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SONY HVR-V1E Progressive-Scan HDV Camcorder

Sony HVR-V1E - The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
There have been many rumors going around the net with regard to Sony's HVR-V1E camcorder and it's progressive shooting mode issues, most of which are based on nothing more than wild speculation and assumption. The below introduction to this review is the actual truth; period.

It is public knowledge that the new Sony V1 progressive scan HDV camcorder had an issue with image quality when in progressive mode. This issue is now fixed.

It turned out there was a slight lack of resolution in progressive mode with PAL versions of the V1 (NTSC versions never had an issue). This has since been fixed by sony via a modification to the cameras software system.

This was sorted in early January and all V1E models now coming into the UK are the latest ones that don't have any resolution loss issues in progressive mode.

However, it is worth noting that the V1's 'Sharpness' setting is set to +7 by default when they leave the factory. Most professional camera operators will feel this is too high; I agree. With the Sharpness set to +7 there is visible 'line twitter' in the image. This is brought on by the high default setting of Sharpness in the V1's menus.

Many consumers will like this look. However, if you are a professional cameraman used to the likes of Digital Betacam, XDCAM HD and HDCAM, you will probably hate the artifacts and line-twitter that high Sharpness settings can (and usually do) introduce.

So for the professionals using the V1 as a B-Camera to something more high end, or to the more discerning amateur, there is a way you can rid the image of this 'junk'.

Here is what to do:
Press the picture profile button on the side of the camera.
Select profile 5 or 6 using the jog dial.
Select Sharpness.
Set to +3 (default is +7, range is 0 to 15)

You can save this profile on a memory stick if required.
There are several other adjustments that you may wish to adjust as part of your picture profile.

The above sharpness setting of +3 is the official recommended one by Sony UK. I spent the morning at the Sony offices in Basingstoke viewing the various settings that Sony technical guru Neil Thompson came up with. These settings were viewed via the V1 onto a grade-A CRT HD monitor, the kind that cost as much as a 2-bed terraced house in Bolton; and almost as heavy.

After viewing a recording from the V1 on this grade-A monitor with the +3 sharpness setting, I'm totally satisfied with the quality this camera now produces in progressive mode and I will be recommending it highly to anyone who is in the market for a budget priced progressive scan HDV camcorder

Sony will not be making any more changes to the V1, it is fixed and final. They will however be recommending that people reduce the default sharpness from it's current +7 down to +3.

I've also re-written the review below to reflect the latest V1 camera with sharpness set to +3.

The all-new Sony HVR-V1E is here!
nigelSony has just launched the all-new HVR-V1E professional HDV camcorder in the UK; early November 2006. The new V1 was shown for the very first time at IBC in September. On Friday 22nd September 2006 I took delivery of the first V1 to arrive on UK shores, in fact I was the first person in the UK to actually get my hands on one to review; and it wasnít easy. The particular V1 I took delivery of is in fact a pre-production model, as they havenít started dropping off the production line as yet. However, the pre-production model I have is the final version and is identical to the ones that will be sold here in the UK. I had all weekend to go out shooting with it before having to promptly return it to Sony UK first thing Monday morning.

Why the V1 when Sony already have Z1?
This is a question that many people will want answering right from the start. After all, it would appear that the new V1 does virtually everything the Z1 does, with a few exceptions including 60Hz, larger image sensors, composite video input and a 3-position gain switch. The V1 uses three CMOS chips as opposed to CCDs and it has a proper progressive scan shooting mode too; oh, did I mention that the V1 is also £500 cheaper than the current Z1! So why have Sony done this? Why are they competing against their own product i.e. the Z1? Surely they are going to be doing themselves out of Z1 sales as people buy the new V1 instead? This is almost certainly going to be the case, but does Sony care? I think not; hereís why.

Sony are going after a new target market with the V1, they are going after the independent low-budget filmmaker market, the Panasonic DVX100 and HVX200 market. This is why the V1 has a native progressive HDV 1080p (thatís P for Progressive) shooting mode as well as a 1080i (interlaced) mode, more on that later.

sony hvr-v1ePanasonic have had the low-budget progressive camcorder market all to themselves for the past 4 years since the launch of the DVX100 in October 2002 and more recently the HVX200. Of course JVC came onto the scene with a bang with their ProHD GY-HD100 series progressive scan camcorders that use 1/3rd inch interchangeable lenses. If you were an independent low-budget filmmaker who needed a budget-priced native progressive scan tape-based camcorder the only options were Panasonicís DVX100 and more recently JVCs ProHD GY-HD100 and 200 series models, though the latter use proper interchangeable lenses with no auto-focus-hocus-pocus hence they are aimed at a more discerning professional who is used to shooting with manual focus lenses and/or even film cameras.

More recently Panasonic launched the DVX100 replacement, the new P2 based HVX200. Like the DVX100, the latest HVX200 also records to tape, but only in standard definition mode, if you want HD you have to record to the expensive P2 cards (currently around £1,150 for an 8GB card). Of course the massive expense of the P2 cards put off many independent low-budget filmmakers, who instead decided to stick with their older DVX100 SD camcorders or buy one of the more recent JVC ProHD models. But now everything is about to change with the launch of Sonyís brand new HVR-V1E native progressive scan HDV camcorder. Now independent low-budget filmmakers looking for a budget-priced native progressive scan HD capable camcorder has a bit more choice. The new Sony V1 has various record options for both SD and HDV, the latter has options for both 1080i as well as native 1080p, and better still, whatever format you choose, like the JVC ProHD cameras, they record to cheap Mini-DV tapes; great news for the low-budget independent filmmaker who doesnít even own a house, let alone take out a re-mortgage on one to buy some P2 cards and P2 storesÖ

You see, as far as Sony are concerned if existing Sony fans are going to buy a V1 over a Z1 this is okay, why? Because it also means that many potential HVX200 purchasers will also be looking long and hard at a Sony V1. As far as Sony are concerned it is better that people buy a Sony instead of a Sony, as opposed to a Panasonic instead of a Sony. I think Sony know exactly what they are doing with the V1, be under no illusions.

sony v1

Who is the new V1 aimed at?
sony hvr-v1There is absolutely no doubt that the new V1 is aimed at low-budget independent filmmakers who want a native progressive scan High-Definition Tape-Based camcorder. The V1 is also aimed at event and wedding videographers as it has the usual 1080i HDV shooting capabilities as well as standard definition DVCAM and DV 720x576 shooting modes that we are familiar with on the Z1. The V1 will also work well for low-budget documentary filmmakers too as it has the option for both interlaced and progressive shooting modes in HDV1080i and HDV1080p. In fact it can be used in all the same situations as the PD170 and Z1. There is no doubt that the likes of the BBC will adopt this camera as a PD170 replacement too. Yes I know, but havenít they already done that with the Z1 I hear you ask. Perhaps, but the new V1 closer resembles a PD170 than it does a Z1, which means it is a little bit smaller than a Z1, the LCD screen is mounted on the side, as opposed to on top like the Z1. And because of its PD170 size it is better balanced when holding it out in front of you hence you wonít get back ache quiet as fast. The PD170 was/is a classic, this new V1 is set to take up the rains of where the PD170 left off, only with an abundance more shooting capabilities for both SD and HDV.

A bit about HDVs compression codec
This is just a quick lesson on HDV for those who are still thinking of jumping into HD waters for the first time. There are many variants of HD out there including: HDV, HDCAM, XDCAM HD, DVCProHD, uncompressed 8 bit and 10 bit HD etc. HDV has been labelled the consumer version of HD, but donít let this fool you. HDV is being used by professional production companies and TV stations all over the world. HDV uses an Interframe GoP (Group of Pictures) compression algorithm which compresses the differences between adjacent frames, unlike HD which uses I (Intraframes) which are encoded without reference to another frame.

v1 lensThere is absolutely nothing wrong with the way HDV compresses the images. It is based on the MPEG2 codec, which is what you see every time you watch a Hollywood move on DVD, or a digital HD Sky broadcast on a HD television set.

Basically the HDV MPEG2 compression codec uses I-frames for reference and throws away any information that is repeated i.e. you wouldnít see it with the naked eye anyway so you donít need it, hence it is thrown out to save bandwidth. A quick and crude description I know, but that is basically how it works so the quality is right up there. After all, Sonyís professional XDCAM HD professional disc camcorders work on this same codec principle and if you ever saw footage from an XDCAM HD camcorder, well you would be blown away, it is that good.

Any post-production editing gremlins that HDV once had in its infancy are now history. All the top editing packages including the likes of Appleís Final Cut Pro HD and Avids Xpress Pro HD can now handle HDV with its GoPs just as well as DV, DVCAM and Digibeta formats, providing your hardware is up to date and powerful enough. So you can mix footage seamlessly between higher end formats such as HDCAM and XDCAM HD with HDV footage all on the same timeline with no problems at all. So concern yourself no more, HDV has been adopted by professionals and broadcast companies and it can even be used for up to 15% of the programme time for BBC and Discovery HD broadcasts were larger cameras could not possibly get the shot. To me this means HDV is a professional working format; period. Donít ever let anyone tell you that the image quality from HDV is inferior to higher end HD formats, this is only the case if you actually see any compression artifacts and in all my time shooting on HDV camcorders like the Z1 Iíve yet to see any. Of course higher end HD camcorders will produce better images, but mostly because they use 1/2-inch or 2/3-inch chips with interchangeable lenses and a full-size shoulder mounted camera with much more expensive circuitry etc and they cost a whole lot more. Sure, HD as opposed to HDV does have a part to play in quality, but it is not as big as you think; see Sonyís XDCAM HD for proof, basically XDCAM HD is HDV only it uses higher and variable bit rates of up to 35Mbps instead of HDVs constant 25Mbps, but basically XDCAM HD produces better images due to itís 1/2-inch professional interchangeable lenses, larger chip blocks and professional circuitry in the full-size camera; oh and an F350 XDCAM HD with lens cost around £18,000.

First impressions of the HVR-V1E
v1 rearI took delivery of the V1 Friday lunchtime so I had all weekend to shoot and play with it before it had to go back to Sony UK first thing Monday. It came in the genuine new Sony case (optional), and what a great case it is too. The V1, batteries, charger, mic and other accessories were snugly packed inside. I dove straight to the bottom of the bag and grabbed the V1; well I wasnít going to mess around with the batteries and mic for 2 hours was I? After all I am the first person in the UK to actually get my hands on the V1 (after Neil Thompson at Sony, who had it for all of 20 minutes or so before they shipped it to me), so I was going to make the most of it.

The first thing I did was go over the camera to check the overall build quality. For this I look for flimsy levers and buttons etc and check if they would snap off. I donít go mad here, its not like I deliberately try and break things, I just slam levers up and down and hit buttons a lot harder than I would if I had forked out my hard-earned money for it; kind of how a student would treat a loan camcorder from the college. Anyway, Iím pleased to announce that the V1 is up to Sonyís usual high standards in build quality; Iíd go as far as saying that the V1 is a tough little camera that should stand up to most shooting conditions and student abuse.

The new V1 is not too dissimilar to the older PD170, in fact itís almost identical, but the V1 is finished in a nicer black with that lovely HDV logo on the side. I am pleased that the new V1 is of a similar shape/size to the older PD170, although I used to own two Z1s and never had a problem with them, a few people have told me that they can get a mild back ache after holding the Z1 out in front of them for a long period; I suspect these same people wonít suffer this problem with the smaller/lighter V1.

As this particular V1 was a pre-production model there was no instruction manual, but as Iím familiar with the Z1 I figured I would not need one. Anyone who has used a VX2100, PD170 or Z1 will know that Sony has one of the best and easiest menus to navigate, the V1 is no different so the manual can stay in the box; it really is that easy.

The fold-out LCD panel appears to be a sturdier design to the PD170 and VX2100 and it is nice and clear just like the Z1s screen. When it comes to fold-out LCD screens Sony are in a different league to everyone else. None of the other camcorder manufacturers come close, not even remotely. JVCís GY-HD111 screen is dark in comparison and if you get a fingerprint on it and attempt to wipe it off, you canít, you end up with a horrible silver sheen permanently etched into the LCD, which screws up viewing from that day on. Panasonicís HVX200 screen is no better in terms of image quality over the JVC, and the Panasonic HVX200 screen feels like it could fall off if you look at it too long. Canon, oh yes Canon, they have given up trying to develop an LCD screen as good as Sonyís, so much so that they donít even bother fitting an LCD screen with their XL series (including the HDV XL H1); Sony kill the opposition in the LCD department. All the other various knobs, levers and dials found on the V1 are logically placed around its body and all feel very durable and study.

Recording formats
v1 side panelThe V1 records in the usual standard definition DV and DVCAM formats at 720x576 as well as in HDV 1080i, but the V1 is an entirely different beast to the Z1 in that it also has a true progressive 1080p/25p shooting mode; this is how it works. The V1 can scan to the CMOS chips with native progressive capabilities. The progressive scanned image is divided into two segments (odd & even field) and recorded onto tape as HDV1080/25PsF(compressed in 1440x1080/50i/4:2:0).

The V1 uses an SF (Segmented Frame) mechanism for creating the progressively scanned images. This is a clever mechanism for transferring frames of data around by splitting the progressively scanned frame into two chunks that look like fields. The difference is that interlaced images were shot at different moments in time i.e. the second field is filmed 1/50th of a second after the first field is filmed. With the SF method, the frame is shot as a progressive one all at the same moment in time, but this progressive frame is shot in a way that it is split up into separate fields to enable it to be moved around easier between camcorder, edit system, monitor output etc. When it is played back on a TV set, be it CRT interlace monitor or LCD progressive monitor the two fields are stitched together and presented as one single progressive frame. Independent filmmakers need not concern themselves with tape-to-film transfers either as a progressive SF frame transfers to film in exactly the same way any other progressive frame would.

So there you have it, this method of producing a progressive frame is not cheating and is not an in-camera effect, it is simply a different way of producing progressively scanned images in an interlaced world i.e. playback on CRT interlaced TV sets. If you own a HD LCD or Plasma TV (which are Progressive by their very nature) then HVR-V1E progressively shot footage will have both separate fields stitched together so they are presented as perfect progressive frames on these new TVs.

The CMOS chips
audio controlsThe V1 boasts a brand new chip block set made up of 3 ClearVid CMOS sensors. This is the first HDV camcorder in the world to incorporate 3 CMOS sensors, until now there has only been the Sony A1 that uses just 1 CMOS sensor. Together with these new CMOS sensors, the Sony V1 also uses Sonyís EIP (Enhanced Imaging Processor), which is used to process the recorded signals at 1920x1080p 4:2:2. Sony claim that these CMOS sensors coupled with their EIP processor provide high sensitivity, low noise and a wide dynamic range to achieve breathtakingly high quality images. From the two short days Iíve been shooting on this camera and playing back the footage; Iím inclined to agree with them. Another advantage of the CMOS sensors is that they eradicate picture smear and they are less demanding on power consumption, which means battery record times are extended. It is thanks to the 3 CMOS sensors that the V1 can record in 25p progressive scan modes in addition to 50i. Without 3 CMOS sensors, progressive shooting would not have been possible.

The lens
The V1 has a built in Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T-star lens that features extra-low dispersion (ED) glass. The lens is a 20x zoom with a widest aperture setting of F2.8 at the telephoto end, which is great for throwing the background out of focus or for extra light sensitivity. There is a built in digital zoom that allows the focal length to be extended by around 1.5 times, but I personally am not a big fan of digital zooms as they sap image quality like it was going out of fashion, besides if you want digital zoom you can do it in post. After all, the digital zoom feature simply zooms in on the existing pixels. I feel digital zoom features are a gimmick, but camcorder manufacturers always seem to feel obliged to stick it in there; somebody must want this feature, why I donít know. From my experience with Z1 cameras, this lens appears to be every bit as sharp with similar colour and contrast reproduction.

Other features
xlrIn keeping with the older Z1, the new V1 retains the built-in format down-conversion from HDV to DV or DVCAM. The V1 also has a timecode preset function, 2 balanced XLR microphone inputs with both phantom and battery powered mic capabilities. There is also a camera profile, TC Link, Last scene review and a HDMI output. The battery time with an NP-F970 is quoted by Sony as a massive 8 hours, although Iím not geeky enough to fully charge a battery and test this so have no real way of knowing just how accurate this figure of 8 hours is. But from the way the battery remain time in the viewfinder was not moving from one hour to the next Iíd be inclined to suspect that it is a very accurate figure indeed.

Sony have also developed a great slow-motion feature called Smooth Slow Record. Once you've selected the mode the V1 will record 4x the normal number of frames to an internal buffer system, after which it will dump it down to tape at 25 fps (frames-per-second) to give you ultra-smooth slow motion. Although this is a useful feature, the recorded images is compressed so the quality won't be up to native HDV footage. There are different settings for the smooth slow record function of 3, 6 or 12 seconds.

Apart from the usual features such as those above the V1 is (I believe) the very first HDV camcorder to sport an HDMI output, this is just brilliant and Iíd be shocked if other camcorder manufacturers did not follow suit. It makes perfect sense being that all (well all so-called HD-Ready) LCD TVs have an HDMI input. So if you are lucky enough to own an LCD or Plasma High Definition TV with HDMI input you will be in for a treat when it comes to playing back your footage direct from the V1 though your television set. Other outputs on the V1 include: component out, A/V out, HDV/DV out and a headphone out.

The V1 has 6 Camera Assign buttons; 3 on the camera and another 3 behind the LCD screen. You can assign various settings to these 6 buttons including: colour bars, digital zoom, colour peak focus assist, return playback and a whole bunch of others. The usual Sony Memory Stick slot is there for picture profiles and the like as is the usual ND filter switch for two levels of built in ND.

Picture quality
hdmiI believe there is a strong argument for testing HD camcorders on both standard definition television sets as well as HD monitors, why? because for some time to come (probably until around the year 2010) majority of people will still be watching a regular SD CRT television set of around 28 to 32 inches. So it is vital that we know how these cameras perform when down-converted and played back on such equipment. After all we don't all have £15,000 grade 1 CRT broadcast grading monitors in our edit suits, let alone two large strong men to lift it up onto the desk for us; that's right, they weigh a ton. So my reviewing of footage is realistic, I use a standard Sony SD 28" CRT widescreen television set and a 19" HD LCD monitor; going beyond these monitors into very expensive CRT grading monitors would be pointless as only the top Soho post houses use such monitors. Chances are if you own one of these expensive grading monitors you would not be looking to buy a camera like this, you would be reading a review on HDCAM instead.

Anyone used to the PD170 or Z1 wonít be disappointed with the new V1. From somebody who has been using Z1s for about 10 months now I can confirm that the image quality of the V1 is right there. I was a touch concerned to learn of the CMOS chips in the V1, but after playing back the 45 minutes of footage that I shot down by my local river, I shouldnít have been concerned for a second. Sony has taken CMOS technology way further than the competition has been able to. I have a bunch of favourite shots that I like to get that is more likely to trip up the HDV codec and show up any weaknesses in the lens, compression etc. Iím quite lucky as there is a very picturesque river about half a mile from my house and there are swans in abundance as well as plenty of large boats cruising by. The shots I filmed with the V1 were of white swans walking along short green grass, large powered boats sailing by, people walking along and the odd panning shot of skateboarders zipping by. I shot all this footage in both 1080i and 1080p shooting modes.

av socketPlaying the footage back straight from the V1 using both a professional Sony high-def monitor and my standard Sony 28-inch CRT television set so I could see standard SD results; I was pleasantly surprised. The 1080i footage is about as close to the Z1 as you will ever get. I did some A/B monitor switching between Z1 footage of the same kind of subjects in the same location at the same time of year, last year, and the new V1 footage shot on Sunday (working on a Sunday, I knowÖ). There really was nothing in it, they are characteristically identical with similar detail preservation, definition and overall sharpness. Playing back the 1080p (Progressive) footage looked a little different. The colour saturation and contrast were about the same and it handles highlights superbly, only there is some 'line-twitter' evident in the images, especially on horizontal edges. I filmed some books stacked horizontally and there was slight line-twitter along the book edges in places. However, I was able to fix this by changing the Sharpness setting in the menu. By default the sharpness is set to +7, by dropping it to a more realistic +3 the line-twitter vanishes. Nobody in their right mind would really want the sharpness set so high; +7 is a bit overkill. I can only assume that Sony set it so high from the factory because they assume most purchasers of the camera will be hobbyists who think this look is really great. Personally, whenever I look at an image that has sharpness and detail levels cranked up, I don't see a sharp stunning picture, I see a picture full of junk and garbage that should not be there so I always lower these settings; usually quite drastically. Now if you lower the sharpness settings you could be forgiven for thinking that the image looks soft, it doesn't, it simply looks natural. Try it for a few weeks, then crank the sharpness up again and you'll see just how horrible too much sharpness actually is. Overall I liked the progressive look a lot. Iíve been leaning towards progressive for about 6 months now, which is the only reason I sold my two Z1s.

Independent low-budget filmmakers will not be disappointed with the new V1 if you ride in the progressive vehicle, for the £3,190 asking price it is as good as anything else out there around this price range. It is much more modern, sleeker and sexier than Panasonicís long-in-the-tooth DVX100, and if you donít fancy an expensive and destructive P2 card workflow that you are tied into with the Panasonic HVX200 then the tape-based V1 will fit the bill very nicely indeed Mr Bank Manager ;) Which brings me nicely onto the HVR-DR60, the what? The DR60 is Sonyís brand new portable external hard drive. Okay, think Firestore FS4 and youíll know where Iím coming from. The DR60 is rough, tough and it donít take no s**t from the competition. It has a 60GB internal hard drive, a built in buffer, and it cost just a little more than a single 8GB Panasonic P2 card, £1,395 inc VAT to be exact.

Iíve already mentioned the image quality of the V1 in 1080i mode is pretty much a replica of the Z1 so the usual corporate and wedding guys will be happy with it, and you can even pop off during the week to shoot a short film in progressive too; nice!

In use the V1 feels nicely balanced when hand-held and it is small (like the PD170) enough to be inconspicuous when filming in public places. I had the larger Sony battery attached to the back and it really did feel like that battery was never going to die, it just goes on and on and onÖ this could be something to do with the CMOS chips as they drain less power than the Z1s LCD chip blocks. The V1ís fold out LCD screen is incredibly easy to see in direct sunlight, well as far as LCD technology goes anyway. However, for those with ultra sensitive eyes, Sony has included in the package a very neat LCD sunshade, this simply clips over the LCD and has a flag to the top and each side that protrude about 2 inches, more than enough to stop the sun hitting the screen.

v1 right sideOne area that I felt the V1 was slightly better than the Z1 was in the purple-fringing department. Although most reports attribute the purple fringing phenomena to chromatic aberration in the lens, it appears to be more apparent with HDV formats. This could simply be coincidence or perhaps the HDV compression codec brings out the worst in lenses and shows up these flaws. However most people will never notice this and there are only certain shooting situations where it is evident. One such situation is around the edges of a white swan against a green grass background. With my test footage there was virtually no purple fringing evident in either progressive or interlaced shooting modes. It could be that if you took a screen grab, opened it in Photoshop and zoomed right in you might see something, but again, Iím not that geeky, if it is not there at full-res when played back on a HD monitor, I donít really care what could or could not be there when you put screen grabs under a Photoshop microscope; Iím too busy actually making programmes to spend time carrying out futile experiments like this so Iíll leave that sort of test to the grey and pale-faced techies who spend all day in the basement surrounded by gazillions of pounds worth of equipment, but who donít actually complete any productions. I only witnessed a small and insignificant amount of purple fringing on some distant railings in one of my shots, but this was negligible and was nowhere near as bad as the green fringing I've experiences with my JVC GY-HD111E. I also carried out a slow pan of a large family boat as it cruzed past me on the river. At the point where it passed there are long metal railings along the far bank, these railing usually have an ever so slight tinge of purple fringing with HDV camcorders, but again, it was simply not there with the V1. Iím not sure why, could be the CMOS chips, or possibly a slightly updated compression/processing system onboard, or different electronics perhaps; who knows. This is a big improvement to the point that I did not notice any purple fringing in any of the footage I shot.

So far I've only really compared the new V1 to Sony's existing Z1, so what is the image quality like compared to other camcorders? Well I used to own two Sony Z1 cameras and a Panasonic HVX200 so I'm more than familiar with their image quality capabilities. For those who are interested in why I sold them, the two Z1 camcorders went because I shoot everything in progressive these days. The Panasonic HVX200 went because I feel the P2 card workflow is just too expensive, but mostly because I didn't like the destructive nature of a P2 workflow. These days I on a JVC GY-HD111E which I use for none-broadcast work such as corporates, SIVs and training videos. I've been using the JVC a lot recently for the production of a wildlife training DVD so I know its capabilities inside-out. I think it is human nature to compare any new camcorders image quality with the most recent camcorder you are used to using. So I will give you my take on the Sony V1 when compared directly with the JVC GY-HD111E.

For the last 3 months I've been shooting on almost a daily basis with the GY-HD111E and almost every day I've been checking the daily rushes on my 29-inch Sony CRT television set or my 19-inch HD monitor in my edit suite so I know every single characteristic of the JVCs images. When comparing the Sony V1 1080p/25p footage to the JVCs 720p/25p footage on a regular 29-inch SD television set it's immediately apparent that the JVC images look nicer with greater detail. The V1 lacks a little detail in comparison, especially on wide shots. However, when switching to the 19-inch HD monitor all this changes. Suddenly the V1's true colours start to shine. The overall look is nicer and the detail is improved, however, the JVC still appeared to have a slight edge in the distant detail department on wide shots, but it is ever so slight and you really have to look hard. The V1 had the edge over the JVC when it came to fringing. I shot about 40 minutes of footage on the V1 and there was only one very brief moment where I witnessed a tad of purple fringing, this was on some distant metal railings, but it was only slight. The JVC GY-HD111 produces green fringing that is much worse, and on a more regular basis too. When viewed on a HD monitor the V1 appeared to retain detail in the highlight areas incredibly well, this was surprising considering the HDV codec.

Having said all that, I did not go into the V1 menus and tweak anything, with the JVC I have tweaked around in the menu to get good images. Also I find it a lot easier getting decent images from the JVC simply because it has a proper lens that can be focused, a proper aperture ring and the camera is just built like a proper camera hence all the knobs and switches are in the right places. This for me makes achieving good images much easier, with the V1/Z1 you have to try a lot harder with servo rings and aperture dial wheels and menu-driven features. Had I had the V1 for a few days longer and gone through the trouble of tweaking in the menus, using a matte box and setting up each shot to perfection I'm sure I could have achieved amazing images form the V1. Amazing images for the price that is, remember the V1 cost just £3,190 inc vat.

Comparing the Sony V1 with the Panasonic HVX200, they both measured up pretty much equal when I compared some of my HVX200 1080p footage to the Sony V1 1080p footage, this surprised me a little considering the HVX200 uses Panasonic's DVCPRO HD compression codec and the V1 uses MPEG2 HDV compression. The overall sharpness and image detail looked about the same. The V1 footage also handled high contrast areas better than the HVX200, which again surprised me.

As Iíve already mentioned, the particular V1 I had on loan from Sony UK was a pre-production model, which is basically the same as what is dropping off the production line as I write this so I doubt if there will be any differences in image quality from the unit I had to any unit that will be sold here in the UK when they become available in November.

Also available for the V1 is an optional wide-conversion lens, which uses a bayonet joint for easy attachment; useful for independent filmmakers shooting in tight indoor spaces. Sony also make a neat LCD on-camera light with built in dimmer; just as well because I found it to be pretty bright on full power. Sony also makes a padded canvas case for the V1 (fits Z1 also), which is just as good (if not better) than any of the usual suspects out there i.e. Portabrace, Kata, Petrol and the like. If you like the Sony logo you wonít be disappointed with their case. Last but never the least Sony is also launching alongside the V1 the all new HVR-DR60 portable hard disc recording unit. the DR60 is similar to a Firestore, it has a 60GB hard drive and retails for around £1395 inc VAT.

Interesting times
These certainly are interesting times, Sony bringing out a budget-priced native progressive 1080p camcorder. Itís cheap, the image quality is right there with the Z1 in both 1080i and 1080p modes, it uses a cheap tape-based workflow that we are all used to, itís sexy as hell, itís tough and durable, itís small enough to be inconspicuous. The list goes on, but unfortunately I donít. One thing is for sure, Iíd love to see Panasonicís official sales figures for the HVX200 in the first quarter of 2007 now the Sony V1 is here; time will tell.

©2006 Nigel Cooper

Company: Sony
Product: HDV Camcorder
Model: HVR-V1E
Website: http://www.sonybiz.net
Price: £3190.00
Reviewed by: Nigel Cooper
Review Date: 30-09-2006
Summary: Great budget 1080p progressive scan camcorder for low-budget independent filmmakers. It's 1080i interlace mode means it will also appeal corporate/event and wedding videoggraphers as well as those who want a HD version of the older PD170.
Pros: 1080p and 1080i shooting modes, Sony name, which means the usual high build quality and reliability, not to mention great re-sale value on the used market.
Cons: Image lacks detail on wide shots, but that's DV/HDV for you; nothing new here. Would have been nice for Sony to throw in a free HDMI lead as there is no way of playing a native progressive image out via component; HDMI is needed for this.

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