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Sony HVR-Z7 / HVR-S270
Handheld and shoulder mount versions of this Sony 3-CMOS HDV camcorder.


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Old November 17th, 2007, 10:31 AM   #16
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On Friday I went back to again look at the Z7. I'm seriously thinking about selling my XHA1 and getting one -- and this was likely my last best chance to get a close look.

I got to the show as it was closing and went to the room where it had been exhibited. Though they were starting to pack up, the Sony guy generously let me in and permitted me an unsupervised 15 minutes to handle the Z7.

My initial impressions from the previous day were confirmed. The camera felt like an extension of my hands and eyes. The low light performance is much better than any HD camera that I have seen. (based on a casual nonscientific viewing).

For the longest time the words "Sony" and "proprietary" would almost always appear together.

That they adopted the standard non-proprietary CF format for their integrated but removable solid state recorder is for me one of the camera's most eye opening features. Perhaps its a reflection of a Sony finally "getting" it -- finally respecting the demands of a competitive camera environment where Sony is no longer the only game in town.

On Thursday after I'd first seen the Z7, I spent some time at the Panasonic and Canon's booths.

I had a lengthy conversation with Jan about the Z7 -- and about her camera and P2 cards. I reminisced with her about how when she first introduced it 4 yrs ago I had suggested that they should have provided for an integrated hard drive recorder or dockable back to compliment their proprietary solid state recording. That cost and capacity was only now catching up to her vision. (she did not agree).

Canon had no major announcements -- the XHA1, HV20 were unchanged.

Though they invited me to watch video from their new hard drive version of the HV20, the HG10. I've never watched AVCHD footage before, and at least in the video they showed (100% exteriors), it did look very very good.

I had the strong sense that neither Canon or Panasonic expected Sony to introduce such a professionally featured and aggressively priced camera as the Z7 camera this year.

It fixes all the XHA1's weakness and flaws. Its better in low light, physically handles much better, has integrated affordable solid state combined w/mini DV recording, provides for live focus assist (small button near zoom rocker, viewfinder has “focus assist” on top of the screen when in that mode), it has multiple attachment points, it addressed rolling shutter issues, it has a removable lens while maintaining full auto/manual controls of all features...

Aside from its cost, there’s almost nothing I’d want to change.

I’m curious what more technical folks will say when they have a chance to look at Z7 more closely, and to compare it to other cameras in their reviews.

(If anyone is interested in a XHA1 with low hours, make me an offer.)
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Old November 17th, 2007, 11:38 AM   #17
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What do you mean by "live focus assist" - could you elaborate, please? Anything more than the image maginification (until the EX1, it couldn't be used while shooting; does it go even further on the Z7?)
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Old November 17th, 2007, 11:58 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Barry Richard View Post
On Thursday after I'd first seen the Z7, I spent some time at the Panasonic and Canon's booths.

I had a lengthy conversation with Jan about the Z7 -- .........
Did you bring up with either of the companies the whole subject of Compact Flash and prosumer cameras? I'd be amazed if either of them had a good word to say about it (publicly, at least.... :-) ) ........ until their company brings out such product, that is!

In the past both Sony and Panasonic at least have tended to dismiss CF for video out of hand. Sony have obviously changed their tune, and I don't see how Panasonic can ignore it anymore.

It's what JVC do next that will be interesting - they have been into hybrid working for a while now with the Firestore and tape. Replacing the Firestore with a Compact Flash unit is an obvious next step. Or even...... CF slots in a 250 type camera? Yes please!
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Old November 17th, 2007, 12:12 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Piotr Wozniacki View Post
What do you mean by "live focus assist" - could you elaborate, please? Anything more than the image maginification (until the EX1, it couldn't be used while shooting; does it go even further on the Z7?)
seamlessly usable as you shoot

I was angry at Canon/Sony for not doing that from the beginning -- but (Juan?) said that there were actual engineering issues that needed to be overcome.

I can't imagine what they could be -- I had always attributed it to stupidity. Maybe I was wrong...
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Old November 17th, 2007, 12:22 PM   #20
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Did you bring up with either of the companies the whole subject of Compact Flash and prosumer cameras? I'd be amazed if either of them had a good word to say about it (publicly, at least.... :-) ) ........ until their company brings out such product, that is!

In the past both Sony and Panasonic at least have tended to dismiss CF for video out of hand. Sony have obviously changed their tune, and I don't see how Panasonic can ignore it anymore.

It's what JVC do next that will be interesting - they have been into hybrid working for a while now with the Firestore and tape. Replacing the Firestore with a Compact Flash unit is an obvious next step. Or even...... CF slots in a 250 type camera? Yes please!
The gist of it from Panasonic was that CF couldn't provide the reliability speed etc of P2 which was state of the art still etc.

In fairness, she really seemed uninformed as to the specifics of the Z7 and its features.

She several times referred to issues that the Z7 has addressed (rolling shutter for example), or confused the EX1 (which I hardly know) w/ the Z7

I have the sense that they were not prepared at all for the Z7 -- those guys in Japan must really be able to keep secrets.
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Old November 17th, 2007, 03:38 PM   #21
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The gist of it from Panasonic was that CF couldn't provide the reliability speed etc of P2 which was state of the art still etc.

In fairness, she really seemed uninformed as to the specifics of the Z7 and its features.
Well, CF seems reliable enough for virtually the entire professional digital still industry to rely on it. (The branded cards, anyway.) As far as speed goes, then whilst P2 may indeed be faster, the growing list of companies now going with CF seem to reinforce that it may be considered fast enough - at least in the sub $10,000 market sector. And with P2 now requiring a separate reader for most modern laptops, all that extra performance you're paying for may not be able to be taken advantage of.

P2 and SxS may be more valid at the top end, but that's not we're talking about here.

How about Canon?
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Old November 17th, 2007, 04:16 PM   #22
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And with P2 now requiring a separate reader for most modern laptops, all that extra performance you're paying for may not be able to be taken advantage of.

P2 and SxS may be more valid at the top end, but that's not we're talking about here.
That's an interesting point. How could Panasonic not see that PCMCIA was going away? The newer PCIe Express 34 standard was introduced in 2003 as agreed upon by PC manufaturers to replace PCMCIA. That wasn't a hidden decision.

This shows that camera makers have to consider IT data I/O standards and how they will play out in the future.

I wonder that fact that Sony is a bigger player in the PC market than Matushita had a bearing on their decision.

By the way, doesn't Red use CF???? I saw a quote from Mike Curtis, (entitled Small Mammals Walking Around Dinosaurs) (paraphrased) on cost differences with Big Iron post equipment. Not apples to apples but a profound comparison none the less.

"I now have an $80 CF reader to ingest a 4k video file vs a $100,000 2k video tape deck at a post house."

That boy is a regular Shakespeare. I love his work.
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Old November 17th, 2007, 06:55 PM   #23
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By the way, doesn't Red use CF????
Yes, though it needs the high spec version, as does the 160Mbs mode of the XDR. It's when you go from about 25 to 100Mbs that it gets interesting - and that covers everything from HDV and the Z7, up to Infinity with 100Mbs JPEG200 - because then cheaper versions of CF work fine. (Apparently verified with the Infinity now.)

At the consumer end there's a lot to be said for SD cards (and AVC-HD). At the high end P2 and SxS have a lot of merit. It's what happens at the middle that will get interesting. If Sony do bring out accreditated lower-than-SxS-spec (and cost) ExpessCards, that will sort out the EX. Whilst Panasonic had to use P2 at the time the HVX was developed, they don't anymore, especially if it's successor uses 50Mbs AVC-Intra. So even if P2 remains for their high end, will it be used for the next gen HVX 200?
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Old November 17th, 2007, 10:23 PM   #24
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...Whilst Panasonic had to use P2 at the time the HVX was developed, they don't anymore, especially if it's successor uses 50Mbs AVC-Intra. So even if P2 remains for their high end, will it be used for the next gen HVX 200?

Panasonic had (or maybe has) a slogan: "just slightly ahead of its time".

The P2 and the HVX-200 more than exemplified that.

From the day it was introduced I saw P2 as the "perfect" on a quest for the practical.

They adopted a card format that because it was proprietary, was isolated from its inception.

Making recording media common and universal is almost always the best way to go. (Sony's expensive memory stick comes to mind as example of how not to do things).

4 yrs. ago the HVX-200 could and should have had an internal HDV minDV recorder. They could have implemented their "perfect" codec through an accessory dockable solid state or hard drive back.

There are lots of intelligent, loyal, and happy P2 users out there -- users who do much higher end stuff than me, some of whom have in the past flamed me hard when I've said similar things about P2.

Going forward, there's no way that proprietary P2 can compete against a universal CF format. If Panasonic as a company looks at things dispassionately, objectively, without ego -- they will not continue to produce P2 based cameras, particulary for the under $8000 market.

I doubt that will be what will happen though. It would mean that their entire division would have to say that they have been wrong these last 4 years. From their POV they have more than just mindshare, ego, and money invested into P2. They have created an ecosystem in P2 that can't be abandoned overnight. The cost to their reputation and in alienating their most loyal customers would be irrepairable.
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Old November 18th, 2007, 03:41 PM   #25
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....

4 yrs. ago the HVX-200 could and should have had an internal HDV minDV recorder. They could have implemented their "perfect" codec through an accessory dockable solid state or hard drive back.

....
Well, when JVC introduced HDV, Panasonic was the only one who never agreed to or adopted the HDV standard while everyone else did.
Probably because they were already heavily invested in P2 (DVCProHD), and likely felt that the inclusion of an HDV option along with P2 might have hampered sales of P2 cards and related equipment.

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Originally Posted by Barry Richard View Post

....

Going forward, there's no way that proprietary P2 can compete against a universal CF format. If Panasonic as a company looks at things dispassionately, objectively, without ego -- they will not continue to produce P2 based cameras, particulary for the under $8000 market.

I doubt that will be what will happen though. .... They have created an ecosystem in P2 that can't be abandoned overnight. The cost to their reputation and in alienating their most loyal customers would be irrepairable.
Well, rather than abandon P2, you will likely see an inclusion of an additional recording format like you and many others had suggested they should have done with HDV 4 years ago. Except this time around the secondary format will be AVCHD, likely to either P2 and/or SDHC cards - which IMO are going to appeal just as much as the CF recording option presented by Sony.
This makes more sense now for Panasonic to consider since what is embedded within P2 cards anyway...SD cards.
Also, what do all of their consumer P&S and DSLR cameras use? SD cards.
It's all about SD cards.
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Old November 18th, 2007, 05:29 PM   #26
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Well, when JVC introduced HDV, Panasonic was the only one who never agreed to or adopted the HDV standard while everyone else did.
Probably because they were already heavily invested in P2 (DVCProHD), and likely felt that the inclusion of an HDV option along with P2 might have hampered sales of P2 cards and related equipment.
That may all be true - and may also be seen as a huge mistake with hindsight. Putting HDV into the HVX200 would have meant no extra hardware - it already has a suitable DV tape deck - and I see no sensible reason why HDV couldn't have been included in addition to DVCProHD. Many people may feel that DVCProHD is a better codec than HDV for some uses, but the baggage it comes with makes it unusable in practice in many other occasions. These same people may feel the optimum solution would be to use DVCProHD when possible, but HDV when necessary. Currently that would mean two cameras, and I'd guess faced with an either/or choice most have gone with HDV.

But given the option of both within the HVX200, surely it would then have become "the" camera to have? Use DVCProHD when the overhead can be afforded, HDV when it can't. Sometimes recording the HDV stream to P2 to quadruple the record time? The best of both worlds? And an opportunity lost?
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Well, rather than abandon P2, you will likely see an inclusion of an additional recording format like you and many others had suggested they should have done with HDV 4 years ago. Except this time around the secondary format will be AVCHD, likely to either P2 and/or SDHC cards - which IMO are going to appeal just as much as the CF recording option presented by Sony.
AVC-HD and SDHC card recording is already announced, at least as a consumer option. At the top end, I don't see an abandonment of P2 - where performance is everything and pockets are deep.

But what about the middle ground? Is P2 not an unneccessarily high performance here, given the cost, whilst SDHC may not be quite good enough - a bit too small, fiddly, and not with the performance of CF.

I never thought I'd see Sony using CF, they seemed far too wedded to MemoryStick, but this move with the Z7 and the 270 seems extremely pragmatic to me, and it co-exists along with SxS and the EX. Panasonic could easily do the same - use CF and AVC-Intra for the next gen HVX200 - but stay with P2 for higher end cameras. That involves no loss of face, no "abandonment" of P2 as such, just the same realisation as Sony have come to, that the market is probably better split into three, not two.
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Old November 18th, 2007, 05:46 PM   #27
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Panasonic could easily do the same - use CF and AVC-Intra for the next gen HVX200 - but stay with P2 for higher end cameras. That involves no loss of face, no "abandonment" of P2 as such, just the same realisation as Sony have come to, that the market is probably better split into three, not two.
David, if Panasonic implements whatever variation of AVCHD, it will not be done through CF cards.

Look at what they're using, P2 cards.
And what's in P2 cards?
SD/SDHC cards.
What's the primary card used thus far for AVCHD in all camcorders?
SDHC cards.
Furthermore, and to reiterate a point I previously addressed, what card format do all of the Panasonic P&S cameras and DSLRs shoot to?
That's right, SD/SDHC cards.

So regardless of what anyone may think is easier for Panasonic to do, the pattern that emerges based on simply observing their history would indicate there will be no use of CF cards for Panasonic, it will be SD/SDHC cards along with the continuation of P2 cards (quadrupally clustered SD/SDHC cards).
For Panasonic, it's all about SD/SDHC cards.
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Old November 18th, 2007, 06:39 PM   #28
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So regardless of what anyone may think is easier for Panasonic to do, the pattern that emerges based on simply observing their history would indicate there will be no use of CF cards for Panasonic, it will be SD/SDHC cards along with the continuation of P2 cards ..........
I don't dispute any of that, but if you applied the same to Sony (observing their history) you'd never have dreamed of them going with CF or SD, they seemed just as firmly entrenched with Memory Stick as Panasonic with SD. But now all Sony Vaios support SD natively (I'm typing this on one), and now we see the Z7 and 270 going with CF. So never say never?

And for an EX/HVX200/Z7 type of camera, I'd maintain these fall between the SD and P2 stools. SD not quite good enough, P2 unnecessarily good and expensive. So surely CF becomes a logical choice?

I agree that AVC-HD and SDHC are well matched together, but is the HVX200 successor not more likely to use AVC-Intra, probably 50Mbs? Which could be recorded to CF as easily as P2?
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Old November 18th, 2007, 06:56 PM   #29
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Going forward, there's no way that proprietary P2 can compete against a universal CF format. If Panasonic as a company looks at things dispassionately, objectively, without ego -- they will not continue to produce P2 based cameras, particulary for the under $8000 market.
Thinking without ego, and as one of the people who use P2 for high end stuff, what Panasonic should do is abandon P2.

They should support Exprescard 34 based cards - making their product look a lot like Sony SxS. Except I think they should certify the cards for use in their equipment themselves and call them P3.

They can gleefully build them around SD or SDHC cards if they like- the end user won't know.

It'd be DVCAM vs. DVCPRO tape again, and wouldn't really affect many users in the prosumer market- because both formats would be plenty fast and portable.

On the lower end of the spectrum camera makers should make a mark called "HD SSD" for Solid state flash drives in the Expresscard form factor, and specify a performance threshold for low end cameras. I suggest a guaranteed sustained write of 50Mbps. (For guaranteed sustained write that means a freshly formatted card should sustain 100Mbps, and read speeds could be around 300Mbps)

Importantly I think they should agree to support some subset of functionality with HD SSD drives on their professional equipment.

Still the HD SSD drives should be focused on long run times, not high performance. When h.264 becomes a standard recording format 50Mb/s will seem huge for 8 bit 4:2:2.

Why not Compact Flash?

Well, first off they are based around ATA IDE standards. That's old tech, and I'd like to see it abandoned. Also the lack of write protection kind of sucks. Other than that they are pretty good.

How about this- Lexar has a 16GB Expresscard SSD for $299 MSRP, and they have a 300x 8GB CF card for $219 MSRP. The 8GB Expresscard SSD is $199 MSRP.

http://www.lexar.com/ssd/expresscard.html

So there you have it. A strategy for Panasonic and Sony that leads us back in time to the "relative nirvana" of a single prosumer standard that can be used by many and two pro standards.

Like it was back in the SD days, the pro media has advantages a lot of prosumers won't care about and can't use.

But unlike the bad old SD days... I'll be able to ingest SxS, P3 or HD SSD on the same NLE without a deck. Whatever incompatibilities that exist would be remedied software codecs that any NLE user can download- unlike the case with HDV today.
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Old November 19th, 2007, 01:35 PM   #30
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only one CF slot?

Is there only 1 CF slot in the new cameras? I would hate to spend more time changing tapes and also the CF at the same time or having some footages on tape but not on CF or vice versa.
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