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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 January 5th, 2005, 08:14 PM   #31
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I tend to agree with Khio Pham on water and low light. Got mine early December just before the harbour froze here in Ottawa. I did the same fast pans and zooms across the water that I had heard caused problems. I couldn't see them on my FX1 played back on Sony 27 HiScan TV, water ripples and small leaves etc looked just great. I often rent DVX100 and like it a lot. All my shoots are 60i I have no interest in 24P. Comparing to my FX1 the DVX100 latitude is much better and I think this is one of the things I would have liked better on the FX1 since most of what I do as a hobby is in the theatre environment( read dark!!!). As far as low light performance at equal settings the DVX100 is a lot better but in my experience increasing the gain on the DVX100 creates a lot of grain I find at 6db it is getting on the edge of being unusable for me( as if the 0 db gain setting has already a lot of gain built in), in comparison the FX1 at full 18db is a lot better( in this regard) than the DVX100 at 6db thereby making up a lot of the reported low light deficiences. FX1 at 6 or 9db is still a very clean image. In a family party over Chrismas, on full auto, the FX1 was almost lighter than reality, reminding me of the differences I saw renting a VX1000 and comparing to my VX3 Hi8 years ago!!! On playback the data code showed that the FX1 was full open and at 18db gain with a very clean image on my Sony 27" HS420 HiScan 1080i TV. I know that on my TRV50 there is a connection between picture composition and viewed latitude( I know this sounds strange) this too has a Sony 14bit DXP and I wonder how this DSP decides to process the data. I have found on my TRV50, fixed on manual exposure, appears to change the exposure latitude as it is zoomed. Zoom in to an actor on stage and folds in black backcurtain are visable zoom back just a little and the folds merge into blackness but actors faces are nicely exposed!! It is as if the camera is deciding where to apply bandwidth favouring highlight exposure over shadow details( sort of dynamic "levels" control) which one would expect for a point and shoot camera. The FX1 doesn't appear to behave this way based on the theatre programs I shot just before Christmas in DV but I notice that the Z1 will have switchable black stretch which may infer that the FX1 is preprogrammed for a particular response , clearly not as extreme as the TRV50 but may not be a fixed response either !!. Now that Christmas season is over I am going to play around a little more to see how to get the best out of the FX1 for my use.

Nice review Jon

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Old January 5th, 2005, 08:55 PM   #32
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I can't back this up with any data, but I continue to be unhappy with the noise levels produced by the DVX100a, and also feel that the 0 db setting already has a certain amount of gain built into it to achieve the apparently fast latitude of the camera. I wouldn't mind it if it had a negative gain feature such as that found on Sony cameras (i.e. -3db) but in the absence of this, I'm starting to get really discouraged with the camera. I've just finished color correcting a short and needed to apply noise reduction filters on quite a few shots.

Thanks for the FX1 review Jon, it was an interesting read.
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Old January 5th, 2005, 11:17 PM   #33
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Old January 5th, 2005, 11:29 PM   #34
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Khoi,

I doubt that there was anything wrong with the FX1 that I tested. It's no secrect that HDV's compression has this issue and it shouldn't be a surprise that there exist a situatation that can trip up the compression. I can't speak to your test shots that did not have an issue. All I can say is that is that when I tested this particular situation, I found the amount of compression artifacts to noticeable and objectionable.

Perhaps you missed the very clear statement regarding the specifics of the situation in which our professional script supervisor stated that she "could see a difference. But that neither one looked better than the other". Her observation of the two different cameras was while watching the live 480i image on the professional Sony 8" CRT field monitor connect via Y/C.

I never stated that she could not tell the difference between DV and HDV. Nor did I ever suggest that the FX1 or HDV compression is unusable. I did however clearly state that IN THIS PARTICULAR SITUATION, she felt that the FX1 did not show any more detail than the DVX100A. And after watching the footage myself, I agree that IN THIS PARTICULAR SITUATION the FX1 did not show any more detail than the DVX100A.

Obviously since you were on set and knew that I needed a stop that I couldn't get without using the gain, you are well within your right to weigh in on what I should've done. And while I appreciate your opinion on how I should have shot this film, I am comfortable with my decision to not use the gain in an effort to stop down the lens.

I don't MAKE the camera or format sound like anything. I simply reported what I experienced and thoroughly outlined the situation in which I experienced it. But since you mentioned it, I will state that there do exist "tough scenes" for HDV compression to handle that may result in images that have noticable artifacts other than just a "softer picture". Just because you have not experienced it, does not mean it does not exist, or is not possible.


Charles,

You're certainly in the majority when it comes to people who have experience an objectionable level of noise with the DVX. And I don't know what to say to that. Either I've worked with every noise free DVX in existence, or I shoot differently than others. I guess either is possible...

My cinematography has been described by many as "clean". So maybe the way I set up the camera and light scenes just work to the DVX's strengths in achieving noise free footage. It should also be noted that I have yet to be hired to shoot a film with the DVX that calls for super dark "X-Files type" cinematography. Maybe if I used the DVX to shoot a dark styled piece, I too would encounter the same noise issues as others. But since I do not shoot theater situations like Ron, and haven't used a DVX for an episode of the X-Files, I can't say.

Jon
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Old January 6th, 2005, 12:31 AM   #35
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<<<-- Originally posted by Jon Fordham :

Her observation of the two different cameras was while watching the live 480i image on the professional Sony 8" CRT field monitor connect via Y/C.

Jon -->>>

See; from my thinking, any comparison of HD to SD that's carried out by viewing both formats on equipment designed for the older more likely to be superceded format is the equivalent of comparing the two formats on a proper WS large format HD TV/monitor, with the proviso that viewing is done through frosty glasses!!!

It's a fundamental problem that comparisons are being made without applying the rules both ways. What would the comparison be if the lady concerned had viewed the footage from both cams on a 36" WS HDTV via component for instance?

As much as I agree that for the moment 4:3 SD TVs are in the vast majority, the gap is closing and closing fast. Have a look at a good HDTV setup, and ask yourself "would I want to watch this compared to my old 4:3 SDTV now that it's pretty affordable?" There's a hell of a lot of people now in that position, so it would be behoven to them, to present results based also on what they may be watching on rather than just what they might currently have.
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Old January 6th, 2005, 01:08 AM   #36
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FX1 is not perfect, but it's pretty good...

This is a good discussion - I am in some agreement on some of everyone's points but I have to echo Ron's comments esp. in regards to low light performance - I just shot a lot of comparative FX1 footage to DVX100 and yes, although both FX1 and it are rated for 3 lux, I'd have to say the FX1 is more forgiving in less light - less noise when the gain is introduced to compensate.

I haven't shot charts but I've filmed a lot of scenes around the house with the FX1 that I used to film with the DVX and when I downconvert HDV to SD DVD, even my wife finds the resulting FX1 footage to be "sharper" than 24p DVX to DVD - I don't know the parameters for sure that Barry used in his analysis, but I beg to differ with the result - it's subtle and probably also due to aesthetics and subjective preference - it just seems in the FX1 DVD, *everything* stays razor sharp whereas in DVX, sharpness drops off - I don't know how to explain this... I used Mainconcept 2-pass, average rate 7.5 with tops at 8.0... Obviously the way you make your mpeg2 can play a factor...

It's funny - I think the ideal situation would be a super-hybrid camera - everyone has features that we like and would love to see all rolled together in one cam. Give us Canon's lens-interchangeability and native 16x9 with Sony's HDV with Panny's true 24p and Panny's GS400 pricing (ha ha) and I know I would be in video heaven... Sony's low-light capability... and so it goes on...

The FX1 definitely leaves room for improvement - I'm hoping Sony has taken a page out of Panasonic's book and the Z1 is a sort of "upgrade" the way the 100A was an improvement on the original DVX... I think the FX1 was pushed out the door a bit premature when XL2 failed to deliver on HDV with the intention to bring XL2 sales to a halt.

I'm curious too - I've only shot first hand with NTSC FX1 and am still eager to see Z1 so I can compare to 1080/50i...

Dammit, if only XL2 had been HDV with a real LCD... but I guess we won't go back to THAT discussion, will we?

FX1 has a color space closer to the DVX than to say XL2...

I like the way XL2 handles "hotspots" or "washouts" better than DVX - DVX just goes crazy white... it's like a winter-storm whiteout... FX1 is in between the two...

For wide panorama vista type shots out in the mountains etc. the FX1 wins because for the first time in "mini-dv" (I know it's HDV), wide shots are sharp and even look really good when downconverted to SD DVD...

I hate the ergonomics (or lack thereof) on XL2... FX1 looks so much heavier than it is - DVX is one solid piece of gear that sits well in the palm... How can you seriously put out a cam without a real LCD nowadays?

If I had to buy now:

I'd pick the Z1 when it comes out for it's pro enhancements probably because it's more future-ready: I do wedding videos and I know clients are getting more tech-savvy due to the internet, etc.: being able to score some repeat business when they get their HDTV's and HD-DVD/Blu-ray players down the road is appealing... the FX1 is great in low-light the way all Sony's are and the controls are quick and easy (on FX1) so it's easier to make adjustments on the fly than with say XL2... 24p is not something many wedding clients "get" or appreciate... the lack of native 16x9 on the DVX kinda makes it hard to justify spending all that money for what you get compared to FX1/Z1....

I do some indie filmmaking too and I say a prayer every night when I go to bed that Z1 will have *fixed* some things that don't seem right on FX1, and we all know what I'm talking about (er, cough cough cineframe 24 cough cough)...

And what's with Panasonic being so silly-nilly with their faux LANC control or whatever they call it - man, everyone is raving how the Canon LANC controller rocks on the FX1 (thanks Kaku Ito)

I know JVC and Panasonic are rumoured to be coming out with their answers to FX1 but everything about that seems to be so much hearsay - Sony stole the end of 2004 away from Canon (but it wasn't really winning out against DVX100A anyway) and I think it will stay the big story of 2005... Let's hope NAB has some good surprises this year...

Happy New Year, folks!
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Old January 6th, 2005, 06:56 AM   #37
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See; from my thinking, any comparison of HD to SD that's carried out by viewing both formats on equipment designed for the older more likely to be superceded format is the equivalent of comparing the two formats on a proper WS large format HD TV/monitor, with the proviso that viewing is done through frosty glasses!!!

-->>>

Hi guys, I'm new to this forum and am on the verge of purchasing the FX1. In reading Jon's review, I initially got quite nervous about this purchase when hearing the comparisons between the Sony and the Panny. On closer reading though, I did see the comparison was on an 8" monitor. Well, without a doubt that tells you nothing. I'd be willing to bet that professional $100,000 HD cameras, hooked up via YC to an 8" monitor, would do a great job disguising the fact that they're HD cameras, let alone professional HD cams!!! The human eye will not pick up the necessary detail on an 8" monitor to differentiate between HD and SD regardless of the source. So I could be wrong, but I see no value in this test.

The only logical test in comparing these 2 cameras would be to use a large screen HD monitor (consumer version would be fine I'm sure), and hook up the Sony via component and the Panny via YC to that same HD monitor. Now if in THAT case we still saw no difference in detail, I'd say "what the heck???". But I think we all know the Sony would blow the Panny out of the water in THAT test. That test is the only one I'm interested in. I simply can't see buying the Sony and using it only for shooting SD material or shooting in HD and playing it only on an SD monitor. To me that makes no sense.

In reading numerous user reports on a number of different forums, it sees to me that the vast majority of people are saying that the artifacts are essentially equivilent to what we're used to in the DV format. Jon's review (and I'm sure he saw what he saw) is the first that makes such a sharp distinction between the 2 formats. I personally have not played with the camera, so I'm merely going on what I've read from many other user reports.

Anyway, this looks like a great forum with some great info!
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Old January 6th, 2005, 07:18 AM   #38
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<<<-- Originally posted by Charles Papert : I can't back this up with any data, but I continue to be unhappy with the noise levels produced by the DVX100a, and also feel that the 0 db setting already has a certain amount of gain built into it to achieve the apparently fast latitude of the camera. I wouldn't mind it if it had a negative gain feature such as that found on Sony cameras (i.e. -3db) but in the absence of this, I'm starting to get really discouraged with the camera. I've just finished color correcting a short and needed to apply noise reduction filters on quite a few shots.

Thanks for the FX1 review Jon, it was an interesting read. -->>>

I'm having this problem too, on my feature. It seems that you really need a lot of light to get rid of, or reduce this problem. When my shots are lit with a lot of light, the DVX100A is brilliant, but on low light shots it's a mosquito-fest.
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Old January 6th, 2005, 08:42 AM   #39
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Ken,

I wouldn't make the assumption about the Varicam or CineAlta hooked up to a small SD monitor without actually seeing it.

Glenn, let's keep the discussion on the FX1 and post any questions, etc., about the DVX100A in that forum.

Thanks,

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Old January 6th, 2005, 10:57 AM   #40
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FWIW, I have the same issue with my Pana 953. Early on, folks who bought this cam and run it in manual as I do said, stay at or below 6db gain or the noise will become unbearable. This parallels the observations of its big brother, the DVX100(A).

I just wanted to point out that folks are saying that you can push the FX-1 to higher gain levels without objectionable noise. This seems to also be true with the XL-2.

I'm thinking that since we have two newly designed cams that are able to do this, that the engineers have some newer, faster DSP chips to work with that can pull out the noise on the fly. Just as compression algorithims can be improved, so too can noise removal algorithims.

=gb=
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Old January 6th, 2005, 11:12 AM   #41
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Jon,

Again thanks for you valuable input on the FX1.

My concern is the comparison of the 'pop' between the FX1 and a higher end HD camera. Without going into all the tech specs as I'm aware that you're fully knowledgable of, there's a vast difference in the formats including color space, CCD size, bit rate and lenses. In my honest opinion, higher end HD cameras will always have more visual appeal (pop) than anything else out there including film, with those four factors I listed as the most critical to the final image look. I've watched hundreds of hours of HD programming from every imaginable source and the HD image from the high end HD cameras are always more visually stunning and offer more pop than anything else including DLP cinema.

Just the fact that the FX1 and alternately the HD1/10 is even considered for a comparison with 100K+ cameras is a blessing.

Also, we talked about the calibration of the 8" monitor via 480i, but the real critical issue would be whether or not Heath's 34" monitor was calibrated in any way? As an HD owner for over 4 1/2 years now, it hurts my heart to have so many HD owners not have their HD sets calibrated at least minimally with tools such as Video Essentials or Avia Guide to Home Theater and at best to have it ISF calibrated like I had mine. It makes a night and day difference. On my set, the FX1 has more punch than my HD1, but as you observed not as much punch as a high end HD camera.

I assume that the FX1 was outputting HD via component video and the DVX was outputting DV via composite video? That's interesting that the difference wasn't huge to everyone. There may have also been some of the HDTV processing that may have hindered the final image. New HDTVs have a vast array of user controls but they also have a huge selection of what I call 'marketing gimmick' control sets as well that need to be either turned off or adjusted for the best possible image.

Anyway, agreed that the FX1 probably isn't up to the standards of the high end HD cameras but Sony has definitely taken a step in the right direction and also shamed JVC in the meantime.

Troy
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Old January 6th, 2005, 11:17 AM   #42
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<<<-- "I did see the comparison was on an 8" monitor. Well, without a doubt that tells you nothing."

"The only logical test in comparing these 2 cameras would be to use a large screen HD monitor (consumer version would be fine I'm sure), and hook up the Sony via component and the Panny via YC to that same HD monitor. Now if in THAT case we still saw no difference in detail, I'd say "what the heck???". But I think we all know the Sony would blow the Panny out of the water in THAT test. That test is the only one I'm interested in." -->>>


It amazes me that some people will find whatever they need to discount the findings of an experienced professional in an effort to support whatever idea or belief they desperately need to cling to.


Ken,

The monitor in question was a Sony professional broadcast monitor used for field monitoring and location work. It is practically an industry standard for such use. If this monitor was incapable of delivering the level of picture quality required to evaluate a video source, it would not be so widely used. In fact, this 8" monitor actually has more resolution than most SD 27" consumer televsions.

Without a doubt you have not been on many location shoots with a 27F or F900. Furthermore, I bet you haven't been on many professional location shoots with an SD camera. Using a 9" HD CRT monitor is actually quite common for field shooting. It's only in cinema or high end applications that I ever have the luxury of a proper 20" to 24" HD CRT monitor when doing field work. Carrying around a monitor of that size and support for it is diffuclt to say the least. In those situations where a 24" HD CRT monitor is required and available I always have a Local 600 DIT with an assistant dragging around carts and cables that would put a news truck to shame.

Maybe if you did some more "closer reading" you'd also read the section that describes the images as they appeared on Heath's 34" 1080i High Definition CRT monitor.

Perhaps you missed the very clearly stated point of this review. REVIEW, NOT TEST. This was not a scientific test to satisfy your curiousity and gain your support or validate your personal needs. This was simply a short film effort amongst friends that gave me an opportunity to experiment with a new camera and format. At Heath's request, I spent my valuable time writing a review that chronicled my experiences on this film and with this camera. I'm sorry my experiences weren't to your liking. I'm sorry if my expereinces didn't prove whatever you needed to be proved.

If you need to prove your infoulable theories on resolution and perceived detail, then perhaps you should set up your DVX100A next to your FX1 and connect them to your High Definition CRT monitor via whatever connection you deem nescesary and carry out your test to prove you're right. Then you can spend hours documenting and reporting your findings to this board. After which the first person who disagrees with you will rip apart your methodology and claim that they have the answer and know the real truth.

IF, "we all know the Sony would blow the Panny out of the water in THAT test", then what do you care what my experiences were. And if "That test is the only one you're interested in", then why bother reading my review and telling me that everything I did was invalid. Go do your own test and prove me wrong. But to be honest with you, I could care less what your tests show. I am comfortable with my findings and my methodology. Having worked with the camera myself, I feel I have the information I need to responsibly report to producers who may be working with a small format digital camera, what the FX is and is not capable of. I don't doubt that I will be shooting with the FX1 on more than a few projects in the coming year. And I welcome them. Those particular projects and how the FX1 will be able to handle them is the only test I'M interested in.

This COULD be a great forum with great info if everyone involved understood that we are here to share our EXPERIENCES instead of discounting the firsthand reports of experienced users in favor of what we think based on hearsay and personal beliefs.

Jon
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Old January 6th, 2005, 11:33 AM   #43
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Troy,

I personally calibrated Heath's 34" HDTV myself.

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Old January 6th, 2005, 11:35 AM   #44
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Jon had calibrated my HDTV and re-calibrates it every time he visits.

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Old January 6th, 2005, 12:22 PM   #45
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Thanks for your review but I am confused on one issue. When you compared the FX1 to the DVX100A on that 8 inch monitor, where it was difficult to see much difference, were both cameras outputting 480i to the monitor or were you comparing the FX1 HD output to the DVX100A SD output? I am assuming that 8" monitor was an HD monitor.
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