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Sony XDCAM EX Pro Handhelds
Sony PMW-300, PXW-X200, PXW-X180 (back to EX3 & EX1) recording to SxS flash memory.


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Old April 21st, 2015, 05:57 AM   #16
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Re: X180 lens issue

1) How are you handling the focus problem in use?

I just have to "rotate back" a bit once I hit the end stop. I am used to doing this on my broadcast lenses, as things in the street and trees in the distance would always be just a slight bit closer than any lenses infinity stop. Imagine a car that when you hit the steering end stop, it went into reverse or steered in the opposite direction! There is no excuse for this.

2) How is the lens wide open? I've heard it's quite soft

It gets a bit sharper if you stop down a bit. The whole thing looks soft to me at night wide open with gain added, very difficult to focus, jus hazy. The resulting footage looks better than the image I see while shooting though. I shoot everything at night, so always wide open. My minimum gain setting is 6db!

3) How is focusing using the LCD/EVF? I've also heard it's difficult.

I cannot use the LCD, my eyes cannot focus on it (contact lenses), and if I back my neck off, it isn;t sharp enough at that distance. The EVF is very nice, but it is a bit darker than the LCD, makes me overexpose. I only use the LCD to double check exposure and adjust menu settings
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Old April 21st, 2015, 10:34 PM   #17
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Re: X180 lens issue

I wanted to follow up and say that the X180 wide open at night reminds me of how my SD Canon J22 and J11 eXFS 2/3" lenses looked on my 720p Varicam and HPX2000 broadcast cameras. While they looked very nice, the HA16 HD lens I also had looked a lot sharper, and had better contrast. The X180 lens has a lot of reduced contrast whenever light is directed into it at night. The blacks also grey out more than I would expect when you cut the shutter down in SLS.

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Old June 5th, 2015, 08:59 PM   #18
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Re: X180 lens issue

Another update on the lens. Shot in the daytime for the first time yesterday morning. I was shooting at maximum telephoto about 100 meters away, and the camera insisted that infinity was in focus, and it was correct. I zoomed out about 20% and the license plate on the car I was shooting became blurred. Rotated the focus ring a back a bit, and it became sharp and crisp. Zoomed back in to full telephoto, and it was blurred again. Zoomed in and out and watched in surprise (not really, the camera is amazingly horrible in so many ways) as the sharp things like signs and such with defined text came and went out of focus. No, I was not on autofocus.

Strangely enough, the camera, does not do the infinity macro thing in the day at f5.6 or so, it actually stays sharp. Obviously, this MODEL has some sort of back focus problem. I don't have a lot of experience with non B4 lenses, but this camera I could swear has some sort of real time drift, as if it has an electronic active backfocus mechanism that is trying, but failing, to adjust as i zoom. I say this because it appeared like the backfocus/blurring would lag a bit behind the actual zoom. Sort of like how if you use the zoom ring and it isn't quiet connected. I thought I saw this in my night shooting, but wasn't sure until I saw the daytime video that wasn't stuck at wide open aperture. The camera has always been extremely hard to focus at night. Wide open is SD soft. EVF has blurred corners, If you look through the center, only the center is sharp, you have to move your eye around the cup to aim at the part of the EVF you want to not be out of focus.

So the lens is SD quality wide open. Cannot be used at infinity hard stop at night, Cannot zoom in, focus, and zoom back out with loosing precise focus. 2nd X180 I have had to come with dust and fingerprints inside the elements. The lens is the ONLY reason I got this camera over the X200, but it has turned out to be the worst part of this camera. It is not only subpar optically, but it has a defective design and production defects like the smudges and dust internally.

Will be replacing this as soon as someone makes something similar that doesn't have the issues this has. I need the 26mm wide and the long tele, there really is no other camera that can do this currently. Unless you really need 26mm wide and a long tele, get the X200. The lens problems and 5 seconds per menu press to display make this camera something you may want to throw in the nearest garbage can.

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Old June 10th, 2015, 05:31 AM   #19
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Re: X180 lens issue

Thanks for your feedback on this camcorder Paul, it's only when we really get to use the cameras "hands-on" in the environment that we get to see the quirks and challenges with them!
I'm pretty happy with my PXW-X200's and I do use them quite differently to the way you use your X180, mine most often indoors and on tripods!
I can confirm your observations on the manual focus issue as well as the dreadfully slow/laggy menu response on the X180.
I also noticed that the zoom ring doesn't rotate when you use the rocker whereas the X200 does, so it seems the X180 is digitally controlled where zoom ring and rocker are independent of each other - not the case on the X200!
Just checking through my test clips of the X180 and X200 I see I do have a comparison zoom and low test at the widest iris on both, which I will upload later today so you can have a look and comment.
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Old June 10th, 2015, 04:42 PM   #20
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Re: X180 lens issue

Here's that test clip of the X200 vs X180:
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Old June 10th, 2015, 06:59 PM   #21
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Re: X180 lens issue

That comparison clearly demonstrates the #1 reason for me buying the X180 over the X200, that wide angle and telephoto capability. It also clearly demonstrates how much better the 1/2" chips on the X200 are. I would be willing to say that you could achieve BETTER results from cropping in on the X200 at full telephoto in dim light to match the X180, than the X180's native image. That being said, there is no replacement for the native wide angle capability, short of a wide angle converter on the X200. The X200 would match the X180's wide with a converter, and would end up weighing the same, but you'd have 1/3 less telephoto capability.

Honestly, the native wide angle on the X180 with standard Steady Shot is comparable to the X70 with an 0.8x converter with Active Steady Shot. That is a big deal for me. It must be taken into account that I do a lot of LIVE work with the X180, so being able to walk around a car crash scene with the widest angle possible, while still being able to pull in that plane crash in a field with 25x on tripod, is a major advantage.

I am curious as to how much resolution the X180 losses as compared to the X200 wide open iris. I operated a Varicam and HPX2000 with a set of standard definition Canon eXFS J22 and J11 lenses, and I would speculate that the X180 HD lens is as soft, if not a bit softer, than those standard def lenses at f1.6.

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Old June 11th, 2015, 05:42 PM   #22
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Re: X180 lens issue

Even MORE lens issues, definitely looks like a backfocus problem. I was shooting a live shot this morning, and noticed in the viewfinder that as I zoomed in even a little bit from full wide angle, the picture was going blurry. When I hit my full telephoto, the objects I had selected focus with were in focus. I swear it seemed like the backfocus was shifting and trying to keep up, but lagging behind, my zoom! Think of it like how a camcorder AF hunts for focus. Now imagine the X180 being on manual hard stop focus, and as you zoom in, the backfocus is hunting like a home video camera AF, adjusting as you zoom. I took a couple of screen grabs of my live shot. It is VERY OBVIOUS, as you can see the letters and numbers on the license plate literally SNAP out of focus. This was a slow zoom in, and observed in the VF, so this is not an artifact of the live signal transmission. I was actually focused on a point far down the street. As soon as I can get a hold of Sony, I am going to get them to fix this damn camera, or I will make it my mission to cost them as many X180 sales as possible for designing and selling a defectively designed product and taking peoples money for it.
Attached Thumbnails
X180 lens issue-snip1.jpg   X180 lens issue-snip2.jpg  

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Old June 12th, 2015, 04:08 AM   #23
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Re: X180 lens issue

Here is an example of this problem. Clip shot a few minutes ago, note how the back-focus or focus focus FLOATS as I zoom in and out. This was shot in manual focus mode with the focus ring pulled back into hard stop mode, and I was not touching the ring while zooming. Unacceptable Sony.

Rob, can you replicate this problem on your X180? Shooting at f1.6 1/3 or 1/60 shutter, dim lighting.

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Old June 12th, 2015, 05:58 PM   #24
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Re: X180 lens issue

Hey Paul, that definitely look suspicious given you're in manual focus.
I will have a look on the X180 on Tuesday and attempt to replicate what you're doing.
I do think that the internals of the X160/X180 are all electronic so to speak and given the zoom rocker and zoom ring are "decoupled" (don't work together like the X200) I wouldn't be surprised if the manual focus is not actually parfocal and/or there is focus issues with this camera!
If the X200 have the wide angle and zoom range (25x) of the X180 (minus a few oddities like wifi negating 1080p50 mode etc) then Sony would probably have the best handheld camera in the world!
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Old June 13th, 2015, 09:51 PM   #25
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Re: X180 lens issue

I am seriously seriously looking to switch to an X200. I am currently researching any quirks that exist with that model. The menu lag and all of these lens issues (plus the weight!) are negating any imagined benefit I originally saw in having that 25x wide angle zoom.

The superior wide open iris resolution, and 6-9db advantage, would mean that I could crop in post and achieve better results than the soft darker X180 lens can produce. As for the wide end, my 16x9 EXII converters are still around, and with the blur factor on the X180, those zoom thru's on the X200 would still be just as sharp.

I wish more than anything that I could quickly access the slow speed shutter menu. The JVC design of push a button and up and down arrows is amazingly convenient! Do you have any idea how long it takes to get to the SLS menu on an X180!

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Old June 16th, 2015, 05:29 AM   #26
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Re: X180 lens issue

These lens problems have irritated me for the last time. I was on an armed stand-off incident, and was on a tight zoom of a cop holding an MP5 submachine gun. I zoomed in a bit, and that damned out of focus thing happened again. So I started playing with the zoom rocker.

Even the slightest touch of the zoom rocker, even if it is not enough to actually cause a zoom operation, will rack the image out of focus. It seems to be focusing farther than where it is, like how the camera will focus past infinity if you hit the hard stop. Anyway, I can actually blink the picture out of focus without a zoom movement by gently applying pressure to the rocker in either direction! I had a thought that perhaps the PEAKING was being electronically deactivated during zooms, but that turned out not to be the deal. It is also not the DETAIL circuitry turning off during image movement, the camera will focus out farther than intended to more distant objects in the shot during this issue.

To make it even more fun, if I apply even lighter pressure, the focus will shimmer, literarily strobe in and out of focus, blinking rapidly! Not kidding, it's ridiculous. The problem was so apparent, and so WRONG, that I immediately got back in my car, logged into B&H, and ordered a brand new PXW-X200.

I am DONE with the damn X180. Anyone else looking at that camera due to it's lens, you've been warned. If these issues were not really that bad, would I drop $6500 USD to replace it out of anger after months daily use? :)

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Old June 16th, 2015, 10:51 PM   #27
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Re: X180 lens issue

For what it's worth, after reading the last post I was rather concerned and spent about half an hour running some tests on my X180 -- but couldn't get it to do any of the apparent zoom-lever triggered focus shifting that's described. It also maintains focus fine when I zoom out. Admittedly my camera hasn't had much rough wear (most of its shoots have been theatre shows, panel discussions or green screens) so it hasn't taken any hard hits. I still have a real need for the 25x zoom and the other things the camera does well, so though it may not be appropriate for every shoot, I'm still happily holding onto mine.
I've also found that menu navigation using the four navigation/control buttons on the top of the camera seems to move quicker for me than using the spin wheel on the side.
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Old June 17th, 2015, 12:07 AM   #28
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Re: X180 lens issue

The menu lag in conjunction with a spin wheel is terrible. You can spin and spin and imagine getting several full rotations out of the little dial for each change in menu selection.....

As for my lens, I am already on my SECOND X180. The first was returned for smears and dirt in the internal optics, as well as the issue with the camera going out of focus at the infinity hard stop. My second X180 has a smudge on the internal optic, and also suffers the exact same infinity hard stop blur, so I am DONE with this particular model. I will post some extensive testing of these issues, as they are not intermittent, but easily replicatable 100% of the time. I run a very high peaking level due to shooting in the fuzzy end of the aperture, so the focus changes are glaringly evident to the eye in the EVF.

If you are shooting in the day in bright conditions, these issues will not be as obvious. But when you shoot wide open all the time in high contrast night scenes, they become very apparent. I will miss the shockless gain. :(

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Old June 17th, 2015, 09:41 AM   #29
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Re: X180 lens issue

Yes, I agree on the spin wheel for the menu - combined with the fact that it goes from one menu section (category) to the next as you spin. Using the control navigation with the top menu buttons makes it easy and fast to navigate.
I do hope that they do something with what you call the 'infinity hard stop' focus issue - where you don't hit the 'hard stop' on the lens until you are past the infinty mark - at which point the camera focuses far beyond infinty - and this shift seems worst at wide angle. At this point I just make sure I avoid hitting that wall, or if I do I bounce off it quickly.
All this said, the camera works fine for me. I don't tend to shoot at high f/stops, and often will be wide open at +6 or +9db, with focus being checked on either a 17" HDSDI or a 21" HDMI monitor (both with 1920x1080 pixel resolution). Lenses and optics all clean here, so sounds like you've run into some QC issues..
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Old June 17th, 2015, 10:10 AM   #30
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Re: X180 lens issue

Just an FYI for X180 users, that infinity out of focus issue exists in free spin manual focus as well. The problem with that is that you cannot tell when you have past infinity, as you can with the hard stop, which allows you to back off slightly.

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