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How good is the Sony PD170?


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#1 Sam Care

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Posted 28 May 2005 - 06:14 AM

I am considering buying a Sony PD170, mostly for documentary use.

I was just wondering what other cameras were available in a similar price range, and how these compare to the PD170? I have heard good things about HDV but I believe these are more expensive?

What I am looking for is the pros and cons of a few good cameras in the PD170's price range or slightly above.

I would appreciate any advice.

Cheers
Sam
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#2 drew_town

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Posted 28 May 2005 - 09:22 AM

The PD-170 is a good documentary camera. It's automatic features work quite well.

Here's what I like about the camera when shooting a doc:

DVCam format, which reduces the probability of tape dropouts.

It has an lcd screen. I need to drag a video monitor out when I shoot with other cameras that don't have an lcd.

The autofocus feature works fairly well and it's easy to tell when the camera is out of focus on the lcd.

Optical Image Stabilization for handheld shots.

The camera flashes "ND1" or "ND2" on the lcd screen when either needs to be activated.

The camera has phantom power for mics.

It's lightweight, which makes an all-day handheld shoot a lot less fatiguing.

The PD-170 has record and zoom controls on the top handle unlike the PD-150.

The lens cap is built into the lens hood. And that's just cool.

Long-life batteries.

There are a some quirky things about the camera that I find troublesome in the field:

The camera's lcd display is difficult to adjust to get an accurate exposure representation. The camera lacks SMPTE color bars to adjust it or an external monitor properly. Make sure to shoot tests and adjust the lcd properly.

If you shoot in a low position using the top handle on the camera, you will probably turn the lcd to a horizontal position. This blocks the iris control.

If you press the camera up against you to get a steady shot, it's easy to accidentally press buttons on the back of the camera which can adjust many of the camera's settings.

The wide-angle lens does not come with a lens hood and will not accept lens filters.

I don't like how you have to monitor audio levels. You press a button and the level meter covers the entire lcd display.

I don't think you can record 4-channel audio (record 4 mono sources).

The camera's custom presets are very minimal.

__________________________________________________________

Nevertheless, I would much rather be shooting a documentary with a PD-170 than a Canon XL, which I often use for narrative or more controlled shooting.

I think the PD-170 is the best camera in that price range for a documentary shoot.

You will spend roughly twice as much money to go with HDV.
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#3 Sam Care

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Posted 30 May 2005 - 05:34 AM

Thanks for the advice. I think that I will buy the PD170.

Sam.
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#4 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 May 2005 - 06:51 AM

Hi,

I think you'll find that the DVX-100 is a considerably better camera - but really, why would you not buy an HDV machine if you're interested in small-camera documentary?

Phil
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#5 Sam Care

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Posted 31 May 2005 - 06:54 AM

Well that's a good question Phil. I have been doing a bit of research since you mentioned HDV.

Read a interesting article (p32-38, Showreel, Issue 7, Spring 2005) which said:

'But what has become clear to me and others who have used the FX1 and Z1 is that the quality is somewhere between top-end Digibeta and HD. What this means is that a £3,500 Sony Z1 in the hands of a talented DP will achieve the same if not better results than a camera costing several times more than this...'

So for an extra £1,200 over the price of a PD170 I can buy a Z1. Well it is sounding pretty good, so far.

The article went on:

'It's encouraging to see the BBC showing postive moves in using HDV and carrying out stringent tests. They've already been reported as citing that HDV is the natural successor to the PD170...'

'So what has been the reaction of those in the market for the Z1? Well, if the mass secondhand sales of PD150's, PD170's and XL1's are anything to go by, it might seem quite obvious.'

So after reading this, the question isn't why would you not buy an HDV machine if your interested in small camera documentary? The question is do I buy a FX1 or a Z1? What are main differences between the them?

I am curious, does anyone have any arguments as to why I shouldn't buy an HDV camera over say a PD170?
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#6 drew_town

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Posted 31 May 2005 - 07:18 AM

We've talked about this before and most people agree that eventually DV will be replaced with HDV, at least in a professional market. I think HDV will do extremely well in the documentary world. If you have the finances, get you an Z1. The Z1 is the professional version of the FX1, much like the PD170 is the professional version of the VX2100. There is a nice review of the Z1 on dv.com.
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#7 Stephen Williams

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Posted 31 May 2005 - 08:09 AM

Read a interesting article (p32-38, Showreel, Issue 7, Spring 2005) which said:

'But what has become clear to me and others who have used the FX1 and Z1 is that the quality is somewhere between top-end Digibeta and HD. What this means is that a £3,500 Sony Z1 in the hands of a talented DP will achieve the same if not better results than a camera costing several times more than this...'

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Hi,

I have just used the Z1 today recording in DV cam 60i. I would say that it is better than a PD150 but not anything like the quality of a 10 year old DigiDeta. You get what you pay for!

Stephen Williams DoP
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#8 Lars.Erik

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Posted 31 May 2005 - 10:07 AM

Hi there. I've used the Z1 quite a bit. The good things are that in comparison to other 1/3" cams on the market, this one is extremely well manufactured when it comes to where all the buttons and wheels are placed on the camera. You even have a focus range stated in meters/cm, as for the previous ones who only says F01-F99! Very good. It's 16:9 chip is also used to it's full.

The downfall of this camera is it's "24P/25P" function. Basically it's crap. Why Sony has decided not to use it's CineAlta and instead go for CineFrame is beyond me.

And to me the camera seems to need a bit more light that other 1/3" cams. Anyone else experienced this? (About 1-1 1/2 f-stop I reckon) If I'm correct this is not a good thing for the documentary side of it.

And there's the price to consider. It's quite expensive compared to other cams. And Panasonic I've heard will be releasing their version of 1/3" HDV early next year. Interesting. Panasonic's 24P/25P function is great.

Personally I wouldn't buy this cam, but one can only judge for themselves. I would buy a cheaper Panasonic AGX100a, and wait to see what other companies bring out for the HDV market. DVCam will stay with us until HDV tv's are firmly established in homes around. And that's still a few years from now. It's not that I fancy DVCAM that much, but this is the system.
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#9 drew_town

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Posted 31 May 2005 - 01:23 PM

And to me the camera seems to need a bit more light that other 1/3" cams. Anyone else experienced this? (About 1-1 1/2 f-stop I reckon) If I'm correct this is not a good thing for the documentary side of it.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Yes it does need more light as mentioned in the review on dv.com. I think it's a characteristic of HD cameras. Sony's 700 model HD camera is the same way. At least with the 700 model +6dB of gain doesn't produce a lot of noise.
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#10 Rik Andino

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 09:58 PM

Personally I wouldn't buy this cam, but one can only judge for themselves. I would buy a cheaper Panasonic AGX100a, and wait to see what other companies bring out for the HDV market. DVCam will stay with us until HDV tv's are firmly established in homes around. And that's still a few years from now. It's not that I fancy DVCAM that much, but this is the system.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


So what you're recommending is
Get a camera that won't be that popular in the next two years
So that if a year from now you're trying to compete with other's in the workplace
You'll have to sell the camera for a significantly reduced price...
To buy another camera you could've brought a year ago.
That seems like smart investing. :rolleyes:

Not trying to attack your idea or anything but
Personally I believe that if you're considering investing in a camera
Especially for professional use
You should attempt to get the best top-of-the line model you can afford...
At least to stay in competion in the industry.

It makes no sense to save some pennies now
To then have to spend more shortly down the line in a few years.

Now it's a different story if you've already invested in another camera...
You don't have to run off and sell that to invest in a whole new system...
Because it's what's the newest and latest gear....

And if you're just buying a camera to shoot two short films...
And then mess around to improve your skills it's okay to get an older model.

But if you're a working professional relying on your camera to get work...
And you're about to invest money on a new camera system...
Just go out there spend the money to have the best.

Personally if you have the time to wait
I think you should check out the new Panasonic HVX200 camera
Supposedly coming out at the end of the year
Rumors say it'll blow everything else out of the water.

But the Z1u is very good for what it is...
And if you love the way Sony cameras reproduce color go out and get it.


Good Luck
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#11 Stephen Williams

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Posted 03 June 2005 - 02:29 AM

Hi there. I've used the Z1 quite a bit. The good things are that in comparison to other 1/3" cams on the market, this one is extremely well manufactured when it comes to where all the buttons and wheels are placed on the camera. You even have a focus range stated in meters/cm, as for the previous ones who only says F01-F99! Very good. It's 16:9 chip is also used to it's full.

The downfall of this camera is it's "24P/25P" function. Basically it's crap. Why Sony has decided not to use it's CineAlta and instead go for CineFrame is beyond me.

And to me the camera seems to need a bit more light that other 1/3" cams. Anyone else experienced this? (About 1-1 1/2 f-stop I reckon) If I'm correct this is not a good thing for the documentary side of it.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Hi,

The speed rating of the Z1 is strange. I was shooting in 60i NTSC (dv cam), the camera seemed to be rated about 100 asa. I was having trouble with my normal lighting package as the lens is only f2.8 zoomed in! (1.6 at the wide end).

After the shoot I changed the camera to 50i, the camera rebooted and now had a speed rating of 320 asa! I changed backwards and forwards and to 1080i but the camera was 1.5 stops more sensitive! IMHO there is a software issue.

Stephen Williams dop
Zurich

www.stephenw.com
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#12 Edward

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 11:08 AM

I recently bought a Z1 and I think that it is a better investment than a PD-170. Even if you are shooting in DVCAM mode the quality is much better than the PD-170 and if you take into account that you have to buy a widescreen adapter for the 170 if you want to shoot in 16:9 it works out at about the same price.
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#13 Stephen Williams

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 02:12 PM

I recently bought a Z1 and I think that it is a better investment than a PD-170. Even if you are shooting in DVCAM mode the quality is much better than the PD-170 and if you take into account that you have to buy a widescreen adapter for the 170 if you want to shoot in 16:9 it works out at about the same price.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Hi,

I agree the DVCAM output of the Z1 is very good with far better dynamic range than a PD150, I have not used a PD170 so I cant compare.

Stephen
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#14 Jonathan Bryant

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 12:01 AM

I have found that for handycam category the sony vx2000/2100 or the sony pd150/170 cameras are the best in low light. The autofocus hunts less than the Canons. The canons used to not hold a candle to how good a sony pd 1500 or vx2000 could capture a candlelight scene. For documentarys in available light I would use the sony cameras, though quite a few reality tv shows have also used the dvx100 which is not quite as good in low light but offers the film look with 24p capture. Making the video on MTV uses dvxs alot Sony PD150s are used alot in Iraq where you might not want to let the taliban know you are working for CNN or NBC. It is hard to tell how many shows or networks use the pd150. You may also want to check out a JVC DV500 for about the same price you could have a real broadcast lens though you become more noticeable. The FX1 just seems not good enough for a dark room with only available light. And if you are able to light the more light causes people to act unatural in my experience.
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