HVR V1 - Some analysis from a new owner at DVinfo.net

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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 January 15th, 2010, 06:18 PM   #1
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HVR V1 - Some analysis from a new owner

Hi guys,

Been reading this forum for ages, and finally decided to join (thanks to all who have unknowingly assisted me in my video-related endeavours so far).

I invested in the V1 a couple of weeks ago, my thinking being that the A1E lacked a lot for the saving (prog. scan, smooth slow, 20x zoom etc), and the Z5 didn't add enough to spend the extra 800 or so. I was nervous about the 1/4 inch sensors, and am still puzzled as to why Sony went for these, as the limitations are clear.

CMOS is ok by me, whatever the haters say. I am an inexperienced videographer, but have captured some astounding images with this camera in good light, using just its presets. Wonderful clarity.

Cinematic depth of field style shots (blurred backgrounds and sharp focused subjects) are possible but difficult to acheive. If this matter a lot to you, maybe think about the Canon 7D? But, that's another story.

It's almost laborious to mention that the low lux performance ain't so hot, but it ain't. If you NEED to shoot at night, or in very dark stuations without any additional lighting, this isn't the camera for you. Even in a medium sized room with a 100W bulb overhead, the camera doesn't perform at its best. When shooting in progressive scan, I take the shutter speed down to 25 (from a default of 50) in low lux, which helps an awful lot. Still, you will not see great images from this camera in these conditions, maybe this is where Z5 owners get their money back?

Contrary to popular opinion, I don't believe that any gain should be used under most normal circumstances. Even at 3db, my images look noisier than i would like. I prefer a dark picture to lots of noise. 9-18db and hyper gain - forget about it. These settings have no place in pro videography/ cinematography (unless there is literally no other way to see your subject) Thoughts on this are welcome!

Big dissapointment: The smooth slow record is a silly novelty IMO. Don't buy for this feature, or even with it in mind. The images are of low quality, too much being sacrificed for the slow-down. Too harsh?

Ergonomics: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hold a camera that you would build? HVR V1 is that camera. It really balances beautifully. Virtually everyone agrees on this point so far as I know. Wonderful. And important. Clunky old Z1's produce much more fatigue than this lovely streamlined model, and that will affect your picture quality. So take it seriously.

The autofocus is surprisingly good, but goes crazy when the light starts to fade. The autofocus assist mode is a great compromise for those of us who lack the experience to follow focus (especially in HD). This is something to learn, but whilst panning, and following a moving subject, I don't know how you pro guys do it. Any tips are welcome!

No doubt, if you have the money for a Z7 (native flash), or X1 (next level), then forget about the V1, but really think twice before paying extra for a Z5 - Just my opinion, and by the way, I've only used these other models in shops (so sorry Z5 owners).

In all, I'm very pleased with the V1 - With a few accesories (merlin steadicam, Lights, an improvised dolly of some kind - all just dreams for me at present), I see no reason why we can't all get to work shooting features, right? Lovely cam, if you know its limitations.

Is this a fair review? Educate me if I've made foolish errors!

Cheers guys

John x
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Old January 15th, 2010, 06:38 PM   #2
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John, after a couple years or more of ownership, my experience of the 60i/30p model matches yours almost exactly.

CMOS has never produced a substantial problem for me.

I too have used a 1/30th shutter speed when shooting 30p - very helpful, within the limitations you mention.

My experience of gain has been more positive than yours - up to 9db seems OK to me. I'm not evaluating as a user who has feature films in mind, most of my work is training, with some documentary work on the side. I don't know if there might be a difference in gain performance between the 50i and 60i models, previous reviewers have hinted this, though I've not seen the two cams side-by-side.

Don't use autofocus much in my work, but, I don't do a lot of action-follow either. A pair of reading glasses in the camera case get a LOT of use - I probably have them on 75% of the time when shooting with the LCD (almost always).

Stunning picture quality outdoors with natural light.

Usually light any indoor shots. That's OK by me. Good picture quality. I've developed good technique to light fast with lightweight gear - lots of experience helps in this. If you know what your results will be before you start setup, things go fast.

Existing light - performance is poor to just acceptable, depending.

Depth of focus effects - barely possible.

I'm not much of a hand-holder. Shoulder-mount is usually minimum for me, usually working off a tripod.

Given all those differences in style and subjects, still, I think your review fits my experience pretty closely. Gain/noise differences? Maybe.
30 years of pro media production. Vegas user since 1.0. Webcaster since 1997. Freelancer since 2000. College instructor since 2001.
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Old January 15th, 2010, 09:31 PM   #3
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after 3 years using my v1p in general production work the only complaint (well it's not really a complaint), is the sony wa .8x wa makes the camera exceedingly front heavy.

as far as low light - well, it could be a lot better, but all things considered its ok - i can control most of my shooting environments.

i do a lot of work with thoroughbred race horses, filming them in paddocks, etc., i have to say that the 20x lens is magnificent for this, and i can assure anyone that tracking a race horse at full gallop along a wooden paling fence would prove the ultimate test - i have had no problems EVER with any rolling shutter effect, etc.,

am about to trade up to a z5 for a couple of reasons - a. weight of wa makes it very tiring shooting hand held (i do a lot of doco work), b. i want tapeless (mcr1) for some jobs - though i still need tape for the horses and abc tv, c. separate control of single audio input.

otherwise, the v1 is a stunning little camera....

btw. the sony wa stays on full time since it's zoom through. i did try a variety of other wa's, but i found all had some limitation on either zoom, or barrel distortion. the sony was the best compromise considering the limits of the cameras wa.

Last edited by Leslie Wand; January 16th, 2010 at 04:21 PM. Reason: add a comment
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Old January 16th, 2010, 11:48 AM   #4
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Location: Antrim, Northern Ireland
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I use the Red Eye 0.7x lens for wide shots if I need to work in tight spaces. It's not as quick to attach as the Sony 0.8x, but it slips under the stock Sony lens hood and is very light - it can fit in a pocket.

It's not full zoom-through (only to arround 30% of normal zoom range), and as I've noted elsewhere, there is some barrel distortion - but it's cheaper, lighter and less bulky than Sony's offering.
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Old January 16th, 2010, 12:34 PM   #5
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John, good summary. For me the thing i am getting next is a LCD monitor to help focus - I just recently used the V1 to shoot a classical music session and I managed to get shots with shallow DOF that looked good - the music director was pleased because he had been using video companies that by the time he saw footage on screen it looked VHS quality. But I find it really difficult to focus easily when trying for shallow DOF.

The V1, but with audio into a separate digital recorder using excellent mics, with Final Cut or a good NLE with colour correction, and there is nothing stopping anyone making a short or a feature. Its a revolution. The thing I need is to stop reading about gear and go out and shoot more!
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Old January 16th, 2010, 05:27 PM   #6
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Hi John!

Great summary! For an 'inexperienced videographer' i'd say you come across as very confident. I'm an aspiring film-maker and the Sony V1 was my first choice after about a month of research and a long time saving. I've never had any cameras before the Sony V1 and i must say i am very pleased with my choice.

While i have found it hard to achieve an artistic depth of field, i can only assume its down to the standard lense and my lack of experience - i have seen loads of beautiful photographic images coming out of the V1 online but they're usually using lense adapters with experienced cameramen behind them.

The low-light issue is a pain though and not much can be done about.

Overall good summary and im looking forward to learning more about my camera (when i get the time)!
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Old January 17th, 2010, 04:29 PM   #7
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Hi guys,

I've read all of your responses very carefully and looked up things I didn't understand/ wasn't aware of, so thanks so much for posting.

It's great to hear that the experiences of users who've spent more time with camera cohere roughly with my early impressions.

I was shooting in a park in London the other day, and the light was fading. When I got back, the clarity of the footage surprised me as the light went down, hanging on for longer than I thought it would. So, all is not lost for low lux!

Really, thanks for the advice and product suggestions/ recommendations!

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