Sony HDR-FX7. How Sony got its groove back.
Jan 22, 2008 (Updated Jan 22, 2008)
Review by drick
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Beautiful image quality, Carl Zeiss T* 20X lens, Lightweight, 3.5' LCD, intuitive interface, straightforward operation
Cons:Looks like a 90's VX1000, Below Average in lower lighting, Expensive
The Bottom Line: This camcorder delivers the tools in a intuitive, lightweight package that defines and refines Sony's High Definition flagship prosumer line.
As the owner (and reviewer) of Sony's flagship prosumer enthusiast camcorders - the VX2100 and FX1 (see my other reviews), my expectations are set high in terms of what the VX and now FX line has brought to me consistently throughout the line: high image quality, usability in the field, portability, durability, and now high definition.
Recommend this product?
In my last post, I wrote about the Sony FX1 http://www0.epinions.com/content_135687147140 . As more of my customers are requested their footage in high definition to preserve their memories, I decided to expand my HD arsenal. I looked no further than to Sony, and its smaller and less expensive brother to the FX1, the Sony HDR-FX7.
I purchased this camcorder at BH photo video in early November '07, for about $3,000, however prices have fallen and BH currently sells the FX7 for $2795
Out of the Box:
Puling the camcorder out of its sleek packaging, I found the Sony FX7 reminiscent to the 90's VX1000, simple looking with its gunmetal gray exterior.
Again, accessories wise, you can expect Sony to be quite stingy in what they give you for spending $3000, as they want you to purchase their accessories at ridiculous prices.
Here's whats included...
AC-L15A AC Adaptor - slow, slow charger
RMT-831 Remote Control
NP-F570 Rechargeable Battery Pack (2200 mAh)- lasts about 45-50 min, you need to buy another long lasting battery
Composite A/V Cable
1-Year Parts Warranty/90-Day Labor Warranty from Sony
...about the same that comes with the FX1
Now to the camera details...
Sony opted to use CMOS technology in this camcorder. This camcorder is equipped with Sony's 3CMOS system: 3 1/4 ClearVID CMOS chips. Video quality was exceptional. Colors were consistently warm, sharp and very well saturated throughout footage in bright light. There are many adjustments that you can make in terms of color as well.
Here is where I felt Sony dropped off on the consistency of their prosumer camcorders. The VX1000, 2000, 2100, and the FX1 are known for holding out in low light, however, this camcorder is lackluster in this department, likely because of the use of 1/4 cmos chips in comparison to the 1/3 size ships used in the vx and fx1 series. In side by side comparisons, there is a noticeable difference.
If you are using video lights in your footage, or shooting in bright to well lighting, this is the less of your worries. In addition, I noticed a hint of grain throughout the picture, in bright lighting to lower lighting. However, for this amount of money, I was disappointed in this department as low light is a staple of the vx and fx line. I might just have higher expectations for Sony.
Zoom, Zoom Zoom! Finally. For years, I was limited to a 12x optical zoom for the vx and the fx1. Well, not only do you get a 20X optical zoom, but this lens is a Carl Zeiss T* lens, which helps supposedly at eliminating or correcting chromatic abberations, similar to Canon's L Lenses or Leica Dicomar. Excellent OIS - optical image stabilzation. I found it to be better implemented on the FX7 than the FX1 when viewed during playback and comparison an ISF calibrated Sony XBR4 HD 120hz LCD TV.
The FX7 does take digital still images recorded on Sony Memory Stick/Pro that are about a single megapixel. But for a $3000 camera, this is not what I am going to use it for, this is going to be used for video.
Look and feel/ease of use: Sony's FX7 style is minimalist and uncluttered - Buttons, lcd placement, etc. compared to other HD camcorders, including it's big brother, the FX1.
Technology: Powered by Sony's 1/4 cmos ClearVID chips
Front of Camcorder:
Lens & Lens Hood, manual lens zoom servo and focus placement, unidirectional microphone with output for external microphone, however no XLR inputs.
Left Side of Camcorder:
You'll find most of the outputs here for connectivity to outside resources - HDMI, 1394, USB port, memory stick port, headphone jack - Excellent execution of placement
Right Side of Camcorder:
You'll find the tape eject on the handrest, eject button, and the record/stop button of course.
Back of camcorder:
Rear ports consist of component, composite, dv, and dc power under one strip. Gain, white balance, shutter speed, and menu button have independent buttons. What is missing here is independent audio controls. Battery placement in back is not as recessed as it was once.
FX7 vs FX1 - Improvements over the 1st generation
As a videographer, weight and battery life are two agendas that I endure during shoots. When I heard about Sony releasing a new prosumer High Definition camcorder that was lighter, I was excited that there were more viable options from Sony's 1st generation HD prosumer. Here are some improvements that I found to be more worthy on this new model:
CMOS technology - lower power consumption
Lighter Weight : 3 lb. 10 oz vs about 4 lb. with extended life battery attached (NP-F960)
Longer Zoom Lens : Carl Zeiss T* 20X vs 12x
Maintains 3.5 LCD and viewfinder - however differs in placement in comparison to the FX1
6 Customizable buttons
30F Cineframe Recording
Expandable focus- digital extender, up to 30x on subjects
More intuitive interface
Color Change to gunmetal gray - reminiscent of the Sony VX series
Sony, again, once brought out a product to compete with the upcoming HD competition, namely Canon and Panasonic.
Excellent video quality, placement of controls and top notch construction/durability are staples of Sony's prosumer line in which this camcorder delivers and then some. Sony refined their flagship high definition prosumer with an excellent execution providing a 20x optical lens, excellent placement of controls, buttons, etc., weight, and extended battery life.
However, this camcorder is not without its drawbacks, notably low light performance and grain, namely due to smaller chips. In addition, new offerings from Canon are a direct competition to Sony's long time dominant stance in the HD market.
Despite these shortcomings, the Sony HDR-FX7 delivers. It's beautiful image quality in well lighting, sharpness, color rendition, and excellent user placement is astounding.
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