Z5 frame drop issues and terrible prime support at DVinfo.net

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Sony HVR-Z5 / HDR-FX1000
Pro and consumer versions of this Sony 3-CMOS HDV camcorder.


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Old November 2nd, 2011, 06:05 AM   #1
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Z5 frame drop issues and terrible prime support

My Camera only has 90 hours on the drum and was in the last month of warranty when I noticed frames missing on the tape. I sent it away to prime Support who could not find anything wrong. I sent it back to them again 2 weeks later and they replaced the tape carriage system.

In October this year (6 months later) the same problem is happening and due to the recession I have only put 6 tapes through the camera since they replaced the carriage. I rang Prime support but they are washing their hands of the problem. I told them that the problem occured during the warranty period and In my opinion it was not diagnosed or fixed. They told me that when they had my camera, they could not test it for more than 30 minutes due to time constraints. I told them the problem seems to be happeneing about once every 20 hours or so, they said well we can't test it like that. Fair enough, send me a new camera then. They said no.

As a business it's vital that you have a professional support structure in place so that if a problem happens you can rely on them to get your kit up and running asap. Prime support are not capable of this, they are a mickey mouse outfit managed by people without any common sense or sense or responsibility.

I will never touch another Sony product again.
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Old November 2nd, 2011, 12:54 PM   #2
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Re: Z5 frame drop issues and terrible prime support

Dropping frames every 20 hours? I think you may be over-reacting a bit. It is quite typical for HDV tape to drop a frame or two per hour/tape. If it was doing this every 20 seconds then you have a serious issue. If I had only one or two frames dropped in 20 hours I would be doing cartwheels. That they replaced $1,000 worth of tape deck for you on your word seems to me they went above and beyond.

But you have a right to take your business wherever you like, of course.

If you marched outside Sony HQ with a sign containing your last two sentences, but including the vital info: "because they refused to give me a new $4,000 Camcorder due to a few tape dropouts every 20 hours," I think most people might find that a bit unrealistic. And of course we have to take you at your word that this is a camcorder issue (which the Sony folks dispute) and not a capture device, tape, cable, FW Port, software or PC issue, all of which can cause dropped frames or dropouts.

But assuming your decision to abandon your current video gear was made in a fit of pique and was not really a logical business decision, and further assuming you really do have a second defective VTR section in your cam (doubtful), why not just snap an MRC1k onto the back of your Z5? That way you'll have all the advantages of both the Z5 and NX5 without the disadvantages of either.
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Last edited by Adam Gold; November 2nd, 2011 at 03:58 PM.
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Old November 3rd, 2011, 08:10 PM   #3
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Re: Z5 frame drop issues and terrible prime support

Adam, I agree with your assessment. Alan, you didn't mention what type of tape you were using: standard or HDV tapes. I used JVC standard mini-dv tape for years in a DV camcorder, would almost never get dropped frames. Going to HDV, they didn't play so well in the Z5. I'd get quite a bit more drop-outs. But they worked just fine in my Canon HV30, no dropouts at all. I switched over to Panasonic PQ's and very few drop-outs now in the Z5. Every once in a while, but not too many. Sometimes one or two per tape, sometimes more, sometimes less, which is way more than I had for DV. I've had a bad tape or two before that had quite a few drop-outs in certain places of the tape. It was disappointing and even clogged up the heads a little. I threw out the tape and cleaned the heads. Even took a while to work the heads clean. It was an isolated incident.

Also, Sony is known for having among the most robust and bulletproof tape transport mechanisms in the industry. Compare to a Canon (which I have and like) and you'll instantly appreciate Sony's committment to quality. If you browse Canon forums and you will read plenty of sad owners that have tape transport problems of one sort of another. Been like this for many years. In contrast, you almost NEVER read about tape transport problems with a Sony product. I'm suprised they even replaced yours unless there was an obvious malfunction (which it doesn't sound like there was).

The Z5 is a great cam. Don't give up on it. Like Adam mentioned, give the MRC1 a shot.
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Old November 4th, 2011, 06:45 AM   #4
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Re: Z5 frame drop issues and terrible prime support

Hi. Some of you may remember my posts back in July regarding my huge problems with the Z5 I in bought in February. The drop out problems continue after several replacements and repairs to various Z5s. Prime Support has not officially admitted there is a camera batch problem but from conversations I have had with them its clear something is amiss and that it isn't confined to Europe as I have been contacted by several people with similar drop out problems from all over the world. As an individual their corporate power is a bit hard to stand up against but what saddens and amazes me is how nearly all of us film makers seem be accepting drop outs as normal and something we just have to accept . If the drop outs get too bad we are just supposed to meekly go and buy a card reader ( which I have done) and accept the fact that tapes are no longer reliable. I had a PD 150 for 8 years. I shot hundreds of tapes in Dvcam on Excellence tapes. I had only two tapes with drop outs during that whole time and so was able focus on making films not the endless technical problems I have to face now because we all have to bow down to the god of HD. Dvcam seems much more reliable on the Z5 ( If you want see the details please read my July posts.) It seems to me that when you buy any product it should do what it is designed to do. If there is an HDV format it should work with tapes if the camera is primarily a tape camera. We shouldn't be forced to buy an additional product (the card reader) so that the camera is reliable. In my case wanting to film in an isolated part of the Himalayas has now resulted in me having to buy a laptop and external hard drive or a huge amount of CF cards and I have find a way to power there items in the middle of nowhere. If the camera's tapes were reliable I could use tape and just have a solar charger for my camera batteries. This project is now postponed while I try and get round this and raise funds for the extra outlay. I paid good money for a camera I hoped would up my production levels but after 8 months Prime Support is now trying to wash there hands of the problems with lame excuses about 'environmental' influences. I certainly am a very disappointed customer and could never recommend the Z5 to anyone after what I have been through. I have great sympathy with anyone having these drop out problems as it saps ones confidence not to mention a financial drain.
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Old November 4th, 2011, 12:43 PM   #5
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Re: Z5 frame drop issues and terrible prime support

Robb, with all due respect, I read your original thread several times, but never responded because anyone who compares the dropout rate between DV and HDV clearly doesn't understand the difference between the formats or what a GOP is. And you mentioned several times that the dropouts occurred in different places each time you played the same tape back, so clearly the problem wasn't with the cam. It was with your Mac or Software or capture protocol -- as it usually is in cases like this and as Claire later confirmed.

That Sony Prime just sent you a new cam only means that it was cheaper and easier to do so rather than spending hundreds of hours trying to debug a problem that likely doesn't exist -- sort of like settling a bogus lawsuit out of court. It's not an admission of anything.

So you'll forgive me for not taking your complaints all that seriously. You say you are shooting in "an isolated part of the Himalayas" but then say Sony is making "lame excuses about 'environmental' influences"? The people who shoot "Deadliest Catch" shoot thousands of hours of tape in extreme conditions with Z5s and they're not complaining, but they take extreme precautions to protect their cams and understand that this type of shooting is obviously an out-of-warranty situation. Can you say the same?

We don't have Prime Support here, but six months out of warranty, one of my Z5s had a failure in the Auto/Manual switch. Turns out it was a $10 cable, but it cost $500 to fix, plus shipping to the L.A. service center. Was I pissed? Sure. I'm still annoyed. But am I calling for a boycott of all Sony products? These are machines and sometimes they aren't perfect.

Products should perform as advertised. Companies should back the products they sell. But that doesn't mean I should expect my car to fly or never run out of gas.
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Old November 4th, 2011, 10:03 PM   #6
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Re: Z5 frame drop issues and terrible prime support

i agree with adam....

i shoot tape (and cf) with a z5 professionally for both a national broadcaster and a major client - both insist on tape.

i shoot hdv on the cheap sony 'excellence' brand (red wrapper), in everything from pouring rain (not by choice!) through to the usual dry and dusty outback.

i perhaps get a drop out or two in every ten tapes.

if your drop-outs keep moving around it CERTAINLY ISN'T your camera.
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Old November 5th, 2011, 02:50 AM   #7
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Re: Z5 frame drop issues and terrible prime support

And here's the thing. I'm not unsympathetic. Really, I'm not. We've all lost a really important shot that can't be re-taken, sometimes due to equipment failure, and it's extremely frustrating. But whether it's a birthday party or Prince what's-his-name's wedding, every shot is a once in a lifetime shot to the client. And whether we are actual professionals or just think we are, we must behave like them and, more importantly, think like them.

I spent a good portion of my prior career standing around on Hollywood sets, and the thing that impressed me the most about the incredibly talented crews that surrounded my was their utter unflappability. No matter what came up, they could handle it. Not just because they had every gadget imaginable pinned to their belts and a truckload of more gear just outside the stage, but because they had already run every conceivable possibility through their heads. No matter what happened on the stage or on location, they'd seen it, done it, or thought about it, and they could handle it.

If I were interviewing, say, the Dalai Lama, or any other figure of similarly worldwide import, I would certainly invest in a second camera for cutaways, even just a little handycam, and if I couldn't afford that I'd have a card recorder going if I happened to have a camcorder that was specifically designed for it like the Z5, and if I couldn't do that I'd have a separate audio recorder going so even if there were a tape dropout I'd have the audio no matter what so I could cover it with a cutaway. I always actually do all of those things simultaneously. That's simple video/film journalism 101. I learned that when I was 16. So this way I wouldn't have to go on a jihad against my camcorder maker when I got back from my once in a lifetime trip and found I had a tape dropout or two.

I think this is an important thread because it appears to be the latest in a continuing series of situations where, it seems to me, people go into important shoots ill-prepared or ill-trained or possibly inexperienced or maybe impulsively or without enough planning or forethought or with unrealistic expectations. And then when things go sideways they blame their tools. It is not [insert camcorder manufacturer here]'s fault that you didn't sit down and think, "What happens if I have a tape dropout? Jesus, what happens if I have an entire tape failure?" and come up with a backup and redundancy plan.
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Old November 6th, 2011, 05:57 AM   #8
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Re: Z5 frame drop issues and terrible prime support

Thanks for the comments. I don't want to get into arguments here I just want to get to the bottom of this issue if I can. I would like to mention that despite being semi professional I did do my best on the Dalai Lama shoot to expect the unexpected. The shoot took place over 3 days last April in at least ten different locations. We had 4 cameras an EX1, 60d, Z7, a separate sound recorder plus my new Z5 with a card reader hired at the last moment but without sufficient cards. The unfortunate part was the Z5 was the main camera and I had to ration the use of cards as the laptop I borrowed couldn't read the cards and that is why important footage got lost. (The Z7, using only tape had no drop out problems at all using the same HDV tapes from the same batch) The Z5 dropped out on every tape and not just once or twice. Part of the problem was previous rentals of HDV cameras like the A1E and V1 didn't alert me to the endemic drop out problems so I wasn't fully prepared.
I haven't actually gone to India with this Z5 only the Pd150 so the environmental issues refer to Ireland.
I am not on a jihad against Sony as they have tired to sort the problem out albeit unsuccessfully. The thing is if I had known that tapes on my Z5 would drop out all the time and on every tape in advance I might have made other choices. So is it a case of buyer beware and tough on those who get troublesome camera?? As customers who pay good money do we have to accept lower standards or should we demand better service and a more reliable product? If this really isn't a camera/ tape problem as suggested how do I find the real problem? or it is that HDV just isn't suited to tape. As mentioned I am clearly no technical expert and came to this forum for advice and support and appreciate what has been said so far. Thanks
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Old November 6th, 2011, 06:30 AM   #9
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Re: Z5 frame drop issues and terrible prime support

robb, i don't think anyone is accusing you of anything, and i'm sure we can all empathizes with your pain and annoyance.

for my part i just don't understand what is going on with your camera(s). i, and a number of other people i know, shoot with z5's without problem (in fact it has been as reliable for me as my pd 170 was).

as i mentioned previously i now shoot cf, but always with a tape for back-up. after reading this thread i did a spot check of a few tapes out of curiosity - all good with no signs of any drop-outs.

do these drop outs occur at the same place on the tapes if you recapture?

could you post a few seconds showing a drop-out?

i'm sure we all want to help you get to the bottom of this....
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Old November 6th, 2011, 07:42 AM   #10
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Re: Z5 frame drop issues and terrible prime support

Thanks for that Leslie. Just getting a tad defensive there, sorry about that..., when I recapture on the latest camera most of the drop outs occur in exactly the same place but there are some that seem more random. I am still waiting for the latest camera to come back from Prime Support to test further. How to post a clip? .Do I export it as a Quicktime file and upload as an attachment?? Thanks
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Old November 6th, 2011, 10:29 AM   #11
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Re: Z5 frame drop issues and terrible prime support

Different camera here, but on my Z5, the drop outs I've seen seem to happen in different locations. The problem seemed to go away (for the most part) after switching to Panasonic PQ tapes. I just attributed it to trying to push too much data on a tape not designed to handle it.
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Old November 6th, 2011, 04:38 PM   #12
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Re: Z5 frame drop issues and terrible prime support

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robb Bradstock View Post
How to post a clip? .Do I export it as a Quicktime file and upload as an attachment?? Thanks
probably best to use dropbox.com
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Old November 7th, 2011, 06:45 AM   #13
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Re: Z5 frame drop issues and terrible prime support

Just to clarify something, my drop outs were not capture drops, they were on the tape.

Also I don't accept that when you pay four grand for a camera made by Sony that you should expect drop outs. I owned a Canon for five years and never had a single drop out and that had six times as many hours on the drum.

If Sony make dodgy cameras then like I said, this will be my last, I need to have faith in my gear and I do not accept drop outs as par the course.
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Old November 7th, 2011, 08:12 AM   #14
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Re: Z5 frame drop issues and terrible prime support

Well as a Sony kind of guy who has owned and still owns Sonys I can say that the tape mechanism on Sonys is really strong. Having stated that let me also state that thru out the years and the cameras I have had occassional drop outs and have found that 1) running a head cleaner thru the camera took care of the problem and 2) I have had occasional drops due to the tape product itself. Once I had a bad batch of 10 tapes that no matter what I did I had drops from those tapes. A real challenge believe me. The problem was solved once I got thru those tapes. Keep in mind they were 10 tapes out of an order of 100 tapes which said to me that not all the drops are camera related. Sometimes it's something else.
Anyway, I wouldn't be so fast to condemn the camera or the manufacturer, YET! Have you tried other tapes from that batch? Do you have the ability to use another camera with those tapes and test the tapes?
Try a couple different things just to have a comparison.
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Old November 7th, 2011, 09:22 AM   #15
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Re: Z5 frame drop issues and terrible prime support

Don. I have used two different batches of tapes and up till now approximately 30/35 tapes maybe more All the tapes had drop outs some worse than others. When I used a Z7 I used tapes from the same boxes and on all the tapes I used with the Z7 there were no drop outs at all but the neighbouring tapes dropped out on the Z5. Perhaps I have to do more testing with another totally different batch but I did contact the tape supplier who had no complaints about the tapes. This problem is so hard to definitively sort out. Could it still be tape?
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