I would say this camera looks like Sony's HDV answer to Panasonic's AG-DVC10/15/20 family. If you?re at all familiar with them they have a very similar size, weight and feel. The camera is lightweight and comfortable and has a very stylish look; much more attractive than Panasonic?s upcoming HM70. It comes in at about 6 lbs empty and is about 18 ½?l x 9 1/2?h x 10?w. I mention this because the dimensions are not listed on the Sony website or in the product brochure; I had to call Sony and ask. I figured its good info to know in case any potential buyers out there shop for a case at the same time they buy the camera. This being my first CMOS camera, I wasn't sure what to expect regarding battery life. I've read about CMOS chips drawing less power than CCD?s and after using the 1000U, I can attest to that. With the tiny stock battery it came with (NP-F570) I got almost 3 hours of 'messing around' time (playing with features, stop/start record, LCD on the whole time) before the battery ran down. I also bought an NP-F770 and the charge indicator said I had well over 6 hours when it was at full charge. I haven?t run it down yet but use has been sporadic.
I?m going to kind of circle around the camera and mention all the features that I found to be of note. I?m not going to go into a lot of technical spec-type info, there are better-written articles out there (like digitalcontentproducer.com) regarding that aspect.
Lens ? It?s a small lens (37mm) but it produces a nice picture. In lower light, especially indoor, dimly lit environments, there is of course more noticeable grain. Otherwise the picture is crisp and bright; producing nice HDV video from the single 1/3? CMOS.
Function Ring ? It is very smooth and works well. I use mine for focus 90% of the time, the rest brightness and shutter. One caveat: it is quite slow, and as far as I can tell, you cannot adjust its sensitivity. Don?t expect to be doing any fast rack focusing or crash zooms with it. Adjustable sensitivity would have been a nice feature.
Access ports ? This may seem trivial, but I thought it was a feature of note here. There are 6 total access ports on the camera: three on the right side and three on the rear. The mem card/USB/HDMI port cover is an actual hinged door, which is nice. The other 5 port covers are the typical hard rubber style with the sort of built-in umbilical. Normally (on pro and consumer cams alike) these are pulled out and twisted to the side to get access. On the HD1000U the ?umbilical? is firmer and curved so when you pull out the port cover it falls into a position that is already out of the way and makes for faster, easier access. This is a minor feature but I felt it was thoughtful design.
Shoulder Pad ? It mentions in the brochure that the shoulder pad is adjustable but no pictures show the method for the adjustment. There are two screws that go through the shoulder pad into the body of the camera. When you remove them the entire shoulder pad comes off and you find a series of about 12 screw holes on the bottom of the camera. You find the two that match your comfort level and screw the shoulder assembly back in. The screw holes/receivers in the camera body are metal which should stand up to repeated adjustments.
XLR Inputs ? There are none. Okay, most people looking to buy this camera probably know that, but for me it was almost a deal-breaker and something to consider when looking to buy this camera. My past camera (DVX-100) had them and, even though this camera is meant to be my ?bridge? to higher end HD cameras, it was still a big deal. I bought an XLR adapter with the camera and I recommend anyone who uses a boom or lav mic frequently to get one.
Physical Buttons ? Aside from the record/photo/mode button/knob cluster on the handgrip (which are similar to just about all the other prosumer cams out there) there are only four other buttons on the camera. That is of course not counting the duplicate record/zoom buttons on the top handle. The four buttons, located on the left side of the body, are manual/auto mode, nightshot, backlight and battery power. I personally find the manual/auto button to be the most useful followed by the battery check, backlight and then nightshot. It would have been nice to also see one or two user assignable buttons and maybe a white balance switch.
Viewfinder ? The viewfinder isn?t near as clear as the flip-up LCD for getting an accurate picture but both function well. There is a cable that connects the VF/LCD to the camera body. I think this was a purely aesthetic design decision; it makes the camera look more ?pro.? I think the cable could have easily been run inside of the body but it doesn?t seem to hinder the rotation/extension of the VF assembly too much.
Menu System ? I read some online reviews that said the menu system was confusing and/or complicated; I didn?t find this to be the case. You can dive into the menus, which never seemed to get deep enough to annoy me, or you can use a quick menu. The quick menu pulls up frequently used items in an easier-to-use interface (six large icons on screen at a time). You can customize it to the items you use most, which is nice.
Microphone ? Well, it?s a microphone? it?s a stock stereo shotgun mic. It isn?t a Sennheiser but it isn?t bad, either. Not as directional as I?d like but that?s just personal preference.
Memory Stick (not included) ? It?s too bad Sony didn?t incorporate more function into the memory stick. It is simply there to store still images. It would have been nice if you could store multiple user settings or scenes.
In a nutshell, here is my opinion: I got exactly the camera I paid for. It?s a great camera for those on a budget who want to start using HD but want a little more camera than what they could purchase at their local Best Buy. For event/wedding videographers it?s a dream: it?s inexpensive, it looks very ?pro?, it?s HDV and has a few higher end features. For amateur/indie filmmakers it?s definitely a good starter camera if you don?t mind the lack of XLR?s or 24p. If you look at the specs of the camera you know pretty much what your getting for your money, and it?s in a pretty attractive package.
I wanted this camera for two things. One is amateur short film production. The other is what I call ?raw element acquisition? for lack of a better term. I do a lot of motion graphics and animation so I shoot raw video elements (frequently on a greenscreen) that will be incorporated into lots of design elements. So I wanted a camera that would allow me to step up to HD, but I didn?t want to pay a ton of money for a camera that, for now at least, I might not use to its fullest potential or frequently enough to justify the higher cost. I?m happy with it and would recommend it. I got the camera, a nice Petrol bag, XLR adapter and an extra battery for right at $2K so I?d say it?s a good deal. One other accessory I might consider for the future is the wide angle lens adapter?
Edited by Kevin Olmsted, 16 April 2008 - 04:18 PM.