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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 October 2nd, 2006, 08:16 AM   #1
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General comments on a Z1

Last Saturday I had my first shot at recording with the Z1.

It was my first time handling it too (expo shows never count), and I found it very good and balanced to use.

I rented this Z1 in Sao Paulo, where I flew from Rio de Janeiro, so I had to learn quickly what to find where. I had to record a musical concert, using my Sony PDX10 for the close-ups shooting in 16:9. My budget did not allow me to rent more HDV cameras. The DV stuff I would up-rezz and/or process in editing using some image effect.

I had already downloaded the Z1 manual and printed the pages I would use, but as usual what you need was on the pages you did not print... It happened with the headphone output, which I had a hard time to find in the dim light I had.

The setup, for doing image adjustments, was not that straightforward. But I could get it done.

Two things I did not like: the play controls being where they are instead of on the side; the headphone level being so low.

1) The controls being on the top are good when you are shooting from your hip or with the camera lower. But they are useless when the camera is high on a tripod. If the V1 is coming back to the old arrangement that would be welcome.

2) The headphones level is too low. I was using a Sony MDR 7506, which is quite sensitive, but it might be necessary using an external amp for it or similar headphones. What are you guys using?

What I did like:

1) The LCD screen is great. Even scenes shot in the PDX10 in DVCam looked great when played on the Z1. That's why I think I will be able to use them, duly processed.

2) The lens is excellent. You can shoot straight into a light that it still will keep a fine contrast, which talks well of the internal anti-reflective coatings. No distortion whatsoever in wide open, or at least very good.

3) Focus ring. Even if it's a bit sensitive, it's great for a quick adjustment or even doing a focus-in and focus-out.

4) Weight is quite good. Balance quite reasonable. Even worked well on my Manfrotto 701RC2 that I use on my PDX10. In fact better than on the big Libec type that came with the Z1. Another point for the Manfrotto, which turned out to be a great head, very recommended.

There are others that could be improved, like the audio level controls or the input/output interfaces or the hyper-sensitive small zoom upper control, but that may be things you learn to live with.

One thing I found unusual is that the camera does not bring a 1394 cable as standard item.
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Old October 2nd, 2006, 09:03 AM   #2
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Glad it worked out for you Carlos.

Were your audio levels very low perhaps? I use the Sony MDR-V600 headphones which I believe are the consumer cousins of the 7506. I don't have a problem with audio monitoring. Did you turn the volume all the way up using the buttons under the LCD screen? For recording performances I have the sound guy send me a 0 dB analog signal to adjust my levels. When monitoring I set the headphone level pretty high, but not to the maximum (which would be painfully loud). What was the audio level reading at when you had trouble hearing?

There's a thread around here where someone else complains about the controls on the top of the camera. I don't have a problem with that personally, and I really like the top mounted LCD screen. Those controls are primarily for playback, so it doesn't seem like you need much access to them while shooting. The display button might be the exception, but that is easily programmed into one of the 6 user buttons. Personally I think the V1 is a step backwards with regard to the LCD placement, but each of us has our own preferences of course.

There are a lot of things you can set on the Z1, and it would be pretty intimidating to face all of these on the day of a shoot! But hopefully your experience will give you a foundation to build upon the next time you use the camera.
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Old October 2nd, 2006, 09:34 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd Ostroff
Were your audio levels very low perhaps? I use the Sony MDR-V600 headphones which I believe are the consumer cousins of the 7506. I don't have a problem with audio monitoring. Did you turn the volume all the way up using the buttons under the LCD screen? For recording performances I have the sound guy send me a 0 dB analog signal to adjust my levels. When monitoring I set the headphone level pretty high, but not to the maximum (which would be painfully loud). What was the audio level reading at when you had trouble hearing?
In this case I was using the internal mics, because that sound was supposed to be used as a guide only. It was also in AGC, so the levels should have been listenable. The volume level on the play control (is there any other?) was also set to maximum. In playback I could only listen to the audio, when levels were quite high and never reached the levels I get on the PDX10.

This low-level thing is also something a friend of mine commented with me before, asking for some recommendations on external headphone preamps. I thought he was exaggerating, but I think he was right. I also have a V600, which I will try next time on the Z1.

Quote:
There's a thread around here where someone else complains about the controls on the top of the camera. I don't have a problem with that personally, and I really like the top mounted LCD screen. Those controls are primarily for playback, so it doesn't seem like you need much access to them while shooting. The display button might be the exception, but that is easily programmed into one of the 6 user buttons. Personally I think the V1 is a step backwards with regard to the LCD placement, but each of us has our own preferences of course.
Well, the A1 also has the LCD and buttons on the side, unfortunately with the nasty down-feeding tape mechanism. Note that I am not complaining on the top-mounted screen: only the top mounted controls.

Last edited by Carlos E. Martinez; October 2nd, 2006 at 10:30 AM.
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Old October 2nd, 2006, 10:20 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlos E. Martinez
In this case I was using the internal mics, because that sound was supposed to be used as a guide only. It was also in AGC, so the levels should have been listenable. The volume level on the play control (is there any other?) was also set to maximum. In playback I could only listen to the audio, when levels were quite high and never reached the levels I get on the PDX10.
Funny, because in the PDX-10 group people were often complaining that audio levels were too low when using the shotgun mike :-)

I think this may be more of an auto level/builtin mike issue. Since I don't use the builtin mike I can't offer much help there.

I just popped in a tape from our Marriage of Figaro for a reality check. Using the builtin audio level meters (push the STATUS button) I'm showing peaks around -8 dB and more average levels around -12 dB. Using my V600 headphones, this sounds very unpleasantly loud with the volume at the max and sounds about right with the volume about 5 bars below max. So if you're having trouble hearing then I'm guessing that the recorded levels are very low, or perhaps the impedance is different on the 7506 phones (but I thought I had compared specs before and they were the same).

The volume for the headphones is adjusted by a (+) and (-) button on the group of controls you're so fond of, under the LCD screen ;-)
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Old October 2nd, 2006, 10:39 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd Ostroff
Funny, because in the PDX-10 group people were often complaining that audio levels were too low when using the shotgun mike :-)

I think this may be more of an auto level/builtin mike issue. Since I don't use the builtin mike I can't offer much help there.
Yeah, those I don't use either. I even put the external Z1 mic on the PDX10, because I didn't want to use the internal mics on that camera.

I should have put an AKG on the Z1 as external mic, even if AGC controlled it might have worked.

[/QUOTE]The volume for the headphones is adjusted by a (+) and (-) button on the group of controls you're so fond of, under the LCD screen ;-)[/QUOTE]

OK. At least we are talking about the same volume switch. Well, I just measured the resistance on both headphones, and it's 75 ohms on the 7506 and 45 ohms on the V600. Maybe that's why, along with the lower levels in the internal mics.

BTW: the internal output level adjustments between 1V and 2V are for the line level signal, not for the headphones. It doesn't affect them, AFAIK.

Will try the V600 and external mics with the Z1 next time.
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