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Professional HDV!

Read the results of the evaluation performed on the Sony HVR-Z1U camcorder . Price, operation of the HDV format and explanation of why Sony offers a camcorder for professional work, are among the topics discussed.

Weight, balance and control
The Z1 has good balance and is easy to carry, but its shape makes it difficult to use the shoulder. It caught my attention see that after playing with her for a while the cameramen professionals tend to operate it at chest level, holding it below with the left hand, with excellent results in difficult movements. Obviously, it would be possible to use it when palmcorder style, carrying most of the weight in hand right but we are talking about just over 2 kg, enough to soon tire any normal human being. However, with some practice can be obtained good results by distributing the weight between the two arms.

Although at first the position iris control is somewhat disconcerting, the others Controls are located in easy-to-reach positions, they are fairly accurate and can be manipulated without affecting balance significantly. The servos of the lens are very interesting, because its speed can be adjusted and it is possible to program lens movements without removing the face from the viewfinder. It is also interesting the availability of zoom and record on top of the handle, which it makes it much easier to operate the camera from above.

The performance of the lens is very interesting. The focus ring has a very particular feeling, but it's pretty accurate either way, it turns out similar to that of a conventional lens.

In addition to a generator of Peaking patterns the Z1U includes an interesting focus aid: a button that expands the central part of the image and allows focus with greater confidence. This is a really smart use of the same circuitry that supports the abhorrent system of digital zoom that afflicts most camcorders for consumers.

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Lens servos are worthy of a special mention: the performance of the automatic iris is simply spectacular. The same can be said of control of the zoom, which offers very precise stops. However, an exam Detailed lens shows the importance of maintenance preventive to these mechanisms, as there are a couple of obvious inputs for dust and other contaminants.

The position of the menu, audio gain and image settings are debatable, but its location is given by the architecture of the camera. However, the ability to assign roles to programmable buttons on the left side minimize the Inconvenience.

In general, the camera behaves very well and it is evident that its design is given fundamentally for the needs of the operator. But there is a consensus between who tested the camera: the first accessory that must be Acquiring to accompany an HVR-Z1U is a shoulder grip. Or a monopod. Your arms will thank you.

Transport
The transport of this camcorder is exactly what could be done wait: a set of tiny parts extremely delicate. However, its performance is very good. The fact of recording HD signals does not necessarily make it more complex, because in any case the data rate of an HDV stream is very similar to that of a 25 mbps DV stream in this regard, the The essential difference is in the electronic components.

The mechanism responds very well to sudden movements, it is very fast to delay and overtake tapes (with performance comparable to that of some DV decks of mid-range). The response time for each recording boot it is quite reasonable, especially if we consider that for practical effects, each tie is an assembly with almost perfect continuity of time base. The weak point can be the fragility of the car that receives the cassette, which could easily deform with the pressure of a finger impatient operator but that is inevitable with tapes of this size. It's all a matter of getting used to it, I guess.

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Another point against is the adjustment of the lid that protects the charging mechanism of the cassette. When this lid is closed does not seal the compartment and dust enters easily after a couple of days in Outside, contaminant deposits were clearly visible inside the camera. I foresee a near future in which many users will resort to the ubiquitous tape of mask to better seal this compartment and thus fight against dropouts.

One of the tests we did was subject the camera to sudden changes in temperature and passed exactly what had to happen: the machine didn't want to start when condensation occurred. This implies that there is a humidity sensor inside the compartment, which is Very good. However, apart from the generic alarm we did not find a witness who would inform us of the character of the problem. Everything went back to normal a few minutes later, but an inexperienced operator could easily get confused in these circumstances.

and recording
Sony HDV cameras record 1080/60i signals, compatible (in baseband) with most HD equipment in the environment Broadcast. In fact, it is possible to transfer the HDV material to Sony HDCAM or Panasonic D5 recorders. This option has the advantages and disadvantages of interlaced signals: it will surely be more difficult to implement tape-to-film with material recorded on a Z1U but it is very easy to get a high-quality downconversion to PAL or NTSC. Sony bet on the world of video, and I have to say that the results are quite good.

Towards the end of our tests we decided to put the tapes and transport to a test of torture. We configure the camera to record in HDV, we take the last 90 seconds of a new DVCAM tape and we start a continuous cycle of recording-playing-rewinding until that we begin to find visible defects in the recording which happened after 17 cycles. By repeating the test with a MiniDV tape specially designed for recording in HDV, we start to find sporadic faults after 32 cycles, and obvious tape damage in cycle 41.

Conclusion? Sony is doing things very well with the tapes you recommend to record in HDV. Important comment: a dropout on HDV has results catastrophic: the very nature of MPEG-2 compression provides excellent resources to hide minor errors but when the damage is more severe, we find a frozen of 15 frames because each GOP of the HDV streams has 15 Pictures.

Regarding recording, there is no much more to say: the material sounds good and sounds good. To the check it on a high-definition LCD TV, the result it is very pleasing to the eye: the apparent resolution is very high, with excellent detail rendering and pleasant in terms of color, although it still has a small camera look. This is difficult to explain, but that's the way it is: we have to get used to the apparent resolution (and definition) effective) are not the only values of the video to take in the era of HD.

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