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Sony VX2100 / PD170 / PDX10 Companion
Topics also include Sony's TRV950, VX2000, PD150 & DSR250 family.

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Old February 19th, 2004, 12:02 PM   #1
Join Date: Feb 2004
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HELP! I'm so confused. I would like to purchase a prosumer grade digital video camera to record high school musicals and performing groups. After careful research and due to the lighting conditions I had decided the VX2100 would be the best choice. Then ran into some info on the DVC80. I read that even though the VX2100 is rated down to 1 lux and the DVC80 is only rated down to 3 lux they are very comparible in low light conditions. Please confirm or rebut this statement if you can.
My wife is a director of music groups from age 5 through high school. Parents often complain that it is difficult to get a good video image so I'm hoping that with better equipment we can capture better video and get everyone a copy on DVD.
I'm also concerned about sound. I would like to be able to patch the sound into the camera from my sound mixer. I've read about some problems doing this from the sony.
Thanks for any suggestions.
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Old February 19th, 2004, 12:42 PM   #2
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If that's the case, go with the one which has XLRs (DVC80 and PD170) and the one that is better in lower light (VX2100 and PD170).
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Old February 19th, 2004, 01:32 PM   #3
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The DVC80 has highly rated audio, and XLRs, as well as good image controls. Of the two, I think I would get that one.
I've been shooting quite a bit of stage lighting these days with my PDX10, and I have to say that, at least as far as the PDX10 goes, stage lighting is not the lowest amount of light around, by any means, especially musicals. I'm getting great, noise-free footage with a camera that is 7 times worse in low light than the VX2100, according to Sony's lux ratings. The DVC80 would serve you fine, I'd think. The PDX10 would serve you well also, and also has the XLRs, though less manual control.
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Old February 19th, 2004, 04:01 PM   #4
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I don't know who has been saying that the 80 is as good as the 2100 in dim light but the real-life reports I've received say that isn't necessarily so. (WEVA user reports).

There are several aspects to low light performance and raw low light sensitivty is just one of them. The other is video noise. If it looks like a salt & pepper image then the capability is not too useful. The 2100/170 circuits are quiet enough that the salt & pepper is pretty much gone.

True, stage lighting is not always dim but I've been in situations with both dance recitals and stage plays where I needed every bit of the low-light capability of a PD150 and DSR-300 (2 lux animals). Even then the 150 has lower noise than the 300 at max gains.

What I don't know and what is very important to you should be the amount of image processing that goes on in the camera. I do know that while my PD150 is lower noise than my DSR-300, the 300's image in low light in terms of DYNAMIC RANGE, is much better than the 150. That is, the 300 can deliver a more pleasing image than the 150 because it can process deeper into the highlights and shadows than the 150.

Where that also becomes useful is in amateur theatrical productions where the lighting design and control is not too good. In those cases, you really will want something with a lot of image processing power as you swing across the stage and the light changes by half a f-stop or so. It's the difference between a face being exposed OK and recording poorly.

In truth, either camera will probably do OK for you. But you should try both if at all possible.

Another issue: I don't know if the 80 has a manual zoom ring or not. I find the manual ring on the 150, servo coupling or not, to be very useful in precisely setting a frame and ever so slowly being able to correct a frame. Something you cannot do as well with a rocker switch.

I had to fault the 150/170/2000/2100 in any respect it is the stepped aperature control. With that you simply cannot make subtle exposure adjustments while taping. The changes always appear on the finished tape. Which is another area in which my DSR300 is much superior with it's stepless aperature control (not to mention the direct mechanical control of focus and zoom).

Focus is another are in which these prosumer cameras are marginal at low light. Auto focus in any form doesn't work in most cases. The viewfinder of even the 150/170 is marginal (they are high-res B&W finders) for focus in very low light although they are better than any color display. The pro finder of the 300 is very much more suited for the task with a much higher resolution of a very bright image (one can set that up with the brightness knob) and the Peaking Circuit makes on-focus much easier to detect.

With regard to the audio. In every practical application, the audio performance of the current models of the 2000, 150, 2100 & 170 are more than good enough. We don't record sound in an anechoic chamber, we record sound in theatres and dance studios, stadiums and other spaces where machinery, people, and music create a significant noise floor. What noise may exist in any of the digital cameras is swamped by the the real world.

Yes, my 300 is quieter than the 150. But since I don't record in sound rooms or anechoic chambers, it really doesn't matter in the long run.

The bottom line is that you need to get each camera in your hands and use it in the application in which you anticipate using it. Nothing else comes close to that real-life feedback.

While you are at it, rent a DSR-390 and see what that can deliver. I know they are expensive but you should see what the best can deliver if at all possible. Today, you can field a used DSR-300 for around $5,000 for camera body, lens and battery system. The pro format is easier to use and delivers better images if you can at all afford it. (not to mention the 3 hour tape loads).
Mike Rehmus
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