Hands-on VX2000 Report, Part One
by David Ruether, Spring 2000

The Companion notes... this is the first half of David Ruether's extensive VX2000 review. It has been reproduced here with permission of the author from its original location at www.ferrario.com/ruether/sony_dcr-vx2000.htm (be sure to check out this page for some great comparison images which accompany his review).

Sony's newest and best prosumer Mini-DV camcorder is out: the VX2000 (along with the similar PD150, which has a B&W viewfinder, XLR audio inputs and an accessory mono shotgun mic). The VX2000 appears to be about the same size and weight as the VX1000 and looks similar, but its innards are completely different. Many things about the VX2000 remind me of the TRV900. The following comments are based on several weeks of experience with two samples of the VX2000...

The Picture:

It is very sharp (a tad sharper at infinity, and noticeably sharper at room-interior distances than the TRV900 and VX1000). The image is so sharp that detail appears to be at the pixel level, giving a "busy" look as the camera is moved over finely-detailed subjects. It also appears that CCD pixel offset is used, giving some tendency to show "stair-stepping" effects on nearly vertical single lines, and moiré effects on nearly vertical parallel lines. The sharpness gain with this camcorder is worth the additional picture "busy" look. Sharpness is not gained with excessive sharpening artifacts as it is with some other camcorders -- mainly the Canon XL1 and GL1 -- and unless the sharpness is raised considerably in the custom controls, contrasty edges do not have excessive "ghosts" with the VX2000.

Compared with the VX1000 and EZ30U, the VX2000 and TRV900 do not render bright red and orange objects with as much tonal range and detail, though taking care not to overexpose can help with this. The picture of the VX2000 is a full 720 pixels wide, unlike with the VX1000, and especially the GL1... both will show black bands at the picture sides, making some editing transitions and effects harder to use. The VX2000 can show vertical lines with bright light sources (no worse than others), but judicious use of the two built-in ND filters to slow the shutter speed can minimize this effect.

The lens by itself (and the lens with WA converters attached) appears much better in back-light and point-source lighting conditions than usual, with less flare and fewer internal reflections showing.

Exposure and color balance are closest to the TRV900; in stock form, the camera overexposes (AE gives too bright a picture) and the color has a slight blue-magenta cast (both curable with the CP controls on the VX2000). Using the custom controls, I can get a picture very much to my liking. I prefer these CP adjustments: +1 or 2 notches for color balance (with the DWB preset, using +1 rather than +2 for color balance may be advisable); +1 notch for sharpness; -1 to -3 notches for AE bias, depending on lighting type (this inconsistency is the most annoying aspect of the VX2000 for me so far...); 0 change for color saturation. You can also limit gain rise with the CP controls to +18db, +12db, and +6db (the picture is excellent through about +12db, though, and still remarkably good at +18db gain). As with the TRV900, the tungsten preset gives more natural color balance than Automatic White Balance in tungsten light. In AWB, the image is too red (see sample image below). I now have two VX2000s, and they match in color balance well when the DWB and TWB presets are used. However, when using AWB out in the daylight, one camera is warmer than the other, and with the other warmer with AWB in tungsten light. In comparison, my two VX1000s happen to color-match much better.

The VX2000 is unusually good in low-light. It has really good color and low noise in moderately low light, and the low-light limit is considerably below that of the other camcorders I've tried. The image quality near that limit is higher... the difference here is like night and day! With the available slow shutter speeds, with acceptable-looking noise at even +18db gain and a lens that is good at wide open f/stops, the VX2000 can produce an acceptable-quality image in extremely low light levels.

The automatic focus response appears slower than usual, reducing the "hunting" effect, though also reducing its ability to quickly shift focus. AF focus shifts looks smoother and more natural, with less hunting, though with swift motion in some conditions AF may be left lagging. Overall, AF is excellent, even in fairly low light levels. In this regard, the VX2000 is better than the other camcorders.

The electronic image stabilizer appears okay, but it is a bit less effective than I would like in reducing jitter with the lens zoomed to telephoto.

Some other things I've noted about the VX2000 picture are that under rare conditions, banding can be seen on smooth gradient tones, and once I saw vertical alternating red and blue lines. The CCD block is unusually well centered in my two camcorders, making the use of WA converters which are prone to vignette much easier to deal with.

The Canon WD-58 WA converter is an excellent match for the VX2000, and it is about half the price of the Sony VCL-0758HG WA converter - but both are only .7x (the Sony non-zoom-through .6X VCL-ES06 can be fitted with a 58-52mm step-down ring for greater width of view without vignetting, but it is not quite as sharp). The 58mm filter thread unfortunately makes mounting most common lens attachments impossible. I'm still looking for a sharp, non-vignetting zoom-through .5X WA converter.

Even with the faults noted above, the picture quality is very satisfying (which is kind of an understatement). Overall it is the best camcorder yet, but not without some drawbacks.

David Ruether
David Ruether Photography
see also www.ferrario.com/ruether/camcorder-comparison.htm
rpn1@cornell.edu

Read the second half of David's review.
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