HD-SDI camcorders under $10,000. What to pick?

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8 thoughts on “HD-SDI camcorders under $10,000. What to pick?

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  1. Another alternate is to use camcorders with HDMI output and Blackmagic Design Intensity/Intensity Pro cards, and the Blackmagic software switcher. Two $250 cards and the free software and you have a two camera HD studio.

    Nowhere near as flexible as HD SDI but a fraction of the cost.


  2. What a pity, Anthony, that you were in a state of altered reality when you wrote the above.

    You: “[HDCAM EX1] Optics are limited to 10x”
    Sony brochure: “The PMW-EX1 camcorder is equipped with a high-quality, high-definition Fujinon 14x zoom lens”

    You: “[HDCAM EX1’s] three, full 1080, half-inch chips will provide visually pleasing shallow depth of field”
    Fact: depth of field is a function of f/stop and focal length, and is not a quality bestowed simply by the size of the sensors.

    You: “[XH-G1] is also the only camera of the bunch that offers image stabilization”
    Sony brochure: “To minimise the blurring effect caused by hand-shake, the new lens of the PMW-EX1 camcorder incorporates an optical image stabiliser function”

    Perhaps they gave you a pre-production prototype to play with?

    At any rate, I feel your piece is unreasonably slanted against the Sony product, to the point of spreading disinformation. I have had an XL-1 for six years and I love it dearly, but now the time has come for HD, and the EX1 has made me switch brands.

  3. I stand corrected on two counts on the EX1. The EX1, however, is designed to offer a shallower depth of field at a given f-stop than other Sony camcorders that might fit into the category of camcorders discussed here.

    While I am not Slanted against Sony product, I personally ave used Sony gear at IEBA Communications for decades, I am dismayed by certain decisions at Sony that giveth- like a 20x optical lens- and then take it away- back to a 12 or 14x lens.

    I’m curious why you, as someone who chose a canon XL-series camcorder, would not continue that into the HD realm. Please elaborate on your decisions.

  4. Surely.

    The crucial issue for me is visual acuity, and in the case of the PWM-EX1 the bar is set higher than with the XL-H1, and at a lower price point. Now I have not, admittedly, seen technical test data on image resolution with these two systems, but I recall the frequent cry of VB (Victor Blackman, writing in Amateur Photographer for all of those years) that “a good big ‘un will always beat a good little ‘un”.

    The specifications are simple enough to understand: the Sony CCDs are 50% bigger linearly than the Canon ones (0.5″ vs 0.33″, and have 33% more pixels (1920 horizontal vs 1440 horizontal).

    There are also a couple of points about solid-state recording that I *really* like (no enforced real-time upload and threat of dropped frames, as compared to tape-based systems, and no moving parts as compared to all other systems).

    It’s a no-brainer for me. Of course, I regret the loss of lens interchangeability, but perhaps in a few years there will be an affordable full-HD camera with XL-like interchangeability. Meanwhile I will sit back and enjoy the picture quality.

  5. But we know that chips can be hobbled, or dramatically improved upon with great glass. This is why JVC, and now Sony are offering interchangeable lens camcorders under $10,000. When the JVC GY-HD100 came out, it was said that it had the prettiest picture except for one other HDV camcorder… the GY-HD100 with a different, $13,000 piece of glass on the front.

    As much as I hear the advantage of solid state recording is no moving parts, but remember that the EX1 has autofocus, an image stabilizer (moving internal lenses), zoom.. etc. It actually has several continually moving parts- many of them automatic. The advantage of solid state recording over tape to resist problems due to movement, shake, etc occur after the point at which the other moving parts are also rendered useless. Well, maybe not the zoom. :)

    So if it is a crash camera, then yes. Go with flash (and hope the end of file gets written properly).

    I do agree with the non-real-time upload. This avoids tape time code break issues cmpletely. It also is usually much faster than real time.

    Lastly, both the Canon and the JVC listed here offer longer lenses. For some, this may not be an issue. For many, however, the fact that pro lenses are seldom less than 12x- usually 14x, 18x, 20x, and (once you get to the “big uns”) 80x, 100x…

  6. I would agree that chips of all sorts can be hobbled by bad hardware or software around them. But I would not agree that a chip can be “dramatically improved upon” by the optical system. It is not that the chip is *improved* by great glass, rather it is *let down* by inferior glass.

    It somewhat worries me that, by implication, you are saying that one must pay $13,000 for the lens alone, in order to get full HD resolution. Do you by chance have any statistics on the resolution of camcorder lenses?

    Taking an example from the world of still pictures, a good Nikon lens costing around $2000 might have a resolving power of 162 lpm. With a 1/2″ sensor, and assuming that is a measurement of the diagonal, as seems general in video picture measurements, that gives a horizontal size of 11.07mm to contain 1920 pixels. A lens of 162 lpm would resolve 1794 vertical lines across that sensor – seems a pretty close match to me – and if the 1/2″ measurement is across rather than diagonal, that rises to 2057 vertical lines. I bet the quality of lens in a $9000 camcorder is *at least* as good as this.

    I am perfectly aware of the other moving parts in the PWM-EX1, but I would point out that tape-based recording systems usually suffer from head wear issues before they suffer from other mechanical maladies.

    Also, I’ve had my hands on a professional long zoom lens on a Nikon, a venerable and tatty old lens, which was unbelievably sloppy in its focus mechanism (to the point where the lens assembly could flex visibly) and yet it still took good pictures. That is not true of tape recording systems – put that length of service onto a tape deck, even the big bulti-track blocks that I’m used to in analogue mutitracking machines – and the recording will deteriorate to the point of uselessness.

  7. One word on Sony EX1 on HD-SDI..

    Some guys tried to capture uncompressed futage via HD-SDI and noticed that futage looks worse than filmed on SxS, what leads to the conclusion that the signal on HD-SDI is not “off-the-head” but up-converted after compression.

    They did same experiment with Canon HD-SDI cameras and din’t noticed those problems.

    So, in my opinion.. EX1 – high resolution, but not much convinient for HD-SDI..

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