After asking CDMo readers for advice and promising various parties that I’d never buy another Sony product, I walked into my local VideoPro with a definite plan of attack: Compare and contrast the Canon XH-A1 and Panasonic HVX-200, and then buy one of them.

What followed is still a little hazy in my mind, but it seems there was a sales guy who actually knew his stuff, listened to my requirements and was able to suggest an alternative which was not only better suited to my needs, but also considerably cheaper. That this alternative was a Sony – a brand I’d sworn never to purchase again – just adds to the confusion. I’m still trying to figure out what happened.

The XH-A1 and HVX-200 are both great cameras, they look good, feel good, and by most accounts shoot exceptional video, generally on par with each other’s performance. Why, then, did I walk out of there with an HVR-V1P?:

  • Physically smaller and lighter
  • 200FPS “Smooth Slow Record” slow motion mode
  • Uncompressed HDMI output
  • Good quality Sony shotgun mic included
  • External battery bay (as opposed to the XH-A1′s internal one) which is compatible with Sony’s NP-F range, including the batteries I still have from my 10 year old DCR-TRV9.
  • AU$1500-3000 cheaper than the Canon and Panasonic offerings

I haven’t had the time to really get to know this camera, but initial impressions are very positive.

Smooth Slow Record records to HDV1080i format, but the effective resolution is greatly decreased. This is fantastic for motion tracking and will look great for web video, or at medium resolution for VJing (although it can’t be used for live visuals, as the camera has to buffer the video information and then write to tape), but definitely won’t cut it if mixed directly in with HD video or for delivery to TV or DVD. The system will only record slow motion in 3, 6 or 12 second bursts, but this is quite reasonable as 12 seconds recorded at 200FPS takes up 96 seconds when played back at 25FPS.

Those limitations aside, I am absolutely addicted to Smooth Slow Record. Mundane things suddenly become magical when viewed at this speed. I’m sure the infatuation will wear off eventually, but a week after picking up the camera I’ve hardly shot any real HD video at all, and my biggest wish is that I could assign one of the camera’s 6 user-definable buttons to SSR, rather than fiddling through menus to activate it.

At the other end of the quality spectrum, an HDMI port allows output of an uncompressed 4:2:2 signal, which could be used for tethered shooting of high quality green screen material, or mixed live using Vade’s technique with the Decklink Intensity. To get uncompressed output on the Canon you need to step up to the XH-G1, a $3000 price increase which just adds a couple of extra output and timecode options.

To be fair, I don’t currently have the hardware to utilize HDMI – I don’t even have a digital TV – but I intend to keep this camera for at least a couple of years (I’ll be paying it off for 2), by which time I hope to be performing with HD projectors and mixers, so this is a nice bit of futureproofing.

The look of the unit is very professional. Most of the body is black anodized metal (aluminium?), the lens is nice and chunky, and framed by a removable lens hood which also contains a lever-operated shutter, a definite improvement over the traditional lens-cap-on-a-string. Everyone I’ve shown it to so far has immediately said “Ooooooooh”, which I take to be pretty positive feedback in the looks department.

Over the next couple of weeks on tour I’ll be spending plenty of time with this cam, so there should be a full review from the perspective of a visualist coming soon.

Oh, and plenty of slow-mo footage.

Updated: Sony HVR-V1P HDV Camera: Smooth Slow Motion Test and Slow Motion Resolution Test

  • jane snijders

    i am about to do a documentary shoot with the v1 later thsi month.
    I have a sony z1 myself . I m about to do some comparison tests with the v1 and my z1.
    I just received my brevis 35 mm adapter and bought me some nikon lenses….
    did n t know about the slo mo feature in the v1. thnx for mentioning it. Will try it out.

    regards

    jane

  • http://www.serik.de erik

    Hej. That slowmo thing ist really interesting. It would be nice if you can tell us about your experience with it someday.
    I was considering to buy a HVX-200. I shot with a Sony FX1 and the mpeg2-compression is really ugly in some (normally dark) situations. Thats why I wanted to use DVCPROHD the next time. And this is also my problem with the V1 – it records only HDV. Do you know if the compression-algorithms are better with the V1 than with the FX1?

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis

    Jane: Very interested to hear how it goes with the Brevis. Can you do some kind of flip trick on the LCD or do you have to shoot with everything looking inverted?

    Erik: I haven't had a chance to check out the compression yet, haven't even dumped any tapes down! I'm sure other sites have done quality comparisons though. I'd be interested to find out how they measure up, but I'm not particularly concerned either way, my style of shooting is more about getting the message down rather than trying for perfection.

  • jane snijders

    indeed the flip trick is something that the brevis should have integrated. Cinevate is about to release an adon that solves this. Shooting handheld
    with an upsidedown image on the lcd is impossble to do. So for the time being i ll only use it in tripod situations Alos there seems to be a simple trick that can flip the image.
    But my first tests with the brevis are just fantastic,. Even with a simple 50 mm prime. It s like shooting again with an aaton and superspeeds! :-)
    I have a new addiction: collecting nikon primes.

    When i have done my AB tests with the z1/v1 i ll post my findings….

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis

    Sorry Jane, the "flip trick on the LCD" is a trick that works on certain cameras, you use a powerful magnet to fool the LCD into thinking it's upside-down. Like this!.

  • http://abstrakt.vade.info/ vade

    That sounds like *such* a bad idea. Powerful magnets near electronics and magnetic tape = recipe for disaster. Glad you are enjoying the camera – dont ruin it so soon ;)

    I was able the other day to do a quick test with the Cannon TX1, and it was rather disappointing. The 720p footage looks sub par, the compression artifacts everywhere and low light was bad. The only thing going for it was the fact it records 4:2:2 compared to DV/HDVs normal 4:2:0.

    I was able to pit my HV10 vs an HV20, and the low light performance difference was so drastic it was insane. Im going to be upgrading to an HV20 as soon as I get the time and sell my HV10. Plus the HV20s 1080p@24 is killer.

    Theres too many options :(

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis

    Vade: Actually, magnets near electronics and even magnetic media is nowhere near as much of a bad idea as people think. The "power" of magnets drops off at about the cube of distance. Here's an article on the topic.

    Try explaining inverse cube laws and Oersteds and Gauss to the average Microsoft Outlook user, though.

    In order to avoid mopping up drool from confused consumers, all of us Amazingly Knowledgeable, Windswept and Interesting Science and Technology Gods have fabricated a more easily explained conventional wisdom, which says: "Don't put a magnet near your computer, or, roughly speaking, your liver will catch fire."

    That's very disappointing about the TX1. Direct to SD card HD MJPEG recording would be so damn awesome for visuals! Compression artefacts are a bummer. I was thinking the lens might be a weak link here, I wonder if it would mate with a 35mm lens adapter like the Mini35 to work as a compact "film look" cam…

    HV20 sounds great too! Definitely too many options. We just need to all get together and have one each, share the love around :)

  • http://www.mifop.de MFO

    Just a sidenote:
    Here in germany the prices ratio is other way around. 4500eu for the HVR-V1(E), only 3400eu for the canon xh-a1.
    How much are these cams in Australia??

  • jane snijders

    I placed a small magnet right next to my lcd and it indeed works . I am totally in heaven with a new nikon 80-200 2.8. This prime on my Z1…. one word: wow! The bokeh is like a Cook lens. Amazing.
    I also added a 85 mm 1.8 and a 35 mm 2.8 Nikon. hat a wealth to be able to choose lenses again.
    Tommorrow I pick up the V1 . So expect my AB test report next week.

    best

    jane

  • http://www.20m2.com Omar Aly

    i just have the HVR-V1P after testing and Playing around it's amazing with 25p nor then 25i spacilly on the tele or very close nice detail on with 20X zoom lense and if u use the NPF-970 it will live alot because of the 3CMOS Chips All in all
    the lense is nice but u will miss the Wide angle (i recommend wide converter Check http://www.raynox.com vey nice lense coverters collection for V1)
    Playinf with Shutter Speed can make amazing shot
    V1 have a nice White Balance
    i Hate Samething Named (mpeg2-compression )He Kill everything But it's ok with CineForm Ascpect HD
    u can found everything on V1 the same on Z1 and more..

  • krl

    Does the HVR-V1P have any video inputs?

  • jane snijders

    i did an AB test with the Z1 and the v1 this weekend. i own a Z1. I like the size of it. Not too small and it s weight is just fine.
    I added my chrosziel mattebox with support rods underneath the v1 along with a shoulder mount. This makes it better to handle.
    the V1 itself is indeed an improvement compared tro a z1. especially the placement of the push autofocus and the iris buttons is better. the 20x zoom and the macro is a big plus. The zoomrange of the v1 was bigger than the z1 with a brevis and a nikon 80-200mm.
    Sad that my brevis achromat is ony for the z1.. i need an extra for the V1 now. all in all: a fantastic cam. imagequality is very good.
    Next month: IBC with the new small sony xdcam……

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis

    krl: No inputs, apart from Firewire of course :)

    Jane: That's cool that the magnet trick works on your Z1! Doesn't seem to be the case on the V1 unfortunately.

  • http://www.huesforalice.com Dave

    Hey Jaymis,
    congrats on your successful visit to the store. What I would really be interested in: what is the exact resolution of the slow-mo footage? And does this resolution depend on the length of the slow-mo shot?

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis

    Dave: The slow-mo footage is written to normal 1080i 25FPS, so there's no simple, quantatative way to find out what the resolution is just by looking at the file.

    I've heard "4x resolution decrease" bandied around, but can't seem to find any actual tests online. I'm going to visit VideoPro again to borrow some more gear for reviewing, so when I do I'll shoot some of their resolution charts to see how it looks.

    The short version: It's drastically reduced resolution, looks pretty ugly when reviewed 1:1, but if you take it down towards SD res or youtube res it starts to look great again :)

    The motion itself is beautiful. I've been capturing miscellaneous clips around the place, and I'll put them online (with some full resolution screen grabs) when I have time.

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis

    Here's an article which has a downloadable file with smooth slow motion clips.

  • Pingback: Create Digital Motion » Sony HVR-V1P HDV Camera: Smooth Slow Motion Test

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis

    Thanks to Peter for doing a post on my first batch of Smooth Slow Record footage.

    This footage is a bit overcompressed, and of course won't show the actual resolution of the footage as it's resized down from 1440×1080.

  • Pingback: Create Digital Motion » 2xHD (Hard Drive, High Definition) and 240FPS: Sony HDR-SR1 Camera Review

  • http://violetsnightmare.com mxmai

    how big is the camera? FX1 size-ish? looks smaller from the pics, but i can't really tell…

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis

    mxmai: It is indeed slightly smaller than the FX1.

  • Lucas

    I am considering buying the Sony HVR-V1P. But I am seriously struggling with choosing between it and the Canon XH A1.

    The reasons for my hard decision are that the canon is known to have a better lens and also better low light shooting capabilities. I was also wondering if an external shotgun mike was used on the canon, would it produce superior sound to the Sony?

    Does anyone have any recommendations, corrections or words of advice?

  • MilwaukeeMax

    Yes, I too am torn between the Sony HVR-V1 and the Canon XH-A1. I must admit that my experience with Sony versus Canon has left me very much anti-Sony and very much pro-Canon for reasons of quality, reliability, low-light shooting and audio quality.
    Essentially, I would be more for the XH-A1, but it appears that the slow-motion (high speed recording) on the HVR-V1 is better, or? I understand that the XH-A1 does not have the same CMOS technology as the HVR-V1? Does anyone have an idea if the slow motion is anywhere near as good on the Canon XH-A1 as it is on the Sony HVR-V1u (or V1p)?

    thanks!

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis

    I've heard that the Canon cams have better low light performance, which could definitely be an issue for live visual feeds. Don't know about reliability… I think most of these pro-level products should be about the same in that regard, unless a particular model has problems.

    The XH-A1 doesn't have anywhere near the high-speed recording capability, you can just do the standard retiming in post software, whereas the Sony Smooth Slow Record (which appears in quite a few different cameras now) actually records 200FPS natively, without any interpolation or software trickery.

    I'm aiming to do a proper review of this feature (including full resolution stills) when I get back form tour next week.

  • MilwaukeeMax

    So, the high rate of fps is pretty much a proprietary feature available only on Sony cams? I thought (with a bit less simplicity), the Canon XH-A1 could record at that rate as well. I thought I read it could record up to 240fps. If not, are there any similar-priced Canon cams that can do a proper "smooth slow record"? I am very eager to get a new cam with this feature, but I am reluctant to get a Sony.

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis

    I'm sure Sony's implementation is a proprietary thing, but from what I've read/heard it seems that it's just a function of CMOS-based cams that they can use the addressability of the CMOS chip to read at a higher framerate.

    So, AFAIK there's no reason that Canon and other brands couldn't do this, but I don't think they include the tech on their current batch of cameras. Happy to be proven wrong though!

    I was also very reluctant to get a Sony camera, in fact I swore a while ago not to give them any more money, but I made a hypocrite of myself and am very happy with my purchase.

  • Pingback: Create Digital Motion » Tapeless Progress: Panasonic P2 Software for Mac

  • Pingback: Create Digital Motion » More Visualist Urban Legends: Hotplugging Firewire Kills Cameras?

  • ged

    i own a v1p and the slow motion function is very good, only works for about 14 secs and u need plenty of light.
    I am concerned about its microphone, is it normal to have such a low recording of sound. or is this just the HDV sound, its clear but needs to be louder….

  • Pingback: Sony Creative Software Announces moviEZ HD for Instant Movie Creation | Sony Camera Review

  • Pingback: Professional Hd Video Camera: What Should You Buy? | Best Sony Cameras

  • Pingback: Mod Converter – Convert HD video camera MOD to MP4, MPG, MOV, VOB, AVI, 3GP, FLV, HD H.264 | Sony Camera Review

  • Pingback: The Scoop on Small Video Cameras | Best Sony Cameras

  • Pingback: Mod Converter – Convert HD video camera MOD to MP4, MPG, MOV, VOB, AVI, 3GP, FLV, HD H.264 | Best Sony Cameras