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Sony XDCAM EX Pro Handhelds
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Old July 7th, 2008, 11:09 PM   #1
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Took the Plunge...Willing to Shoot Test for Others

Hey everybody,

I finally took the plunge on my first professional video camera...the Sony PMW-EX1! I'm pretty excited to finally have the freedom to shoot whenever I want. After weighing the Panasonic HVX200a vs. the Sony I decided on the one with the pros that mattered to me the most. That being...

- Great in low light

- Way better resolution

- 1/2" chips (I really missed the DOF I got working with a JVC DV-5000 and this aspect of the camera should not be understated)

- Longer recording times


I am an event/documentary videographer more than I am a "director of photography" film guy but I'm sure the EX1 can fill my indie filmmaking needs whenever necessary.

Now...to give back to the DVInfo community I'd like to offer to anyone who is on the fence about buying this camera the ability to send me out and field test for you. Some tests I'm already going to run are:

- Low light..different wattage bulbs indoors and neighborhood shots

- Running with the camera to test wobble.

- Detail at default vs. detail off vs. detail negative X

- Whip pans...not the eratic ones but just the shot transition type

- Audio quality with my Sanken COS-11s lav mic and also the built-in one. I'll also test my Rode NTK with the camera as well for sh*ts and giggles. Not many clips around here have onboard microphone audio and this is one thing I really wanted to see samples of. I'll post high quality mp3 files as well.

- Panning landscapes to see if detail becomes smeared.

- Holding the camera outside the window of a moving car

- Firing my Nikon D300 with SB-800 strobelight directly at it and also at objects off-camera. Then a consumer Canon Elph after that.

- 720/60p vs. 1080i both in HDV and HQ modes to see quality on my 57" HDTV. Also slo-motion stuff and 1080/24p

- Center crop 4:3 SD conversion. Will it look horrible or should I just stick to letterboxing everything (which I wouldn't mind).


Let me know what other things you'd like me to test (PM me or reply here.) And if an admin could hook me up with some space to post clips it'd be much appreciated. I'll probably take delivery by Thursday and watch the Vortex EX-1 DVDs over the weekend. Then once I'm familiar enough with the camera I will run all the tests.
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Old July 8th, 2008, 08:13 AM   #2
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It's a generous offer - thanks Adam!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Reuter View Post
Not many clips around here have onboard microphone audio and this is one thing I really wanted to see samples of.
You may be onto something here.

When I took delivery of my EX1, I tried a few tests (just back garden stuff). The difference was so horrendous and marked, I made a mental note to avoid the internal mics completely. So I never got round to posting the evidence.

In the bigger picture, I wonder if anyone would be seriously tempted to think of the internal mics as no good for anything other than guide tracks. Frankly, I wish they'd done a Z7/PD150 and left them off so we could have some more Matte Box access.
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Old July 8th, 2008, 08:26 AM   #3
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I personally disagree - compared with many on-board mics out there, the one offered with EX1 is capable of surprisingly good quality sound. Still for reference only in serious projects, but anyway.

BTW, getting rid of the mic wouldn't make more space for matte box and alike; it's mainly the (folded) LCD that can limit the room.
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Old July 8th, 2008, 08:31 AM   #4
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Adam, your offer is very generous but you need to be careful. Many people
may take your clips as the best, or worst that an EX can do, yet by your own admission your knowledge of how to get the best results from an EX will have come from way h
watching a DVD as opposed to real life experience. Don't get me wrong, I applaud your offer to shoot some sample footage, but I would wait until such time as you have worked out how to get the best out of the camera. All too often we see people with the best of intentions posting clips that have not been well executed leading to a misleading result. In addition sample clips are much more useful if there is some kind of know reference to compare them with. A shot of a night time street dosnt tell us nearly as much as 2 shots of the same street at the same time with different cameras.
Enjoy your ex1!
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Old July 8th, 2008, 01:23 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Piotr Wozniacki View Post
I personally disagree - compared with many on-board mics out there, the one offered with EX1 is capable of surprisingly good quality sound.
Totally respect your point of view Piotr. Maybe you've got a formula that makes them work better.

I will (once current flurry of work dies down a bit!) dig out my original early 'back garden' tests to demonstrate what I saw as a frightening difference in quality. I may be guilty of the audio equivalent of flashy rolling shutter alerts. (grinning, ducking and running)
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Old July 8th, 2008, 01:55 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Reuter View Post
I'll probably take delivery by Thursday and watch the Vortex EX-1 DVDs over the weekend. Then once I'm familiar enough with the camera I will run all the tests.
At NAB I had lunch with Larry Thorpe (of CineaAlta fame) about a BBC paper that explained why inexpensive cameras have far more visible 24p judder. I explained my GUESS as to why CineAlta cameras cost so much an he said I was correct. A huge amount of work went into getting "film" judder verses "video" judder.

Awhile back someone posted video that "proved" there was no difference between the EX1 and higher-end Sony's when shooting 24p. The problem was that the moving object was far in the distance.

The key is motion vector of the object in relation to the shutter-speed. To test judder one needs to:

Put a camera on a tripod and place a pole about 10-feet away. Zoom Wide. Shutter-speed at 180 degrees. Lock exposure and focus on pole. Then pan past at a whole range of speeds. (Use a 90-degree pan and count off the seconds.)

Only CERTAIN speeds should reveal bad judder.

Now the real test is to repeat at different sharpness levels. The higher the sharpness the worse the judder should be.

Now increase zoom which increases the speed of the motion vector.

It's not yet noon in Las Vegas and it's already 107 so I'm not running outside to run these tests. :) You could do this and post clips with a note on each.
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Old July 8th, 2008, 02:49 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alister Chapman View Post
Adam, your offer is very generous but you need to be careful.
Indeed -- as my friend Adam Wilt is fond of saying: "No good deed goes unpunished." Proceed with caution.
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Old July 9th, 2008, 01:11 AM   #8
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Duly noted, Mr. Chapman. The DVD is just a starting point and is by no means a replacement for hands-on in the field experience with the camera. After I've "broken it in" a bit I will do the tests. Although back focus and vignetting tests will be a priority for my own peace of mind.

Unfortunately I do not own a "known reference" camera and do not know of anyone in my area who could lend me one. Maybe I'll ask around the forums here or on my local craiglist to do an East Coast shoot out or something. The only other video cameras I have access to are an old Hi8 Sony Handycam and a Panasonic DVC60.

I definitely plan on enjoying my EX-1 for many years to come!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alister Chapman View Post
Adam, your offer is very generous but you need to be careful. Many people
may take your clips as the best, or worst that an EX can do, yet by your own admission your knowledge of how to get the best results from an EX will have come from way h
watching a DVD as opposed to real life experience. Don't get me wrong, I applaud your offer to shoot some sample footage, but I would wait until such time as you have worked out how to get the best out of the camera. All too often we see people with the best of intentions posting clips that have not been well executed leading to a misleading result. In addition sample clips are much more useful if there is some kind of know reference to compare them with. A shot of a night time street dosnt tell us nearly as much as 2 shots of the same street at the same time with different cameras.
Enjoy your ex1!
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Old July 9th, 2008, 12:39 PM   #9
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Do your test footage with shutter turned on. With shutter off, some frames get soft as the camera interprets what each frame should look like. Some people have mistaken the blurry frames as a log GOP fault, but with shutter turned on every frame will look clean--other than normal motion blur. If you shoot HQ 24 set the shutter to 180 degrees or 1/48th of a second. If you overcrank, use 1/125th of a second to lose some of the motion blur. You can even go to 1/250th in overcrank and still have usable video. If you go to 1/500th, the slow motion will no longer have a fluid look, but every frame will be sharp. If you need to use 1/500th for a look, then go ahead and use /1/1000 since the fluidity of the shot will be the same as 1/500th, but the individual frames will be even clearer. For 60i or 30p I use 1/60th for a normal shutter speed.
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Old July 9th, 2008, 02:58 PM   #10
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With the shutter off frames can look soft because at 1/30th of a second even the tiniest amount of motion or vibration will blur the image. It has nothing to do with the codec or the way the camera "interprets" the image.

Take a stills camera take a handheld picture at 1/30th or 1/25th of a second then take another at 1/60th or 1/50th. Unless you have incredibly steady hands the slow shutter speed pictures will be soft.
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Old July 9th, 2008, 03:11 PM   #11
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Steve, if it's the BBC paper I have seen on motion artifacts it's a few years old now. As I understand it the problem is that some older and most consumer level HD cameras rely heavily on edge enhancement and high frequency boosting to get an HD image from barely HD imagers. All this boosting creates very strong dark edges around areas of high contrast. When panning these strong artificially sharp and very thin edges catch the eye and appear to jump from one frame to the next giving the perception of increased judder. Film does not have these eye catching dark lines/edges so they do not catch the eye and as a result motion appears smoother. Newer HD cameras including most of the low cost pro cameras don't need so much enhancement or can have the detail level turned down or off so this particular problem is not as big a problem as it used to be.
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Old July 9th, 2008, 04:18 PM   #12
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Thank you for these tips Patrick. I had read on a few posts to keep the shutter off to reduce the rolling shutter effect. Then Barry Green on ***user.com says that shutter on/off has no significant effect on the flash strobe issue. So I extrapolate from that information that it doesn't work the same as the HVX200 (Shutter off in 60i is 1/60 or 1/48 in 24p mode, etc.)?

I've been doing mostly still photography work for the past two years so I am definitely well aware of my shutter speed and aperture at all times. And indeed 1/30 is too low for handheld work (it's okay on a tripod but I still don't like the blurry look). I was not aware of the 1/125 setting when overcranking but that makes sense now (60fps x 2 = 120 an 125 is closest). What's the equivalent shutter angle?

Only a day or two and it'll be here! Yay!



Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick Williams View Post
Do your test footage with shutter turned on. With shutter off, some frames get soft as the camera interprets what each frame should look like. Some people have mistaken the blurry frames as a log GOP fault, but with shutter turned on every frame will look clean--other than normal motion blur. If you shoot HQ 24 set the shutter to 180 degrees or 1/48th of a second. If you overcrank, use 1/125th of a second to lose some of the motion blur. You can even go to 1/250th in overcrank and still have usable video. If you go to 1/500th, the slow motion will no longer have a fluid look, but every frame will be sharp. If you need to use 1/500th for a look, then go ahead and use /1/1000 since the fluidity of the shot will be the same as 1/500th, but the individual frames will be even clearer. For 60i or 30p I use 1/60th for a normal shutter speed.
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Old July 10th, 2008, 01:40 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alister Chapman View Post
With the shutter off frames can look soft because at 1/30th of a second even the tiniest amount of motion or vibration will blur the image. It has nothing to do with the codec or the way the camera "interprets" the image.

Take a stills camera take a handheld picture at 1/30th or 1/25th of a second then take another at 1/60th or 1/50th. Unless you have incredibly steady hands the slow shutter speed pictures will be soft.
From my experience and what I've been reading, shutter off does do some strange things to the video. Some early reviews of the camera were saying that the long GOP was evident because when someone shooting 24p was zooming at a constant rate, all of the frames had different levels of blurriness. So they were blaming the long GOP on trying to interpret frames, when actually if a shutter is turned on(no matter what the setting) all of the frames have a consistent amount of motion blur. I've shot some slow pans at high shutter speeds as a test, and every frame is sharp and detailed, which is the way it should be. I've shot slow pans at 1/48th of a second, and every frame has the same amount of motion blur as the next frame. I've shot the same pan with shutter off and besides the motion blur being more severe, some frames are softer looking than others--so there is an inconsistent look with shutter off. I think for someone shooting 60i, it might not even be noticeable, but even at 60i I would still put a shutter of 1/60th just to be safe. When I read a review of the EX-1 criticizing the long GOP, I immediately wonder if they had the shutter turned on.
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Old July 10th, 2008, 03:38 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Steve Mullen View Post
At NAB I had lunch with Larry Thorpe (of CineaAlta fame) about a BBC paper that explained why inexpensive cameras have far more visible 24p judder. I explained my GUESS as to why CineAlta cameras cost so much an he said I was correct. A huge amount of work went into getting "film" judder verses "video" judder.
I suspect it may have been their R&D WHP053, which is available online - http://www.bbc.co.uk/rd/pubs/whp/whp...les/WHP053.pdf

I can't claim to understand all the details, but there is a conclusion at page 19. It does show correlation between "judder" and mtf and DOF. Simplistically, greater DOF=sharper backgrounds=judder more visible. The film effect is a function of the size of the film gate as well as the charecteristics of the film itself.

I also suspect talk of long-GOP here is a red herring, but that could only be proved by comparing the direct camera feed with that recorded.
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Old July 12th, 2008, 11:42 AM   #15
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Initial Reactions to the PMW-EX1

I got my EX-1 two days ago and yesterday did my first official shoot. I'm pretty well-versed in ENG-type cameras and the HVX200 and viewed about 3/4 of the Vortex EX1 DVD.

I received one with firmware 1.05_0405 and serial #0101280*** from B&H Photo.

Production of my second music album (as a recording engineer) started yesterday. The one thing we wished we had last year was behind the scenes/making of footage of the process. Recording music is a grueling process and to be honest I think having a camera there will sometimes make things go less boring. So anyway after shooting some test footage the first day at my house (Thursday night/Friday morning) we began rolling on the music.

My thoughts are based on my views on seen through the component out of the EX1 (which I hear isn't the best quality) into my 57" HD Projection TV. It's a 2006 Toshiba model and it has a crisp image with Comcast hD and HD DVDs so I know what HD should look like (at least broadcast, anyway).

- First, the low light. WOW! The HVX200 even at +12dB could not have shot the picture the EX1 delivers. The footage would have been noisy, dark and unusable. The EX-1 handled those dark basement studio conditions with no problem! That's the type of stuff I bought this camera for (no auxilary lighting) and man does it look great.

- F/2.4 and +12 dB (which is what we were shooting in the studio with) was almost noise-free. It's like what the HVX200 looks like at +3dB...maybe a little less noisy.

- The LCD screen is incredible. It's usable under the bright sun like others have said and is sharp enough to focus with. Peaking and expanded focus are huge helpers but if I didn't have those tools I would still be pretty confident with focusing with just the LCD screen. The viewfinder is crap though.

- I used the built-in microphone with automatic gain for all the music session footage. It is more than adequate if you don't own a shotgun mic yet and the great thing is because no tape is rolling the only camera noise you may get is from poor handling of the camera.

- Yes, this camera does not have the great of ergonomics. I would never use it with just one hand but if you adjust the zoom handle to about 45º or a little over and put your left handle underneath it then you're good to go. I'm still going to buy a shoulder mount for it though.

- My Warm Card 1/2 looked neutral for the footage. Sony cameras are known for a blue bias and color looked good on the LCD screen. On the big screen it looked the same so this or Warm 1 is probably what I'll use.

- The skin detail function is not the lame one found in the HVX200. You can actually select the area of skin that you want to specify as the skin color and it detects as other ENG-type cameras I've used do.

- All footage yesterday was shot hand-held. The wobble issue is way overblown...I didn't notice a thing. If an earthquake happens when we're filming I'll let you know how the footage turns out. *wink*

- I can't decide if I like Detail set to on or off.

- I wish it had a video buffer like the HVX200. Since it records over 3x the amount of footage per GB this isn't as much of a problem and the ability to make shot markers when recording is cool


I'll be busy for the next day or so with business-related stuff but am definitely going to honor my testing of this camera and put footage on Vimeo. I haven't watched/read how to use Sony Transfer yet so there's no footage on my CPU yet! I can say that I am very happy with my purchase and my interest in video has piqued again because of it.

Last edited by Adam Reuter; July 12th, 2008 at 12:27 PM.
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