When Sony’s first HDV camcorder, the HDR-FX1, was introduced at $3,000, I thought that this will be the entry-level HDV cam for some time.
In the year that followed, several new HDV camcorders came on the market (Sony Z1 and JVC GY-HD100U). Sony’s main competitors in the DV field both have announced their HD cams: Canon XL H1 and Panasonic HVX200.
Both Sony and (recently) Sanyo have come up with one CCD/CMOS models that are significantly cheaper than the 3CCD FX1. Sanyo has introduced a mini-cam that’s supports HD (720p) – Sanyo HD1. As a Sony owner though, I’ll start with Sony HC1 review.
SONY HC1 Review – Chips and Video
The HC1 has a single 4:3 aspect ratio CMOS chip. In comparison, Sony FX1 has three CCDs which are natively 16:9. The FX1 pixel count is lower – 1.12 megapixels per CCD – while HC1 has 1.98 megapixels in 16:9 mode. This matches exactly the 1080i standard – 1920×1080.
The HC1 1080i CMOS chip performs very well in well-lit environments, on par with its more expensive brethren. Colors are crisp and the resolution of the video image is really outstanding. A true HD cam.
SONY HC1 Review – Controls
Although HC1 is considered a lower class cam, it allows certain control over important functions. Most of these are automated but perform relatively well. For example, the auto-focus is quick and responsive – very similar to the FX1. Speaking of AUTO, the HC1 has a master auto switch that will put the camera in a full auto mode. The only thing you’ll be controlling in this mode is the zoom.
Sony HC1 has a touch screen and supports spot focus and spot metering. Touching the screen will reset the focus/metering to match this specific point. Another nice touch is having AE shift that allows four levels of “correction”.
You can also control the shutter speed, focus, zoom, and white balance but these are pretty obvious and taken for granted. The control over the zoom and the focus are pretty good (for a consumer cam).
All things considered, Sony HC1 is a terrific entry-level HD cam. You can use it as a disposable cam for guerilla filmmaking or as a helmet cam for extreme sports videos. Your “other” option for a “lipstick” cam is the Ikegami HDL-20. It’s a fist-size cam with some impressive sensors that’s designed for “trick” photography. The downside is the price tag (~$17,000), roughly equavalent to 10 HC1′s.
Of course, you can shoot your daughter’s birthday in HD too. Nikita Mikhalkov released a feature-long film about his daughter’s first 18 years (technically, from 6 to 18). You could be next! You should keep in mind you won’t come across as a “PRO” with a cam like that … it’s almost like using a webcam for production.