FX1 on Three Week Documentary shoot - January 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 February 26th, 2005, 04:57 PM   #1
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FX1 on Three Week Documentary shoot - January

This is about a month old now, and I posted it on other forums. Hope it's helpful to someone here.
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I've just got out of an hour long "debriefing" with the Belgian DOP and South African director who have been using my FX1E for three weeks shooting an observational documentary, sometimes for 24hrs a day. In total they shot about 40hrs of HDV footage under all kinds of conditions, much of it with strongly contrasting lighting conditions and reflections from water. I have previously reported on their initial reactions to footage shot with the PD170 and FX1. See this thread:
http://www.sonyhdvinfo.com/showthread.php?t=1156

After reviewing the first weeks footage, they decided to switch to a DVX100A as their "close-up" moving camera. The FX1 was used predominantly for wide shots on a tripod.

Eight days into the shoot the FX1 developed a faulty lcd screen. Within 24 hrs Sony had replaced it with a brand new camera - I was impressed as the camera was over 2 months old. Since then no technical problems!

The DOP is an extremely experienced filmmaker who has made award-winning documentaries - the director is a leading director in his field as well. They have no affiliation to any manufacturer - whatever can do the job at hand is used. Both were extremely impressed by the FX1 - "groundbreaking" was a comment made often. But of course, the FX1 is not without its problems. My philosophy on equipment is to understand the shortcomings of a particular piece of equipment in order to make the best use of it. So my first question to the DOP was: "What did you not like about the camera?"

The major complaint refers to the use of the camera in manual mode. In order to control shutter, iris, gain and WB you need to switch to manual and then push each of these buttons on the right bottom side of the camera. The display is then filled with the readouts for each. If you push one of these buttons , that function REVERTS TO AUTO. Very annoying. Bizarrely, if you go to manual focus you get a readout WHICH DISAPPEARS after 5 seconds. The DOP says it's the wrong way around. The focus readout should stay there, while you should be able to adjust settings manually and then LOCK your manual adjustments. These were the main gripes.

The jury is still out on the sound quality, which was done with a Senheisser K6 mounted on the "cold shoe" accessory. This was also impractical, as it sticks out too much. Once they do post on the doccie we'll know how good or bad the sound is. I'm going to have to find a mic holder to mount on the side of the lcd a la the Z1. Mmmm, the Z1 mic holder would be perfect...

In 40 hrs of HDV tapes they reviewed no dropout was apparent - they shot on standard Sony mini-DV tapes. Both filmmakers plan to buy the Z1 when it is released as they cannot believe the "Super16mm-like" resolution the camera produces. The footage from the PD170 and DVX 100A could not compete with the HDV footage, even when viewed on a 700 line JVC broadcast monitor connected by a S-video cable to the FX1.

I came out of the meeting relieved that under trying shooting conditions the results where very positive. I had only used the FX1 on a less demanding 10 day shoot straight after I got it, and I was impressed with the solid blacks and rich colours I achieved shooting in low light with up to 12db gain on. Very little noise was apparent. They shot with both the DVX and FX1 at night and confirmed that while the DVX produced a "brighter" image, grain was far more than on the FX1.

Well, there you have it. The manual controls are irritating to use, it needs a mic holder to the right of the lcd, but it produces truly amazing images, dropout was not a problem on std tapes and low light capabilities are not as bad as previously thought. So, do you spend $ 3 300 on the FX1,
or $ 4 900 on the Z1?
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Old February 26th, 2005, 06:35 PM   #2
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Lets talk tapes....

no drop=outs and u used standard tapes?

tell us more

the HDV tapes are 5x the standard dv tape

are they worth it?
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Old February 26th, 2005, 09:09 PM   #3
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Re: FX1 on Three Week Documentary shoot - January

<<<-- Originally posted by Derek Serra : they cannot believe the "Super16mm-like" resolution the camera produces. The -->>>

that comment i'd have to totally disagree with. in terms of actual image quality & resolution, this aint no film camera!

but it is a great camera, i've just borrowed one for the weekend & i'm pretty sure i'll buy one. check my next post for a mini review of my thoughts & opinions....
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Old February 27th, 2005, 02:28 AM   #4
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Re: Re: FX1 on Three Week Documentary shoot - January

<<<-- Originally posted by James Darren : <<<-- Originally posted by Derek Serra : they cannot believe the "Super16mm-like" resolution the camera produces. The -->>>

that comment i'd have to totally disagree with. in terms of actual image quality & resolution, this aint no film camera!"

Well, that was the comment they made. Remember that these guys are comparing HDV to DVCAM. The massive increase in resolution and detail is quite startling the first few times you see it. For independent filmmakers shooting on relatively low budgets, this is probably the closest thing to film they are going to be able to afford. They also used the FX1 like a film camera - matte box, ND's, etc, so the material was beautifully shot.

We can't get the expensive HDV tapes here in South Africa, so we have a choice between standard Sony's and DVCAM. I've only used standard Sony's - no problems yet shooting 50i.
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