FX1 quick review 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 November 12th, 2004, 02:41 AM   #1
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FX1 quick review

I'm in the middle of a PAL Digibeta shoot, but I have been bringing the FX1 along to test.

Picture much better than JVC GR HD1. Highlights not blown out, no green streak from bright lights, less compression artifacts. Don't see the chroma phase and noise problems that the little JVC camera had. MPEG2 compression seems to work much better on this one.

CF 30p mode doesn't appear to sacrifice vertical res.

CF 24p mode stobes more than F900 or Varicam. Not able to slow shutter beyond 1/60 in this mode. Noticeable twitter on diagonal lines.

Gamma curve backwards. Blacks are crushed rather than stretched.

Full manual control a godsend.

Gain and wb switches similar to Sony HDW F900 and other Sony Beta cameras.

Zebras and peaking handy

Expanded focus a brilliant idea. This has been on Panavision eyepieces for years, and is so obvious for an HD camera.

Bars and other frequently used features are actual buttons instead of menu hunt and search items.

End Search button works well.

Tape is shuttled much more quietly than JVC.

LIVE HD OUTPUT TO MONITOR WHILE RECORDING! I can't express how important this is.

Looks like it downconverts the HD to standard DV firewire output, if desired.

Manual zoom ring, although not truly mechanical, works well.

The flip out viewfinder is 16:9 and in a great place. It flips over and then back down on the handle, so shooting low shots are a breeze. Visible in direct sunlight (haven't tried it yet to see how well)

6 picture profile settings are handy

ND filters built in (JVC really blew it on this)

Smooth iris control, not stepping.

All of the menu driven items, such as selecting values for the three gain settings, zebra level, etc. are very ala F900 and Varicam.

All I can say is WOW. I love this camera. The picture is detailed and accurate. In fact, it seems to handle overexposed highlights BETTER than the DVW 790 PAL cameras that we are using. I have to go to sleep now, will post more observations later. Barry Green is working with me on this job and using the FX1 when he has time. Maybe he can add some things also.

Jay
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Old November 12th, 2004, 08:57 AM   #2
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THANKS!

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Old November 12th, 2004, 09:37 AM   #3
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nice review

Hi Jay,

It's nice to see a review like this. I am trying to decide between a reconditioned XL1s from B&H and the FX1 for my video needs. I am leaning heavily toward the FX1.

Thanks,
Garius
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Old November 12th, 2004, 09:53 AM   #4
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I'm debating whether I get the FX1 or the $1000 more Z1!

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Old November 12th, 2004, 12:54 PM   #5
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Remember that it is about $350 for the Beachtek DXA-8, so it is only $750. :D And you need to carry around 9volts, bigger bag? And you may need attenuators... $50.

Have I convinced you yet? :D
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Old November 12th, 2004, 01:21 PM   #6
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<<<-- Originally posted by George Ellis : Remember that it is about $350 for the Beachtek DXA-8, so it is only $750. :D And you need to carry around 9volts, bigger bag? And you may need attenuators... $50.

Have I convinced you yet? :D -->>>

Maybe I can convince YOU otherwise.

If you want to make quality audio, forget about using the controls you have on any video camera. They may be used for setting initial levels, but audio control should be done outside the camera.

A video camera should be used to get video, not audio.

The sound person, which should always be present for quality audio, would be adjusting levels all the time or at least on every new setup and using different mics.

If there's one thing I did learn in shooting is to delegate. Only very few and very specific circumstances can demand a very small crew, and 99% of all situations are not it.

A minimum crew should always be formed by a cameraman, a sound man, a director/producer and a gaffer. Putting several of these jobs on less people is asking for trouble and the shooting quality will suffer.


Carlos
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Old November 12th, 2004, 03:31 PM   #7
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There is a second cinegamma setting on the Z1 that stretches the blacks as opposed to crushing them.
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Old November 12th, 2004, 08:19 PM   #8
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Z!

And the Z1 has SMPTE.
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Old November 12th, 2004, 08:37 PM   #9
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<< A video camera should be used to get video, not audio. >>

Besides... a camera is the single worst place to put a microphone!

Thanks as always for the excellent input you gave there, Carlos!
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Old November 12th, 2004, 11:30 PM   #10
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More observations.

The FX1 will play tapes shot with the JVC and displays 720p for the format.

The JVC will NOT play tapes shot in 1080i. Probably because the JVC was designed before the HDV standard was agreed to by the other manufacturers.
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Old November 12th, 2004, 11:42 PM   #11
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and more:

SMPTE bars with Pluge.....nice.

Our set in the studio looks great in SD PAL, but the FX1 footage is just as revealing as the big HD cameras. Every flaw, scotch tape on walls, chips in wood, smudges....they are all there screaming "look at me!"

I'm really puzzled that the 30p mode doesn't appear to give up any vertical res. You would think it is doubling fields or at best, interpolating somehow, but their should be some sacrifice in quality. I will have to get some charts and run real tests.

Jay
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Old November 13th, 2004, 03:13 AM   #12
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The FX1 is indeed very nice. I haven't spent as much time reviewing the footage as Jay, but it's indeed sweet.

But Heath, skip it and go for the Z1. I'd recommend to everyone to get the Z1, there's a lot more to it than just some XLR inputs (but then again, I always recommended to everyone to get the PD150 over the VX2000)...

Back to the FX1... it's a bit of a conundrum, I haven't quite figured out where Sony's coming from with this camera. It's way more "professional" than the VX2000 was, but in some ways it's remarkably limited (primarily audio). Some of the features are quite "pro" -- true SMPTE color bars, gain/wb switches, etc... and then you have to pull audio in through a minijack, you can't turn off the compressor, and you can't control the audio levels independently. Very puzzling. I mean, it's puzzling but in a good way -- the camera's not nearly as limited as the VX2000 was as compared to the PD150... but I wonder about the mentality that produced it, meaning: who would think that you need a sweet physical manual iris dial, but that you wouldn't care to adjust audio channels independently? The XL2 gives you superb audio, but saddles you with the goofy iris switch. The FX1 gives you perhaps the most wonderful iris dial ever released on a prosumer-priced camera, and the lamest audio. With the Z1 it looks like they got it all right though.

The zoom was actually a disappointment to me. It looks in the pictures like it was going to be a full-on manual zoom, just like the DVX has. But instead it's the same servo-driven ring that you'll find on a PD150. Turning the ring activates a motor, and there's no direct connection between how fast (and how far) you turn the ring, and how far the zoom moves! If you twist the ring fast enough, snap-zooming from wide to tele and back, you can actually get the camera to be zooming in while you're moving the lever to zoom-out position. This "bogus" zoom is perhaps the biggest disappointment on this camera... I really thought they'd taken the step towards giving better manual control, and instead they just put "new clothes" on the same old tech (they added a pin and stops at min/max, but that doesn't add up to real manual control, it just makes you THINK you'll get real manual control).

Oh well. The zoom ring sure feels nice, even if it's not actually a mechanical zoom.

The 2x focus aid is brilliant. Including peaking is incredibly helpful, but peaking excludes zebras: you can have one or the other, but not both. Why? DVX lets you have both, so I don't know why the FX1 doesn't.

The integrated lens cap is kind of slick... one of the biggest gripes about the DVX was the lens cap, whereas with the FX1 it's a twin-blade shutter that snaps open/closed.

CineFrame 30 looks great, but CineFrame 24 looks like there's a noticeable drop in resolution. Easily visible even when we were viewing it on NTSC, down-rezzed from HD.

Cinematone gamma does look like it does the opposite of the DVX's CineGamma: whereas CineGamma preserves the dark areas and pulls down the highlights, lowering contrast and providing extended latitude at the top of the scale, the Sony's CinemaTone Gamma appears (appears, mind you) to just kind of crush the blacks and increase the contrast. It's a kind of a nice look, but nothing like the DVX's CineGamma.

Haven't spent any time with the FX1 in standard-def mode yet.

Overall it looks like a very good camera, and I can well imagine that former JVC HD1/HD10 owners will be thoroughly delighted with the new Sony. Blown away, actually -- it got so many things "right" that the JVC got "wrong", it's really amazing.

This is all preliminary opinion, not the result of any comprehensive testing. But from first glance, if HDV as a format succeeds, this FX1 could very well go down as this format's VX1000.
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Old November 13th, 2004, 04:06 AM   #13
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Cineframe 25

<<<-- Originally posted by Barry Green : CineFrame 30 looks great, but CineFrame 24 looks like there's a noticeable drop in resolution. -->>>

Does CineFrame 25 on the fx1e PAL also look great (has anyone tested that yet?). I should work with the same process as cineframe 30, no pulldown. If so, the FX1E PAL might be favourable... (or the switchable Z1 of course)
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Old November 13th, 2004, 05:04 AM   #14
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When I viewed Cineframe 25 yesterday it looked bloody awful to me. The strobing was too much. It looked like a spoof of film look! Though the picture quality generally (although I only viewed it direct from the component out without compression) was very nice.
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Old November 13th, 2004, 04:10 PM   #15
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Poor Jon Fordham, he can't take a closer look at the FX1 until next week or so (and I mean 10 days from now, actually).

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