Moving from PD-170 to the Z7 (mini-review) at DVinfo.net

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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 May 16th, 2008, 05:20 PM   #1
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Moving from PD-170 to the Z7 (mini-review)

Hello everyone!

I'm an event/wedding videographer in New Zealand and have been using 2x PD170's coupled with a "run-and-gun" VX2000 for several years - very comfortable with this winning combo but have felt the need to move to HDV - or at least a widescreen upgrade.

After attending many launches in the past, including a disappointing Z1 launch (immediately noticed the low-light performance) and the EX1 launch (nice - but too heavy for extended handheld) I was impressed by the Z7 and have just taken delivery of one and are currently testing it out during the winter months. (Keeping those PD170's just in case I panic)

I guess there are a lot of others in my position so thought I'd share my experiences.

First off - it's a daunting upgrade - the camera is a SERIOUS piece of kit. It's kind of like Darth Vader scary. Feels solid and professional and will take some getting used to - but I'm determined to adapt.

The VX2000 was a nice low footprint size and great to use in locations which required discretion, ie: hiding in brides closet, formal photo shoots etc. The Z7 is far more chunky and quite a bit heavier, but I've found removing the beefy lens hood, microphone, and tucking the viewfinder away does reduce the size significantly and lets you squeeze into tighter places (closets!), jump down on the ground and keep you nice and mobile for run-gun situations.

Visually, it looks fantastic on tripod and the assignable buttons all over the camera and conveniently placed for right-hand control (near zoom rocker) is really well thought out.

Normal Sony MiniDV tapes seem to work perfectly fine with no dropouts. Haven't tried CF card yet.

I am keen to test it's low-light performance because that what the PD-170s ruled at - got some fairly dimly lit churches around town... will post updates.

No focus or lens issues at all so far - I think it's a shame that people have decided to avoid checking this camera out based on Marshall Levy's experiences - when it's quite apparent his courier had used the camera box for a football.

I'm off this afternoon to a local wildlife park to get some footage... will post on Vimeo and let you know how it goes.

PS: I just picked up my PD-170 after having the Z7 in my hand for a couple of hours - it feels like a plastic toy!!! :)
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Old May 16th, 2008, 05:31 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Knight View Post
Hello everyone!

I'm an event/wedding videographer in New Zealand and have been using 2x PD170's coupled with a "run-and-gun" VX2000 for several years - very comfortable with this winning combo but have felt the need to move to HDV - or at least a widescreen upgrade.

After attending many launches in the past, including a disappointing Z1 launch (immediately noticed the low-light performance) and the EX1 launch (nice - but too heavy for extended handheld) I was impressed by the Z7 and have just taken delivery of one and are currently testing it out during the winter months. (Keeping those PD170's just in case I panic)

I guess there are a lot of others in my position so thought I'd share my experiences.

First off - it's a daunting upgrade - the camera is a SERIOUS piece of kit. It's kind of like Darth Vader scary. Feels solid and professional and will take some getting used to - but I'm determined to adapt.

The VX2000 was a nice low footprint size and great to use in locations which required discretion, ie: hiding in brides closet, formal photo shoots etc. The Z7 is far more chunky and quite a bit heavier, but I've found removing the beefy lens hood, microphone, and tucking the viewfinder away does reduce the size significantly and lets you squeeze into tighter places (closets!), jump down on the ground and keep you nice and mobile for run-gun situations.

Visually, it looks fantastic on tripod and the assignable buttons all over the camera and conveniently placed for right-hand control (near zoom rocker) is really well thought out.

Normal Sony MiniDV tapes seem to work perfectly fine with no dropouts. Haven't tried CF card yet.

I am keen to test it's low-light performance because that what the PD-170s ruled at - got some fairly dimly lit churches around town... will post updates.

No focus or lens issues at all so far - I think it's a shame that people have decided to avoid checking this camera out based on Marshall Levy's experiences - when it's quite apparent his courier had used the camera box for a football.

I'm off this afternoon to a local wildlife park to get some footage... will post on Vimeo and let you know how it goes.

PS: I just picked up my PD-170 after having the Z7 in my hand for a couple of hours - it feels like a plastic toy!!! :)
Thanks for the post John. I too have a Z7 and really like it so far. Keep us posted and be careful to not confuse the ring by focus that you can pull back or push ahead. This is not a manual focus setting, but it will over ride anything quick. I believe some people, while not admitting it, have had this ring in the wrong position and had many focus issues. Good luck. I am shooting a wedding tomorrow with mine and will post results.

Bruce
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Old May 16th, 2008, 06:44 PM   #3
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No focus or lens issues at all so far
Have you used the lens in Auto Focus? That's what everyone is complaining about... (Well, some people are.)
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Old May 16th, 2008, 06:45 PM   #4
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Have you used the lens in Auto Focus? That's what everyone is complaining about... (Well, some people are.)
If I may chime in, I have had the Z7 since it came out and I really can't see any auto focus issues. Once light is very low it is a different story, but that was the case with my PD170s as well.

Bruce
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Old May 17th, 2008, 02:26 AM   #5
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Z7 First Test

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marco Dias View Post
Have you used the lens in Auto Focus? That's what everyone is complaining about... (Well, some people are.)
Seems like a lot of people out there who don't RTFM! Focus is fine, just a few settings to watch like having the ring set correctly and turning Macro Focus off.

Check my results today... following the rhino was auto, and also the ducks at the end... see any problems?

http://www.vimeo.com/1025194

So, this was just a few test shots at a wildlife park down the road. Very impressed still, no focus issues. Shooting manual makes you think (and learn) a lot more.

I guess I should have been shooting in 25 progressive - instead I shot 1080i and converted to progressive on export. Will try some shooting in progressive next.
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Old May 17th, 2008, 04:04 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Knight View Post

http://www.vimeo.com/1025194

So, this was just a few test shots at a wildlife park down the road. Very impressed still, no focus issues. Shooting manual makes you think (and learn) a lot more.

.
I wonder what would of happened if you had zebras turned on when you shot the fifth scene...
Ok,ok sorry. :)
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Old June 13th, 2008, 01:13 AM   #7
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First Wedding Results

Hi guys. OK, just had the pleasure of filming the last wedding of the season (winter in New Zealand now) with the Z7.

Things went very well. For those who are considering moving from the PD170 or VX2000, here are some observations.

(1) It’s heavy. You will need big hands and strong arms to handhold this during bridal prep and formal shoots. It really is a tripod camera. OK for a little while like outside church with mingling guests, but after about 2 minutes I was struggling a little. During the bridal prep it seemed a lot more “cumbersome” than a small, light VX2000 that I’m used to running and diving around things with.

(2) The ND filter knob is annoying. Loved the ND on PD170, the Z7 is an awkward little twisty knob – something I’ll get used to no doubt.

(3) When dual recording to tape and Transcend 133x card, you’ll have problems if start/stop/start recording rapidly because card still trying to write data when you hit start. It’s fine for extended recording and doesn’t skip a beat. To tell the truth, I would probably just use tape for weddings and CF for corp shoots.

I’ve posted a small sample here… www.vimeo.com/1164002

Password = crampton

As it was a first time shoot, there is not much fancy camera work – just the basics. The first ceremony shot (coming down stairs) is a rented FX-7. Raw footage from the FX-7 was noticable darker than the Z7 but corrected ok in post. All other shots are Z7. I had some tricky light to contend with (window behind, and dim staircase) but the camera handled it nicely.

The formal shots around the lake were so sharp and crisp that I had to apply plenty of soft treatment because it looked “too real”.

Overall I’m VERY impressed with the camera… in fact, love it to bits! I’m hoping Sony are working on a replacement for the FX-7 that has CF-card, better low-light specs, and small and light like the VX2000 so I can use that for my run-gun cam.
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Old June 13th, 2008, 03:34 AM   #8
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Beautiful! Is the slow-mo done in the camera or in post? What music is that?

BTW: tested the Z7, that I have since a week now, and no focus-problems whatsoever. Beautiful piece of equipment, and although heavier, much more in balance when held in one hand than my XH-A1.
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Old June 13th, 2008, 05:09 AM   #9
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much more in balance when held in one hand than my XH-A1.
Luc, How does the Z7 hold up against the XH-A1? There is quite some price difference between the A1 and the Z7 and I wonder if it is really worth the extra investment?
How do both camera's compare imagewise and in lowlight situations?

I intend to upgrade to hd by the end this year and still am keeping all options open, I thought the added memory-recording unit was a great addition but that is something you can buy separately for other camera's that normally record to tape only. Only Sony did a great job in the way they implemented it.
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Old June 13th, 2008, 05:46 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Noa Put View Post
Luc, How does the Z7 hold up against the XH-A1? There is quite some price difference between the A1 and the Z7 and I wonder if it is really worth the extra investment?
How do both camera's compare imagewise and in lowlight situations?

I intend to upgrade to hd by the end this year and still am keeping all options open, I thought the added memory-recording unit was a great addition but that is something you can buy separately for other camera's that normally record to tape only. Only Sony did a great job in the way they implemented it.
Noa,

the XH-A1 is certainly not a bad camera, but the Z7 is in another league. When you see it, it is immediately clear that Sony has a vast experience in producing professional ENG-stuff. The handling is more intuitive, the chosen materials and solutions are stronger (for example,
6-pin firewire and pro ND-switch), and the balance of the Sony is much better. That said, I don't see much difference in image quality. The Sony is somewhat softer without tweaking, but the Canon has it's typical magenta cast. The CF-recorder is a charm: put the card in the reader and in no-time you're busy editing. I didn't make a thorough comparison in low-light yet. Disadvantages: the Sony is heavier, costs more and the manual is in (weird) English only. I was very surprised by the fact that the 'extended zoom' works so well, there's no way it compares to those 'digital zooms' that you get on consumer cams!
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Old June 13th, 2008, 06:32 AM   #11
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extended zoom -

Bonjour Luc!

I was wondering if you could comment a bit more about the extended zoom -
One of my concerns about the Z7 over some of the cannon options is the 12x vs 20x reality

I know we can change lenses but the reality of that seems like it's still a bit up in the air -
or at least another $1000 that I don't have having just dropped the cash for this camera...

my 10 megapixel panasonic still camera does a great job of 'adding zoom'
by sacrificing some of the resolution -
fine when you have 10 megapixils to work with
but a bit more dicey when you are cutting out the resolution in HD -

I assume it works the same way though - but you seem pleased with the results - no?

any other thoughts?

thanks
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Old June 13th, 2008, 06:42 AM   #12
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Hi Jamie,

I didn't expect much of the 'extended zoom' as in most camera's there's a visible pixelation as soon as you use it, but I recorded some critical images yesterday with maximum zoom + extended, and I did not notice any difference in sharpness. So it compensates for the 8 times less zoom compared to the Canon XH-A1. I also ordered a convertor ring for Nikon mounts and I should have that next week. I'll let you know how that works, if I find a good second hand 100 or 150 mm Nikon lens (I had 14 of these babies, but sold them when I converted all my photo equipment to Canon last year - aaargghh). I see your camera arrives next week: you'll love it!
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Old June 13th, 2008, 07:57 AM   #13
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Canon converter

will there be a Canon converter for this camera? Or is it only going to be Nikon
and Sony?
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Old June 13th, 2008, 12:19 PM   #14
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I wish they would, but it'll be Nikon only for the time being. I checked with the people who make the Nikon adaptor and they told me it's impossible to make one for Canon. There's not enough space, apparantly. Too bad...
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Old June 13th, 2008, 12:28 PM   #15
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oh well. older F mount manual focus lenses aren't too expensive to get.
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