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Sony TRV950 / PDX10 Companion
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Old March 1st, 2005, 09:53 PM   #1
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I just got my PDX10 about 3 hours ago. Already I have questions. I havent had a chance to read the whole manual yet but what I have read is less than informative, so since I am already here I hope you can bear with me...

1) What is the deal with the LCD screen cover that comes with the case? How in the world do you put that thing on?

2) Are digital photos captures supposed to be so grainy?
(I have a consumer Sony TRV33 that captures better digital pictures.)

3) Is the LCD screen supposed to be grainy as well?
(I figure this is possibly because of the large size of the screen compared to the TRV33, but with such a price diffrence between them...?)

I know I should take the time to work out the quirks before I ask all these questions, but for the latter two questions I would like to find out ASAP so i can return the camera if its faulty.

I am confident, from what I have seen, that this is a good camera for what I do. I am not so confident it is any better than my 1 CCD camera in anything other than video quality. Your help and comments would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks for your time,
Nevin
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Old March 1st, 2005, 10:16 PM   #2
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Hi Nevin, and welcome to DVinfo. I think you'll find your PDX-10 is much better than a single chipper, but you will need to understand the controls and settings a bit first.

Do you have the Petrol hood? That is a really confusing thing. I had to look at some photos online before I could figure out how to assemble. See if this helps:

http://www.petrolbags.com/new_petrol...MH-1/PMH-1.htm

I'm not in love with the LCD screen, but it's one of the better that I've seen on a camcorder. It is higher resolution than the screen on the PD-170 for example. Perhaps the problem had to do with your camera settings? I suggest connecting the camera to your NLE, and sending some standard color bars to it. Then you can roughly adjust the screen to get into the right ballpark.

Personally I don't use the still photo feature, camcorders should be used for moving pictures! :-) My few experiments didn't particularly impress me, however I don't know that I would consider them "grainy." For example, this is a PDX-10 still: http://www.greenmist.com/dv/16x9/10.JPG. Sounds to me like you might be shooting in low light an adding a lot of gain. This could also explain your comment about the LCD screen. Make sure you are in full manual mode so you can control this.

Good luck with the new camera. Spend some time experimenting and you will learn its range of capabilities.
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Old March 2nd, 2005, 10:48 AM   #3
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Day 2

Ok, so I didnt get my accounting homework nor my technical writing assignment completed last night, but instead I had taken what Boyd O. told me in my last post and figured a few things out:

1) The LCD hood that comes with the PDX10 case is amazing when assembled and installed properly; almost as sexy as the camera itself.
2) The quality of the digital pictures did improve on manual settings and after I restricted the gain manually to 6db.

Now its Day 2 of PDX10 ownership, and I have another question:
On its manual setting, the focus ring some times has to play "catch-up" or becomes confussed, has any one else noticed this?
Ex. I put the camera on manual focus and started focusing on random objects quickly as I walked around. Every once-in-a-while the focus would get confussed and show infitity in the display. I had to stop trying to adjusting the focus ring for a second and then try to focus again, at which point the camera "caught-up" with me.
It seemed like it was interpreting the movements of the focus ring digitally rather than actually changing the focal length of the lense manually.
Is that how it works? Seems logical seeing as how there are no restrictions on how far you turn the focus ring, but why would they do that?

Thanks for your time,
Nevin
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Old March 2nd, 2005, 12:23 PM   #4
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Hi Nevin. I merged your new thread with your other one since they're really part of the same discussion.

Glad you getting things sorted out. Yes, as you suspected the focus ring is not really a "manual" control at all. It just spins infinitely and an encoder sends data to a servo motor which operates the focus train. Why? It saves money, since the lens needs a servo motor to drive it in autofocus mode anyway. Most of the prosumer cameras use a similar system. If the servo motor was actually linked to the ring itself it would also suck your battery down very quickly from moving that big ring. Sony's new HDV cameras (the FX1 and Z1) refine this a bit by using a servo system with a calibrated ring which doesn't spin infinitely.

The behavior you describe where the distance quickly jumps to infinity is related to the huge depth of field that these small chip cameras have. If you zoom all the way out to wide I think you'll find that when you focus at infinity everything that's more than a couple meters in front of you is actually in focus. However if you zoom in then depth of field decreases. The nice thing about this is that you don't have to worry a lot about focus when using the wide end of the zoom. Of course if you're trying to create an effect where the foreground is in sharp focus and the background is blurry then you won't be so happy.

But basically the camera is just reporting what your depth of field is, and it quickly reaches infinity at the wide end of the zoom. Try zooming in and turning the ring. Now you will see a more accurate distance readout. So one technique would be to zoom way in on your subject, focus, then zoom back out. That way you'll know that focus will be correct if you change the zoom setting during a shot. If you're in manual focus mode and do your initial focus at the wide end of the zoom, then you will probably not be in focus when you zoom in during the shot.

Aside from that, well the focus ring just isn't as responsive as I would like on the PDX-10. If you turn it very slowly it won't seem to have any effect at all. At wide zoom settings this is exaggerated, as described above. Have you tried playing with the spot focus function on the touch screen? I don't find it terribly useful myself, but it's an interesting feature which can sometimes come in handy.
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Old March 2nd, 2005, 09:21 PM   #5
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Boyd & Nevin,

One of the features of the PDX10p I like is the quality of the photos it takes. While the photo is only 1152x864 the quality is very high. Tip: make sure that in the menu options it is set to super fine and 1152x864.
My photos are not grainy check out some samples I posted for you, www.dsvid.com/PDX10p -there is a bit of loss in the posting process.

Boyd, "....camcorders should be used for moving pictures! :-) "
I often hike in to remote places, backpack, food, drink, video camera, tripods, spare batterise/lens etc. Occassionally, I like to take a photo for my records, or for backgrouds/wallpapers/data projector. The last thing I need is an extra camera to lug around.
That's why I am pleasantly surprised at the quality and ability to blow up way beyond a normal 1mgpixel camera. Luv the pdx10.
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Old March 2nd, 2005, 09:55 PM   #6
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Simply amazing...
I think I have worked out the quirks, and I am starting to get better pictures. I have no clue what was wrong with the pdx10 on the first picture, but it seems the more I take, the better they look.
Those pictures you took were awesome. I just need a lot more light.
I totally agree with you, Chris, on the extra camera thing. It's a waste of space, and sometimes its nice to be able to take a picture.
Thanks for those pictures thats exactly what I wanted to see and know.
And thank you Boyd for your help with the manual settings and focus issues. I think it'll just take a little warming up to the camera.
Thanks you guys,
Nevin
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Old March 3rd, 2005, 02:57 AM   #7
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Hi Nevin

I shot a lot of short promotional clips on the TRV950 last year, which is basically the same camera as the PD10...

I tended to leave is in autofocus 90% of the time and found this worked very well. Occassionally I'd flick it into manual if subjects were moving in front of the lens or I wanted a certain part of the picture sharp. The push auto is nice for snapping subjects into focus.

Low light was never really a problem for me despite the critisism this camera comes in for... limiting gain helped as did dropping to 1/25. In worse light than that I added a small 30w video lamp.

Picture quality is stunning for such a compact camera.. my only gripe is the smear issue.. and you can avoid it if you are aware of when it happens... I had a few shots lacking in definition due to backlight or windows casting too much contrast into the shot.

The manual controls for me are a bit fiddly. I always considered it an auto camera with manual override... and not a full manual.

As to the still photo ..well the less said the better.. they are just about good enough for a website...you can get equally good shots taking a filmstrip out of Premiere Pro. I can never understand why they put these features on a high end prosumer camera. Personnally I'd take a small compact 6megpixel point and shoot that takes up no room and gives infinitely better pix.. the couple of seconds delay on the PD/TRV before it takes the shot makes it unsable for anything other than landscapes...

Happy shooting

Regards
Gareth

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Old March 3rd, 2005, 07:32 AM   #8
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Gareth,
I guess shooting pictures with these cameras is a matter of personal prefrence. Personally, i dont need very high quality photos, i would just like photos with out a lot of noise. Since i have figured out this little thing the pictures arent an issue anymore.

You did bring up a good point though:
"limiting gain helped as did dropping to 1/25."

1) vertical smear has never really bothered me, as the majority of what i do is artistic rather realistic shooting the vertical smear in a way adds something to what i do.
2) you mention shooting in 25 fps. I noticed the camera specifications state that it runs any where from 1/4 to 1/10,000. But i have the choices of 1/60 to 1/500. How do i go about finding the other settings?

Thats all.
Thanks for your help,
Nevin
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Old March 3rd, 2005, 09:10 AM   #9
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Nevin: set the camera for manual mode with the auto lock slider in the middle. Now push the shutter speed button on the back. The shutter speed should show on the viewfinder/LCD and it should be highlighted. If this doesn't happen, then press the exposure button, then push shutter speed again (you need to release manual iris control before setting shutter speed - one of the camera's quirks, although it is the same on the VX-2000). If you haven't done anything else yet then your speed will say 60 (or 50 if a PAL camera).

Now turn the wheel at the back of the camera. For NTSC you get 30-15-8-4 as you rotate the wheel down. As you rotate it going up you get 90-100-125-180-250-350-500-725-1000-1500-2000-3000-4000-6000-10000. Now press the exposure button. The highlight will go away but the shutter speed you picked will continue to show in the viewfinder. Note: if the shutter speed doesn't show then you aren't in manual shutter mode! Now you're back in manual iris mode, and turning the wheel will move the bargraph at the top of the screen to indicate iris or gain setting.

Note: if you have an NTSC camera then 1/25 shutter speed isn't a choice, 1/30 is your closest option. Also note that when you drop below 1/60 shutter speed you are cutting your vertical resolution in half theoretically (in practice it isn't quite that bad, without getting into the technical details). You will notice that video shot at 1/30 isn't as sharp due to this. Some people like the effect because it gives something closer to a "filmic" motion, but you sacrifice resolution in doing so. Try it, and look at your footage on a good monitor to see if you find it acceptable before using a slow shutter speed for anything important.

BTW, regarding gain in manual mode, you can always adjust all the way to +18dB regardless of the custom preset gain setting, that's only for auto-gain in auto mode. In manual iris mode, turn the wheel until the bargraph is all the way to the right. Now your lens is wide open at +18dB gain. Turn the wheel one click at a time and count: 15-12-9-6-3-0dB. Notice the position on the bargraph indicator. If you're in 16:9 mode it will be right between the letters D and E on the "16:9 WIDE" indicator below the bargraph. Keep this in mind as a handy reference for finding the 0dB gain setting while shooting in manual.

My personal experience is that you can add 6dB of gain with absolutely no adverse effect on the image. 9dB is not usually a problem either. You may see a little noise at 12dB, but it should still be acceptable. In extreme cases 15 dB shoiuld still be usable. 18dB usually looks pretty bad though. This may be dependent on the kind of scene you're shooting, so experiement around a little. But the 14bit DSP on this camera really seems very good.
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Old March 3rd, 2005, 12:50 PM   #10
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more "new-prosumer" questions

Ok, I'm sure I could find these answers some where on this site or in a book, but I have done preliminary searches and I have come up with nothing. So i have a few more questions I would love to know the answers to regarding the PDX10:

1)Why the Black and white view finder? I find this on most professional/ prosumer cameras... is it for determining luminance? If so isnt this pretty pointless with a digital, non-square pixel camera?

2) The gain- what exactly is gain and what do the db settings mean? I realize the picture has more grain and noise when the gain is higher, but I dont know why this happens, and why does the PDX10 not have a 0db restriction. Any ideas?

3) I got the UWP-C1 wireless lavalier kit with the PDX10. The manual to the PDX10 says that you shouldn't use a mic with an input not matching -48v if you are going to use the +48v switch on the box. Does this mic kit fit in that descprition (ie. can i use the 48v switch?)

Alright, well, once again I really appreciate the help you all have been giving me. Hopefully i'll run out of questions soon. Either that or perhaps i'll wear out my welcome. I'm looking forward to the latter.

I appreciate your time, honestly.
Thanks for your help,
Nevin
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Old March 3rd, 2005, 01:05 PM   #11
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1. The BW viewfinder is higher resolution than color. It is still an LCD, however it doesn't need 3 dots for each pixel. Contrast is certainly easier to judge on the BW finder. Personally I think focus is judged just as well on the large LCD screen, although still nothing like an external monitor. Most of the time I use the screen instead of viewfinder. Pro cameras have CRT based BW finders that are much higher res than the PDX-10. FWIW, the PDX-10's BW LCD is the same resolution as the one on the PD-170.

2. By adding gain you are just amplifying the image the camera captures with the iris wide open. So it would be like turning up the volume while listening to a scratchy phonograph record. It gets louder so you can hear details you might miss at a lower setting, but the scratches, hiss and noise would get louder too. The 3 decibel stops are like 1/2 f-stops on the lens. Each 6db gain increase has an effect similar to opening the lens by one f-stop which would double the amount of light. I don't know what you mean by a "0dB restriction"? You can set the gain at 0dB as described in my last post. Do you mean that you can't limit auto-gain to 0dB? Remember, that only affects the camera in auto-exposure mode. I wouldn't worry too much about it - you will not be able to detect a 6dB gain boost in the images, and it effectively gives you an extra f-stop in dim conditions.

3) Sorry, don't know.
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Old March 14th, 2005, 10:19 AM   #12
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So, wait, gain is just more light? Or is it a digitally "amplified" version of what is being viewed? Because, what you told me about the manual gain setting is just setting the exposure, correct? Which, on a side note, means there are negative gain settings?
I really do not understand gain apparently. Any refrences for sites or books which explain the science?
Thanks,
Nevin
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Old March 14th, 2005, 12:10 PM   #13
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<<<-- Originally posted by Nevin Aragam : So, wait, gain is just more light? Or is it a digitally "amplified" version of what is being viewed? Because, what you told me about the manual gain setting is just setting the exposure, correct? Which, on a side note, means there are negative gain settings?
I really do not understand gain apparently. Any refrences for sites or books which explain the science?
-->>>

Gain is just more voltage applied by the camera to a certain signal to take it up to a certain level.

It is not digital amplification, but analog. If it were digital perhaps something could be done to improve it without affecting the noise.

In fact that is what some digital programs do to cure scratches, pops and hiss on analog records, particularly 78rpm types. When you are in the digital world, you can set filters more accurately that will separate the noise from the actual images or audio.

In the video camera the CCDs got to their maximum sensitivity and can not separate their own video noise from the actual images, that are dark. The better the camera the more it can resolve that noisy images into some detail.

In postproduction there might be ways to improve noisy images, but that might not be easy or cheap to achieve.

Gain setting is not setting the exposure, but setting how much noise you will accept as good for you. Once you set your gain, you set your shutter and your stop (iris). Sometimes you may need to lower your stop with internal NDs or external ones.

If possible you should always prefer lower stops. All lenses are designed to provide their best response at two stops above their more open F. E.g.: totally open F is 2, then your preferred stop would be 4. In controlled conditions you can adjust your light to get that result.


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