Initial thoughts on the Sony HDR-AX2000 from a newby at DVinfo.net

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Old February 15th, 2010, 12:09 AM   #1
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Initial thoughts on the Sony HDR-AX2000 from a newby

The "news" thread (http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/digital-...camcorder.html) was pretty long, so I thought I'd start a new thread to posts some sample files from the Sony HDR-AX2000.

I wonder if DVInfo is going to add a forum for these cameras, or what the most appropriate forum is to post.

First of all, I should say that I'm not an experienced videographer, and don't really feel qualified to give any kind of review of the camera for any commercial application. The most similar camera I've owned to this is the Sony VX-21000, and then a series of small Handycams up the HC7 since then.

Here are some of the first files I shot, straight from the camera. My apologies for the audio, I'm also new to the Sennheiser ew 100 ENG G3 kit I got with the camera, and I apparently haven't figured out how to get a clear channel yet.

Static shot at 1080 60i http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1197521/AX20...0_MCU_60i.m2ts
Static shot at 1080 24p http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1197521/AX20...0_MCU_24p.m2ts
Pan at 1080 60i http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1197521/AX20...0_pan_60i.m2ts
Pan at 1080 24p http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1197521/AX20...0_pan_24p.m2ts
Static low-light shot at 1080 60i http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1197521/AX20...light_60i.m2ts

The AX2000 has a cool (at least to me) feature that it can record the audio from one of the XLR inputs onto both audio tracks using different gain settings, so you can have a safety track recorded at a lower level. So for the above files, you'd ideally want to mute the right track.

I will try to get some better low-light samples, but unfortunately am going out of town (w/o the camera) for a few days, so it will have to wait until next weekend.

Early Notes:

Overall, I'm really excited to get familiar with this thing. The build quality, controls, etc... all seem excellent to me, and I'm eager to become proficient.

If you put a media card from this camera in a card reader (or mount the camera to a computer via USB), you can navigate to a directory which contains .MTS files, which my Windows 7 PC recognizes are AVCHD Video and which seem to play fine in Windows MediaPlayer or in Sony Vegas 9c. However, the camera manual warns you not to use the files direct from the media card; instead you are supposed to use Sony Content Management Utility (which comes with the camera) to transfer files off the media. When you use that tool, you end up with .m2ts files (and a sidecar file .cmuprops). I'm not sure there is any difference between the .MTS and .M2TS files but there may be metadata benifits, etc... to doing it Sony's way.

Sony VegasPro 9c has a feature to natively transfer files from many Sony solid state cameras, but that feature doesn't seem to recognize the AX2000 yet. Perhaps Vegas will be patched. But for now, you'd have to either grab the .MTS file from the Vegas file explorer, or use the external utility to transfer the files to your HD and then use the .M2TS files. Not a big deal.

Cineform NeoScene is able to transcode the .MTS or .MT2S files just fine, and the Sony Content Management Utility can be configured to launch NeoScene after copying the files to your HD if you choose. Cineform NeoScene & Sony AX2000 AVCHD Cams

The hot shoe is JUST in-front of the fold out screen, so anything you put in the shoe has can't extend behind the shoe at all or it will interfere with the screen. I was able to put my Sennheiser G3 100 receiver on the shoe, but it was a bit of an IQ test to get an orientation that didn't block the screen.

I have a Sennheiser K6-ME66 Shotgun in the mic stand on the camera. The camera is able to provide phantom power so it isn't necessary to feed the Mic it's battery. The diameter of the Mic is too narrow for the Mic mount on the camera, so I had to use some foam tape to build up the Mic diameter. The Mic itself does not come into frame even with lens on it's widest setting, but my particular windsock for the Mic does (An older Rycote Light Wave Softie). I'm either going to have to investigate a more compact Softie, or some kind of accessory to let me use a hotshoe Mic Mount and Wireless receiver mount at the same time and keep them out of the way of the flip out screen.

The Camera does take SDHC cards (I'm using two 32GB Delkin eFilm Pro Class 6 cards). The camera can auto switch from one to the other during recording, however when you mount the camera to your computer, only one of the cards can be accessed by the computer at a time. You'd need to disconnect and reconnect to mount the other one.

The camera comes with the NP-F570 battery which seems small. I'm using an NP-F970 which fills the battery compartment. I don't have any feel for battery life yet.

The controls seem very good and logical to me. The camera is a tad bigger than I expected. I was thinking it would be the same size as my old VX-2100 and it's a tad bigger. I think it might be the exact same size as the FX-1000? I'd like to find out, as I image FX-1000 bags/etc... might be the way to go for now.

There are 7 user definable buttons. 4 of them have a default function and label, but 3 are not defined.

Coming from more still photography, there are some things I'm surprised these video cameras don't seem to have. There is no histogram to evaluate exposure (70,100, and 100+ zebra is available). The manual assumes some expertise I don't have. I assume 70 zebra shows anything at 70 IRE, 100 shows anything at 100 IRE, but what is 100+? Can anything be hotter than pure white? In manual mode it would be cool if the viewfinder gave some indication as to if it thinks I'm over or underexposed. It seems I can accomplish similar functionality but to me, the traditional Iris Priority Mode, Shutter Priority Mode, and full auto modes on a still camera make more sense than the Auto/Manual settings with the ability to selectively re-engage auto for each element of exposure (probably just my lack of experience). I assume in video that you most often are using Iris and gain for exposure control, and keeping the shutter at your frame rate?

There are 6 Picture Profiles you can customize and easily toggle through. They allow you to customize all the color settings (Gamma, Color Mode, Color Level, Color Phase, WB Shift, Detail, and Skintone Detail), but it would have been cool to be able to include Capture mode in these settings. I.E. I can imagine wanting to use the simulated film color schemes at 24P, and normal color settings at 60i.

There does not appear to be a way to toggle capture modes without navigating through the menu's (the cant be programmed into the user assignable buttons or the picture profiles).

The manual leaves some details out that might be common knowledge to video people, but aren't to me. I assume Backlight mode is like a spot meter mode (or does it just jack up exposure by some set amount)? Does spotlight mode just turn down exposure? I assume the normal mode is some sort of center weighted matrix meter? $3500 D-SLR manuals have a lot more detail about how the camera meters in various modes.

I'm surprised that the camera doesn't seem to offer any way to spot meter or spot focus on anything other than the center of the frame (yes you can go manual, recompose your shot, push auto focus, adjust each element of exposure, and then recompose). It would be cool if there was a Push Auto Exposure button like there is a Push Auto Focus button (you can assign the user buttons to Push Auto Iris).

The Audio controls seem great. I can't think of any Audio configuration I'd want that I can't do. Expanded Focus was a cool surprise feature to me, and I've never owned a camera with Peaking either.

I have some minor nits with the UI. If you format one media card (several menu's deep), it automatically throws you out of the menu's so you have to navigate back in to format the other card. Do these camera's ever get firmware upgrades to add features/clean up rough edged? I.E. could there be a histogram added? Do people every hack these cameras? (i.e. add the 72060p mode from the NX series).

Anyway, that's I'll I've got for now. Let me know if you have any questions or if you want to see some specific kind of shot sample.

Cheers,

Jason aka Retailgeek
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Old February 15th, 2010, 12:16 AM   #2
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Bah, one other thing I failed to mention, is that I have an unanticipated new challenge to my workflow using the solid state camera vs. HDV cameras.... I don't have a good way to preview full size video.

Only the primary monitor on my desktop is 1920 x 1200. The secondary monitor on my PC and the internal and external monitors on my laptop are all too small to preview at full 1080. When using HDV, I'd have a consumer HDTV plugged into my camcorder and Sony Vegas would let me send previews to it's monitor (kinda like using the camcorder as an extra video card). Now that that my camera isn't connected via Firewire anymore, I lose that ability. I'm wondering if I can keep using the HDV camera interfaced via firewire just as a preview system?

Sadly, I travel for work about 70% of the year, so am usually just on my laptop with the single (small) screen. For my laptop my video HD's are all portable USB drives and I think they are going to be a bit slow for the Cineform files as well.
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Old February 15th, 2010, 12:31 AM   #3
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Great commentary, Jason!

A couple of things ... AVCHD and the camera can record 'superwhites' up to about 110 IRE - if you wish you can recover that detail by pulling it down with the 'levels' control in your NLE. Above 110 the highlight information is lost permanently.

Also, I'd be 99% confident in saying your HDV/firewire output is no longer going to work with your new footage - sorry.
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Old February 15th, 2010, 12:31 AM   #4
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Picture of my rig with the G100 receiver and ME-66 Shotgun:
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Initial thoughts on the Sony HDR-AX2000 from a newby-ax2000_rig.jpg   Initial thoughts on the Sony HDR-AX2000 from a newby-ax2000_rig_2.jpg  

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Old February 15th, 2010, 06:25 AM   #5
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Good post.
I think I'm coming from a similar position as yourself so a lot of what you covered in relevant to me.

Would be very interested as to whether cameras such as the AX2000 are hacked to include the features from the NX5.
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Old February 15th, 2010, 07:24 AM   #6
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That single mic to dual channel with independant volume feature sounds great - but I'm interested to know what stage of the processing they do the volume mixing at. Surely if they included this feature, it would be so that you can record, say a speech infront of a big crowd; When the speaker is talking channel 1 will be the perfect level, but then the crowd will cheer and applaud and channel 1 will peak but channel 2 will be perfect. Is this right?

Or, if they do the volume change later in the process, channel 2 could end up with the same sounds/peaking recorded but the sound is peaking and distorting at a lower volume than on Level 1?

Hopefully they's got this right because this could be a very usefull feature.
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Old February 15th, 2010, 08:58 AM   #7
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John thanks for the quick review.
I'm curious as to how the footage cuts on a native timeline.

I edit in both Sony Vegas 8 and FCP.
I know that Sony V8 will edit native AVCHD footage, and FCP will now, as you have to convert to either HDV or ProRes to edit.

But since you seem to sue Vegas and the footage I was wondering about the workflow bringing in the footage and editing native. Or do you transcode to Cineform for editing?
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Old February 15th, 2010, 12:02 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Goldberg View Post
If you put a media card from this camera in a card reader (or mount the camera to a computer via USB), you can navigate to a directory which contains .MTS files, which my Windows 7 PC recognizes are AVCHD Video and which seem to play fine in Windows MediaPlayer or in Sony Vegas 9c. However, the camera manual warns you not to use the files direct from the media card; instead you are supposed to use Sony Content Management Utility (which comes with the camera) to transfer files off the media. When you use that tool, you end up with .m2ts files (and a sidecar file .cmuprops). I'm not sure there is any difference between the .MTS and .M2TS files but there may be metadata benefits, etc... to doing it Sony's way.
I'd be willing to bet the Sony Content Management Utility combines the multiple 4 GB files from long takes into one large file on import.
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Old February 18th, 2010, 01:22 PM   #9
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I am sure the content management is like the other consumer Sony AVCHD cams in that it does combine the FAT32 files into clip length files. So that if the clip was 2 hours long it will end up as a single 2 hour clip( rather than 6 or 7 files). The Sony MBS for the smaller cams like the XR500 that I have will combine files into single clip length files, analyze the data and log all faces, GPS data etc for future search. The logged data can then be searched by folder( when the transfer took place) or calendar format by day and time. I am sure the same is true for the AX2000.
I use the MBS and then backup to LTO3 data tape.

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Old February 18th, 2010, 01:32 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Jason Goldberg View Post
Sony HDR-AX2000... I wonder if DVInfo is going to add a forum for these cameras
Done. Better late than never!
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Old February 19th, 2010, 01:19 PM   #11
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Is there a list somewhere to show me the differences between the NX5 and the AX2k? I'm wondering if the AX has has the EIS removed and simply ships with the OIS.

tom.
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Old February 19th, 2010, 03:29 PM   #12
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The HDR-AX2000 has Optical SteadyShot, with Active Mode (according to Sony's Product Page.) You can check the user guide (it can be found here: Sony eSupport - HDRAX2000H)

You have to turn it on though; there's regular Steadyshot, and then there's the Active mode.
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Old February 19th, 2010, 04:17 PM   #13
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Two big differences between the NX5U and AX2000 are that the NX5U can record 720 line formats (including 720p60) and you can attach Sony's optional 128GB memory module to it. Also, the NX5U records native 1080p24, rather than embedding it in a 60i stream, and has SDI output.
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Old February 20th, 2010, 06:42 AM   #14
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And it's the 'active mode' that's the EIS Michael? I must say how impressed I was with the image stabilisation of the NX5 at the Earl's Court show on in London this week. The Sony demo cam was fixed to a fluid head to let the public play and with all the Steadyshots turned on, I could shake the camera pretty violently using the pan handle and watch in amazement as the image appeared rock steady.

Of course the lag' as I started a gentle pan and came to a stop was pretty noticeable, and the 10% loss of image (effectively a loss of wide-angle coverage as well as a resolution drop) might make you think twice before turning on the EIS. But then again, the stabilisation at full tele was something to write home about.

Later on I went to a Sony seminar on the introduction to this NX5 and noticed that in the tripod mounted full tele shots I could spot the minute jiggles that show up a tripod head not up to the task. Of course everyone says turn off IS when tripod mounted, but in this case I had to disagree.

tom.
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Old February 20th, 2010, 09:39 AM   #15
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Two big differences between the NX5U and AX2000 are that the NX5U can record 720 line formats (including 720p60) and you can attach Sony's optional 128GB memory module to it. Also, the NX5U records native 1080p24, rather than embedding it in a 60i stream, and has SDI output.
Two other things are PCM audio and smooth gain and WB changes. By the time one adds up all the things missing on the AX2000 the price difference is not worth it in my mind and I will get the NX5 even if I don't get the 128G FMU which is a little expensive here in Canada. Vistek Canadian dollar prices are $4699 for the NX5 and $4499 for AX2000 that's an awful lot missing for $200 !!!!

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