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Why we shotoff the HDX900 and the F900


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#1 TJ Williams

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 08:40 PM

Regarding our Sony HDCam and what lead to our comparison test between the Panasonic HDX900 and an Sony Cinealta F900.


Here is a summary of a recent letter sent thru our West Coast Sony rep:
Sony of America management.

The actual letter contains 5 pages of details. If you don?t care how Sony left us hanging out skip this part.

We are very experienced camera people working in the Northwest US. We have each been in the business nearly 30 years. Our shooting includes work for most of the cable and broadcast commercial networks. Up to this point in our careers, We would have called ourselves ?Sony Guys?. We have used the whole series of Betacams and Presently own a 1080I HDCam. Since we have owned this camera we have experienced a number of cataclysmic failures. Here we listed the different failures which they already knew about from our many repair instances. These failures have cost us huge amounts of money in lost clients. Lost days, and subrentals. Our world is small, this repuation for an unreliable camera has negatively affected our business and reputation.

Sony contested none of this. This camera has been a terrible lemon and they know it.
My partner and I have been repeat Sony Camera purchasers for over 25 year each.
So we asked Sony to help us out with some kind of good deal trade in.

Sony management offered to sell us a B stock F900 body for 80,000 and give us a trade in on our body of 25,000. Thus we would pay a $55,000 difference. I obtained bids from several suppliers. The best bid on an F900R was under 64,000 so actually Sony by boosting the retail price of the F900/3 was willing to give us a real value trade in of
of $9,000. It was like working with a used car lot where they run up the retail price then offer you a big ?trade in? Where can you buy any Sony HDCam that works at all for 9K?

My partner and I are very disapointed with Sony. We have both at one time or another had to make good on a mistake. We thought Sony should to. This camera cost us tens of thousands of dollars, and they know it. So we were ready to shop. At this point we both felt our clients weren?t ready to accept the new technology card or hard disk cameras and would continue for a while to require tape.

We made arrangements with the regional dealer of Panasonic Pro. Gear and the West coast manager to provide a Panasonic HDX 900 for our evaluation. We also requested a large production house in our market to provide an F900 Sony. With the help of their engineer we set the two cameras side by side feeding a good sized HD monitor with a waveform monitor on the AB Switch.

We hard lit a subject and looked at a facial closeup from both cameras. We also recorded and played back at each stage. We could not see any difference in the image quality between the two cameras.
We zoomed both cameras into the subjects red hair. Still no difference.
So in terms of basic image quality the cameras looked similar. In fact you could have easily cut between them with some slight tweaking.

Next we aimed both cameras at the roof of the studio which was quite dark. Not only were the blacks cleaner on the Panasonic but the camera was about a stop faster than the Sony we checked to be sure the shutter wasn?t turned on or anything set differently on the filters or gain settings. But the Panasonic was just a stop faster and cleaner looking.

Then we shined a light on the green wall of the cyc. This produced a green kick back tint to one of the subjects cheeks. The Sony camera showed us quite a bright green smear the Panasonic showed us about what we saw with our eyes. I?ve had the experience with the HD cam being sensitive to color changes from bright to shade. I know it is sensitive to green. It was pretty clear to both of us which camera we?d prefer to shoot green screen with.

Finally we set up a chrome c stand with a card to shield a 36? solid beside it from our hard light. We placed the Panasonic HDX900 brochure which is black greyish pictures and writing over the top of the solid which was carded out of the light. We set both cameras so the c stand reflection from our hard light was at 100 ire. Then we zoomed into the dark area. The F900 could read some white lettering and we could see something was written or printed on the brochure. The HDX 900 could see fairly clearly what was there. This certainly shows increased dynamic range.

My partner who was sure the F900 would absolutely sink the HDX 900 was frankly flabbergasted. Now both of us were a little miffed at the way Sony had treated us, so you might think we werent fair. Neither of us expected the HDX to match the F900 what we were doing was trying to find a tape camera to get us through these last years of tape before a fully digital workflow is worked out. For my money if the two cameras were the same price I?d be hard pressed to buy Sony. Bottom line here is that technology has advanced in the 6 years since the F900 was introduced.
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#2 Walter Graff

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 11:20 PM

I can't speak highly about Sony's business practices. They've been pulling the same tricks for years such as the "B" stock gimmick. With that Sony offers what they call "B" stock. In actuality it's really just a new camera that they move numbers around to make it sound like a deal. Remember they want you to own their camera cause if you do the rest falls into line to (decks, etc).

But I did want to touch on the comparison. Sony and Panasonic make two different cameras. Sony has really made the same type of camera (look and feel) since the eighties. In reality Sony's cameras never look that good In the first place in my opinion. There was a day they could not give them away until they started marketing them using the "B" stock gimmick and others and offering their own financing. In doing so they made a name for themselves in cameras but the reality is they never made a good camera IMHO. Panasonics camera lineup came from designs of two former Ikegami engineers. As a result Panasonic cameras are today's Ikegami in quality. Ikegami was the company that owned the video world before Sony, invented most of the technology used in today's cameras. If you were a professional you used nothing but Ikegami. That was until Sony decided to become the number one camera seller. They had the money to do so.

But as for the comparison, it's tough to really say if one didn't look as good or one looked noisier etc because many of those adjustments can be made in camera. So to not have real benchmark values for comparison may make for a lopsided judgment. Gain for instance. Zero gain on a Sony camera is NOT equal to zero gain on a Panasonic camera. There are many internal adjustments that could have fixed the appearance problems you saw with the Sony camera. Out of the box Son camera normally need a lot of adjustment. Having been an Ikegami fan for years I personally like the look of Panasonic over Sony but then again many folks like the look of Sony too. Nothing more than subjective taste.
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