VS HVR-A1
Everything captured as SD..i.e. 4:3 (native PD-170 mode)
The PD still rocks and consistently has better image quality, sharpness, colour reproduction than the A1.
The A1 isn't bad, let me just add that in, but the PD's images are superior, by about 25%.

When zooming in to someone's face for instance, the PD's picture is very detailed. The A1 is slightly blurry in comparrisson.

I am talking about real world application here, in a DVD delivered format. I am not saying that if delivered in HDV that the PD outshines the A1.
I am delivering a DVD and that is what I can use and deliver to clients today.

In a few years, when HDV is the norm, the PD will make a nice doorstop.

But today, right here and now, for corporate DVD's and medium still transferred to Betacam, the PD-170 still rocks.

I also did a documentary style test shoot using the A1 exclusivley, and viewed the footage. (SD of course) and it was fine, as I was not comparing to the PD at the time. I walked around some building sites where there was no light indoors, just natural light filtering through any open doors or windows, and the A1 performed superbly.

My final conclusion??

I would not hesitate to use th HVR-A1 as an additional camera on a shoot, and intercutting between the two is not a major problem. I would however not rely on it as my main camera at this point in time.

Hope this makes sense..
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Old August 7th, 2007, 11:42 AM   #12
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The reason that occurred is that downconverting in camera doesn't produce very good results as I mentioned before. With a good workflow, downconverting in your NLE instead of in camera, you will find the A1's output to be at least as good as your PD170 and probably better.
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Old August 7th, 2007, 01:05 PM   #13
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Keep testing Mike - nice purchase btw


I have VX2100 (PD's lil bro) and A1U. After getting a 2x zoom, macro, and super fisheye lenses for the A1U, I'm in love, again.

I now use the A1U a lot more, but still reserve the VX/PD for low light situations or more "rugged" locations.
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Old August 8th, 2007, 01:34 AM   #14
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More testing, more camera's

Hi all
Thanks for all the responses. I have in the mean time aquired an andditional camera, the VX2100. Yes I know it does't have all the gadgets of the PD 170, but as an additional camera it's perfect and matches the PD170 in footage, frame for frame....so that's cool. It actually has a surprising number of manual features, and is still more camera than I can handle..

Back to the HVR-A1..did some more testing, more side by side shots, and consistently, the PD is a fraction sharper, a fraction better colour.

Today I'm going to dump some HDV footage, and downconvert in the NLE and then redump the same footage as DV and do a side by sied comparrisson by burning onto DVD and splitting the footage halfway on the screen. I'll post some stills for anyone interested.
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Old August 8th, 2007, 07:17 PM   #15
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You might want to experiment with your A1U settings Mike as well as your workflow (unless you're still doing the downrez to SD in camera that is).

Even being severely hampered by having it's resolution brought down severely and cropped to 4:3 it should be looking at least as good as the PD-170, except in low light where the PD-170 clearly shines. Part of this is the superior lens on the A1U. But the differences won't be great because the downrez will throw away most of the information recorded in 16:9 HD. It's kind of like saying a Maserati isn't so fast when you put square tires on it...

In it's native HD and 16:9, of course the A1U will deliver you breathtaking output that will give several orders of magnitude greater resolution.
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