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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 May 27th, 2006, 11:45 AM   #1
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Available light

I'm retiring my XL1s. I tried a HC1, but the skin tones/color wasn't good enough. I'm looking at the Z1U. I do a lot of shooting in the operating room, where keeping the kit small is beneficial, (i.e. no support lighting). How does the Z1U handle using only available light in the OR?

The canon image rendereds skin tones well, yet it's image is a little soft when compared to other miniDV cams of it's kind. (I've had difficulty at times in shooting small wires and fine tools in use). How does the Z1U compare in terms of sharpness for HD? I'm more interested in what goes on tape, and not what the lens sees, there is a slight difference (at least with the canon there was). Is there anyone doing this kind of work with this cam?

Thanks.
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Old May 27th, 2006, 03:22 PM   #2
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Actually some of the best footage my FX1 has ever given me was shot in the OR when my daughter was born!

It's actually nice lighting!
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Old May 27th, 2006, 04:13 PM   #3
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Thanks Tomas. I'm surprised the hospital allowed you to bring the camera in. Many institutions, in fear or malpractice reprisal, have adopted a no-camera policy. I was allowed a still camera for my son Jaeden, but only at the discretion of the attending head physician, and only when taking cues/directions from her. I think I was given leeway only due to my profession, and that I mentioned my willingness to sign a waiver contrary to policy.

How was your shooting experience in the OR? I gather the camera made it easy?

Many times I'm confronted with intensly bright lights, and moments of sudden darkness when the docs wish to kick on the flouro (xray) units, and I have to quickly jump on the iris to keep up. There's no scripting in the OR, you either get it, or you don't. Many times I only have one chance, and when were able to find a patient willing to sign an agreement. No two patients are alike, and not every proceedure goes according to instructions. It's not an easy task.

This why it's critical to have a camera that see's well in available light, what ever that may be, and allows me to adapt. I like push-button white balance, and iris wheel, focus and zoom rings, (I cut most of the motion out in post, so I need a camera that will quickly frame the shot).

The canon has setting knobs that allow me to save internal adjustments, and ones that require menu access. I usually set one for light's on, lights off, and intense light. Something changes, and one turn of the knob and I'm there. The HC1 (and I assume the A1) requires accessing an internal menu to get to some of these settings. I see that Z1U has six user assignable buttons. Do these access options, or do they actually apply custom settings to the camera? (I know you have the FX1, so maybe some else can chime in).

I've read up on this camera, and I need to get a hold of one to see for myself. I need to find a rental source near Reading, PA. Otherwise, I have your experiences and may just bite the bullet and make a purchase.

Thanks for you input.
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Old May 27th, 2006, 04:20 PM   #4
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You won't be disapointed, I had the HC1 and would not recommend it, great little camera but when you compare shots side by side with the FX1 under the same cirmcumstances they are day and night.

Didn't have to sign a waiver or anything, just asked the doc and he said shure thing!

This cam has all of the manual controls you'll ever need (My personal believe)

Just make sure you get it from a reputable store and not grey market, maybe from one of the DVINFO sponsors like B&H.
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Old May 27th, 2006, 04:57 PM   #5
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I'm sure an OR would provide plenty of illumination for the FX1/Z1. It will work in very dark places actually, although not as sensitive as my VX-2000. But especially if you are shooting at the wide end of the zoom where the max aperture is (IIRC) F1.6. At full zoom you can only open up to F2.8 which is a bit more limiting but still probably fine for any "normal" lighting.

The following collection of threads about low light might be of interest:

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=54414
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Old May 27th, 2006, 05:48 PM   #6
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Thanks for the links Boyd, you've saved me from hours of endless wandering, (now I know why I come here everytime I have a question).

Tomas, I take your word on it. Doesn't sound like a difficult cam to use, coming from the XL1s, I think it'll be a good replacement. B&H has fair pricing, and I think their warranty is very competitive. The camera is out of stock, obviously a hot item. I wonder if they rent... I'll have to call them on Tuesday.

Thanks again!
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Old May 27th, 2006, 06:22 PM   #7
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I've used my FX1 in low light and it's a wonder what this beauty can do. I don't regret too much that I did not purchase the Z1. I do wonder what kind of things I could do with some of the extra settings available in the Z1, though...

I've shot some night scenes of a street full of cherry blossoms, in Korea, and it went pretty well with the street lights and the colored lights that were placed on the trees.

I love the three chip FX1. I had purchased it to shoot our second childs birth, but like our first, certain circumstances did not allow me to shoot the birth. On both occasions, the doctors were willing to allow me to film the birth.

However, it's strange that they are not willing to let you film the ultrasound.

Now, I'm seriously drooling over the A1U. Even if it's a single chip, I think it's a wonder what the thing can do, and it also offers some extra features that I would love to try out. I'm not sure how the quality of the A1U will be in low light settings compared to the FX1 and Z1 but the A1U offers night shot which you will see as black and white instead of that green texture.

Anyone used the A1 for low light shots?
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Old May 27th, 2006, 08:49 PM   #8
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John, the A1U is similiar to the HC1, and suffers the same lighting conditions. In automode the HC1 creates a decent exposure in a well lit room. However, in manual mode, the settings are limited and do not allow one to tweak or do whatever it takes to get the a decent image with manual control.

I'm sure the A1U has more detailed settings (i.e. black stretch, additional stops or steps). But most of those settings, from what I've read and seen in the HC1 as well, are not infinite or minute, but deliberate stops along the scale. That is, you either go too much, or too little and never just right. You can adjust overall color, but not individual RGB channels. You can adjust exposure, but it's a best guess and wind up counting the number times you flipped the switch.

In many cases, you have to move the lights and physically change the scene to accomodate the camera's limitations. Move the lights too close, you blow out the hightlights, too far away to even things out and you have to gain up to a noisy level. It was a frustrating attempt. Sure, I could make it work. But not every shoot is so freely adjustable. In short, it's best to to use autolock for exposure, and simply live with the end result.

That's enough beating this camera. It's still a solid little package. I'm definetly taking this with me on the road. It will fit nicely as carry-on when flying, and not raise heads or draw attention when scouting locations, etc. You can be a pro disquised as the clueless tourist. In those cases, I can live with what ever image the camera is able to deliver. When it comes to the actual paid shoot, the camera stays in the bag or hotel room and I'll bring something more like your FX1.

Edit: To answer you last question, there is a slight green cast to shots taken in Nightshot mode.
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Old May 28th, 2006, 01:38 AM   #9
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Pete,

Thanks for the response. As you said, nothing will beat a 3 chip but the A1U is so tempting!

I'm tempted to go out and purchase it. I know a store with three A1U's left and their selling it for 1299.99! It's a respectable store, a high end store, so I trust them fully. The salesman said there brand new ones, still in the boxes. I thought he was mistaken when he quoted the price, as the one I saw was a clearance sale on a used A1U at the same price, but he told me that it's the correct price.

It's interesting about the night shot mode, that you mentioned, as the brochure fully says it's night shot mode is in black and white.

I'm tempted to purchase the A1U as a backup as well. The pro features that my FX1 does not offer I can use when editing. Like the TV mode where you can crop the widescreen for 4:3 TV sets.

I use the FX1 to help out a local TV station and it be nice to know I can crop the picture for them or to record in DVcam mode as well. All though...why shot in SD when you can shot in HD? You can still downconvert and still use the HD shots later in the future.

I recorded some scenes of Jo Sumi's concert, here in Seattle, tonight and I have to say that the FX1 performed as expected. The shot's looked great, however, I could not get the crowd shot of the audience as the lighting was too low. I even tried it with 18db gain! The cameraman I went with was using a PD150 and that performed excellently in the low light setting to shoot the audience members.

I did learn something about my FX1 today, I always thought for some reason, being a consumer cam, that I could not shut off the beeps, when changing settings or starting and stopping a recording or have the lamp light turned off that shows the camera is in recording mode. I don't know why I didn't bother looking through the manual or playing with the settings. If not for the camera man, I would still be recording and distracting the audience as the recording light goes on and off or the sound made by the camcorder, no matter how low it is, to distract the audience.
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Old May 28th, 2006, 08:35 AM   #10
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Reading the manual helps. I usually tinker with the device as I read the manual, to get a good understanding of it's features. It helps keep you focused due to the initial exciting of first having it.

The two obvious issues with the HC1 and A1 (I believe), is that the sensor/lens is not sensitive enough to see well in the dark. Even if you want noise, it's blind. The other issue skin color in manual mode. It's hard to replicate, and you are forced set AE lock and let the camera do it for you, and only if you have adequate lighting (i.e. mid day).

Otherwise, the resolution is sharp enough to capture small details. It does boast possibilities for other uses. Nightshot being one of them. Faking a security cam would be another. The right tool for the right job.

I'm concerned as to why the FX1, with such a much larger lens to allow more light in, is still somewhat blind. Even when you cranked up the gain, as you've said, it could not see the audience vs. the PD150. Maybe the Z1U is more apt to do this? I do shoot many dim lit rooms for presentations and company wide meetings and sales events. Using an external light would be a distraction.

Without knowing your settings, the conditions of the room that night, etc. There's no way of knowing what the issue is without seeing it for myself. I'm just going to have to rent one and do my own test.

I see your from Seattle. I was born in Everett and lived in Snohomish before going into the Navy. Take care.
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Old May 28th, 2006, 09:04 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Kang
I'm tempted to go out and purchase it. I know a store with three A1U's left and their selling it for 1299.99! It's a respectable store, a high end store, so I trust them fully.
I would check with Sony just to be sure they are really an authorized dealer for the A1, which comes from their broadcast products (pro) division. You don't want to end up with a mess like this afterwards! http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=68135

You should be able to find out here: http://bssc.sel.sony.com/Broadcastan...p=141&id=80897

I'm probably just paranoid, but some stores which may be authorized to sell Sony's consumer cameras are not authorized for the pro cameras, and it would be unpleasant to learn that further down the road if you have a warranty issue.
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Old May 28th, 2006, 11:00 AM   #12
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Hi Peter

I used manual iris from 1.7 to 2.2 and the shutter speed was at 125. I had stagelight on for the performer. I'll play with the shutter speed next time but at the lower shutter speed it's so jerky that when you're trying to record the audience clapping, it doesn't look great.

I tried with gain and no gain for the audience. The ligting was dim and it was about the same for another concert I shot. However, I didn't try gain on the other shoot.

Hi Boyd,

The Sony site doesn't mention it as an authorized Sony Reseller, so I'll have to talk to them about it and see what they say, that is, if I will be purchasing it. At 1299.99, I don't think I'll worry too much about it. I was thinking of purchasing the store warrentee that will work for 4 years and free servicing on the purchase. It's 200 extra for it though. I could take it in for cleaning and what not.
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Old May 29th, 2006, 01:12 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Kang
[...] nothing will beat a 3 chip but the A1U is so tempting [...]
No doubt about it, the 3-chip Z1U and FX1 provide better low-light performance and color compared to the A1U, however, I recently did a side-by-side comparison between the Z1U and A1U and I discovered that the differences, while they are there, are not night and day in terms of image quality (they are for low-light performance though, this is where the FX1 and Z1U beat the pants off the A1U, which simply is not a good low-light camera compared to the Z1U and FX1).

Here's a link to a set of images on Flickr that presents a side-by-side comparison of the A1U and Z1U in terms of image quality: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kino-ey...7594082411015/ My goal in this was not to say one is better than the other, for you have to judge a camera wholistically, but I had been shooting a doc with a Z1U and I was curious how far I was "stepping down" by purchasing the A1U to continue working on the doc. I ended up getting the A1U and I'm happy so far, the size makes up for it's lack of complete manual control and single-chip vs. 3-chip, but that's only because size was a key issue in my own decision.

It's also interesting to consider what you can accomplish with two A1Us vs. one Z1U...
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Old May 29th, 2006, 02:36 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Ferling
I usually set one for light's on, lights off, and intense light. Something changes, and one turn of the knob and I'm there.
The Z1U has Shot Transition - you can set up
- Iris
- Shutter speed
- Zoom
- Focus
- White balance
- Gain

for two states, and do a half second to 15 second transiton between these two states. Might help (especially the change of White Balance). Would throwing in the ND2 filter handle the intense light?
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Old May 29th, 2006, 10:11 PM   #15
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Matt, the XL1s has a single stage ND filter applied by an external switch. Hitting it induces motion in the camera that I have to edit out. Otherwise, it saved my bacon in some shoots.

David, no doubt the image quality with the HC1/A1 is there. My whole beef is getting there quickly. The Z1 looks like the perfect upgrade from my canon.

Time for another Warsteiner. This german beer is pretty good. A treat from the wife for installing the new air conditioning unit.
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