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Sony HC1 HDV Cam First Thoughts

Mike Hollingshead

Well since it is the more affordable HDV cam and I figure some might be looking into it, I thought I'd mention a couple first impressions since messing with it this morning.

Low light: Like advertised, it's not very good. On all auto it just barely beat out my Sony TRV-19...barely. It's really really close to being the same. I didn't think this would be the case as it has a 1/3 inch CMOS sensor while the TRV-19 has a tiny 1/6 inch ccd. Here's how I checked them(not very scientific). It's overcast out. My appartment is half under ground and all I have are the half windows(though I guess they are fairly typical size). The blinds are shut, so you can get an idea that it's pretty low light in here. No lights are on. I stuck them both a few inches away from a cardboard box which has the one flap laying out over the cams, shading that side of the box further. On auto both were much the same, but the TRV-19's noise was a bit more high frequency in appearance. It was also just a smidge more green and red. The differences aren't much and that's really not that great as I never cared for that cam's performance in here under the same lightning.

But, all is not lost. At least it is not worse than the TRV-19 which some reviews online had me wondering if it was quite possible that it would be. Now here is the best fix, the obvious one--use the slow shutter. This is something I never once used on my TRV-19. I'm not sure I ever found it in the menu. On the HC1 it's a real easy setup to do this. It IS in the menu, but it is right out front when you click menu. Setting it on 1/8 or even 1/15 really fixes the noise issue. I'm only using it on storms so the blur is not that big of a problem. 1/8 seems to have a pretty significant decrease in noise from 1/15. Going to 1/4 doesn't offer much more quality. Now here is the part I like about how they made this work on this camera. The exposure control is actually on the left side of the body. You just push a button and then toggle the switch up or down. So it is really easy to go into this slow shutter mode and get a good result on this cam. There's no gain feature, but you are still getting that with the exposure level you pick, and increasing it without the shutter increase will only increase the noise anyway. I made my dark and noisy cardboard box quite bright and free of all noise on 1/8. Blurring isn't terrible at 1/8 and even less so at 1/15(obviously).

So, from what I gather it'll do well enough and easy enough in low light...just not on auto.

Hot Video Camera: Now this stood out pretty quickly. After having it on and messing around for maybe 30 minutes I noticed the cam felt warm where the LCD shuts(it was always open so it has nothing to do with the LCD). On there it reads "The surface of the camera may get warm when the power is on for long time, however this is not a malfunction." So, it gets warm enough they thought they'd mention this to avoid calls. This worries me a bit as it isn't hot in here and I wasn't even recording while this happened. Add a few degrees in a warm car taping storms and well, I bet this camera gets damn warm. I've never noticed any camera get warm like that. I hope it doesn't become a problem.

Camera Noise: Well I just checked and I think this is the quietest camera I have. I wondered if maybe since it was recording in HDV and having to encode on the fly that maybe that'd make it a bit noisy. It's not at all noisy(other than low light in auto in regards to video quality).

Build quality: It seems pretty solid.

Wide angle: From my brief testing it seems like its widest perspective is less than the trv-19. I read somewhere that it's widest setting was a bit more zoomed in than others. It's not too much less but it is noticeable.

Auto focus: Again, from my brief testing it seems like it has better auto focusing than my trv-19. It doesn't seem to hunt near as much as my trv-19(not that I ever use them on anything but infinity when chasing).

HDV to SD output: I wondered how this would look too and it doesn't seem to stand out as a problem.

Well there's lots of other stuff to mess with, but thought I'd comment on those. I'm satisfied with what I see from the camera thus far. I really like the way it will work in slow shutter with the exposure control where it is. It seems very simple with not a bunch of menus to flip through to find both shutter and exposure.

Focus ring: One last thing I just thought of. This worries me, only because it seems very similar to my sony DSC-F707 still camera I had. That focus ring went whacky on me and became unusable. I'd spin it and it would jump to other distances. I'd try getting to infinity or so and it would bounce to like one inch, over and over. I went to use it on this HDV cam and quickly worried about it. I think I'll plan on using auto to get it focused on something and then just flip it to manual.

Battery: One more thing, lol. This was mentioned on other reviews for this camera. The view finder does not extend. If you put a big battery on this cam your nose will be on it and it'll likely extend past the view finder. I have like 5 FM50s now so it's not really an issue since they fit fine.

The HC3 is replacing this camera very very soon, so if you were pondering the HC1, it won't be around long.
 
Hey Mike,

I was curious what your thoughts were on the HC1 now that you've hopefully had a chance to put it to work in the field. I've looked at the HC3 but it seems to be lacking some of the features from the HC1. I'm currently debating between the HC1 and the Panasonic AG-DVC30 which isn't HD but has 3 1/4" CCD's and supposedly has excellent low light performance. The Panasonic is actually a bit more than the Sony but one main drawback is the tapes are loaded from below which might present a problem when shooting tripod mounted video. One plus in my mind is that the Panasonic uses optical image stabilization versus electronic image stablization used by Sony. I guess the bottom line is whether buying a low-end HD video camera is better than a mid-range 3 CCD one. I know everything is going to HD in the future but I'm not certain that feature alone is worth only one CCD chip, CMOS or not. Also, there's a $200 rebate on the Panasonic which makes it a little more affordable though still pretty pricey. Would appreciate your thoughts or anyone elses for that matter.
 
Hey Mike,

I was curious what your thoughts were on the HC1 now that you've hopefully had a chance to put it to work in the field. I've looked at the HC3 but it seems to be lacking some of the features from the HC1. I'm currently debating between the HC1 and the Panasonic AG-DVC30 which isn't HD but has 3 1/4" CCD's and supposedly has excellent low light performance. The Panasonic is actually a bit more than the Sony but one main drawback is the tapes are loaded from below when might present a problem when shooting tripod mounted video. One plus in my mind is that the Panasonic uses optical image stabilization versus electronic image stablization used by Sony. I guess the bottom line is whether buying a low-end HD video camera is better than a mid-range 3 CCD one. Would appreciate your thoughts or anyone elses for that matter.
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Chris.. I would get the Panny DVC30 hands down.. It has the capability to go pro on the audio (xlr).

It will also have much better low light capability.. It is more of a prosumer camera whereas the HC1 is moreso of a consumer camera.. I will be exicted however to see some of Mikes HD footage : )

Im unsure if you were trying to say that the Panny has a bottom loading tape drive. If so.. That would be incorrect. It loads from the top.

If your wanting to do documentary/broadcast quality video and audio.. There is no comparison. IMO

If your wanting some really cool and neat footage you can show your friends, then by all means go HC1

Not trying to knock Mikes newest toy, just trying to reply to Chris's question.
 
Hey Fred...

Thanks for your thoughts. The ability to use 3rd party accessories with the Panasonic is another
selling point for me. All of Sony's ports are proprietary meaning you have to use Sony branded items.
This would significantly decrease the option of going with higher end mics, etc. I don't intend on using
the camera to make money but would like the ability to get the best add-on's down the road if the need
does exist. Another plus for the DVC30 is the ability to move the viewfinder up and down whereas the HC1's
viewfinder is fixed. Don't know how big of an issue this really is but it's certainly something to consider. Given
everything I've read over the past week or so, I would say right now I'm seriously leaning toward the DVC30.
 
If I could exchange my camera back for something else I'm pretty sure I would do it. I should have played with it more in the first 7 days so I could send it back. It's hard to qualify the cam I guess since I don't have an HD TV. My sister has some "HD" tv she got but it is 27 inch square and she says she got it for $450 or something(pretty darn cheap for a 27 inch HD). I think it is a cheap projection. Whatever it is I looked at my stuff on it and was not at all impressed. The resolution didn't seem any greater than my normal 27 inch tv....at all. I'm not sure if it's just the projection nature of it or what. I thought I'd at least see some difference. The colors were pretty harsh viewed on it too.

Now when I play it on my tv I'd have to say it edges out my sony TRV-19 in most cases. In low low light though it is really noisey unless you change the AE mode to the night/moon setting or slow the shutter way down. I guess it does try to brighten things more than my TRV-19 and that is likely the real difference, because when you darken it down manually to closer to reality(dark being dark) it isn't too terribly noisey.

One big problem with this camera is lightning. Dan Robinson mentioned the reasoning for this having to do with it being a CMOS sensor and how that works. In most lightning it is pretty annoying to watch. You don't have to have a bolt in the frame and just the flash itself will react like the camera got hit by lightning or something(only what it looks like, it has nothing to do with electrical issues). Very few cases with lightning look normal so far. It is not a huge draw back but it is there.

My main worry and concern with this camera is the encoding nature. Maybe I'm looking too hard or even seeing things, but something doens't look right on low detail clouds. It works great in high detail/contrast shots. I have a few cases where it seems to have an issue encoding those slow gradients. It's like it takes so many shades and says you will = this one shade, and then the same thing with a set of shades off to either side...on and one. It's like that group is just too big(in other words too much compression needing to be done). What it looks like on video on these slow gradients is areas of colors and shades that stand out just enough to notice. I hope it is just something that happens in downconversion but I really don't think it is. It isn't very many scenes that this stands out in, but enough to make me worry. Once I notice something that is all I can notice when I watch it(when it is my stuff anyway). It also seems to make these shades too green and too blue, mainly too blue(almost purple).

The other thing I really notice with this cam is the lack of contrast in general. It loves to flatten the contrast in most scenes. I should look at those grey scale test charts on this camera again(they help gauge this). The whites are several shades down from white as are the blacks. I think if one contrasts it much in post-processing the mpeg encoding might stand out too much.

I knew it wouldn't be the greatest cam when I got it but really wanted to have things in HD. As it is now I think I'd rather have the footage look nice than have it in HD, especially since this HD seems to have issues with encoding and whatnot. I don't want to say what to get, but if I did it again I'd get something else.

I too looked at that DVC30 but didn't like the resolution talk on it. It is a pretty old camera now. I guess maybe that is why the resolution seemed awefully low. http://www.camcorderinfo.com had stuff on it. I thimk that is where the resolution turned me off, as well as the bleeding colors. I'm sure the image quality looks better than the Sony HC1 though. But, then again, I really haven't viewed THAT much stuff of mine on tv yet. Some scenes impress me a bit, but more seemed to make me worry.

I'd almost lean towards that Panasonic GS500 I think. Probably the best bang for the buck. As far as some controls missing like manual focus ring I would probably prefer the lcd way now. I think both the GS500 and the HC3 stripped the manual focus ring, right? Or maybe the GS500 kept that but got rid of the gain control. Anyway, I almost want something with the focus thing on the LCD now. I find it way too easy to spin the ring back from infinity when chasing and tossing the camera around the car. Yeah, I wish I had that other way back and could shut off that ring all together(maybe there is a way).

Hope that is somewhat helpful. Good luck.
 
I frequent the higher end video websites.. For the prosumer cams as thats what I shoot with.

The DVC30 is the poormans DVX100 like I own (so to speak).. There is a thread on one of my hangouts DVXuser.. It has some DVC30 footage in lowlight.

Mike is correct the DVC30 is somewhat dated.. It hit the market about mid 2004 IIRC. However its replacement is yet to come.

For my DVX100A, The replacement of course is the HVX200 which is the HD version of my DVX.

Check out the footage of the DVC30 in low light. It is a very superior image. than ANY consumer cam.

http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?t...t=dvc30+footage

Do a search on this site for more info on the DVC30 and of course other higher end prosumer cams..

In my opinion the image is quite awesome. The artifacts on full screen is simply a compression ratio for streaming, FYI.

I dont know about you guys.. But the image the DVC30 produces in lowlight blows me away..

Hope this helps :) Fred
 
If your wanting some really cool and neat footage you can show your friends, then by all means go HC1
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You know what's really sad about that comment Fred? It was only a very short time ago we chasers were saying the very same thing about VHS/VHSC vs. Digital8. :blink: You have to wonder when we will start reaching the point of diminishing returns on video quality?
 
You know what's really sad about that comment Fred? It was only a very short time ago we chasers were saying the very same thing about VHS/VHSC vs. Digital8. :blink: You have to wonder when we will start reaching the point of diminishing returns on video quality?
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To David’s point the line between a $3,000 and a $30,000 broadcast camera is almost nonexistent. The BBC is pretty much producing everything on VX-2100’s and HDR-Z1U’s.

A couple of quick thoughts. I’ve been shooting Sony’s HDR-FX1 for over a year now, my previous camera was a Canon GL2. This is my first Sony camera and I have to say that out of the box I really hated the way the picture looked compared to the default settings of the old GL2. I started tweaking the video settings (there is almost nothing you can’t manually control on this camera) and started to get a picture I liked. As for low light, I’ve shot side-by-side with VX-2100’s and HDV-HC1. The VX-2100 is an absolute champ and just sucks in the photons, the FX1 just barely held its own, and the HC1 looked horrible. There is a lot of ascetic to video and you need to be comfortable enough with your camera to make manual setting if the picture is not looking right to your eye. The beautiful thing about the FX1 is that there is a physical control for almost every manual function and not 17 layers of menus to hunt through to find the override.

One last thought, if you are going to spend the money to have this quality of camera, it really is worth it to know how to properly manually make it perform. Here is an excellent DVD that taught me tons about video and the camera: http://www.handsonhdv.com/reviews.html (MOD’s, I hope the commercial link is OK)
 
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