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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 November 9th, 2004, 12:36 PM   #1
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FX1 First Impressions

Well I have been waiting for this cam for some time. I have a HD10 and was dissapointed by that, so didn't really know what to expect from the FX1. Well all I can say is WOW! In standard def the pictures are remakably similar to those from my much more expensive DSR570 (Both are PAL 50i models). But it's when you see the HD footage on a decent HD monitor that you get blown away. OK, it's not as sharp as a HDW750 but there is no mistaking the fact that the pictures are HD. The detail jumps out at you. More remakably is the lack of grain and noise with deep rich blacks and very good highlight handling. I think the blacks are a bit crushed and there is some loss of detail in the dark areas of the picture but these are really minor issues when you consider the price of this camera. I have also been impressed by the lack of compression artifacts. With the HD10 you didn't have to look to hard or push it far to see some pretty nasty artifacts, but he FX1 appears much more solid, even detail shots of bricks or trees dosn't seem to phase it, wheras the HD10 would have shown lots of mosquito noise.
The cinemagamma mode makes the pictures richer, pulling down the blacks while giving a much softer highlight roll-off. While the picture look richer on a monitor a close look at the dark areas suggest the blacks are really getting crushed with a loss of detail. I think anyone shooting for transfer to film would be better off shooting in the standard mode and then adjusting the gamma in post.
The component output appears to be real time with little or no delay that I can see. Realtime downconversion from HDV to DV seems to be very clean with no visible added artifacts.
Gripes/Issues: Well the microphone shoe is right in front of the flip up LCD, if you use any sort of longish gun mic you can't open or close the LCD (I've made an off-set bracket with a shock mount that puts the mic to the side of the LCD to get around this).
The microphone projects about 50mm ahead of the lens and is quite close to the lens. As a result there is no way that I can use my Petroff 4x4 matt box on this camera. Maybe some of the smaller DV matt boxes will fit, but I think many will have problems fitting a matt box.
I think the flip out LCD is likely to get broken where it is.
One thing I wonder is that I suspect that there is just one production line producing FX1s. At the end of the line they get programmed as either 50i or 60i models. If you can get the programming codes you may be able to reprogramme a 50i version to 60i, a bit like turning back on the firewire port on a European camcorder?
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Old November 9th, 2004, 08:28 PM   #2
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World Camera

I have recieved the following advice from a non-disclosed source regarding the 50i vs 60i versions.

The advice is that there is one "World" camera in the FX1 able to support NTSC/PAL - 50i or 60i. It makes sense that this is software controlled.

Build one piece of hardware and control the regional requirements via SW.

I can see a hack being produced quite quickly which will open up any hidden fuctions such as 50i - 60i switching in the FX1.

I wonder if this makes sense to those that alreay have their hands on the FX1. Is there indeed a software switch that is undocumented that will allow this switching.

TR
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Old November 10th, 2004, 12:21 PM   #3
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Al, thanks for your early evaluation.
If it would be convienient for you, I would really like your evaluation of what it looks like to transfer some HDV footage to DV and compare it with the same shot originated in the DV mode. In other words, if a project is going to end up SD, would it be better to shoot it SD with this camera or to shoot it HDV and then dub the footage to DV via firewire (if that is possible)? You mentioned component out...is that for HDV...I have a DSR1800 deck which takes component in.

The reason I'm asking this is that I have a possible project upcoming that is going to be shot 16:9. I also have a DSR500, which has 16:9 chips, but due to the nature of the project, it needs to be shot with more consumer-looking gear. We have available a PD150, but I was interested in an XL2 because of the 16:9 issue...and then Sony came out with this camera. I know it's the consumer version, but I probably could use a Beachtek adapter and work around the camera's issues whatever they are if the 16:9 looks as good as the XL2. If I'm going to purchase a camera for this project, I would be more inclined, I think, to put money on the HDV camera as a hedge against the possibility of that format catching on...as long as the DV mode looks good too, in case the new format does not catch on. Also, the upcoming project would probably be shot DV even if we have HDV available, due to other circumstances.

So, I'm really interested in what the native DV looks like in comparison to the downconverted HDV to DV.
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Old November 10th, 2004, 02:05 PM   #4
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The DV pictures both 4:3 and 16:9 that this camera produces are the best I have seen from any compact camcorder IMHO. There are very very close to the pictures from my DSR570, they just don't look like the kind of noisy, sometimes grainy pictures you get from a PD150 or DVX100, they are very clean and noise free. If you shoot HDV and output DV the pictures still look extremely good, I cannot tell the difference on a 14inch grade 2 broadcast monitor which is which, native DV or Downverted HDV. However I do suspect that the downconversion process will be introducing more artifacts that may show up later in the production chain.
The component output works in both SD and HD modes. If you are shooting SD then it is component SD only, if you shoot HDV then the output can be set to HD or SD.

AUDIO PROBLEM: Well I have just completed a two day commercial shoot and I have found what could be a major issue with the audio input. I was using the camera with a beechbox and a mix of radio and gun mics. The FX1 mic input is switchable between line and mic level. When using it at mic level there is a lot of hiss on the audio. The level of the hiss changes as you go into record, becoming loader, then drops back down again as you stop recording. If you use the manual audio control and wind it all the way up to 10 (most sensitive) it sounds as though the audio preamps are becoming unstable with a very high noise level and what sounds like the onset of oscillation, it really son't sound good or healthy. I admit that I do need to investigate this further, it could be some sort of impedance mis-match but the noise was still present when I plugged the gun mic into the camera directly. The audio was so bad that I could not use the camera at mic level input, so I had to use my location mixer and feed the camera at line level. At line level the input is quiet and noise free.
I would be interested to hear if any other FX1 users have experienced this, maybe I just have a faulty unit. I shall investigate further and post my results tomorrow.
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Old November 10th, 2004, 03:07 PM   #5
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Thanks for that information. The audio issue is, indeed, a serious one, and I'd like to know more about that as soon as you find out what's really going on.
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Old November 10th, 2004, 03:36 PM   #6
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Al . Does the Beechbox you are using have DC blocking on it? All the Sony camcorder mic inputs have a dc feed on them for the Sony mics that can really mess up different mics etc.

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Old November 10th, 2004, 03:58 PM   #7
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Yes my beechbox has DC blocking. The hiss is apparent, but not as bad with no mic connected, just a jack plug with nothing connected to it! I am still investigating this.
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Old November 10th, 2004, 04:23 PM   #8
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AUDIO ISSUE: I think the audio noise may be impedance related. High impedance mics are fine, nice and clean. Mics with an impedance of less than 600ohms start to bring up the noise. An un-terminated 3.5mm jack is very noisy. Stick with a source over 600ohms with DC blocking and you are OK. I tried one of my sennhieser radio mics and it went nuts making all sorts of hissy squealy noises but I think that was down to a lack of DC blocking.
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Old November 10th, 2004, 04:41 PM   #9
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I wonder if this is like the VX2100. I run at between 20-25% on the manual setting for the mic in with my DXA-8. Any higher hisses.
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Old November 10th, 2004, 04:59 PM   #10
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<<<-- Originally posted by Al Chapman : AUDIO ISSUE: I think the audio noise may be impedance related. High impedance mics are fine, nice and clean. Mics with an impedance of less than 600ohms start to bring up the noise. An un-terminated 3.5mm jack is very noisy. Stick with a source over 600ohms with DC blocking and you are OK. I tried one of my sennhieser radio mics and it went nuts making all sorts of hissy squealy noises but I think that was down to a lack of DC blocking. -->>>

Depending on the radio mic, it's quite likely it already has some DC blocking. Particularly if it has a transformer.

If there's no DC blocking, the internal phantom maybe interacting with the load and doing what you describe.

Sometimes a simple resistor to ground in the plug itself should solve it. Capacitors are a double-sided blade, as they may influence on the audio quality.

The mixer certainly has some blocking, or the line-level setting cuts the phantom power off.

If I had the camera I could do further testing.

Did you use your Beachtek interface?


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Old November 11th, 2004, 01:39 PM   #11
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AUDIO ISSUE RESOLVED: After a bit of fiddling I have found the definative reason for the audio problems I was having. The problems were being cause by a ground or earth loop. In the case of the Beechbox simply un screwing it from the bottom of the camera cured the problem. The other mics I had been trying were all connected via a XLR to 3.5mm adapter that I had attached under the microphone of the camera with a zip tie. The XLR was touching the camera body (which is aluminium) and creating a ground loop. This sugest that the ground for the mic input is not connected to the cameras chassis ground, or the grounding is not very good. Anyway don't ground the mic input to the cameras chassis and the audio input is clean.
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