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Old December 24th, 2012, 03:21 PM   #1
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My VG900 Test: line-skipping killing it for me

I'm considering either the FS100 or the VG900 to pair with my A77. Keep in mind I like my A77 even though it has some really bad aliasing artifacts in certain situations. Given the dearth of VG900 clips and reputable reviews I decided to go down to my local Sony store and try it out myself. I brought along a Canon FD 135mm 3.5 and a Canon FD 28mm 2.8 both with NEX adaptors.

The result was disappointing. The line-skipping really does kill certain details. Now, on a product like the A99 which could be seen primarily as still camera, I could almost say this is acceptable. As "The Calling" showed, it doesn't cause problems for every scene, and it doesn't by itself make it a bad camera. Because everyone has different needs. If your primary use is interviews, awesome. However, as a swiss army knife, it doesn't succeed. And, if your main gig is filming cars (like mine is): with roof racks, grilles and other objects that do nothing but accentuate alias issues - the VG900 isn't well suited.

Keep in mind this is an unscientific test. I have specific needs and I wanted to see how this camera would fare to meet those needs. Your mileage may vary.

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Old December 24th, 2012, 04:21 PM   #2
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Re: My VG900 Test: line-skipping killing it for me

full frame was supposed to be a selling point for this camera but the images out of it look, well, plain and soft and full of aliasing, the full frame doesn't seem to do the camera any good.
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Old December 24th, 2012, 10:47 PM   #3
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Re: My VG900 Test: line-skipping killing it for me

I thought it looked pretty good. i was expecting the images of the leaf-less trees to really tax the AVCHD format, but they looked clear and sharp. I did see some vignetting in some scenes, but nothing too extreme.
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Old December 24th, 2012, 11:37 PM   #4
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Re: My VG900 Test: line-skipping killing it for me

the VG900 has some good stuff, but the image improvement over the much cheaper A77 is minimal IMHO, especially in the parking lot shot with all the car details. If you look at the grilles and the racks they're a bit like a kaleidoscope on both cameras (and this already bugged me on the A77.) in my day-to-day shooting I've seen this "problem" on even the A77 when shooting a car in the distance... small details. I don't blame AVCHD at all for this. My previous camera (NX5U) handled shots like this without any issue (but it was useless in low-light) and that used AVCHD too.

This simple test would lead me to believe that (for me) any gains with the VG900 over the VG30 would be minimal - which is only important considering how much more expensive ethe VG900 is. I still think the VG900 has some good stuff, and will work well for a certain type of shooter. But for my use the FS100 is a significantly better option for $1000 more (less if you consider the XLR option on the 900.) ...and I really hoped that I could have saved that $1000 ;)
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Old December 25th, 2012, 05:08 AM   #5
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Re: My VG900 Test: line-skipping killing it for me

I don't see a difference which I guess is your point. I think if you want to move away from the problems of shooting with a DSLR, it makes sense to, well, get a camera that isn't based on one. It strikes me that the VG series has always been (intentionally) a repackaging of NEX stills cameras into a camcorder form factor.

In contrast, the AF100, FS-100 weren't designed that way. I think you'll still have large sensor artifacts due to, wait for it, LARGE SENSORS but overall better results with the better camera. Pity the FS100 has no/can't have built-in ND filters as the AF100 and C100 have.
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Old December 30th, 2012, 08:56 PM   #6
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Re: My VG900 Test: line-skipping killing it for me

I get nothing but soft video out of the A99, and I'm on my second camera as I returned the first thinking my camera was defective. It's not, #2 is going back to Sony. The Calling has no wide shots with any detail. I haven't seen anything from a A99 or VG900 that doesn't look soft, and unlike the 5d3 it doesn't sharpen much in post before artifacts trash your footage. I'm starting to think selling my FS100 to go back to a DSLR was a mistake. The aliasing and moire is unbearably bad too, worst I've ever seen. It makes me wonder what Sony engineeres saw when developing the camera as any basic shot looks terrible.
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Old December 30th, 2012, 09:55 PM   #7
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Re: My VG900 Test: line-skipping killing it for me

Hey Chris, if I messaged you a link to a promo video of mine of footage that I've filmed for a website with a VG-900, think you could tell me if it would look much better with an FS-100? I'm using the VG-900 now and really like it, especially the oled viewfinder which makes manual focusing in sunlight really easy, but I've been considering getting an FS-100 to compare to as I do notice noise and aliasing on the VG-900 ((which presumably is the same as the A99). Since you had an FS-100 maybe you could give me some insight there.
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Old December 31st, 2012, 08:11 AM   #8
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Re: My VG900 Test: line-skipping killing it for me

Send it my way Peter. I'll say this, shallow DOF stuff without any moire or aliasing inducing features look great - interviews without offending fabrics, closeups of pretty much anything and such. I re-watched The Calling after seeing others talk about the softness I was seeing with my camera and felt like a moron for not noticing its pretty much all shallow DOF beauty shots - and the few wide shots with deeper focus are soft. After looking at everything I could find - I have yet to see a detailed deep DOF shot with the VG900 or A99.

I got caught in a pretty heated debate after posting my test footage on DPreview with Sony fanboy's that kept posting wide shots that had the same watercolor effect, despite the posters claiming that it was sharp. Not sure what they were looking at, but when I can't see any texture in rocks, the ground, trees, buildings and so on, that's not what I call sharp. I posted comparison shots of every scene with my EM5 and the A99 looks like it was shot with a $100 SD camcorder from 2005 by comparison. There's just no detail at all, and ultimately that's why I'm returning my A99 for the second time.

Its the wide shots and anything with straight lines or moire inducing patterns that are getting killed by whatever algorithm Sony is using to get 1080p out of its 24mp sensor. Moire is still an issue on the FS100, but its not nearly as bad as the 5d2 I had before and the FS100 is much, much better than my A99's. I did shoot video of a house with a screened in porch and that looked pretty bad, but that causes moire on pretty much any camera. Same goes for sharpness, the FS100 is a lot sharper, hell my Nex5n is sharper than the A99 and the VG900 doesn't look any better from samples posted on the web.

There are lots of great FS100 videos if you search around vimeo, its pretty easy to see that the video is much sharper than the FF Sony's. I would say to rent one to see if you like it, its a different shooting workflow and it's shape is worlds apart from a DSLR or even a VG camcorder - and there are a few annoying things about the camera that some really don't like.

Check out my posts here and look at the comparison images:

http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/photo-hd...ll-call-3.html

The crops are simply full resolution frames exported from the CS5 timeline, so that's what I see when watching full screen on my 24" monitor or on my 42' TV, nothing but mush. Yuk.
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Old December 31st, 2012, 10:21 AM   #9
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Re: My VG900 Test: line-skipping killing it for me

Chris, aliasing is an issue with the process that ALL modern DSLRs use to create an image. Your posts here and around the web (which have been plentiful) all seem to indicate its some form of conspiracy. It's not. Even the 5D Mark III is affected by line-skipping to the extent it's designed with a soft image from the start. Some folks like that look. For some uses I do, but for my second camera I did not (and I kept my A77). So I did some research to see if the aliasing was improved on this newest chip - which led to my test above. It clearly was not (yet other shots look completely unique and awesome on the VG900/A99 series). End of story.

Sorry to say, but you picked the wrong camera for what you wanted to do. Comparisons to older tiny-chip cameras don't prove anything (regardless of how many forums you post the comparison to) other than the fact that, yes, for that type of shot a line-skipping camera isn't as good and for another type of shot the old-style video-dedicated small-chips are better - which should hardly be news. The DSLR style chips, however, are good for many, many other types of shots, which is proven time and time again with the hundreds of productions around the world that still use the 5D Mark II effectively (not even the III). Every camera has strengths and weakness. Learn them and move on.

I did my research, asked questions and ended up buying an FS100 for my second camera (effectively replacing my NX5U small-chip). It's not that hard.

Beyond that, I'd like to replace my A77 with an A99 later this year when budget allows.
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Old December 31st, 2012, 01:30 PM   #10
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Re: My VG900 Test: line-skipping killing it for me

I'll just post my link here and see what people think:

http://www.shesmokes.com/promo/SheSmokesPromo.mp4

It is from an adult themed website but this clip is work safe, there is no nudity in it at all, it's just ladies smoking. It's 1920x1080 60fps all VG-900 filmed with two full frame lenses, a Sigma 50mm f1.4 lens and an 80s era Minolta 70-210mm f4. I've normally filmed with handycam type camcorders so I'm still new to this style of filming so please keep that in mind, it's a learning process and I'm figuring things out as I go :)

Personally I love this camera. The oled viewfinder makes it easy to manually focus even in bright sunlight, being full frame means I can get closer to the subject and stick to the on camera mic with lower sensitivity, it has enough battery life to last all day in the sun and doesn't overheat, and I like the shallow dof I get from it. For negatives, the segment with the Christmas lights was very dark and needed 30db of gain, so you can see that segment is noisy. Also you can see aliasing sometimes like on the rim of her glasses in the close-up shot.

Anyways one of the reasons I've been wanting to post this on a forum is to see what people think, would I have been better off with a FS-100? I hear so much negativity towards the VG-900 since I got it that it's made me wonder if I should switch to the FS-100. This is my first interchangeable lens video camera so I have no point of reference, to me the VG-900 seems great but maybe the FS-100 would be way better for my needs which are portrait style video with very shallow dof?
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Old December 31st, 2012, 01:44 PM   #11
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Re: My VG900 Test: line-skipping killing it for me

Given this content I wouldn't really see the point in spending an extra $1000 for the FS100. All your subjects are isolated from the background and you will benefit from the good low-light abilities of the VG900 over the VG30. Since you also post photos on your site, you'll probably also get some mileage from the high-qualithy still from the VG900, am I right? If you start to think about adding the XLR option to the VG900... well, at that point you might have well bought the FS100.
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Old December 31st, 2012, 02:39 PM   #12
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Re: My VG900 Test: line-skipping killing it for me

Well cost wise it's a wash since I do have the xlr attachment, so it's about the same as the FS-100. I don't take stills with the VG-900 either, I just use screen grabs from the video footage for various reasons I won't get into here. So cost wise they are about the same, and it is exclusively for video use. The main things that pushed me to the VG-900 were:

1) It's easy of use, I'm new to this style camera so I wanted something easy to pick up and learn.

2) Being able to get closer to the subject, sometimes I'm very space constrained to where the camera has been put up against a wall as I just ran out of room. It seemed like the smaller sensor in the FS-100 would make that issue worse. Plus it makes for a more comfortable shoot just being able to be closer to the subject and talking with her while setting up, I don't really want to be 20 feet away from her on those longer shots.

3) Getting the shallowest dof possible, I mostly live at f1.4 but plan to try 0.95f as sometimes f1.4 isn't shallow enough. This seemed to be better with the VG-900's full frame sensor as I could get closer to her to frame her as I want, which improved the shallow dof. Framing her the same with the FS-100's smaller sensor I believe means moving further back (if I had the room) which meant less shallow dof.

4) The oled viewfinder, I'm oddly finding this to be my favorite feature of the camera, it really does help when working in sunlight.

What I lost to get those perks was more aliasing and more low light noise compared to the FS-100. But on the other hand most of my scenes tend to be defocussed and I don't usually film in the very low light situations where the FS-100 pulls ahead. Hence why I went with the VG-900 as it seemed that for my particular needs it was a better fit but you know how it is, reading all the "VG-900 is crap" posts over and over again does make me wonder sometimes if I made the right choice. Hence why I decided to post the video and get other peoples opinion on it.
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Old December 31st, 2012, 03:43 PM   #13
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Re: My VG900 Test: line-skipping killing it for me

But to be fair... Most of the "A99 and VG900 is crap" posts are from the same 2 people.
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Old December 31st, 2012, 05:21 PM   #14
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Re: My VG900 Test: line-skipping killing it for me

Its not just me. I wish it was better, but that's just not the case.

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Old December 31st, 2012, 05:42 PM   #15
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Re: My VG900 Test: line-skipping killing it for me

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Joy View Post
Its not just me. I wish it was better, but that's just not the case.
Yeah I have heard others complain as well here and there. The pattern seems to be with very wide shots with deep dof, that's where people seem to be complaining. It turns out that's the complete opposite of what I film hence maybe why it hasn't been an issue to me. I do have an old 17-35mm full frame Minolta lens from the 80s which I should try at some point, and see how that footage comes out.

What do you think of my sample clip? Do you think an FS-100 would offer substantial improvement?
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