I've had this camera for a few days now, and I am extremely impressed
with the picture quality. Great stereo sound, usable to 20hz,
natural balance, separation so great it's like those 'binaural' mic setups--it creates an immersive sound field. The HAD CCDs are incredible. Good contrast, shadow detail even in the face of bright light, and the ability to work with nearly zero light and produce clear, colorful and accurate images. I shot some video in dim moonlight, where I couldn't really see anything with the naked eye, but the VX2000 could clearly make out details outdoors, plus rendered the color accurately to boot! Nothing short of stunning. I even have zebra pattern generators for 70IRE as well as 100IRE and a color bar generator on board. No wonder it is considered by those in the profession to be the best video cam under $5000.
|Here it is, the Sony DCR-VX2000. Two
manual rings, one for zoom, one for focus.
|The Sony TRV900 compared to the Sony
VX2000. This is a big camera. You really can't take it anywhere without attention.
I find this cam to have a warmer picture than the TRV900. Skin tones look more
lushious, like in an art film. Whites are still pure white, but the color has a bit more
warmth to it. The default sharpness is about right. I think the color resolution is
improved. Reds don't bleed. Apparently the bleeding is from the S-video input of my
Magnavox 32" CRT. The reds look fine on my computer capture and
even fine on my Sony PVM 1261Q CRT, even though it's composite input suffers dot-crawl. Red has always been a troublesome color, when it appears in great saturation but the VX2000 seems to handle it better.
I made a test DVD from material I shot with the VX2000 this morning. It bears out my
theory that lower noise means lower bitrate and reduction of artifacts, even at very low
bitrates. CinemaCraft SP was set to 500kbit min, 5000kbit avg and 9800kbit max in 2-pass
VBR mode and many of my test shots taken in my livingroom required so few bits to encode
at good quality that the bitrate was below average, about 3Mb/S on the DVD. Paused frames
showed NO artifacts and the quality was better than the last few motion pictures I
rented. And to think that was done without a single HMI light, but only with normal room lighting, which was on the dim side. I took closups of my wife, and it looked like a movie scene, given the warmth of the skin tones, rather than something shot with a DV camcorder. It compliments the TRV900 nicely and they work together as a nice pair when needed and I have a choice of camera depending on the situation.
On a subnote, I'd like to mention that I am very pleased with Pioneer's DVR-A03 DVD writer. It uses the -R/-RW format for DVD general and works extremely well. I'm currently authoring with DVDit PE, which offers Dolby Digital audio format, a desirable capability given that it makes more bandwidth available for video program while reducing the space required to store the audio portion of the program. I'm using Meritline brand of DVD-R media with 100% reliable results so far, and at an excellent price. The DVDs I make play wonderfully on my Pioneer DV343 and on a friend's Sony DVD changer and Apex DVD/VCD player.
AV to DV Transcoding
On the A/V->DV out function, I used it this morning and boy that is easy to use. No hoops to jump through. The camera acts as a TBC evidently, because it cleaned up footage too dirty to capture with Dazzle's DVC-II. The VX2000 provides the full benefits of a dedicated capture card and a great camera to boot! The process is simple, and done via a menu item. You don't even have to exit the menu after toggling the mode to A/V->DV out.
3/29/2002 Some Comparisons to TRV900
I had the opportunity to re-shoot some footage formerly taken with the TRV900. Some things stood out: a row of track lights with PAR floods that aim basically into your face from above-- in this intance, the TRV900 exhibited a phenomenon called "vertical smear". I fully expected this to appear with the VX2000, but when I shot from the same position, with the same lights glaring at me, there was no vertical smear at all. And the familar star flare was also missing, replaced by a very subdued star flare effect, possibly exaggerated by the Tiffen glass lens filter I had screwed on as protection against dirt and dust.
Another area that surprised me was the reduction of color spill, or blooming with intense reds. Some red LED digital clocks on the walls that were somewhat smeared in the TRV900 were perfectly clear with the VX2000, under the same wide angle conditions.
About Still Shots
Before you laugh me out of the room for suggesting this, be informed that I am a strong proponent of using dedicated digital still cams for still shots, when the destination is print on paper of significant size. That said, I tried out the still mode of the VX2000 only because it came with a memory stick and reader that plugs into the USB port on the PC. All prejudice aside, I was impressed with the stills. Though they are only 640x480, they are superior to the still I get from my digicam set to 640x480! The contrast range, shadow and highlight detail and color are much better. The pictures are very sharp and require no touchup in PhotoShop to make them look good.
I don't know how many bits per CCD the VX2000 records, but it seems higher than normal, because the shots I take can be adjusted in PhotoShop with a LOT of leeway. It is possible to use Levels to bring things out of the shadows without getting posterizing artifacts. The tonal balance of the picture will start to look unreal long before artifacts become visible. Quite impressive!
I found the still shot feature to be intuitive and easy to use. Images can also be recalled and superimposed over live video as it's being recorded.
On Battery Run Times
The run time for an NP-F960 battery pack is absurdly long. Sony claims up to 9 hours. I clocked my first charge at just about 11 hours of usage before it shut itself off. I ordered the extra-large battery on the assumption "large camera need large battery!" Not true. The VX2000 appears to go longer on the same battery than even the miserly TRV900. You can completely relax and stop worrying about how much battery is left. I can still remember when the big old VHS camcorders barely eeked out 20 minutes on a large and heavy NiCd pack that easily outweighed this battery by 4 to 1. How times have changed!
The Acid Test: Field Day at the International Auto Show
April 7, 2002, a small group of us set out for New York City, specifically, the Javits Convention Center, to capture the events going on at the International Auto Show. We took the VX2000, TRV900 and the Olympus C2000Z still cam.
Before I get into the details of the event, here are a couple of stills (the only two I remembered to shoot on the almost full 4MB memory stick that came with the VX2000--The 32MB card I ordered didn't arrive until the next day.) These were shot with the VX2000, AE shift set to -2:
Ford "C3P0" Robot Notices VX2000
The VX2000 stood out, both in performance and in attracting attention on the show floor. Not only other convention attendees, but the Ford Motor Company "C3P0" robot noticed and had a few comments on our camera... click HERE to hear and see what happened (streaming RealMedia).
This camera performed smoothly throughout the show. My evaluation took place during playback in the studio, using a number of monitors. This is where I found out that my S-video-equipped large screen monitor can't handle the intense reds and oranges that the VX2000 captured with some of the fancy new auto body paint jobs. My Sony PVM1261Q monitor's composite input did significantly better--the saturated reds didn't bloom visibly on this monitor, despite the signal being fed through composite channel. I would love to see this video on a component-input-capable monitor (possible with my DVD authoring capabilities, playing the disc on a component DVD player).
I had expected to be seeing a considerable amount of "vertical smear" --an artifact of CCDs when intense point-source lights glare into the lens and strike the CCD-- but found not one single incident of it, despite many intense lights that often pointed into the lens in several shots. The only artifact was the lens flare from the Raynox .66 wide angle lens.
The VX2000 provided an impressive audio/visual experience. I tried out my new Raynox HD .66 Pro wide angle lens for the first real field day of use. This lens performed admirably, although it is suseptible to "flare" from bright lights. Linearity was excellent, lacking the familiar "barrel distortion" so often seen on wide angle shots. The picture was sharp to the edges and full-wide shots gave a sense of expansiveness that wasn't possible with the stock lens. Despite pulling all this extra field of view into the frame, individual details were still astonishingly-sharp.
The audio stereo separation became really apparent on this trip. I recorded portions of our walk from the garage on 42nd Street to the Javits Center. That alone was a good test of the separation with the on-board mic. The convention floor was the next test. On playback, sitting between my stereo speakers and with the Carver Sonic Hologram turned on, I was suddenly back on the floor of the convention center! The dynamic range, sense of "space" and the range of sounds from deep bass to high treble were nicely reproduced. Several exhibits featured a salesperson demonstrating some features of the car he or she was showing. With the overhead PA system (some of them sounded halfway decent), the audio pickup by the VX2000 sounded almost like a TV commercial, not too ambient, but up-close and intimate, very articulate and intelligable. I shot all footage in manual audio level and kept the meter display on screen. Level was set two notches above center, which worked out to optimize s/n ratio nicely. Sharpness, under the custom settings, was set to the center point of the range. As a result, you'll see a softer, more natural-looking picture in the shots below.
Here is a single frame grab from videotape of the Javits Convention Center lobby, taken with the Raynox .66 wide angle lens. (All stills here have their horizontal pixel dimension reduced to 640 so that they don't appear stretched when viewed on a computer monitor.) In many cases, the camera, and/or the subjects were in motion, so you'll see a certain blur and sometimes interlacing effects on these action grabs.
Here is that same shot, gamma enhanced and sharpened slightly in PhotoShop.
Lexus had a warm color scheme to their booth this year.
The Mercedes booth had a lot of equipment on display along with the cars on rotating platforms.
I used the NP-F960 InfoLithium battery for this shoot, and the absurdly-long run time allowed me to totally forget about batteries. After close to 8 hours of shooting, the battery remaining time indicated about 270 minutes of battery charge, using the LCD the whole time.
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