HDR-FX1 or HVR-A1U ? What's better for me? 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 October 9th, 2006, 07:14 AM   #1
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HDR-FX1 or HVR-A1U ? What's better for me?

I'm new here and need some advice from more knowledgable filmers. For the past few years I have been filming youth sports (especially football) games for the kids. I then capture, edit, and assemble highlight reels in Premier Pro, and burn this to DVD for the kids and their parents at the end of the season. The camera I use is used weekly, sometimes 2 or 3 times a week, and sees warm and cold temps, wind, sometimes rain (under an umbrella or other cover of course)..and it has to play back the tapes for capture.

I have been using Sony TRV series cameras, but they don't seem to stand up to this amount of use, and only last 2 years at best. Then the transport mechanism starts screwing up, I have problems with the autofocus and autoexposure, and the picture quality starts degrading.

I want to by a "Prosumer" level camera that will stand up to the use and last 4 or 5 years. Since I have HD editing capability in Premier Pro, and have HD equipment in my house, I am interested in HD capabilities as well. I am torn between the HDR-FX1 or HVR-A1U. What do you folks think, is one better suited to what I do than the other? Are these the right cameras to be looking at? Is there some other camera that might be a better choice ? Educated and experienced opinions would be very much appreciated.
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Old October 9th, 2006, 10:53 AM   #2
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Don't have the A1, but do have the FX1. It is rugged and dependable. Battery life is great, as is usual with Sony. Great picture. You will like the full manual capability, and controls are easy to operate.

Sony's FX7 is coming out soon, as is V1 It is has smaller sensors, but is CMOS. Its size is a bit smaller than FX1, more the size of a PD150 or VX2100, if you have seen those cameras.

Incidentally, for best low light performance, the Sony VX2100/PD150 cams are still low light champs, but aren't high def. In that sense, the technology in them is getting old. But last month, I used them my VX in a play where lighting was bad, and came out with a very nice image...

Canon has its own new HD camera, which seems close to FX1... you may want to check it out too.
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Old October 9th, 2006, 12:33 PM   #3
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I have a Sony Z1U and A1U. This is an interesting decision because the A1 actually has features of the Z1 that the FX1 doesnít have (like XLR inputs, Black-stretch, Cinema-Tone 2, more downconvert options, etc.). Still the pictures quality of the Z1/FX1 in low light is better than the A1 (the A1 is noticeably noisier in low/indoor light). Since you are shooting outdoors this is probably not a problem (unless you are shooting night games that may be poorly lit)

You also have to consider the price. The A1U is $2199 USD at B&H (after $300 rebate) and the FX1 is $3149 so thatís roughly $1000 more! Does the FX1 give you $1000 better picture? Probably not. Between the FX1 and A1U, IMHO, the A1U is a better deal for the money right now unless low-light performance is required.

I love my Z1 but what I like about the A1U is that itís small. I can take it places I would never take the Z1. Last week I went to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum here in NYC. I took the lens hood and XLR pack off the A1U and it looked just like any other handy-cam. I was able to go anywhere and film anything like a tourist without even raising an eyebrow that I was getting some killer HD footage. So the A1U doubles as an HD ďvacation camĒ for me. It may be perfect for you too.

~jr
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Old October 9th, 2006, 12:51 PM   #4
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I have to agree size and "look" of the FX1 sometimes turns me off to taking the camera to an event. I find myself taking my Panny GS120 a lot. It definitely will catch attention and be obtrusive. That is less of a problem with my VX2000, which is similar in size, as I under stand it, to the V1.

The thing that turned me off in looking at the A1 was the access to features. As I understood it, a lot of the adjustments are by touch screen, which means you have to have LCD open.. Am I wrong about that ?
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Old October 9th, 2006, 02:42 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Rofrano
I have a Sony Z1U and A1U. This is an interesting decision because the A1 actually has features of the Z1 that the FX1 doesn’t have (like XLR inputs, Black-stretch, Cinema-Tone 2, more downconvert options, etc.). Still the pictures quality of the Z1/FX1 in low light is better than the A1 (the A1 is noticeably noisier in low/indoor light). Since you are shooting outdoors this is probably not a problem (unless you are shooting night games that may be poorly lit)

.....I love my Z1 but what I like about the A1U is that it’s small. I can take it places I would never take the Z1. Last week I went to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum here in NYC. I took the lens hood and XLR pack off the A1U and it looked just like any other handy-cam. I was able to go anywhere and film anything like a tourist without even raising an eyebrow that I was getting some killer HD footage.
~jr
I do shoot night games, and they can be very well lit, or not so well lit depending on what school they are taking place at. Of course, right now I am shooting those with a Sony DCR-TRV520, so unless the low light performance of the A1U would not be at least as good as that camera, it wouldn't necessaarily be an issue.

Also, this summer we took a vacation to Philli, followed by DC. I did some shooting inside a WWII submarine in Philli and did a lot of shooting inside the Air and Space Museum in DC. Mostly just documenting the trip for future viewing on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I don't really want to lose that ability or be forced to have another camera for those kind of things.

You mentioned the ability to "go anywhere and film anything like a tourist without even raising an eyebrow ..." with the A1U. Are you saying that you would not have been able to do that with the FX1 ? If so...why, because of its size? or are you saying that because it is a more Professional camera you may not be allowed to film in some public places? I have seen comments eluding to this before, but never really understood this limitation.
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Old October 9th, 2006, 07:53 PM   #6
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So, would the look of the footage from the A1U match the Z1U better than any of the newer models V1/FX7 ? I would like a smaller "audience" camera, and the A1U seems to fit the bill. Is it that much noisier ? The only new features of the V1/FX7 I really like are those super high frame rate recording modes for action photography.
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Old October 9th, 2006, 08:54 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Barcellos
The thing that turned me off in looking at the A1 was the access to features. As I understood it, a lot of the adjustments are by touch screen, which means you have to have LCD open.. Am I wrong about that ?
This is my biggest beef with the Sony A1U. The touch screen is a problem for me because I always shoot with a hood which makes the touch screen extremely inaccessible. I bought Nintendo DS picks which are just long enough to access the screen with the hood on.

~jr
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Old October 9th, 2006, 09:01 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Morris
You mentioned the ability to "go anywhere and film anything like a tourist without even raising an eyebrow ..." with the A1U. Are you saying that you would not have been able to do that with the FX1 ? If so...why, because of its size? or are you saying that because it is a more Professional camera you may not be allowed to film in some public places? I have seen comments eluding to this before, but never really understood this limitation.
Both are true. 1) I could not have run around the ship lugging the Z1U like I did with the A1U. I mean the A1U fits in the palm your hand. Itís very easy to navigate stairways and other small places, especially crowded ones. 2) Some places will not let you in with a Pro camera. I know some museums are like that. I donít know if the Intrepid allows it but I wasnít lugging the Z1 around for a day with the family anyway. I bought a Kata waste pouch for it and just put it away when I wasnít using it.

The other advantage to the A1U is the weight. I bought a spider-brace and the A1U is very light so you can hold it a lot longer without getting tired than you can the Z1U.

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Old October 9th, 2006, 09:17 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gints Klimanis
So, would the look of the footage from the A1U match the Z1U better than any of the newer models V1/FX7 ? I would like a smaller "audience" camera, and the A1U seems to fit the bill.
I havenít seen the V1/FX7 so I canít say how well it would match the Z1 but the A1 matches pretty easily in good light. Perhaps Douglas Spotted Eagle can give his views. He has used all three cameras.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gints Klimanis
Is it that much noisier ?
Well, it is noticeable depending on the situation. I noticed it the first day I was using it indoors and so I put the two cameras side-by-side just to check. The Z1 definitely had less noise. According to the specs, the A1U is 7 lux and the Z1U/FX1 is 3 lux and the FX7 is 4 lux.

On the other hard, the A1U CMOS sensors have less smear than a CCD and so for night sports games the A1U might actually do better under the bright lights.

~jr
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Old October 11th, 2006, 05:35 AM   #10
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all i know is.. you can't do what i do with a FX1 or Z1u
http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y293/thevish/A1U.jpg

Video footage here..
www.thevishfiles.com/kaleheo.wmv
50 something meg.
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Old October 11th, 2006, 07:47 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Rofrano
Both are true. 1) I could not have run around the ship lugging the Z1U like I did with the A1U. I mean the A1U fits in the palm your hand. Itís very easy to navigate stairways and other small places, especially crowded ones. 2) Some places will not let you in with a Pro camera. I know some museums are like that. I donít know if the Intrepid allows it but I wasnít lugging the Z1 around for a day with the family anyway. I bought a Kata waste pouch for it and just put it away when I wasnít using it.

The other advantage to the A1U is the weight. I bought a spider-brace and the A1U is very light so you can hold it a lot longer without getting tired than you can the Z1U.

~jr
Thanks for the input guys. It is really appreciated. At this point I am leaning toward the A1U, although I am still a little bothered by two points: the poor low light performance and the size of the camera. I actually am a little bothered by the small size...especially with HD. Doesn't the small size/light weight make it more prone to picking up shake when hand held ? What is the spider-brace you referred to John ?
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Old October 11th, 2006, 09:25 AM   #12
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vish Matepi
all i know is.. you can't do what i do with a FX1 or Z1u
http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y293/thevish/A1U.jpg

Video footage here..
www.thevishfiles.com/kaleheo.wmv
50 something meg.
Yes...you can. We did pre-race footage with a Bonehead FlatTop Pro helmet and an A1u for CMT programming. We shoot quite a few BMX events here, all of them with either the HC3 or the A1u. Z1 is too heavy, no doubt. BMX and MotoX both use the same helmet and camera assembly with a Bonehead or Cookie Composites D Box.
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Old October 11th, 2006, 02:09 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Douglas Spotted Eagle
Yes...you can. We did pre-race footage with a Bonehead FlatTop Pro helmet and an A1u for CMT programming. We shoot quite a few BMX events here, all of them with either the HC3 or the A1u. Z1 is too heavy, no doubt. BMX and MotoX both use the same helmet and camera assembly with a Bonehead or Cookie Composites D Box.
so your saying you've stuck an fx1, on your helmet?
cause the only thing i stuck on mine was my a1u
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Old October 11th, 2006, 02:17 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Andy Morris
I am still a little bothered by two points: the poor low light performance and the size of the camera.
I wouldnít let the low light thing bother you unless you were shooting weddings. Sports events are usually well lit so this shouldnít be a problem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Morris
Doesn't the small size/light weight make it more prone to picking up shake when hand held ? What is the spider-brace you referred to John ?
The SpiderBrace is a cleaver little device that lets you shoulder mount your camera. Like I said, it works better with my A1U than my Z1U because the A1 is lighter and therefore I can hold it longer without getting tired. If you canít use a tripod because you need to be mobile, the SpiderBrace is a nice alternative and itís very reasonably priced ($65 USD). Lots of people here at DVInfo.net use them (thatís how I found out about them) and I love mine.

~jr
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Old October 11th, 2006, 02:20 PM   #15
 
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Originally Posted by Vish Matepi
so your saying you've stuck an fx1, on your helmet?
cause the only thing i stuck on mine was my a1u
I've stuck a Z1 on my helmet, yes. But unless you're specifically conditioned to do this, and have a LOT of experience, I highly advise you not do it, or you could end up with a serious neck injury. I started with PC109s and worked my way up to 35mm film cam, and it's not an easy progression. You also need a helmet made to hold/distribute the heavy weight, such as the Flat top.
A universal helmet mount will not cut it.
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