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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 December 28th, 2012, 07:16 PM   #1
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Is the FX1 Still a good quality Camera

I am now using a PD-150, wanting to go to HD, I shoot musicals and may do some weddings.
Hows it the quality of this camera. I am not concerned with using tapes, I can work around that, but will I get a good quality picture from this? I can't afford a lot and if this camera will last me 3 years I am good with that.
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Old December 28th, 2012, 08:17 PM   #2
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Re: Is the FX1 Still a good quality Camera

The FX1 is a great, great camera.
It is one of the last to have CCD sensor and that is great too.
Unfortunately DV tape is dead, but the camera was ok too with the optional hardisk (DR60)
I still use it as B-cam with my EX1 and sometimes, i still prefer the FX1.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 02:15 AM   #3
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Re: Is the FX1 Still a good quality Camera

"I am now using a PD-150, wanting to go to HD, I shoot musicals and may do some weddings. Hows it the quality of this camera. I am not concerned with using tapes, I can work around that, but will I get a good quality picture from this? I can't afford a lot and if this camera will last me 3 years I am good with that."
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HDV is not true HD but confers a native 16:9 image of apparent better sharpness than MiniDV/DVCAM. Is it as good as true HD - no. For events that may only ever be duplicates to DVD or the web, it is quite adequate.

The colours red may sometimes appear a bit plasticky. You might wish for a bit more colour saturation but compared to the PD150, not an issue.

Performance in low light by the FX1 is not as good as the PD150. The combination of gain noise and fine detail in a wide shot will provoke the mpeg2 codec into softening the image. My personal preference was for no more than 3db of video gain.

Tape dropouts can lose you up to half a second of vision before the next keyframe can settle things down again whereas the PD150 may simply pixellate a few frames. From a practical viewpoint, by the time you cut four or so frames of pixellation to viable edit points, the loss of image may not be such an issue.

In the real world, that has not been a problem for me but with time, ageing of tape transports and tape stock, that may not continue to hold true. As a hedge you might need to consider an outboard recorder before models which are compatable with the FX1/Z1 camera system are discontinued.

Unlike the PD150, the FX1 does not have XLR audio inputs or phantom power. The onboard mikes are good but to take audio in from external sources you are stuck with a single small threechannel phono input for audio and video. There was a Beachtek kit vended for this camera.

The Z1 is as featured as the PD150, has XLR inputs switchable for line/mic/phantom power and also retains the FX1 onboard mikes as a choice.
Manual level control for the audio channels on the FX1 is linked to a single thumbwheel so you cannot bracket levels to recover good sound later. The Z1 has separate manual audio level controls. The "auto" level function on the Z1 and FX1 seems good, if a little bit on the low side.

The LCD screen is a vast improvement on the PD150. To safeguard unskilled shooters the true sensor image is heavily cropped which can lead to over-wide framing and unwanted objects poking into edges unobserved. The Z1 has an allscan mode which reveals the entire sensor image.

The FX1 is available as separate NTSC or PAL compatable camera versions. The Z1 can do both although it was sold as separate models. So if you are buying off eBay, be sure to know which version it is.

Audio is recorded via a more compressed codec than the PD150 but for practical purposes it holds up quite well. If you are serious about audio, then you record double system audio even just as a backup anyway.

The tripod mount under the case is the same postage stamp of metal, secured by four tiny screws through the casework into the alloy metal substrate, The same care is needed to avoid tripod falls and other violent events whilst the camera is mounted or it may be ruined.

Use two fingers gently when switching ND. There have been a few incidences of the ND mechanism failing across several brands, not just Sony. I suspect that hasty crash-switching may have a lot to do with it.

The menu selector is a cute little roller versus the thumbwheel of the PD150. It works the same, however becomes polished with time and the fingertip or thumbtip will slip.
If you can tolerate the toxicity, a thin layer of toluene based yellow contact adhesive on one fingertip helps and will last most of the day.

Optically, the lens seems sweetest with the iris set in the f4-f6.3 ballpark. Choose your ND to keep it there.

The sensor is CCD, not CMOS so you won't get rolling shutter artifacts which in newer CMOS cameras of comparable price to your secondhand FX1 can be cruelbad.

Like the PD150, you will experience hard vertical lines from pinpoint overbright objects in the shot. I prefer to live with those than rolling shutter.

The FX1/Z1 both use the same battery system as the PD150. Battery endurance is excellent with the NP-F970 which is in itself a good product that Sony got right.

If you take care not to deepcycle them too much they will last a good long time. Two of my three originals are still good and the third remains servicable with a reduced capacity of about two thirds.

Unlike the PD150, the cassette load system works like the old Canon XL family in that the carriage extends outwards after you open the door. After putting in a new cassette, you must wait for the carriage to retreat inside, then preferably swing the carriage in until it clicks before you close the door. Never close the door on a moving carriage otherwise you will surely damage it.

The FX1 has three assignable buttons. The Z1 has six.

As for tapes, I have preferred to use the Sony blue or red cassettes. They have been fine. There was an issue with the higher quality mastering tapes for a while. Other brands can be used. There was a contention that mixing Sony, (wet lubricant) and other brands (dry lubricant) problems with mixed residues building up would occur. The jury pretty much remained out on that one but sticking with one brand if it works can't hurt.

Last edited by Bob Hart; December 29th, 2012 at 02:27 AM. Reason: error
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Old December 29th, 2012, 03:52 AM   #4
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Re: Is the FX1 Still a good quality Camera

Quote:
HDV is not true HD but confers a native 16:9 image of apparent better sharpness than MiniDV/DVCAM. Is it as good as true HD - no
That's the only statement in your excellent overview I don't agree with.
What is "true HD"? Does this mean that if a camera can do 1920x1080 it is better then 1440x1080? My wife has a pocket cam that does "full hd" but it's image looks like crap compared to a HDV camera, my dslr does 1080P but a HDV camera still has more resolution.
There is much more to it then just the phrase "true HD" to give you a excellent image, like the sensor, the codec, the glass etc.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 06:28 AM   #5
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Re: Is the FX1 Still a good quality Camera

"Is it as good as true HD - no."


Noah. I agree I could have been more careful with my use of words. There is one of two broadcast HDTV standards that the cameras you mention can claim to come up to so the claim as HD cameras can be made for them.

However, I do not want the enquirer thinking somehow he will be getting himself a camera which does render faithfully from the sensor, an image comprised of 1920 pixels across and 1080 pixels down. The FX1 doesn't do that.

HDV in the Sony flavour confers an image claimed as 1440 pixels across and 1080 down. The final recovered image consists of horizontally stretched rectangular pixels which fill the same 16:9 frame width that 1920 square pixels would.

What I also neglected to add was that the Sony flavour of HDV also provides that image as interlaced, not progressive.

That in itself does not matter materially. The image will still be nicer than that his PD150 can give him.

As for resolution. I try to force myself to use the term "apparent" resolution. I do not always succeed in applying that discipline to myself.


You correctly point out, there are many factors involved, the lens, the dynamic range of the sensor, the codec and its ability to faithfully render, store and reproduce a complex and detailed image.


This is where I am going to metaphorically put my head in the stocks and dare somebody to slam them shut and pelt rotting cucumbers at my dial. In terms of comparative "apparent resolution and dynamic range" I am reasonably sure that with a groundglass adaptor, good glass and care, I can create an image with a FX1 that will still give a 7D a good fright. If Clint Eastwood's DoP for "Band Of Brothers?Letters From Iwo Jima" chose Sony Z1s for admittedly quick battle action POV grabs, then the FX1 camera can't be all bad.


Finally, it comes down to the operator of the camera and what is wanted of it.

Last edited by Bob Hart; December 29th, 2012 at 07:03 AM. Reason: error
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Old December 29th, 2012, 08:07 AM   #6
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Re: Is the FX1 Still a good quality Camera

Thx Bob for the clarification, I couldn't have said it any better. I just pointed that out because I see that many people think that if a camera can do "full hd" it's better by default what is not the case, like the gopro3 that can do 2.7 or 4k but any full raster 1080p 4:2:2 camera will give a much better image.

But the best truth is like you said that it starts with the operator, a experienced one can make any camera look good.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 08:46 AM   #7
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Re: Is the FX1 Still a good quality Camera

Wow what great info, I am going for the Z1. I love my pd-150 and the sony cameras to me have always looked really good. Thanks so much for so much info.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 09:11 AM   #8
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Re: Is the FX1 Still a good quality Camera

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Hart View Post
"Is it as good as true HD - no."


Noah. I agree I could have been more careful with my use of words. There is one of two broadcast HDTV standards that the cameras you mention can claim to come up to so the claim as HD cameras can be made for them.
Having had an FX1E just 1 month short of 7 years, I can say that it has been a reliable piece of kit. It may not be regarded as 'broadcast HD', but it is certainly a step above most SD. As far as 1440 samples per line go, that is an HDTV standard and there are many HDCAM cameras in continuous use worldwide with that resolution. The FX1 can't equal the quality of a camera/lens costing upwards of 10 times the cost, so it derives that resolution from three sensors with 960x1080 photosites, with the green offset by 1/2 a sample width horizontally. This gives approximately 1440 sample horizontal luminance resolution, (the chroma resolution is constrained by the 4:2:0 colourspace common to most consumer HD formats). Although the lens is quite soft, that gives the codec an easier job of compressing without excessive moire and other artifacts. It certainly looks a lot better than a Canon 550D with its claimed 1920x1080 resolution.
As Noa and Bob imply, its what the end product video quality is that matters, not the sales hype striving to push the highest number of pixels among their competitors. If that is what is important, then an EX1 is probably the most appropriate equipment, although even a used example is probably above the OP's budget.
One thing the FX1 does have is quite good ergonomics in terms of controls accessibility and a good LCd screen that can be used even with bright sunlight falling directly on it.

Anthony, I hope that my comments also help.

Last edited by Steve Game; December 29th, 2012 at 09:13 AM. Reason: post sent after OP's reply.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 09:21 AM   #9
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Re: Is the FX1 Still a good quality Camera

This link is to a FX1 originated clip shot through an AGUS35 adaptor. It is therefore not representative of the sharpness of the camera which is better than this clip conveys and the camera does not natively confer the shallower depth of field as shown. The clip is fairly representative of it in terms of tonality and colour saturation. If the camera is in good condition, I think you should be pleased with what you can achieve with it.


Last edited by Bob Hart; December 29th, 2012 at 09:29 AM. Reason: error
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Old December 29th, 2012, 09:34 AM   #10
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Re: Is the FX1 Still a good quality Camera

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony DePasquale View Post
I am now using a PD-150, wanting to go to HD, I shoot musicals and may do some weddings.
Hows it the quality of this camera. I am not concerned with using tapes, I can work around that, but will I get a good quality picture from this? I can't afford a lot and if this camera will last me 3 years I am good with that.
I bought a used FX1 and a Z1 to replace my Sony VX 2100s, I am happy with the quality of both cameras, not as good in low light as the 2100s but I knew that when I bought them. I also shoot with a couple of Canon 5D Mark IIs and I am able to mix the footage pretty well in post if necessary. After about a year I had to have the tape transport replaced in the FX1 which was fairly expensive so I would try and find one with low hours. My church recently purchased a Sony XR260v which records to either the 160 gig hard drive or an SD card, it shoots 1080p or 1080i and the quality in fair lighting is better than the FX Z1 cameras. The cost was about the same as a recorder for one of my other cameras. If size doesn't matter they are great little cameras. I was also not concerned about recording to tape but now would really like to be able to record to cards only.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 09:35 AM   #11
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Re: Is the FX1 Still a good quality Camera

Steve. Thanks for that input.

I was going to try and explain that but got myself in too much of a mess trying> I would surely have muddied the waters.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 09:46 AM   #12
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Re: Is the FX1 Still a good quality Camera

whats considered low hours?
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Old December 29th, 2012, 10:44 AM   #13
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Re: Is the FX1 Still a good quality Camera

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Originally Posted by James E. Thomas View Post
I bought a used FX1 and a Z1 to replace my Sony VX 2100s, I am happy with the quality of both cameras, not as good in low light as the 2100s but I knew that when I bought them. I also shoot with a couple of Canon 5D Mark IIs and I am able to mix the footage pretty well in post if necessary. After about a year I had to have the tape transport replaced in the FX1 which was fairly expensive so I would try and find one with low hours. My church recently purchased a Sony XR260v which records to either the 160 gig hard drive or an SD card, it shoots 1080p or 1080i and the quality in fair lighting is better than the FX Z1 cameras. The cost was about the same as a recorder for one of my other cameras. If size doesn't matter they are great little cameras. I was also not concerned about recording to tape but now would really like to be able to record to cards only.
I still have my FX1 but do not use anymore. All the little Sony's I have ( SR11, XR500 and CX700 ) have better performance by far than HDV of the FX1. I also have a NX5U so am now fully tapeless and would not go back to tape. I would not buy a tape camcorder now it is so nice to be able to just record and not worry about tape changing etc. I could record for over 5 hours on my NX5U with the FMU128 before I need to change the battery. With the FMU128 it would record for 11 hours or continuously by changing the SD cards in the dual slots if it is powered from the mains.


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Old December 29th, 2012, 03:48 PM   #14
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Re: Is the FX1 Still a good quality Camera

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The FX1 can't equal the quality of a camera/lens costing upwards of 10 times the cost, so it derives that resolution from three sensors with 960x1080 photosites, with the green offset by 1/2 a sample width horizontally. This gives approximately 1440 sample horizontal luminance resolution, (the chroma resolution is constrained by the 4:2:0 colourspace common to most consumer HD formats).
The first generation HD cameras perform similarly to widescreen SD cameras with builtin upsampling circuitry. In particular, the actual resolution of the FX1 image is noticably less than the 1440x1080 recording resolution of HDV. This can be seen in resolution tests performed by slashcam.com of the FX1

http://produktdbimages.slashcam.de/c...so_klein_2.jpg

compared to the Canon XHA1s which is also HDV

http://produktdbimages.slashcam.de/c...o_klein_91.jpg

and compared to a current camera such as the Panasonic AC160

http://produktdbimages.slashcam.de/c..._klein_208.jpg

If you are producing widescreen DVDs then the FX1 works well. If you want to produce bluray disks than you might be better off with a higher resolution camera.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 04:51 PM   #15
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Re: Is the FX1 Still a good quality Camera

Wow information overload. My application right now is mostly doing dance recitals and musical theater for Schools. I am hoping to start doing some weddings again. I am going to mostly do Widescreen DVD's. I got alot of work using the PD-150. People were very impressed with the quality, if Z1 is even a little better than that I am good. This is a small side business, so I can't even come close to competing with big guys.
Thanks for the info. Explaining my application am I good going with the Z1? Will Blu-ray look that bad?
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