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-   -   Quick real world comparison test Z1u vs A1 (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/canon-xh-series-hdv-camcorders/89903-quick-real-world-comparison-test-z1u-vs-a1.html)

Scott Hayes March 25th, 2007 04:39 PM

Quick real world comparison test Z1u vs A1
I am sure this topic is on everyone's mind; for those that currently own Sonys, and are contemplating a switch (ME), and for those itching to jump in the HD pool. I recently got the A1 through my regular job, and took this weekend to compare them, since I am on the fence about switching. Let's start with the physical aspect:

The Sony is much beefier in use than the Canon. It is very well balanced, and all the controls are easily reachable. I am actually
50/50 on the top mounted LCD. while larger than the Canon's, I find it gets in the way of mounting accesories to the hotshoe (it cant be closed). In use, the Canons is brighter, and sharper. The peaking function is easy to see on the Canon, making focus easier. Speaking of focus rings, I prefer the feel of the Sony. It just has a more positive feel to it. Same goes for the zoom ring. the small knob, and the stops, make hitting the range fast and easy. The Canon's is mushy. Snap zooming on the Sony is a piece of cake. You can set the rate of the Canon's via a small wheel. But in manual, it is useless. The large aperture ring on the Canon is beautiful. However, due to the placement of the LCD, the LCD may interfere with controlling it, depending on how tilted it is. The small knob on the Sony sits out of the way, and can be controlled with your thumb while zooming or focuing with your other fingers. The Sony's shotgun mount is more secure than the Canon's, as is the onboard mic. Sony's is a solid, one piece unit. The mic on my Canon is already loose. XLRs are in about the same spot, with the same controls.
I think I prefer the Canon mode wheel to the button arrangement on the Sony. no multiple presses to get to manual, dial it in, and your done. WB, Gain are the same. the shutter speed control on the Canon is upfront, could be bigger. I found it hard to adjust because
it is blended so well with the body. The sony's is onthe back, but easy to find and use. the hotshoe. Sony's is cold, and is at the
front of the camera. Great, but it gets things in the way of the LCD. Canon's is just behind the mic, and it is HOT. Meaning, if you shoot Canon photo gear, bring along your 580EX, switch to photomode, and take your DVD covers with your HDV camera. Works great! the head even zooms with the camera. In use the Sony FEELS more substantial than the Canon does. They both weigh about the same, but the Canon feels SMALLER than it is. I like the hidden battery compartment. One thing i found, if your mounting the camera
on a 501 head, the widest part of the body sits directly ontop of the
tightening lever for the quick release plate. It wouldn't tighten all the way.

The Z1 is the simpler of the two to setup. Great images out of the box. The Canon has a WARM feeling to it. However, it has an almost infinte number of adjustments and presets. Amazing really. I don't even know WTF all those variables do. For those who just like to turn it on and go, the Canon can be intimidating. The plus side, and this is a big one, is the built in SD card. I know the V1u has the same, but this review is geared towards upgraders. Definitely read the manual and have the camera hooked up to a monitor before making adjustments. AND read about the different adjustments before messing with them. For weddings, the Sony's OOTB look has been great for me, and I add looks in post. In my testing, I shot outdoors, so I didnt have a chance to shoot with any gain. the AGC switch is on the side, but be warned, there is no limiter with it engaged, so the Canon will go all the way to +18 if you're on auto.

AUDIO - Didnt get into it.

Picture Quality.
This was a toss up really. looking at them back to back, you can clearly see the Sony's cooler palette. The Canon is noticeably warmer. The picture is also sharper. The images stay crips from the wide range all the way zoomed in. It almost looks oversharpened, i would definitely dial it down in use. The instant AF, can instantly focus on the wrong thing. It really didn't seem to work any better than the Sony system. I don't trust either one of them. I find my Sony's backfocus easily when zoomed. The CAnon was better, but I did notice it hunting slighlty at 20x.
20X zoom! It is beautiful. Definitely nice to have. However, 12x really hasn't been a big deal for me. At a certain distance, yes, but couple's are more than understanding when you are in the back thanks to the church rules. You do what you can do. Never had a complaint.
Looking at the images on my 1080p Sony. the Sony is more contrasty but a tad softer zoomed in. The Canon is warmer, and sharper through out the whole range. Needs a bump in contrast and saturation, but ultimately close. Jane and Joe won't be able to tell them apart. Perhaps the biggest ting in FAVOR of the CAnon, is there is no lag when you hit the record button. It starts immediately.

Build - Sony
Controls - Canon
Lens - Canon
LCD - Draw. Sony's is bigger, but not as bright, location is up in the air. Canon's is smaller, but brighter and easy to see, and has an exposure meter, but can get in the way of the aperture ring.
Image Quality - oh,this one is so close, and I am a Sony guy.
But It goes to Canon by a slim margin. and I mean SLIM. It may
very well even up shooting in a dimly lit recpetion venue.

In Summary - We are run and gun videographers, so this review is geared towards that premise of taking the camera out of the bag, inserting a tape, setting basic controls and away you go. For those
of us who are still Sony, the Z1u and the FX1 still have many years
of life left in them. They shoot 1080i HD. Yes, the Canon's chips are true 1080, but no one who books you is going to see the difference on a 720p LCD, or a laptop lcd, or a 4:3 TV. So, if you are entrenched with Sony, should you run out and upgrade? NO. And this is coming from someone who loves to buy new shit. IMHO Sony is still the king in video. Superb reliability, excellent picture quality. If you are just now considering the move to HD, should you go Canon? Yes. I would pick the Canons over the V1 and the FX7. Bigger chips, and CCDs over CMOS. At this point, I wouldn't want to lose money by selling gear that is producing beautiful material. Sure, they may not have as many features, but content is king. If you can't shoot or edit, neither is going to make a difference. As much as the money is burning a whole in my pocket, I would like to wait until i can get a camera that records to compact flash cards. Until then, put your dough into tools that save time. Hope this helps.

Cesar Ruiz March 25th, 2007 05:12 PM

Great post Scott!

I gotta tell you I have to agree with your entire post,, well 99.99%.

I had the hardest time deciding whether to upgrade, but as you know ended up going the other way... cha ching.

1. The zoom. I had been showing GL2 footage to clients that showed nice tight shots. First dance? Big dance floor, I don't have to be on the dance floor, I'm on the perimeter...um that is until I got the FX1 and I found myself having to zoom in post because the 12x wasn't doing it.

2. Focus. Dude, though I have yet to have a show stopper, I have come home with footage that was backfocused but looked fine on the LCD. The peaking in the FX1 (don't know about the Z1U) is close to useless because it is very fine and indescernable.

3. Quick start record!!! Again, thankfully no show stoppers, but I have missed a couple of great shots thanks to the freakin sony lag time.

4. Horizontal smearing. A little bit of gain and I keep seeing lines and lines of smear.

So, if these pain points are not all that painful to others I recommend against upgrading. Actually, if you're not delivering HD or plan to deliver HD then there really is no reason to upgrade. All of these issues get masked very well on downconvert (with the exception of #3).

I miss the AGC limiter and the beefier design of the FX1, but I do appreciate the beautiful images that come out of the A1. I do also miss the barn door lens cap.

Finally, I'd say that it depends on how much you're going to spend on upgrading. Upgrading a 3 cam fleet for about $600 is very different than upgrading a fleet for thousands. I do *not* think that the A1 is thousands better.

Bill Pryor March 25th, 2007 06:18 PM

I agree with most of the post too. The Sony is definitely better balanced, and I like the placement of the LCD up on top of the handle. It doesn't seem any beefier, if you define that as solid and sturdy, than the Canon to me, just overall a little easier to hold.

The main things I like best about the Canon are the lens, the 24P (F) mode, and, as I didn't discover until my first outdoor shoot, everything stays sharp even on the wide shots. The Sony, like all other 1/3" chip cameras I've seen, gets just a little softer on the wide shots, but the Canon seems to stay sharp there. I agree that right out of the box it's a little oversharp. I cranked that down a bit. I do that to about any camera I use, actually.

Oh yeah, don't forget that the Sony comes with a Sony eyecup, and you have to buy that for the Canon. Still, the look of the 24P image, the sharpness of the image wide open, and the lens made the Canon my choice.

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