Sony’s HD1000u Interesting, but lacking.
PARK RIDGE, N.J., Aug. 22, 2007 – Sony is introducing an entry-level professional HDV™ camcorder with a shoulder-mount design, bringing the benefits of HD production to a wider range of users. The new HVR-HD1000U model is targeted toward wedding videographers, freelancers and educational video creators, offering them more versatility and more opportunities for generating business with a moderately priced camera.
This is all well and good but there are several features lacking in this new model- key being the 20x lens and the ability to use a large shell cassette, like big HDV camcorder that Sony proffered at NAB 2007. What else is wrong? let me tell you!
“With its shoulder-mount design, this new camera brings affordable HD capabilities to a broader range of pro shooters.”
The key here is affordable. the price point listed for this camcorder is a list price of under $1900. this means we can likely see street prices of around $1500 which is darn nice compared to the other prosumer CMOS camcorder from Sony- which currently retails for $2500.
The HVR-HD1000U model supports both the HDV and the standard-definition DV formats.
This is typical for all HDV camcorders.
The HDV format allows users to shoot approximately 60 minutes…
This should read: "The Mini cassette limits users to only 60 minutes of recording. We teased professionals and prosumers at NAB 2007 with an upgrade to theDSR-250 which uses a full-size cassette and could record over 4 hours of HDV or DV on one cassette without stopping… but instead we made this."
The camcorder … features a high-end Carl Zeiss … 10x optical zoom…
This should read: "we looked at our last prosumer camcorder, the HDR-FX7, and the 20x optical lens we offered on that and realized we gave end users too much. Way too much. Even pro lenses top out as 16x or 18x so we’ve dialed it back down to now offer the absolute smallest zoom lens offered on any HDV camcorder, a measly 10x."
The HVR-HD1000U camcorder uses Sony’s 1/2.9-inch ClearVid™ CMOS sensor system with its unique pixel layout rotated 45 degrees to provide higher resolution and sensitivity.
This doesn’t indicate a single or three chips, yet. More info will come out shortly I’m sure.
The camcorder’s photo creation functions … can capture up to 6.1 mega-pixel still images in Photo mode. In addition, it can capture up to 4.6 mega-pixel still images even while HD video is being recorded.
Now, THIS is a nice feature. It will admittedly be limited to the reduced video gamut as was Canon’s A1 HDV camcorder I reviewed for Event DV Magazine. But 4.6 is a really decent sized image from a video camera while recording video. I’ll look forward to testing this.
The LCD monitor is in front of the camera operator when the camcorder is shoulder-mounted, and it is attached to the EVF level. This unique layout enables traditional EVF monitoring, as well as LCD monitoring for the operator even while the camcorder is held on the shoulder.
I owned the first camcorder with both internal LCD and tube EVF- the DSR-250. I now consider a color confidence monitor in the camcorder to be absolutely necessary. In fact, throughout the industry, it’s now almost impossible to find a camera system being used without a color LCD somewhere around the camera- even film cameras.
“Smooth Slow Rec” function … capturing images at four times faster than the normal field rate (240 fields/s). In this mode, quad-speed images are captured for three seconds, stored in the camcorder’s built-in buffer memory, and then recorded to tape (in either the HDV, DVCAM™, or DV formats) as slow-motion pictures lasting 12 seconds. When using this function, Ott said the resolution of the camera image is decreased.
Decreased indeed. Your high speed HD resolution is way lower than HD.
BUT… you can do this in HD mode and then the resulting undersampled HD actually makes for pretty decent standard def video when you downconvert it all later. In the end, not a really usable feature, and clunky to implement- i.e. you can’t record high speed to the built-in buffer memory while shooting the same footage to tape in full HD. Now THAT would be cool.
The Super NightShot™ function…
… has proven to be of little use to corporate, educational, and event videographers- the same people Sony says this camcorder is for in their press release.
A multi-function assignable lens ring is located on the lens unit, and any one … functions can be assigned to the ring… focus (default), zoom, brightness, shutter, auto exposure shift and white balance shift.
Intriguing. ONE ring. But then, with the auto functions, I find that I usually only need to adjust one parameter or another at a time. this could be okay, if picking what the ring adjusts is very easy to adjust, like a dedicated sliding switch right next to the ring. But if it is buried in some sub-level of the menu system, then it sucks.
Other features include up to 10 hours operation using an optional NP-F970 battery…
One battery? Good lord, go back to the DSR-200 (circa 1996?) which was an on-shoulder clone of Sony’s very first DV camcorder, the VX-1000. It could use the Infolithium-L battery, or use THREE of them in a case that attached to the same part of the camcorder. There’s clearly enough camera surface to put two battery shoes on this thing and let it really run- and power an on-camera light, and more. (Admittedly, the shoulder pad sucked- I used it- but it ran forever.)
They could also use professional batteries here (bringing in more money there) but that would also put more weight behind the shoulder, giving better balance to the camcorder- which is the main reason for an on-shoulder camcorder. Like Canon’s XL-series camcorders which "touch" the shoulder, that does NOTHING to lower the weight of the camcorder in the right hand, which gets very heavy after several hours of use.
Moving the center of balance back, over the shoulder, not only reduces operator fatigue, it produces steadier images because it allow the hand to stabilize, instead of support the weight. Also, a heavier camcorder has more resistance to small motion (inertia dictates that a body at rest tends to stay at rest… i.e. resist extraneous tiny moves.)
Take a look at the image to the left here. You can see that there’s a big battery (L90 from Sony) that helps to add weight to the back of the camera and power the light, so there’s no extra cables coming off the camera to a separate power supply. Sony also makes a wireless receiver that fits between the battery and the camcorder. IDX makes stackable batteries that clip on to each other. These all serve to put the weight square on the shoulder. When balanced right- I could take my right hand off the camcorder completely and it would rest on my shoulder against my head. My right hand was free to swing the camera, zoom, and stabilize, as opposed to trying to hold up the entire weight of the camcorder (in this case about 20 lbs) with one hand, for hours and hours.
…a range of digital I/O (HDMI, i.LINK®, USB, Memory Stick Duo™ slot), supplied external stereo microphone (ECM-PS1), and a multi-language menu.
XLR inputs for audio? Headphone jack? True 24p? Low light specs?
Maybe dedicated R,G,B, component video out without a special cable?
S-video out? Composite video and audio out on RCA jacks?
There’s plenty of space on this to give us back real output jacks.
Hopefully we’ll eventually find all this out soon.
Who writes these press releases anyway? Jeez. The HVR-HD1000U camcorder is planned to be available in December, at a suggested list price of less than $1,900.
That’s actually a pretty nice price, if it weren’t for the hobbled lens, reduced lens control, lack of a big battery or rear weight distribution and, most importantly A FULL SIZE CASSETTE. Here’s a perfect opportunity for Sony, who already makes several HD decks that take full-size cassettes, to offer a huge, absolutely compelling reason to get this camcorder– something NO OTHER manufacturer offers.
They don’t do it. The question is; Why?
Hey Sony… We’re waiting!
UPDATE: New photos available on the web (CamcorderInfo.com – click the photo for the link) really show the diminuitive size of the camcorder and the tiny LCD screen. The placement of the LCD over the viewfinder (which may also be LCD, which would be silly) is actually pretty novel, IMHO, but if it is really as tiny as it looks (based on the size of the handle and the hand holding the camcorder) then it is of little real use when trying to assess HD. I mean, if the shoe for a light looks that big, then the LCD is actually pretty small. For comparison, take a look at the photo from my Canon A1 review where we see the size of the LCD screen for the Sony FX1 compared to the hot shoe on the Canon A1- which is the same size as the cold shoe on the FX1 and the HD1000. Comparatively, the FX1 screen housing is considerably bigger. Also, the frame around the screen on the FX1 is also thinner than it appears to be on the HD1000u. Again, take a look at the image from my review article at EventDV (shown here to the left). Also, Please check out the copious amounts of information on Frank’s HDV page. It actually has a lot more HD than just HDV, but it is very thorough. http://www.humanvalues.net/hdv/#hd1000 Check out the rest of the photos on the CamcorderInfo.com web site. There really is a dearth of controls as professionals would expect. Four buttons on the left: Manual (which I guess would enable the single lens ring to do something, one thing, like iris, but not focus) Night shot (seldom used) Back light (seldom used because automatic backlight compensation is seldom correct) and Display/Batt Info (which turns the on-screen data on and off.) On top, there’s a zoom rocker and record start/stop, the same control under the thumb in the hand grip (as well as a media selector/ standby) The microphone goes into a front jack, but there’s no external control over whether this is line or mic level, pad or anything. There’s a small switch on the side of the viewfinder that I would bet selects between the internal LCD (not enough room for a tube display, nor power from the single 7.2v battery) and the external one- not both. The viewing system is hard wired into the body so it’s not like you can replace it with a better viewfinder. In all, it really looks to be a consumer camcorder dressed up in professional clothes (i.e. a bum in a tux crashing the wedding) offering very little the professional would desire. However, consumers desiring _only_ to look like professionals and still let the camera do whatever it wants to, then this is the camcorder for you. I’m sure Pros would love to have an FX1/Z1U (with all the associated controls and I/O) in a form factor like this. I certainly would. It would provide a place to attach wireless mics, hard drive recorders (as pictured on CamcorderInfo.com) and more accessories that you _just_can’t_do_ with a tiny consumer camcorder (see my Panasonic review on this blog.) I had a funny discussion with a Panasonic sales rep about the HSC1U- which he said was for quick run & gun. I said it offered no control. He suggested that you could add on an external microphone level controller (like a BeachTek) and a light. "What about a wireless mic," I asked? "Sure." He answered. "You can have all the accessories that you’d need. Just add some sort of accessory holder…" Like maybe Videosmith’s Rover (shown here). I mentioned that, by the time you do all this, you sort of defeat the purpose of such a diminutive camcorder. Which he admitted to. "But it’s HD without the high cost." He insisted. But really, by the time you get done adding the cost of all the accessories like audio control, directional mic, and then the other accessories, like the Rover, you need to buy to hold the main accessories (since the Panny offers no light shoe at all), then you could just as well gone and bought a real, pro HD camcorder like the Canon A1 or a Sony FX1/Z1U and not need all this extra crap. Ugh. The HD-1000u DOES give you the physical space to hold and mount many accessories to your camcorder. That’s good! But it doesn’t give you any way to take over control of what the camcorder is doing wrong so that you can make sure you record the images you intended to. i.e. The HD-1000u is lacking.