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Sony HVR-V1 / HDR-FX7
Pro and consumer versions of this Sony 3-CMOS HDV camcorder.


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Old May 13th, 2008, 06:23 PM   #1
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V1 -- back focus or other problems?

I.m interested in getting a V1U, but read a few posts about people having back focus problems. Has this problem been resolved in newer cameras? are there any other problems or bugs with this camera that I should be aware of? If you have a V1U, would you give me your opinion on this model, good or bad?
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Old May 13th, 2008, 07:55 PM   #2
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V1U is a very good camera.

It is of a class of cameras (1/3" chips HDV) that don't have exceptional low-light performance. This is most evident to people who formerly owned a Sony PD150/170 or VX2000/2100, which have truely exceptional low light performance. The V1 is a logical choice for owners of those cameras looking to go to HDV for a variety of reasons.

Many people who had backfocus issues with the V1 resolved them by turning off the "Macro" lens mode. For some reason, the factory default is "On", and this defeats the ability to manually focus by zooming in, focusing, then zooming out. Once Macro is turned off in the user menus this standard manual focusing technique works fine.

Of course some people had genuine backfocus misadjustments, which are a Sony repair depot issue that should be addressed under warranty.

I like my V1 just fine! I make very pretty pictures with it. But the grass is always greener, I'm sure I'll be renting an EX1 before long, and maybe buying a Z7 eventually. The EX1 has much larger chips (at greater expense), but is limited to recording to flash memory cards or hard drive. I do so much long-format event recording that I really need longer runs and easier archive workflows than an all-solid-state recorder offers today. The Z7 gives you both a tape drive and flash memory recording.
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Old May 13th, 2008, 09:00 PM   #3
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Seth,
Thanks for your reply. Here's a link to the post that has me so concerned about purchasing the V1U I should have put this in my previous post.
http://videomaker.com/community/foru...ar-documentary
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Old May 13th, 2008, 10:13 PM   #4
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I ran across that post as well, and as a V1U owner it was very concerning to read. I was disheartened to read the items on the "bad" list, but eventually I put some of it into [my own] perspective.

First of all, while I do have high-hopes of doing a major production someday, the fact is that I currently am not. The conditions, environments, and the number of camera operators discussed in that post is nowhere near what I am putting my camera through. I shoot video of my son, and I take it out in the backyard to video birds, and I take it to parks to video nature... and, I'm the only person that uses my video camera.

Similarily, I probably won't be hot-swapping microphones any time in the near future, so that isn't a concern to me at all. But again, that is based on how I [personally] utilize my camera.

I don't think the headphone audio level is too low at all. In fact, when I thought more about what was written in the post, I kept remembering that the cameras were being used for NASCAR... so I started to question whether or not the "low audio" was actually because they were shooting in an environment that is louder than what would be considered "normal". Is that the case? I don't know. But again, I do know that for me (and how I use my camera) the audio is just fine.

I totally did not understand the comments about the manual features. I run my V1U on full manual (iris, gain, and shutter), and I don't ever have to go into menus to do anything (with the iris, gain, or shutter). When I first got the V1U, I did tweak one setting (for iris, shutter, and gain), but it truthfully was one setting, and I haven't changed it since. Also, even though I run in full manual mode, switching to auto for iris, gain, or shutter can be done with a touch of a button, which are very conveniently located in plain view on the outer case of the camera (not in a menu).

I researched video cameras for quite a while before I bought the V1U. I read all the bad reviews on it. I even watched the bad videos from it. But when I broke it down by feature-set, I felt it was a great camera for the price. And when I critiqued the videos and reviews with a really critical mind and eye, I kept wondering if the "reviewers" had everything configured the way it needed to be for the conditions it was being subject to. But again, I knew that if I [personally] was faced with a low-light setting (for example) I would not fully rely on the camera to "do-it-all"... I would attach my video light... but that's me.

I won't do a sales-pitch on you to try and convince you to buy the V1U, because there are just too many cameras out there that are so good right now. But I will tell you I love it. And I don't regret buying it for a second.
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Old May 14th, 2008, 01:20 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Michael Krawchuk View Post
Seth,
Thanks for your reply. Here's a link to the post that has me so concerned about purchasing the V1U I should have put this in my previous post.
http://videomaker.com/community/foru...ar-documentary
Well, I don't know. The original poster on this thread makes many claims about the camera, but when he/she wrote "The cameras were all set up to not have any AUTO function at all and that took layers of settings to override the general design of the camera." it made me doubt that the crew and engineering were really all that professional. I have to agree with Andrew, above, that Sony gives you easy access to full manual, as well as various "priority" modes and full auto... without resort to the menu system. You just press the buttons on the back and spin the wheel to adjust gain, shutter, white balance, iris - all the exposure controls except neutral density are on the back and easily adjusted or switched to auto.

Sony does have their way of structuring menus, and I suppose if one is raised on Panasonic, Canon or JVC menu systems they'll find the Sony system is different. That's a given when switching between cam manufacturers. I teach in a Canon environment, and sometimes it seems like their ideas are so backwards - but then I'm sure Canon users say the same thing about Sony or Pana.

Umm... what is ABC doing with prosumer camcorders at NASCAR? Oh, never mind...

Audio dropouts - never experienced them. Have done some hot plugging and hot swapping. Don't do sports, haven't used the cam in heavy RF environments. And yes, I am also an audio engineer with good mics and good monitoring in field and edit. The original camera-mounted shotgun is not an excellent mic by any standard and is only suited for collecting background ambience, wild sound, and backup. The gain structure available with that mic is not that good either. Is this a problem? Not for me... I'd never want to depend on a camera-mounted mic for anything important, it is just too far from the subject to sound good. I go out with wired lavs and wireless lavs, and a hypercardoid on a boom. But for my subjects it's usually a wired lav.

Stabilizer - I've heard of such issues, never experienced them myself, this is also a Sony repair depot fix.

"Ultra Macro Mode" - never experienced it. Once I switched Macro off and started keeping a pair of reading glasses in the camera case I never had another focusing issue. (old tired eyes - the reading glasses really help critical focus with the LCD)

My headphone jack hasn't fallen apart, but then I'm not shooting in the high-stress environment of NASCAR pits and whatnot.

Audio from headphone jack too low? Debateable. With the low gain of the on-camera mic, yes. I've never had a problem monitoring any other mic.

Too many layers of menus to get to manual control? This is just plain wrong.

Don't get me wrong - some V1s have had genuine backfocus and stabilizer issues, and the V1 is not the best camera in the world. But it is most definitely worth considering in the $3000-$4000 range, and for me it has been very, very good.
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Old May 14th, 2008, 01:40 AM   #6
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I'm planning on picking up one of these cameras myself in a couple weeks or so. One thing I've learned is to take most reviews with a grain of salt. Another thing I've noticed is that the few people who run into problems are generally a lot more vocal about it than the majority of people who are happy and content with their product.

Yet one more thing I've experienced is that some people tend to have some incredibly unrealistic expectations about the cameras in this price range. It seems like whoever wrote that review you linked to fits the description. True, the V1 isn't going to perform at the same level as a camera like the F350 or a more "professional" camera- but things like budget constraints tend to have quite an impact on our final purchase decisions. Of course, it's up to us to use our creativity and ingenuity to do the best we can with the tools we have available to us.

I'm sure you can find just as many drawbacks on any camera in this price range, but the V1 is a good choice. That said, I think the V1 is a great camera, and I can't wait to get one of my own!
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Old May 14th, 2008, 03:17 AM   #7
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A bit of a "me too" here, with the caveat that I'm not a pro and don't spend my working life using the camera in harsh conditions.

I agree with Seth and Andrew. I'm not sure what the person on Videomaker was going through, but I don't understand half of the issues (unless it's a genuine fault with the camera, which should be addressed by Sony).

I have no problems with backfocus when not on macro. Macro just doesn't turn on by itself, though it is a bit odd having a "macro off" indicator without a "macro on" one!

Controls for focus auto/manual, iris, shutter speed, white balance etc. are all on the camera body. There's a great big auto/lock button on the back as well - I was caught out at the start when I was unable to change any settings, and it turned out I had inadverently turned this button to "lock"!

The only major settings change for often-used functions I had to make via the menus was assigning features to the custom buttons (steadyshot on/off, macro on/off, infinity focus).

I can confirm that headphone levels are fine if you have a decent mic (i.e. not the stock Sony one!). Make sure the volume is turned up - flip the screen out and look for the volume + - control and wind it up. For some reason mine defaulted to a very low setting out of the box.

I've never had audio drop out. Stabilizer never goes "haywire" (turn it off on a tripod or for smooth, slow pans or zooms - read the manual!!).

Sure, you can poke around in the menus for hours (days!) and create picture profiles etc and tweak various settings. But I find the camera as a whole is very well laid out, and easy to use, and (for a hobbyist) is remarkable value for money. I mean, I'd love a great big shoulder mount 350 or something, but there's an old saying about cutting your suit to match your cloth that springs to mind!
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Old May 14th, 2008, 12:22 PM   #8
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Guys,
Thanks for all the replies. when you read a bad review like that, It's hard not to be concerned or leary of purchasing that camera. I feel more comfortable about that model after reading your replies. Thanks!

Seth,
Thanks for the reading glasses tip. I have a set of old tired eyes also, and never thought to use my reading glasses.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 12:33 AM   #9
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watch the show No Reservations on the Travel Channel.

it's shot 100% with the VU1.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 02:40 AM   #10
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Also see here:

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=114011

If a V1 is good enough for Claudio Van Planta, it's good enough for little old me!
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Old December 15th, 2009, 10:30 AM   #11
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Sony V1U 2 Years of Experiences

I've owned my V1U since October of 2007. I'm not a fanboy, I treat my camera as a professional tool, and I expect it to deliver as a pro tool. I've loaned and rented the camera to a number of friends and acquaintances, all of whom are professional video folks, some with quite impressive IMDB reps.
The camera has performed well - not great . . . well, actually great for the money invested. I have gotten a lot of bang for my buck with this camera.
It is a reliable and capable element in my production arsenal. It has done extremely well in some circumstances, and performed poorly in others. It has definitely done what I expected for the $3800 I spent on it, but if you are looking for pro-line performance, spend the additional $3-4k and get the EX3 or V7U. This is a prosumer camcorder, after all.
By my reckoning, the V1U does NOT have a parfocal lens, and this has thrown many folks off, yelping about back focus. If you use the lens as specified by Sony, and understand non-parfocal lens dynamics, you will probably not experience problems. Focus on your subject, use the expanded focus and auto assist where appropriate, and don't expect to be able to use the lens from one extreme of the zoom range to another while maintaining focus. Since the zoom range is so expansive (I mean it is huge), this shouldn't really be a problem anyway. The lens seems to have 2 or 3 ranges of focus. Adjust as needed for your subject.
The V1U goes "soft" below F4. IMO, this is what you would expect from a lens, but many people are used to the infinite focus of a consumer camcorder, and they get thrown off by this. The "soft" look of the V1U is fairly unique, and I've been able to combine the skin detail settings and the sub-f4 look to make a unique and signature look, especially when shooting older women, people with acne scars, etc. Keep in mind, the "soft" look does not look like preceding camcorders like the XL1S, VX1000, VX2000, etc. It is a unique look . . . but you can match it with the EX1 and EX3, so I'm guessing that this is a design capability that Sony likes and has adopted for its later camcorders.
The V1U does not perform well in low light. Period. If you crank up the gain, you get decent results, and I have produced "capable" and "watchable" SD DVDs with 12db of gain in nightclubs and bars. I attribute the poor low light performance to the lens barrel and small sensors, and attribute to good signal to noise ratio to to the CMOS image block. I shot side by side with a Z1U and my camera did much better on signal to noise. I shot next to a DSR-250 and my shot looked like a smeary mess compared to the 2/3" CCDs and wide barrel.
Don't put this camera up against a $15,000 camera with huge sensors and a TV lens and expect it to measure up. I've had a few rental clients who have been trying to match footage (particularly SD footage) from betacam and other high-end cameras, and they were very disappointed. Hell, I am also disappointed that I don't have an extra $12,000 lying around to spend on a better camera. Maybe next year.
I've never had any sound or audio problems that I couldn't attirbute to mic error. There are two levels of audio adjustment - one is controlled by switches on the external inputs, and the second set of settings is clearly labelled in the menu. Everything seems to perform as specified. The "drop-outs" I read about are likely the result of the camera going into standy mode - as it goes into standby, the tape heads detach from the tape and the audio shuts off for maybe 3/4 of a second. This never happens while you are recording, only when idling with the camera. You can tell you have standby, because the camera takes and extra second or so to begin recording when you've idled for a while. In my book, this is a "good" behavior, as it is saving my heads from unneccesary wear. It has been a bit of a pain on documentary shoots.
Audio quality is good, even great for the compression in the HDV spec. I read one post where a guy claimed to be an audio engineer and ran a bunch of test signals into his V1U and was threatening a class action based on the performance. This has NOT been my experience - audio quality has exceeded what I expected to get from the compressed audio. The auto-gain functions beautifully - as good as some of the best consumer audio compressors I have used. 2 different knee settings on the compressor. How did they get all that into this little camera?
I like the body style of this camera, it is just the right weight. I'm a pretty small guy, 5'8" and 160 lbs. I don't like schlepping a heavy weight camera and its big ass tripod around in the California heat, or New England cold. I can carry this camera, a tripod, and my Steadicam onto a flight. This was the ultimately the determining factor for me, why I didn't spring for the EX1 or buy the Panasonic 200 or JVC 200, all of which felt bulky and awkward to me when handheld.
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Old December 15th, 2009, 11:39 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum View Post
V1U is a very good camera.

It is of a class of cameras (1/3" chips HDV) that don't have exceptional low-light performance. .
The V1U is a 1/4" HDV this is a very big difference!!

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Old December 15th, 2009, 05:39 PM   #13
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watch the show No Reservations on the Travel Channel.

it's shot 100% with the VU1.
That's true, but now they've move on to the Z7. My daughter's boyfriend is their graphics designer. V1 was also used as a B camera for the Out of Alaska series.

Just for the record I have had my V1 to Sony twice for back focus issues (purchased in December 2006). Each time they fixed it under warranty. Now it's soft again, so I have been using the autofocus to catch and lock the focus.

Recently I upgraded to a Z7, better in low light, more professional lens with a back focus adjustment.
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Old December 16th, 2009, 10:58 AM   #14
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Matthew, great write-up on the v1. I've had mine for several years as well. My main issue with the cam is its low light performance. I do a lot of run and gun type shooting using available light. Looking at the specs the v1 should have been equal to my trusty old vx-1000. Nope, not even close. And now I have a back focus issue. So I just ordered a z5. We'll see how that works out. jm
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