Just played with HDR-FX1 at VideoExpo 2004 at DVinfo.net

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Sony HVR-Z1 / HDR-FX1
Pro and consumer versions of this Sony 3-CCD HDV camcorder.

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Old October 14th, 2004, 02:56 PM   #1
Join Date: Sep 2003
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Just palyed with HDR-FX1 at VideoExpo 2004

...bottom line: fantastic camera for the money. Latitude seems to be so much better than HD10's; has decent controls (allowing for INDEPENDENT shutter and iris control; skin tone adjustments; overall saturation adjustment; gamma etc.); fantastic programmable focus rack feature at the press of a button. Will buy it as soon as it's available. B&H says, it's at the end of November.

Downside: no software comes with it to acquire the transport strem files into a computer, according to sales floor reps. Sony pushes their Vegas5+CineForm as current acquisition software, at about $550 street according to them. Vegas6 with native m2t capture ability (no CineForm needed) is expected at the same price in April. Adobe should release within weeks (or has already released, depending on whom you are talking to) a patch for PremierePro to natively capture m2t stream from this cam. All this according to Sony reps.

Bad news dept.: No HD DVD set-top player still. Sony reps seem to hate Microsoft and its WM9 codec, won't want to make a DVD player tht would understand HDV encoded with WM9. They refer to hypothetical licensing problems with MS WM9 codec - which I find hard to believe given that codec is currently distributed FREE of charge to anyone who wants it. On the other hand, I wrote a letter to Bill Gates about 6 mos ago regarding the need for the HD DVD set-top boxes based on WM9 format, and I never received any reply. Maybe MS *is* hard to work with after all? :) The only HD DVD player that was announced, V Inc's Bravo 3, is still not on the market. Sony reps agreed that without the way to actually *distribute* the final HDV production, the value of their HDV acquisition is lower... but they indirectly hinted taht if Sony introduces such HD consumer player, it'll be blue-ray disc based and not DVD-based, because DVD cannot sustain high enough data rate to play HDV successfully. Which is total bull: encoded in WM9, 1280x720p movie looks gorgeous with just 7Mbs encoding rate. That's with 5.1 sound encoded into the same movie file!! Current DVD players should easily read up to 8-9Mbs. Bottom line: seems like Sony just won't work with Microsoft for some reason.

Somewhat disappointing dept.: Cineformats of FX1 that emulate 24p and 30p produce a rather hard judder with the slightest motion. Seemed to me as their faux pas 30p looked worse that JVC HD10's native 30p, in terms of the motion artifacts. No matter the "mode", the actual signal coming out of FX1 is actually 1080 INTERLACED. I guess the first thing I'll do after capturing it into PC is deinterlacing it. Then I'll edit it. The in the end, I'll use 24p plug-ins to emulate movie look - that is, with all he adjustable parameters afforded by such plug-ins in my NLE... should look much better than what Sony delivers as progressive a-la carte.

To buy or not to buy? I'll buy it immediately when it becomes available. No chroma noise was visible when I did my tests. Very natural picture across the range from dark to brightly lit areas. For the money, the cam obviously can't be beat. And it looks 1.5 times larger (but is not heavier) than HD10, and looks much more professional.

Did I mention great quality of both zoom and focus wheels, that allow you to repeatedly hit the marks if you wanted to?
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Old October 14th, 2004, 02:59 PM   #2
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Thanks, Alex! I missed this show this year, so I'm really grateful for your report.

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Old October 14th, 2004, 03:01 PM   #3
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Thanks for the update. Sounds like this is the camera the HD1/10 tried to be... :)

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Old October 14th, 2004, 03:11 PM   #4
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Tell me more about "programmable focus rack feature" and the main focus ring. Are there end stops to it? How do you repeat focus moves? Is there some sort of display of distance etc.

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Old October 14th, 2004, 07:12 PM   #5
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Chris: you're welcome dude :) And thank you for hosting a great forum.

Troy: I spoke with JVC rep (very lonely guy while Sony stand was buzzing with the excited crowd.) He did not know/anticipate a JVC successor to HD10, which is kind of strange on part of JVC. I almost feel pitiful as Sony is so much better, and I felt that arrogant statement that "JVC jumped the gun with their camera" made by Sony reps was rather lame. JVC, with all its faults (no independent shutter/iris controls... visible chroma noise... abismal image stabilization... etc) still afforded us the FIRST low-cost HDV camcorder. I use it in studio with success, and will continue using it as B-camera after I buy Sony FX1. BTW, I wish FX1 actually did output 1280x720p30 as HD10 does - I grew to love progressive...

Robin: just set the focus and program it under button A. Set another focus value and program it under the button B. That's it - now simply hit the button A and the focus will go to this setting... or button B, and focus will go to that one. So if A focuses on the afar object, and B on the one nearer to the camera, then by hitting them sequentially you are racking the focus at will to these pre-sets. Super-easy. It gets better: you can set not only the SPEED of the racking, but also the velocity at the beginning/end of the lens move - making them harder or softer (that' independent of the speed of the transition, man!) I hope this can be triggered by LANC remote... I still have one from VX2000 times, used it to control focus/zoom on that one without touching/jerking the camera body... FX1 does have LANC port; but I don't know what functions can be used with it.
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Old October 14th, 2004, 10:15 PM   #6
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alex great report...can't wait for a floor model at bh...by the way just about the time sony will hit the shelves canopus has its editing package out native hd and hdv...but with that said vegas still might be a better workflow for some users...
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Old October 15th, 2004, 06:24 AM   #7
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Alex, how did the regulard DV look? Is it better than the dvx100? Also, where was the Expo held?
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Old October 15th, 2004, 08:38 AM   #8
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Robert, thanks. You're right: Sony reps did mention Canopus, but I dislike proprietary card+codec solutions.... they lock you in too much... I like using my generic firewire card + NLE (or proprietary capture software that should come with the camera) to capture the footage...

Greg: Expo was in the Sheraton hotel at the Meadowlands in Secaucus NJ - which is *literally* next door to my studio... otherwise I'd never find the time to attend :)

DV mode: looks just fine... on 23" LCD monitor I could hardly tell the difference between DV and HDV modes, frankly speaking...

They did however have (somewhat smallish) 42" HD monitor that played pre-recorded Japanese clips with bathing models (how cheesy... I want to see more of that :), and dancers etc. While the cam seems to also blow the whites under certain conditions, it looked much more graceful than the way HD10 does it, and dancing in the oriental Temple scene was absolutely movie-like with fantastic picture. You gotta see it (and I'm sure you will soon as the camera hits the stores and starts being promoted etc.)

I also wanted to see Sony's POV HDV cam HDC-X300, but it was not present at the Expo.

Robin, I forgot that you asked "Is there some sort of display of distance etc.". Answer: yes, FX1 continuosly displays the distance to the object it is currently focused on in meters. The display is in the lower left corner of the LCD monitor.

Cam's Macro mode is not bad - you can get the object as close as the lens cover/"matte box" (it's of a good quality, BTW) and it still will be in focus - but you must keep the lens at Wide and not zoom in. An object size of a cigrette box can take about 80% of the screen this way. Given the quality of the image, I assume that one can further blow it up in post at least 1.5 times without losing much quality.
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