PDX10 test - my conclusions at DVinfo.net

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Sony TRV950 / PDX10 Companion
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Old October 21st, 2003, 05:16 AM   #1
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PDX10 test - my conclusions

This is indeed a camera of two halves. It’s a beautifully compact design, and is superbly built from fine materials. Weight saving hasn’t got in the way of good engineering. It has a really wonderfully sharp and flare free lens that is useable at all focal lengths and apertures. There’s minimal distortion and the pictures it produces – in combination with very low noise chips - are extraordinarily good as long as the lighting isn’t low or of high contrast. Never have lenses been so cheap, so fast, so sharp, so flare free, so compact, so consistent, so reliable. In a nutshell, never have we had it so good, so take delight in the excellence that volume production brings. The on-board microphones are remarkable, the tape handling is exemplarily and the big touch screen with all its tricks is a real party piece. The menu, though deep, is intuitive and offers a huge amount of camera control and customisation. The XLR adapter is compact and very quick to set up and offers many audio options. The crowning glory has to be the 16:9 shooting mode. This gives a much needed wide-angle increase while at the same time giving breathtaking results on a large 16:9 screens. MPEG1 to Memory Stick is fun and the 1152 x 864 stills opened in Photoshop are impressive.

The negative aspects can be summed up as follows. I really feel that Sony needs to control the CCD flare problem immediately, as it severely disadvantages this fine camcorder. The poor low light performance is perhaps not unexpected with such tiny CCDs, but the very short focal length lenses associated with these tiny chips makes differential focus particularly hard to obtain. The feeble bass response of the supplied ECM-NV1 microphone is a real disappointment. I also feel that on a camcorder aimed at professionals it’s important to be kept informed of the aperture and gain-up whilst shooting, and not to be fed misleading information when pushing ‘Display’ later. Every one of these negative aspects are cured by spending just £50 more on the VX2000E, which makes buying the PDX10P a decision that should not be undertaken lightly.

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Old October 21st, 2003, 05:27 AM   #2
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Thanks, Tom. I'll be watching out for your review.

2 PDX10 questions:

1) did you find the cam to pull forward and to the left when hold it and difficult to grip because of its rather slight ridge?

2) did you find the audio to be much better than VX2000's (testing with a good mic)?
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Old October 21st, 2003, 09:57 AM   #3
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Tom,

nice review short and to the point- I agree with everything you've said.

That being said, I returned my unit back to B&H- I just felt the camera had too many minor issues for it's $2,000 price tag...while I'm in no way rich, I have no problem spending $$$ for something I want/like and the PDX10 just missed the mark in my book....so I'll likely wait for the perfect camera (for me that is 16:9 shooting and 20X optical zoom- preferably HDV but reg mini DV would suffice) and no 1 single camera seems to have this combo- so I'll wait a little while til the new Canon's come out and perhaps other manufacturers models and buy something then.

I'm hoping for some revolutionary cameras in late 2003...with my fingers crossed and money burning a hole in my wallet........come on- someone make a 20+ zoom & hi-def camera....we need it for animal documentaries!

(let's go Yankees!!!!! 2003 World Series Champions)
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Old October 21st, 2003, 10:15 AM   #4
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Yes Frank. (1) I wrote:
This camera is compact but it’s no lightweight, tipping the scales at an impressive 1.42kg. To put this into perspective the three chip Panasonic MX300 (reviewed March 2001) weighs just under 800g – a little over half that of the Sony. The VX2000 weighs 1.63kg. I found that the PDX10 is not the easiest kind of camera to handle. It does not seem particularly well balanced and this has a lot to do with the lateral distance from lens centreline to the palm of your right hand. This is exacerbated by the fact that the tape deck mechanism is on the right side of the camcorder and the tape deck door is made even thicker because it accommodates the Memory Stick door. To combat the weight of the camcorder as it twists anti-clockwise in your palm, its tempting to have the strap pretty tight around the back of your right hand, and this then stops you holding the camera upright by clinging onto the little ledge alongside the tape eject lever. It really is a two handed camera, with the left hand used to support the weight while the thumb and fingers cradle the lens focus ring. Unfortunately in this position they brush the microphone grilles and this of course ruins the audio. Using the supplied XLR microphone takes on a new attractiveness.
On a tripod all is well and Sony have sensibly placed the tripod socket on axis with the lens’ centreline and within millimetres of the focal plane, an ideal situation.

(2) I didn't test the audio against the VX, but I wrote:

The tiny built in microphones are remarkably good, giving good stereo when used up close. They are predominantly bass light and there’s no further bass cut for windy conditions. They pick up rather more tape deck noise than the mics fitted to the PD100 and more noise than the supplied mono electret condenser ECM-NV1. Interestingly the microphone audio characteristics are remarkably similar and footage can be intercut even when some scenes have been shot with the inbuilts and some with the NV1. The XLR box does have what Sony term ‘low cut’ switches, but this makes the mic sound unacceptably thin. As a comparison test we compared the NV1 with a Sennheiser K6/ME66 combination and the differences were startling. The smoothness of the Sennheiser and the bass extension are dramatic reasons to upgrade the PDX10, and the latter’s very quiet audio circuitry is very capable of handling the better signal. The in-built mics hear the manual focus ring being turned, and why Sony fit a clicking ‘push auto’ focus switch and a silent ‘fade’ switch right up close to the microphones’ grille is something we can’t fathom.

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Old October 21st, 2003, 12:59 PM   #5
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yes the mx300 is far too light IMO.

I loaned a friend my Hague stabilizer and his mx wouldnt balance/trim until he stuck a big fat WA (400g) on the end.

The x10 flies like a condor however...
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Old October 21st, 2003, 04:15 PM   #6
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Thank you very much Tom. I admire and appreciate your thoroughness and your succinctness every time.
For me the only incurable negative there is the smear.

All in box cam mic.s are to be replaced, it's a fact of life, and most fellows prefer this one or that besides.

Use a tripod. Any cam with the big battery, the xlr adaptor, the shotgun, any external lense, mattebox, etc., is, at that point, not a handycam, and while there are better balanced cams of the larger variety, well.......Despite it's small size, this cam, fully rigged, isn't a handycam. Should one be able to be a pro, and a tourist too, in one fell swoop? I'm not trying to speak for anyone but myself here. I find the tripod liberating, and handheld often limiting.

As for the misleading display information, I guess it's more a matter of not believing everything you read, and unlearning what you know a little bit, in using this camera. I'm not saying throw design accuracy to the wind, I'm saying this sort of thing need not prevent successful use of this current camera by any means.

Your test has been very insightful, Tom, particularly the part about internal ND. Again, thank you.
Regards,
Shawn
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Old October 21st, 2003, 11:22 PM   #7
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Thank you for your thoughts Shawn. You know what? I'm tending to agree with you over:

''As for the misleading display information, I guess it's more a matter of not believing everything you read, and unlearning what you know a little bit, in using this camera. I'm not saying throw design accuracy to the wind, I'm saying this sort of thing need not prevent successful use of this current camera by any means.''

Maybe I've been too hung up about display readouts, shutter speeds, apertures and ND filters, thinking that one way to get good pictures is the only way. As the PDX10 produces such good pictures in 'normal' lighting conditions, should I be complaining simply because it goes about getting these results in a different way? Maybe not.

Little story. I walked up to a guy using a PD150, immediately thinking , "Here's a kindred spirit". "I see you've got a PD150", I said. "Like it?" He looked it over, turning the cam this way and that. "Is it?" he said. "Yes, I do like it, but I just went in and bought the best I could afford, I know nothing about it".

So there you have it. You don't really need to know how the camera goes about getting the footage, you only need to know if it's doing it right. And for most of the time (apart from that dreadful CCD flare) the PDX10/TRV950 does just that, it does it right.

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Old October 22nd, 2003, 01:56 AM   #8
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Tom, please don't read me wrong. I don't think you're research is by any means trivial, quite the contrary. If Sony is warming up to pro.s with pro standards, but fudging to do it, and not telling, and the pro.s go to use this cam in the way they think it's designed to be used, unwittingly getting messed results, your time and energy spent on these nagging little details could prove very helpful, to say nothing of highly interesting. I'm saying: enjoy the cam, but question Sony's intentions.

Looking forward to future findings!
Regards,
Shawn
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