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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 1st, 2015, 10:06 AM   #1
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X180 lens issue

I have only had my X180 2 days, but every wide scene shot I have shot comes out blurry. I couldn't figure out how this was happening, as I was manually focusing, and simply rotated the lens to the mechanical infinity stop, which should make everything out past 50 feet tack sharp. Well, I discovered either a design issue, or a defect with my lens.

I just tested this a few minutes ago in daylight, f1.6, wide shot of a parking lot, manual focus. I can rotate the focus ring from the near hard stop, to just about infinity, and everything is in focus, but the moment I hit that last mm at the infinity stop, the picture racks out of focus. it looks as if I were to engage a slight macro, or back-focus adjustment! This is boggling my mind, as near stop to almost infinity produces the identical focus, then BAM, instant blur. This lens is not mechanical as the hard end stops would suggest. This infinity blur happens when the lens is switched to free rotate manual focus as well, only when you focus this way, it will actually close focus and the wide shot will blur.

Anyone else with an X160 or X180 that can confirm if this is a design problem, or if I have a defective unit? This simply cannot be right. :-(

Paul
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Old April 1st, 2015, 12:02 PM   #2
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Re: X180 lens issue

My 180 similarly pushes the focus past infinity (hence making everything soft) if I rotate the focus ring past infinity to the mechanical 'stop' point on the lens. When I focus to the infinity mark on the lens everything is fine -- the mechanical stop is past that -- and since foreground objects also go further out of focus when I get to the stop point, it seems that the lens is actually focusing well past the infinity point. Hasn't been an issue for me since I normally don' need tot focus past a few hundred feet at the furthest, and infinity focus itself seems fine. Perhaps this is something that could be improved with a firmware update?
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Old April 1st, 2015, 06:39 PM   #3
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Re: X180 lens issue

I would hope so! What on Earth would be the point of the damn hard stops? That's a selling point of this camera.

And just to be clear here. When you rotate from say 1m all the way to the infinity symbol, with peaking turned up, everything is sparkling crisp, then when you turn that last 1mm past the infinity symbol to the hard stop, the picture racks out of focus similar to if you bumped the macro arm on a 2/3" lens!

Paul
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Old April 1st, 2015, 10:58 PM   #4
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Re: X180 lens issue

I suspect it's the same as the situation on the Fujinon lens on the X200. All the focusing is done using a servo instead of with the front lens element.

To test this theory, do a snap zoom manually on a high shutter speed. If the camera loses focus even on manual focus, the focus is via servo, not a mechanical full manual system.
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Old April 4th, 2015, 01:08 AM   #5
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Re: X180 lens issue

Jack, it is very servo.

Dave, I have found another "anomaly" in my X180 focus mechanism. I ran into this at least 4-5 times on my last shift. I push forward for AF, then pull back for manual focus, usually leaving the dial at infinity so manual snaps back to a "known focus point".

The problem is that the camera will many many times NOT allow far focus! I will be able to go all the way to the infinity hard stop, but not be able to focus on a scene 50-100 feet away. Rotating back, I can focus close, but I have to click the dial forward and backward a few times to get out of this condition. Basically I am manually commanding far focus, but the servo will seem to be recalling inaccurate location values. Infinity in fact becomes 20-30 feet, bang, hard stop = 20-30 feet. You can imaging how frustrating this is when you are literally banging against the hard stop repeatedly, desperately attempting to achieve focus on a breaking news story! Grrrr!

Sony really needs to address these glitches in a future firmware update, they really are problematic. And a real world test of infinity shows that the lens is capable of focusing "past" the moon I outer space. I would attempt to test infinity further, but 25x is not long enough to try to focus on distant galaxies. :-]

Paul
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Old April 5th, 2015, 02:11 AM   #6
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Re: X180 lens issue

The EX1 has had this problem for years. Focusing on full zoom doesn't guarantee the focus will stay overall sharp in the middle of the zoom range. A very common problem with XDCAMs with servo based focus.

You have to constantly watch your peaking when shifting zoom levels. I know it's a pain but it's a flaw with the lens design.
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Old April 5th, 2015, 07:11 PM   #7
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Re: X180 lens issue

This isn't a hard to focus issue, this is the camera not focusing past 20-30 feet when you hit the hard infinity stop. As you rotate, you will see an object begin to come into focus, then you hit the hard infinity end stop, and you are still focused on closer objects than your target. Focus by servo is so infuriating. :-)

Paul
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Old April 15th, 2015, 03:19 AM   #8
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Re: X180 lens issue

Well, my lens issue(s) are a bit worse than I first noticed. After a few stories where I had bright LED police lights flashing into my lens at night, and seeing lots of "specs" and such, I decided to clean off my optics. Well, to my surprise, the front element was spotless, but the inner elements had dust on them. And that wasn't all. There was a smudge INSIDE the lens elements, as if you were to smear your fingerprint on the glass. Again, this is on one of the internal elements, that rides back into the barrel.

So, given that the resale value of a camera with internal optical dust and smudges would be very low, I went onto B&H to purchase a new X180 and return this one in the new box. Well, another surprise, the X180 is now $500 USD lower in price than when I received mine 2 weeks ago. I would never return a perfectly working camera just to save a few bucks, but I do need a working camera before I can loose this one, so it ended up working out for me.

Paul
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Old April 17th, 2015, 03:18 PM   #9
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Re: X180 lens issue

It is with great sadness that I must report that my NEW replacement X180 arrived an hour ago, and suffers the same issues. The infinity blur out is confirmed to be a design flaw, and this new camera also has dust in the optics, as well as patterns of haze on the inner elements. Not a smudge on this one as with the last, but the hazing and dust actually shows more visibly than the smudge camera.

Sony, what the hell is up with your quality control? I guess we all know what a "G" lens is now........."Garbage". :(

Paul
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Old April 17th, 2015, 05:36 PM   #10
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Re: X180 lens issue

Don't get another one send it in for service. I had to do that with both my NX5U several years ago and last year with my FDR-AX1. The service replaced the lens unit under warranty on both cameras and they have performed fine since they were replaced. Yes I guess the quality control is not that great but not new issue since it also happened with my FX1 many years ago when they first came out. All cameras suffered from back focus problem and /or out of focus across the image. By contrast the consumer Sony's I have all worked fine straight out of the box including the latest FDR-AX100 !!! Wonder if all these cameras were made in the same factory !!

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Old April 18th, 2015, 02:04 AM   #11
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Re: X180 lens issue

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Anderegg View Post
It is with great sadness that I must report that my NEW replacement X180 arrived an hour ago, and suffers the same issues. The infinity blur out is confirmed to be a design flaw, and this new camera also has dust in the optics, as well as patterns of haze on the inner elements. Not a smudge on this one as with the last, but the hazing and dust actually shows more visibly than the smudge camera.

Sony, what the hell is up with your quality control? I guess we all know what a "G" lens is now........."Garbage". :(

Paul
Can you send it back and maybe get the x200? I'm getting 2 x X200s this week for the events, live streaming and studio work at do.
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Old April 18th, 2015, 01:15 PM   #12
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Re: X180 lens issue

I would feel limited with only a 17x zoom, and no digital extender. I shoot to air 720p60, so a 2x digital extender of a 1920x1080 sensor would still give me full 720 resolution video. I would shoot 1080p60 XAVC-L and just digital crop as needed to retain 60p, but XAVC L is not a supported standard. I would get a PMW320 ($6800 USD now) or PXW-X320 with a used Canon KH21x ($4000) if the dang thing did 1080p60. I think a 1/2" f12/13@2000 shoulder 1080p60 50Mbps 21x f1.4 constant aperture camera would be my sweet spot.

As for sending the unit into Sony, great plan. I will contact them and ask specifically if they can "fix" the infinity stop issue. If they say yes, then the camera go off to them, and we all get a validated response that this is a design defect that can and should be corrected for the rest of the product run.

Paul
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Old April 19th, 2015, 09:57 PM   #13
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Re: X180 lens issue

Bad news, the PXW-X320 does not support 1080p60. The PXW-X300 (which is due anytime now) should be the one you should be seeking. Currently it doesn't exist, but I really believe it's coming.
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Old April 20th, 2015, 07:14 AM   #14
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Re: X180 lens issue

For all my X180 complaints, it really is perfect for what I do with it. If I could only change ONE thing on it, I would have to say the SteadyShot feature needs a lot of improvement. I find myself using 99% regular Steadyshot, Active seems to want to vibrate and jiggle. It was the opposite on my X70, Active was a magical floating feature, and regular Steadyshot was a slight jiggle reduction.

Paul
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Old April 20th, 2015, 10:23 AM   #15
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Re: X180 lens issue

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Originally Posted by Paul Anderegg View Post
For all my X180 complaints, it really is perfect for what I do with it. If I could only change ONE thing on it, I would have to say the SteadyShot feature needs a lot of improvement. I find myself using 99% regular Steadyshot, Active seems to want to vibrate and jiggle. It was the opposite on my X70, Active was a magical floating feature, and regular Steadyshot was a slight jiggle reduction.

Paul
Paul, thanks for your thoughts on this. Can I ask 3 questions:

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

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

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

Thanks.
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