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Old April 20th, 2007, 01:47 AM   #1
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Call me silly but... (long post - FX7!!)

Hey all.

After having sold my DVXs (jobs require moving up to HDV at least) I've been doing the HD shuffle with many of you others, a.k.a. the Canon Sony Panasonic JVC dance...

Well when the HX A1 came out I just had to take a look. Now, I've had a couple of HC1s already, and have shot stuff for work on Z1us, HD110s, and XH H1s. So last weekend I actually made a trip to a pro camera shop to get my own hands on an HVX just to see, and to tell myself that I'd not left that one out, and to talk with the guys, see what cameras are hot - or not.

Okay, so this is definitely HVX/H1/G1/A1/V1 land these days. The latest and the greatest.

However...

My main work is as an editor. I've done primetime network stuff in SD, docos in HD and HDV, drama in everything, especially film. In fact, I'm shooting a short drama piece on my Aaton S16 in the next three days., then cutting it afterwards.

I use Avids at work and FCP both at work and at home. Mainly, the HD stuff I cut for others has at least a little HDV originated footage, which I upconvert to DVCPro HD just as soon as I can, if the client doesn't ask for another mezzanine format. The lower budget stuff is around 80% HDV, 20% P2.

After looking at most of the wonderful articles and threads here and elsewhere, and all of the reviews, and cutting together a lot of programming from footage from all of these cameras, I can tell you - unless it's true HD and things are moving quickly across a screen, the cameras are all great, every one of them.

Even the FX1 and FX7, amateur though they may be.

I've not cut stuff from the HV10 or 20 yet, but I work in Hollywood so it's just a matter of time before that too comes across my desk.

Thing is, after you're done cutting and they get it all squished up into that narrow broadcast bandwidth (and getting narrower every day, so I hear), unless you're shooting high end HD, there really isn't much difference (after all the online guys are done sweating over it and swearing at the camera guys) in origination by the class of camera - i.e. most all HDV cameras will look somewhat similar, separated a bit by the 1 and 3 tube variety, and maybe a little bit more by the CCD/CMOS flavors.

And the other thing is, no matter what the networks and other distributors say, if a terrific enough program comes their way that they want to buy it, they don't care if it's shot on a cell phone. In fact, it would make for better publicity if it were.
So QC (quality control) people complain and we fix the footage up some and let's face it, HDV is all over the place and producers are handing in HDV footage. It won't go away anytime soon.

Sure, if I have time, or if the piece is short enough or demands a particular look, I'll take the 60i and de-interlace it, and process every frame to get it looking just right. I'm glad to have the tools to be able to do that.

Varicam or higher quality footage is another matter entirely. I'd have to put the HVX footage in with that, just because of the recording format. It's not an HDV camera.

When things start to move, especially quickly and sideways, is when the footage starts to tell which camera it came from.

So finally, call me silly, but I got an FX7. Why? 'cause it's around a grand less than the other cameras, and, thanks to us and the media, everybody's so A1 silly that some shops have started to panic and discount their FX7 stock more than the other cameras. Good for me.

Plenty of money left over for a Beachtek , wireless mics (okay, maybe just one wireless mic), and a couple of doodads before anything like the budgets of a V1 or an A1, let alone an HVX or above , are reached.

And I've got a ton of HDV tapes that sometimes need looking at and the HVX won't play them.

Moreover, I'm building a 35mm DOF unit for my 35mm Lomo lenses, and once you've gotten that lot out in front of a camera, with the studio matte box and follow focus and all of that, if you start out with something long to begin with, it becomes ridiculous (to me) to try and operate it. So better, for me, to start with a shorter camera.

Also, coming from an Arri cameras and a Nikon EL (vertical shutters) I kind of dig the slanted verticals that the FX7/V1 chipset produce when panned fast or when something fast goes by. Plus the reduced diagonal jaggies (actually, that's a major plus, for me).

Finally (and this was the most important factor, I feel, in my decision) I tried holding them. Myself. All of them. At least ten minutes each and every one. And just fooling around with them, running tape through them, playing back, ingesting, etc. etc.. Just getting a real feel for each camera instead of just reading about it. Sorry, as well as just reading about it, I should say.

Honestly? Being an DVX guy, only the HVX and the V1u/FX7 felt similar in the hand. All the others felt long in the front, very heavy, and left heavy (to me. YMMV, of course). Especially my fave up until then, the A1.

Now I do a lot of reality/doco style shooting, hand held, run and gun. Game show style, race to the next place style coverage, all on the fly. Quick reloads, long tape runs. Plus a lot of nature related backpacking stuff.

Yes, I do own a steadicam style stabilizer, but do I want to use one for that kind of job? All day long?

Plus I know me, a few hours into the next gig with an A1 hanging off the front of my hands, I'd be shaking all over the place and the footage would be technically superb but unusable due to operator error.

So I picked all of them up and hey, what can I say? the FX7 fit my hand the best.
I was able to bend my pinky down and around the front (lens end) of the grip and get a ton more fore- and-aft leverage, quite enough to shoot one handed, and get the shot.

And five minutes into holding it, I was still fine (thanks, all you patient shop guys, and gals) whereas with the others I felt like going to the gym and working out.

Ten minutes later it was the only hand held (i.e. not counting the HD110/200 series cameras, great but I can borrow a Varicam) camera left standing. Err.. holding. .

Don't know why that is, but the V1u lasted the second longest, and the HVX the shortest, followed by the G1, and then the A1. Maybe I should go work out after all...



So no, it's not the latest greatest camera on the planet, but it's great for what I want to use it for and besides, it's mine.

After a lifetime of handling cameras, the best ones I've ever owned, the most expensive and highly rated (yes, I still have Leicas in my vault) usually sat at home while the Pentaxes or other cheapo cameras were, ultimately, what I took around with me every day, got dinged, ripped off and replaced -- and got me the shots whereas the expensive ones were just not there, at the right time.

So I've learned my lessons, I hope.

The FX7's just sitting nearby, taking its charge. It will go into my soft bag tomorrow on the next shoot while I start to play with it and own it in my down time.

In fact, it's not been drooled over at all., not even once.

No, the HVX still gets the drool factor for me, and when I have the pennies saved up and/or a client requests one, then I'll get it and love it and use it like crazy. By then the P2 situation will be more reasonable as well, and Sony will have forced Panasonic to rethink its pricing structures some.

For me, for now, if I absolutely need a film look, I'll shoot my Aaton.

Do I regret not buying the absolute best that money can buy? Sure. Maybe. But I can just see the other side of it too. Would you take an Aaton out every day, everywhere you went, just to see what you could shoot? Or an HVX? Or an A1? Or would they just sit there, safe in the vault, until the job came or perfect time came to use them?

But you see, I've got this neat little unassuming 60i HDV camera that's just sitting there, ready to go and make movies. Not someone else's movies.

My movies.

And sure, I'll post them here when I get something worthwhile to share.
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Old April 20th, 2007, 05:33 PM   #2
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Best post i've seen in a while.

"The best camera is the one you've actually got with you".


- And we all know that, generally, for most people, the smaller & lighter the camera is, the more likely you are to actually have it with you.

Something to think about, rather than perhaps some people agonising endlessly over the last 3% of image quality.

Keep it Real people.
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Old April 20th, 2007, 06:27 PM   #3
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Chris:

My wife made me get an HV20 because I was lugging FX1 everywhere. I'm glad she did. Its quite a package in such a small space.
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Old April 20th, 2007, 06:54 PM   #4
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Chris,

Thanks for the insight on all your experiences as an editor with the many HDV cams out there. I am still reseraching the various cams to upgrade all of my current equipment. Anyway, its good to hear what you had to say, especially consdiering your tv credits and experience with the cameras in use today.

Cheers- Joe
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Old April 21st, 2007, 12:57 AM   #5
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Chris,

As I have made the decision to go hd in the next year I have lurked around here. this is a great post, just good sound thoughts!!

I have had the A1 and h1 in mind ( I am a gl2 xl2 user), but lurking about in the back of my mind was the FX 7. Mostly for the ability to shoot real slow motion, more frames per second like my old bolex movie camera did.
I shoot predominantly wild life and slow mo is a great attribute.

curiously, have you used that feature of your fx 7???

thanks for sharing your welath of knowledge!!!!
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Old April 21st, 2007, 01:00 AM   #6
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Thank you Chris

This was the most informative thread Ive read in a long time about all the new cams out there

Once again Thank you

Cheers

Hans
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Old April 21st, 2007, 01:31 PM   #7
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Yes, thank you Chris.. I recently had the opportunity at a local Sony store to play with both the FX7 and FX1, and as soon as I am able to, I will be purchasing the 7. I agree completely with your output and the output of the poster after you that the last little bit of image quality most complain about, the average user and also viewer of that content will never notice. I know that my clients aren't that critical eyed.

And besides for the price and the video, it certainly felt good, was easy to get used to the button layout, and despite what others have said(of course I am no trained eye here, but just being extremely concsious of this), the low light performance on that camera was fantastic... So much so, that I only had to turn the gain up to +9 in a room only illuminated by a television, but otherwise completely pitch black, and I didn't notice any chroma noise at all. I was looking through the viewfinder and LCD, and this was to be honest the only thing I was concerned about with the camera because I read "low light this, and low light that, and that the FX7 supposedly sucks in low light compared to other HD cams".. But I will say at least for my purposes and jobs, it will be great to have.

And its very "brickish" feeling compared to the FX1, with the weight being dispursed over a smaller area, but nonetheless, not a handycam by any means..

Anyhow, thank you for your synopsis and review, and I hope your enjoying your cam and I can be one with you enjoying mine soon also!!!

D
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Old April 21st, 2007, 04:53 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Leong View Post
Hey all....

...But you see, I've got this neat little unassuming 60i HDV camera that's just sitting there, ready to go and make movies. Not someone else's movies.

My movies.

And sure, I'll post them here when I get something worthwhile to share.
Hey Chris, if you could have gotten a V1 for just a little more, and recorded to a VERY portable HDMI recorder (very small) at uncompressed 1920x1080i, would you have chosen the V1 instead?
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Old April 21st, 2007, 06:24 PM   #9
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Thanks for your kind replies, all!

Stephen, I ended up getting my FX7 for under $2500.
Actually, way under $2500.

So if I'd have been able go get a V1 for $2400 and a 160GB HDMI recorder for under $500?
Maybe. Why not?

But that's still $2900 and used HVX's are going for around just a few hundred dollars more than that, maybe $3600 and up, depending on what comes with it.

Thing is, with the balanced audio up front, the V1's balance is thrown forwards again. I'm pretty sure I can tell a V1u apart from an FX7 in a blind test, just by the balance in my hand.


And there's always "just a few hundred dollars more" for X or Y. That's when you know that the marketing people have you well in hand.

To my mind, you get the equipment you need to tell your stories.

The rest of the money you would have bought the best and latest gear with, you spend on your stories.
Buy your crew lunch. Heck, even pay the sound guy for a day of work.
You're not an equipment rental house or a commercials DP. You do not need to show the latest and best all the time unless you work for Canon or Sony.
You need to tell your stories.
You need your gear to work for you.
If you have money to spare, great. Plan your next production and tell your next story.

Google "Canon Scoopic" to see the philosophy behind where I'm coming from.
This is a 16mm news camera from the 70s (no sound), but look at the design and balance.
There's always a bunch of them on ebay. Just look at the pictures. Actually you can see the real design by flipping the pictures upside down. Look like an old time Bach Auricon, flipped upside down.

Or check Faye Dunaway using one in the original Thomas Crown Affair to shoot surveillance footage of Steve McQueen.

Look at the package. That's all the camera there is.
No wires hanging off, no matte boxes, just take the camera (auto loading, auto exposure, to my mind the sharpest ever production lens in the 16mm industry, the Canon, is on this lowly camera, macro down to zero feet, tack sharp lens and image resolution information down to the molecular level, not lines per inch or mm) and shoot.

Scoopics are now going for around $600. Film costs up to around $100 a minute finished (i.e. stock, processing, telecine)

So shoot your long running reality style dialog footage in HDV.
Then shoot your punchy montage wow! footage in 16mm and transfer to tape.
Say three or four minutes of 16mm footage every half hour or so of program, average.

So now you have the best of both worlds.
True film look montage-y stuff.
Long tape runs where dialog matters and multiple takes count.. (i.e. usually when people are talking)
Mix and match in post so people (real people, not technocrats) can't tell when you're using what.

I figure for that extra grand you saved, you can buy a Scoopic and also get four minutes of real film look done in your next film.
Now in the end you'll have less valuable equipment, sure.
But after time passes and equipment depreciates, it's all going to cost less later on anyway.
The Scoopic you'll still be able to sell for $600 or so.

No, really.
I'm just making a point.
With a simple, basic camera like the Scoopic, you are pretty much forced to be a good filmmaker.
There's so little to the thing that there's really only what you do with it that counts.

Imagine if painter's inks and brushes were all latest state of the art and had to be renewed/updated/uprezed every three years, or else the painter felt inadequate that he didn't have the latest technology paint, or was spending every other waking hour researching paints and brushes and solvents, and and and...

I really think a lot of this is simply keeping up with the technological Joneses, and not about what it's supposed to be about.

A camera's for shooting stuff.

Last edited by Chris Leong; April 21st, 2007 at 07:18 PM.
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Old April 21st, 2007, 06:44 PM   #10
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Leong View Post
Thing is, with the balanced audio up front, the V1's balance is thrown forwards again. I could have told it apart from an FX7 in a blind teast, just by the FX7's balance in my hand.
You really can tell them apart so easily when blindfolded? The lack of a microphone acts as an offset to the XLR connectors in the V1. FX7 has a built in mic. V1 does not.
At approx 1.5kg and 1.6kg respectively, it's pretty difficult to feel much difference. Putting them both on a finger in each hand, they both balance at about the same point. But they do have slightly different weights.
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Old April 21st, 2007, 07:29 PM   #11
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Dale

Apparently the slow motion aspect of the FX7 involves reduced resolution. I'll shoot some when my 16mm shoot ends and let you know what I think. BTW I'd hang onto your Bolex if I were you - that's the Swiss Army knife of 16mm if ever there was one.

Check out FrenchQuarterFeatures.com and Jack Daniel Stanley's "18 seconds" for some awesome slomo footage of Jack walking just before the traffic light scene in that film. That's from the Swiss Army Knife of HD (IMHO), the HVX, with a little help from assorted 35mm DOF adapters and Nikon primes, I believe.

Love that little film!

Cheers
Chris
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Old April 21st, 2007, 07:31 PM   #12
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You really can tell them apart so easily when blindfolded? The lack of a microphone acts as an offset to the XLR connectors in the V1. FX7 has a built in mic. V1 does not.
At approx 1.5kg and 1.6kg respectively, it's pretty difficult to feel much difference. Putting them both on a finger in each hand, they both balance at about the same point. But they do have slightly different weights.

Douglas, I think I can. The balance is forward on the V1 for me. And the V1 is heavier. The mics aren't that heavy on the FX7 (there's not that much to them, truth be told)

Again this was from my experience of having one in my hand and up to my eye for over 5 minutes at a time. Just my take on it, and there was not a lot in it between the two cameras, just my pinkie got sore after awhile on the V1.

And, of course, there was the little matter of the price differential.

If I were only holding for a few seconds at a time, then heck, I'd go for an HX A1 too.


Oh, and another thing, the FX7 will end up by being heavier than the V1 when I get the Beachtek. I don't know by how much, but I do think that the weight should be at the bottom and central under the camera. Maybe I'll love it, maybe I'll hate it. But it's my hunch that it will end up with pretty much the same balance as the HVX when all's said and done, and so maybe I'll just end up by using my ECM 757 mid/side electret on the camera, which is another sleeper item of a mic, with an 1/8" stereo plug.
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Old April 21st, 2007, 08:46 PM   #13
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...The balance is forward on the V1 for me. And the V1 is heavier...
If you use a larger battery on the V1, the balance would be better for you, but then the weight would be more...plus, with a wide angle it gets a little worse again. But that's true with the FX7...

I guess that's the advantage of having two 23 year-olds do my camera work! Weight is not the same issue it was a while back...and I'm just getting too decrepit to carry those things around much longer!

I just can't honestly believe you'd trade the V1 for an FX7! To me it seems so much more cam, for not much more $.
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Old April 21st, 2007, 09:26 PM   #14
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It's not that I would trade my V1 for an FX7.
It's that I didn't want to buy the V1 at all.
Didn't need all of the additional stuff.
The FX7 gets me in the ballpark of where I need to be.
It was around $600 cheaper than the V1.
It's not as "serious" a camera, requires less attention because maximum attention to less available functions is always less than maximum attention paid to more available functions, and therefore if you know where the items are on your menus and there are less items to check off, you're faster off the starting block and into the shot.

I pick up a Scoopic out of its box, load it, line it up and shoot it.

I pick up an Aaton out of its three boxes, build the camera, load it, line it all up, then shoot it.

Difference.

I pick up an FX7 out of its bag, adjust the four things there are to adjust, line it up and shoot it.

I pick up a V1, adjust the ??? things there are to adjust...

That kind of thing.

For me, simpler means less options and more attention on what it is that I'm shooting.

I don't even care if it's 24p or 60i, If I catch the moment, it's caught. If not, not.

Sure, it's what you're used to. I can outshoot my Nikon F3 any time, with my Leica M2. That's cause I've had my F3 only 15 years but my M2 over twenty five.

So when I get to using my FX7 a number of years, it'll be faster out of the bag as well.

Again, I say, this is just my cup of tea. You may prefer coffeee.
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Old April 21st, 2007, 09:47 PM   #15
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Wow Chris your first post was one of the most inspirational that I've seen in a long time. Thanks for keeping it real, and shouting out that content is king, I forget sometimes.
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