R e v i e w s
Modularity + pixel shift
vs versatility + hi-res
MiniDV/DVCAM Camcorders
Canon XL1s
Sony DSR-PD150
by Peter Dudar
We have looked at the ins and outs of using inexpensive single-CCD MiniDV
camcorders as backup or ‘sketch’ cams in
past issues, but serious production in
MiniDV requires 3-CCD cams with manual controls for all shooting parameters.
There are a number of 3-CCD MiniDV
cams you can settle for, but the Sony
DSR-PD150 and the Canon XL1 (now the
XL1s) have been two of the most coveted
for several years.
Released in late 1997, the Canon XL1
provided pro/prosumer viability for less
than US$4,500/CDN$7,000. Introduced
in early 2000, the Sony DSR-PD150 became the prime—and for some, the superior—alternative. Last fall, Canon responded with an upgrade to the XL1—the
XL1s. The design concepts behind the
Sony and Canon cams differ—in some
ways, the compact Sony is a grown-up
consumer cam and the modular Canon is
a slumming pro cam. The question is,
which has the most viability now and in
the future?
When Sony’s main competitor to the
Canon XL1—the VX1000—began losing
ground, Sony responded with the DSRPD150, which can record in either
MiniDV or DVCAM modes.
Although significantly smaller, the
PD150 handles similarly to the VX1000,
but improves on it throughout. Obvious
exterior changes are the flip-out 2.5-inch
LCD screen and balanced XLR audio inputs. Inside, Sony developed special 1/3
inch, 380K pixel CCDs with enhanced
sensitivity and resolution, plus an improved signal-to-noise ratio, cleaning up
Graphic Exchange
vertical smear and white noise
in the process. Within Sony’s
current DVCAM line, the
PD150 delivers a superior image
to the even smaller PD100A and
lots of the professional features
of the more upscale DSR250.
The PD150 (like the Xl1s) is
designed to minimize the need
to use menus while shooting.
Manual controls, like Shutter, Gain,
White Balance and Audio Level buttons
are grouped on the back of the camera,
where they work in conjunction with the
main selector dial. Also on the back, the
battery compartment is recessed so that
even an eight-hour NP-F960 battery doesn’t interfere with use of the tilt viewfinder.
Sensibly, the Iris button and separate dial
are placed forward on the fixed lens. Audio
input switches sit above the lens, next to
the microphone holder.
The power switch has four dialable positions: VCR, Off, Camera and Memory—
a lock switch prevents slippage from Camera to Memory mode. There’s a secondary
start/stop switch on top of the body, plus
End Search and Edit Search buttons. And
when you switch to VCR mode, a flat panel beneath the carry handle lights up, revealing a set of playback controls.
Sony could have done better with the
Menu button—you have to flip open the
LCD screen to get at it. But overall, the
PD150’s layout is remarkable, especially
considering its size.
Like most Sony products, the PD150
looks quite nice; the body is die-cast magnesium, and the unit has been around
long enough to have acquired a reputation
for reliability and durability.
With a horizontal resolution of 530 lines,
the PD150’s three 1/3 inch CCDs (380,000
pixels, 340,000 effective) deliver a solid
playback resolution of 500 lines (DV format is 500 lines). Its low light performance
is extraordinary—the PD150 likes to overbrighten night shots, but the results are relatively clean.
It employs a sharp, high Modulation
Transfer Function lens (6.0 to 72.0 mm, 58
mm filter diameter), with 12x optical
zoom. Like the XL1s, it has an undifferentiated zoom ring that rotates perpetually—
too bad. But aside from that, it’s reasonably
responsive for a servo-controlled ring. The
lens slider control has Auto, Manual and
Infinity settings; and for quick focusing in
Manual mode, there’s also a Push Auto focus button just below the slider—nice.
Though Canon has upgraded the autofocus in the XL1s, the PD150 mechanism
still seems faster and hunts less. The variable-speed zoom rocker control is smooth
throughout its range and moves at good
speed when needed.
The PD150 provides two neutral density filters: 1/4 (2 stops) and 1/32 (4 stops)—
and they cover most lighting situations reasonably well. The system even prompts
you when a certain filter should go on or
off by flashing alerts on the LCDs.
The Super SteadyShot stabilizer works
fine, but turning it on/off requires going
into the menus—a stabilizer button (as on
the XL1s) would be useful.
Like the Canon XL1s’ 16x lens, the
Sony PD150’s 12x lens doesn’t go as wide as
you’d want for shooting interiors. And of
course, its zooming range is outclassed by
the Canon. Sooner, rather than later,
you’ll want wide angle and telephoto
adapters for the PD150. You can use
threaded adapters, but look for accessories
that fit the convenient bayonet mount that
Sony has put up front. The Century Precision Optics (www.centuryoptics.com) line of
accessories comes highly recommended.
At 2.5 inches, the PD150’s 200,000 dot
LCD flip-out screen is less impressive than
the PD100’s 3.5 inch screen, but it’s high
quality. And you can readily adjust volume
and LCD brightness with controls located
on the screen casing.
The 180,000 dot black and white LCD
viewfinder provides 500 lines of horizontal
resolution. I feel guilty admitting to mixed
feelings about it, since the black and white
LCD viewfinder is an upscale feature—
and as intended, it’s much better than a
comparable color viewfinder for establishing focus. But when the LCD flip-out
screen is rendered useless in bright light, I
really miss not having the means to verify
how color is affecting my framed image.
The menu system has yet to be bettered. It’s a simple-to-use three-column setup that employs intelligent color highlighting and no buried submenus. Column 1 lists the main categories available in
the current mode, using initialed icons;
column 2 lists available options for whatever is selected in column 1; and further options pop up in column 3 when something
is selected in column 2.
Multi-channel audio capabilities of 48
kHz (16-bit) and 32 kHz (12-bit) are a given
on digital camcorders. Sony has upped the
ante by placing two balanced XLR connectors just under the short shotgun microphone, and supplying switchable 48v
phantom powering. On the other hand,
the detachable ECM-NV1 mic is mono—
it’s the one thing everybody replaces on
this unit.
To manually adjust the recording level,
you just press the Audio Level button,
which calls up the level adjustment display. Recording levels of channel 1 and
channel 2 can either be linked or separated when auto gain (AGC) is switched off.
And when recording audio manually, the
recording level indicator appears on the
LCDs. Note that the audio hiss problem
associated with the initial version of this
camera has been eliminated.
Instead of a dial with auto and shutter priority programs, etc. as on the Canon XL1s,
Sony provides a camera mode selector
with just three positions—fully auto (Auto
Lock), fully manual (Hold), and an interim Auto Lock release mode that functions
as an auto override by letting you adjust
iris, gain, shutter and white balance. Unselected overrides continue to function automatically. (Note: even in manual, the cam
adjusts the shutter speed automatically if
you leave the Auto Shutter setting on in
the menu.) Buttons are provided to instantly adjust for
back lighting or spot lighting.
Shutter speeds range from
1/4 to 1/10000 of a second—
personally, I’m fond of the 1/4
speed, which produces interesting blurs and zooms. Beyond that, this cam also enables interval recording.
There’s a 16:9 mode option for wide-screen TV output, but it’s not true 16:9—the
PD150 just crops the image,
so it’s degraded.
The PD150’s manual functions include Custom Presets—one in camera mode
and another in memory
mode. You can preset Color
Level, Sharpness,White Balance Shift, and Auto Gain
Limit (6 dB/12 dB/off).
Gain levels range from 0
dB to +18 dB—usually, noise
The SONY DSR-PD150 is sometimes called “the bible for DV shooters.”
is barely noticeable until 9 dB
Its low light performance is extraordinary. The PD150 has a reputation
and above. Of course, the
for durability, plus it’s small, lightweight and has a flip-out LCD screen,
PD150 provides one-push
making it very versatile.
White Balance setting (plus
outdoor and indoor presets), but its auto ory stick, rather than recording video. 640
white balance is surprisingly impressive— x 480 VGA stills (JPEG format) can be
it even performs quite reasonably under recorded with compression ratios of 1/3,
sodium street lights (and better than the 1/6, or 1/10. Considering that newer consumer cams can capture higher res stills
A slide switch inside the flip-out screen and even MPEG sequences to memory
provides 100% and 70% Zebra Pattern set- sticks, the PD150 is no longer state of the
tings. Considering that setting zebras be- art here. On the other hand, the Memory
tween 90-95% is pretty standard, the cam Stick is useful for saving presets.
There’s no USB port on this cam (or
could do with more settings.
Some other higher end features: time on the XL1s), but it has most of the crucial
code data can be preset, and if you’re connectors, including iLink (Firewire,
working with multiple cameras in DV- IEEE 1394), S-Video and LANC (Local
CAM mode, user bits can also be set; Application Control). And the PD150 can
date/time info can be superimposed on convert analog input signals to DV.
Currently, the PD150 (like the XL1s)
your images; an Index can be marked
while recording; SMPTE full field color can record directly to a hard drive using an
bars can be accessed through the ETC intermediary controller. This summer,
menu; and two settings are available for Sony is debuting its DSR-DU1 hard-disk
drive—then, the PD150 will be able to
master black—0 IRE or 7.5 IRE.
Progressive scan on the PD150 is 15fps, plug directly into the DSR-DU1 and record
so it’s mainly for capturing stills to a mem- simultaneously to both disk and tape.
Graphic Exchange
R e v i e w s
The power consumption of the PD150
is 4.7 W (with viewfinder), and with an optional NP-F960 InfoLithium battery pack,
it can record for up to eight hours, substantially longer than the maximum time
available on the XL1s.
Flash: apparently, Fuji is going to start
selling DVCAM tapes soon—expect to see
price reductions.
Adapting pro design concepts, Canon introduced the XL1 in late 1997 as an open
architecture modular system whose detachable components included a 16x electronic zoom lens. The XL1 definitely
looked professional—and very cool.
The Sony DSR-PD150 came online in
early 2000 with some newer technology
that outclassed the XL1. Canon needed a
new XL1 to stay in the game, but had to
keep in mind the plethora of XL1 accessories already out there. The consequent
solution is the XL1s, which looks like a
near clone of the original—and still works
with XL1 add-ons.
But inside, Canon has rerigged the
XL1s with a slew of upgrades, including
enhanced CCD circuitry and new manual
functions. Plus Canon has introduced two
new lenses: a revamped 16x electronic and
an optional 16x mechanical.
The XL1s is Nirvana for manual control buffs. There are so many that even an
experienced user needs some time to get
acquainted with this system. But the controls are grouped logically, so once up to
speed, one can shoot very efficiently.
The XL1s’ six shooting modes are on a
central power dial on the side of the body.
The audio level controls are just back of
the dial, under a door with cutaways—so
you can see your settings but can’t accidentally alter them. An LED stereo sound
level meter is angled for viewability, just
above the dial.
Secondary start/stop, zoom and photo
controls are well-positioned on top of the
unit by the viewfinder, which rotates fully
upward. The VCR playback controls are
nearby under a flip-top in the carry han-
Graphic Exchange
The CANON XL1S’ pixel shift technology: the
green CCD is physically shifted 1⁄2 pixel
horizontally, and the green signal is electronically
shifted 1⁄2 pixel vertically.
dle. And the S-video terminal and such are
under a flip-top at the back of the cam.
Conveniently, a dual function Menu/Iris selector dial sits on a protrusion just
back of the lens; shutter + and - buttons
occupy another face of the protrusion. Just
above are Record Search/Review controls
and a new button for calling up true
SMPTE color bars.
The magnesium alloy body is sturdy
and the controls are well crafted, but the
XL1/XL1s’ rep doesn’t match the PD150’s
for durability.
Like the XL1, the XL1s’ CCDs are still
270,000 pixels (versus the PD150’s
380,000)—an unimpressive stat. Of
course, resolution is only part of what
makes a quality image. Other factors such
as noise ratio have to be accounted for—
and Canon has cleaned up the circuitry by
+4dB, to achieve cleaner shadow detail
and brighter low light images.
The rationale for going with a lower
pixel count is that larger pixels capture
more light. To help compensate for relatively low resolution, the XL1s uses pixel
shift technology. In a nutshell, the green
CCD is physically shifted 1 ⁄2 pixel horizontally from the red and blue CCDs, and
the green signal is electronically shifted 1 ⁄2
pixel vertically. That increases the sampling points—and Canon says the result is
comparable to 410,000 pixel resolution.
The resulting image is softer than the
PD150’s and defaults to more saturated
tones. The desirability of this look is endlessly debated by users of the competing
systems; fans of the look consider it filmlike, non-fans call it “smeary”.
So, is the XL1s now up to par with the
PD150 in low or high contrast light? Not
really. And don’t get me started on the issue of noisy reds…
The original XL1 lens had problems
holding focus through a zoom and many
complained about it—so Canon got rid of
the lens. The new 16x IS II zoom lens (5.5
- 88mm) uses SuperRange optical stabilization, and has a built-in neutral density
filter, plus a Push AF (auto focus) button.
The filter diameter is larger than the
PD150’s: 72mm versus 58mm.
The lens is sharper and quicker to autofocus, doing less hunting than the original.
I suppose one ND filter is better than
none, but this one is frustrating. It’s so
heavy-duty (in the six to nine stop range)
that it’s often useless when you’re trying to
achieve optimum iris/shutter balance.
Like the PD150 lens, the 16x IS II lens
has an undifferentiated zoom ring that rotates infinitely. But now there’s the option
of going with the new, more precise 16x
manual servo zoom lens, which provides
focus, zoom and aperture scales. The
manual lens also has two ND filters, but
no optical stabilization. Take note that it
lists for roughly US$1,900/CDN$3,000.
The downside of the 16x lenses is that
they make the cam front-heavy. The unit
has a flip-down pad at the back that enables you to lean the XL1s on your shoulder—but it’s not a true shoulder mount.
You have to cradle the lens with your hand
while shooting—and working handheld
for extended periods of time can be quite
trying. You can now preset the speed of the
zoom levers on the side grip and handle.
The 180,000 pixel viewfinder, like other color viewfinders, makes critical focusing challenging. Since it’s a module, you
can replace it with the 1.5-inch FU-1000
monochrome viewfinder—but it retails for
about US$1,850/CDN$2,900. Color saturation on the viewfinder image is now adjustable, and you can set it to display no
data, partial data or all data. It doesn’t
make up for the cam’s lack of a flip-out
screen, but the viewfinder’s eye point
switch has a Far setting.
Canon has dumped the four-button
menu setup and revised the internal menu
system; though options have been expanded, the whole menu system is actually
faster and easier to use—nicely done.
Recording formats DVCAM, DV
Image Sensor Three 1/3 inch CCDs, 380,000 pixels ( 340,000 effective pixels)
Lens 12:1 variable speed (1.2-22 sec) zoom lens; f = 6.0 to 72.0 mm; F1.6 to 2.4
Filter diameter
Image Stabilizer
Focusing System
Built-in ND Filters
Shutter Speed
Minimum Illumination
Horizontal Resolution
Video Recording System
Video Signal
Progressive Scan
Interval Recording
Clear Scan
Audio Signal
Flip-out LCD Screen
Zebra Pattern Settings
White Balance
Gain Control
Custom Keys
Custom Presets
Color Bars
Tape Format
Tape Speed
Max. Recording Time
FF/Rewind Time
Memory Card Function
Power Requirements
Power Consumption
Operating Temperature
Street Price
Three 1/3 inch CCDs with Pixel Shift, 270,000 pixels (250,000 effective pixels)
XL interchangeable lens system; supplied: 16ZX IS II zoom lens, f/1.6-2.6,
72mm (XL lens)
SuperRange optical
SteadyShot optical
TTL autofocus, Manual, Push autofocus
Auto/Manual (ring); Infinity; One Push Auto
One filter ( 16ZX IS II zoom lens): approx. 6 to 9 stops
Two filters: 1/4 (2 stops) and 1/32 (4 stops)
1/8 to 1/15,000 seconds
1/4 to 1/10000 seconds
Auto/Manual, AE Shift
Auto/Manual, AE Shift
2 lux (using XL 5.5-88mm lens and slow shutter at 1/8 of a second.); recom2 lux (F1.6)
mended: more than 100 lux
Horizontal resolution info not available; 460 lines playback resolution
530 lines horizontal resolution; 500 lines playback resolution
2 rotary heads, helical scanning system
2 rotary heads, helical scanning system
EIA standard (525 lines, 60 fields), NTSC color signal
EIA Standard, NTSC colour system
Interpolated 30fps
Interval: 30 sec, 1 min, 5 min, 10 min; recording time: 0.5 sec, 1 sec, 1.5 sec, 2 sec Interval: 30 sec, 1 min, 5 min, 10 min; recording time: 0.5 sec, 1 sec, 1.5 sec, 2 sec
61.9Hz to 201.5Hz.
PCM digital sound; 16-bit (48kHz/2ch); 12-bit (32kHz/2 from 4ch); 12-bit (32
Rec: 48 kHz/16-bit, 32 kHz/12-bit; Playback: 48 kHz/16-bit, 32 kHz/12-bit, 32
kHz/4 ch simultaneous)
kHz/16-bit, 44.1 kHz/16-bit
0.7 in., color LCD (approx. 180,000 pixels)
180,000 dot B/W LCD
TFT Active Matrix, 2.5-inch, 200,640 pixels (880 x 228)
80, 85, 90, 95, 100
70, 100
Auto, One-push manual (up to 3 manual settings), Indoor (3200K),
Auto, One-push manual, Outdoor(5800K), Indoor(3200K)
Outdoor (5600K)
-3 dB to +30 dB
0 dB to +18 dB
Two keys each for both Camera and VCR modes
One preset in camera mode, one in memory mode; adjustable items: color level, Three presets; adjustable items: color gain, color phase, sharpness, setup level
sharpness, WB shift, AGC limit
Stereo electret condenser microphone
Mono, short shotgun (ECM-NV1)
MiniDV videocassettes
Mini DVCAM or MiniDV videocassettes
SP: 3/4ips (18.81 mm/s); LP:1/2ips (12.56 mm/s)
Approx. 28.2 mm/s (DVCAM mode), Approx. 18.8 mm/s (DV SP mode)
SP: 60 minutes (60 minute cassette), 80 minutes (80 minute cassette)
40 minutes (DVCAM mode), 60 minutes (DV SP mode, with
PDVM-40ME cassette)
2 min. 20 sec.
Approx. 2 min. 30 sec.
VGA image data, JPEG format
Video terminal: RCA jack1 Vp-p/75 ohms unbalanced,synchronized load
Video IN/OUT: RCA pin x1; Luminance signal: 1Vp-p 75, unbalanced,
sync negative
S-Video terminal: 4 pin mini DIN, 1 Vp-p (Y signal), 0.286 Vp-p (C signal)
S-Video IN/OUT: Mini-DIN 4 pin x1; Luminance signal: 1Vp-p 75, unbalanced;
Chrominance signal: 0.286 Vp-p
Audio IN/OUT: RCA pin x2; 327mV; Output impedance with less than 2.2k; In- Audio Terminal OUT: RCA jack (L,R), 2 sets: 4dBm (47kohms load)/ 3kohms or
less, unbalanced
put impedance with more than 47k
Audio Terminal IN: RCA jack (L,R)2 sets, unbalanced: 11dBV/47kohms (LINE);
Audio IN: XLR 3-pin female, x2 -60dBu, 3k, +4dBu, 10k (0 dBu=0.775Vrms)
35dBV/600 ohms (MIC ATT); 55dBV/600 ohms (MIC)
DV Terminal: Special 4 pin connector (based on IEEE 1394)
DV Terminal: i.LINK (IEEE 1394 spec.) DV IN/OUT, 4-pin x 1
LANC Terminal
LANC Terminal: Stereo mini x 1
Headphone Terminal: 3.5mm stereo mini-jack
Headphone: Stereo mini x 1
External DC IN: 8.4 V (DC-900 DC Coupler)
External DC IN: 8.4 V (AC-L10 AC Adaptor)
7.2 V DC
DC 7.2 V (Battery), DC 8.4 V (AC Adaptor)
While recording AF="ON": 8.7 W (Approx., recording with the AF turned on)
4.7 W using the viewfinder/5.4 W using the LCD
32 - 104º F (0-40º C)
0ºC to 40ºC (32ºF to 104ºF)
8 3/4 x 8 7/16 x 16 5/16 in(223mm x 214mm x 415mm)
WxHxD: 125 x 180 x342 mm (5 x 7 x 13.5 inches); 128 x 180 x 405 mm (5.125 x
7.125 x 16 inches) including microphone
Not including lens and battery pack 3 lbs 11 15/16 oz approx. (1.7 kg); fully
Camcorder only: approx. 1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz)
loaded 6 lbs 4 7/8 oz approx. (2.86 kg)
Kit (w/16x IS II zoom): US$4,200/CDN$6,600; Body only: US$3,300/CDN$5,200
Canon Canada: Telephone 905-795-1111; Web www.canon.ca
Sony of Canada: Telephone 1-800-361-5535; Web www.sony.ca/dvcam
With its pro-style
modular system, plus
the filmic look it
produces, the CANON
XL1S has made serious
inroads with filmmakers
and broadcast-based
producers moving into
MiniDV. For some, the
XL1s’ interchangeable
lens system is its major
and deciding plus.
Audio-wise, the XL1s has 16-bit capabilities comparable to the PD150 and a somewhat better mic (stereo electret condenser), but unfortunately it has no balanced XLR connectors. Canon provides
two add-on ‘solutions’ for this: the MA-100
or MA-200 mic adapter/shoulder pad. Retail prices: about US$180/CDN$300 and
US$325/CDN$500 respectively.
Does this sound familiar? You’re on
standby, setting up a complex shot, and
the cam shuts off before you’re ready to
record—if so, you’ll really like the new
Power Save option. Instead of totally shutting down, the XL1S separates the tape
from the recording head drum after five
minutes, but maintains power to all camera settings and video out feeds.
The XL1S has three recording modes:
Graphic Exchange
standard interlaced video, a photo mode
for recording stills to tape, and a 30-frame
per second Frame mode. The latter is an
interpolated ‘progressive’ scan—essentially, the cam takes the two standard interlaced fields, tosses one out, and then uses
algorithms to interpolate the missing lines.
The XL1s now has Interval Recording
and Clear Scan capabilities. Clear Scan
enables you to eliminate rolling black bars
or flickering when you shoot computer or
TV display screens by adjusting the scanning frequency setting. Adjustments range
from 61.8Hz to 201.5Hz.
Also, you can now access six shooting
(Program AE) modes really quickly by rotating the Power Dial: Green Zone (fully
automatic), Auto, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, and Spotlight. Normally Shutter Priority doesn’t display aperture info, Aperture Priority doesn’t display
shutter info, etc.—but you can call up this
info with the Exposure Lock button.
Like the PD150, the XL1S doesn’t shoot
true 16:9 aspect ratio—it just applies an
electronic anamorphic stretch to the
video, thereby losing resolution. Otherwise, if you want to ‘shoot and protect’ in
the normal 4:3 aspect ratio, it now provides
16:9 Guides.
Advanced image control has been
added to the XL1s via Custom Presets.
You can manually adjust up to four picture
controls: Color, Sharpness, Color Gain
and Set-up level (+/- 6). Then you can assign these settings to one of three custom
presets, configuring the camera for different situations or shooters. Conveniently,
three control buttons are provided for
quickly activating any set.
Since Canon can’t put buttons for
everything on this cam, they’ve provided
two Custom Keys for assigning frequently
used menu functions. The camera mode
possibilities are Index Mark, Zebra Pattern, VCR Stop, On-screen, Data Code,
Audio 1 Input, Audio 2 Input, Zoom Speed
(grip) and Zoom Speed (handle).
Gain Controls range from -3dB to +30
dB, with new +18 and +30 settings; -3dB is
useful, +30 produces mostly noise.
The XL1S now stores up to three manual White Balance settings, which is especially useful if you’re re-visiting differing
setups. And like Gain, the White Balance
settings are accessible with a retractable
Also new: Zebra Pattern levels have
been increased from one to five (100%,
95%, 90%, 85%, 80%); date/time info can
be superimposed on the video image; the
cam now has analog in.
With new DV Control capability, the
XL1s can manage DV devices that employ
the Firewire AV/C protocol—so it can be
connected to a DV hard drive controller
such as FireStore ( www.focusinfo.com/products/firestore) for direct-to-hard drive
The XL1s’ power consumption has
been reduced, but Canon’s long-life batteries are still no match for Sony’s.
Canon’s workaround is to attach an op-
NOTE: Downloadable PDF versions of the Canon XL1s and
Sony DSR-PD150 manuals are available online.
tional CH-910 Dual Battery Charger/Holder and two BP-945 battery packs to the
cam. (An 8-hour Sony NPF-960 battery retails for US$140/CDN$230; a Canon CH910 plus two 3-hour BP-945s retail for
around US$450/CDN$710 total.)
A modern DV cam isn’t just a discreet
unit, it’s part of a digital continuum that
ranges from production to post production
to distribution. All-digital workflows are
producing everything from Internet videos
(that are now the norm on even modest
sites) to feature films.
If there’s a version 2 of the PD150 on its
Around 8:30 a.m. on September 11th, 2001,
Sony isn’t saying. But due this sumJules Naudet turned his camera upward,
and captured the only known video of the mer is the Sony DSR-PDX10. Ostensibly,
first plane striking Tower 1 of the World it’s an upgrade of the PC100, but consider
Trade Center. The experience of 9/11 from these stats: 1/4.7 inch HAD CCDs
the inside, shot by Jules Naudet and his (1,070,000 pixels gross), 530 lines of horibrother Gedeon, became the extraordinary zontal resolution, 12x optical zoom, DVCBS documentary called 9/11. It was shot CAM and DV format recording capability,
with PD150s ( www.cbs.com/primetime/- a Memory Stick media slot, i.LINK IEEE
1394 DV interface—kinda sounds like a
But if you watch TV, you’ve seen lots of PD150. Consider further: MPEG recording to Memory Stick media, 1152 x 864 dot
footage shot with this cam.
Last year, director David Lynch (Twin still capture, web still image transfer, plus
Peaks, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive) shot streaming of live video and VTR playback
a Sony PlayStation2 commercial (www.Pix- (motion JPEG) via its USB port. The list
elMonger.com/screeningroom.html) with a price is US$2,900/CDN$4,400.
To get the cinema look, 30-frame per
PD150. Interestingly, the commercial has a
filmic look, something that’s commonly second progressive is what you shoot when
associated with the XL1s. (Check out you can’t afford 24-fps progressive. That
could change this September when
Panasonic delivers the AG-DVX100
24P DV Cinema Camera, which is
supposed to capture 24-fps progressive in mini-DV format. The AGDVX100 uses 1/3-inch 410,000-pixel
progressive-scan CCDs, sports a LeIn the DIGITAL continuum: the Panasonic AG-DVX100 24P DV
ica Dicomar lens with a wide field
Cinema Camera and the web capable Sony DSR-PDX10
of view (f3.25 to 325mm) and inwww.PixelMonger.com/art_PS2.html for de- cludes 2-channel XLR inputs with phantails on how the cam profile was tweaked tom power supply (48V). The list price is
to get the look.)
Did you by chance pick up the latest
Back to the Canon XL1s and the Sony
XL1 footage.
Think you might see Full Frontal DSR-PD150: there’s much to like designwise about the XL1s. And with its pro-style
(www.apple.com/hotnews/articles/2002/04/fullfrontal), the sequel to sex, lies & video- modular system, plus the filmic look it
tape? Director Steven Soderburgh produces, the XL1s has made serious in(Ocean’s Eleven, Traffic, Erin Brockovich) roads with filmmakers and broadcast-based
shot it all with a “bare bones” Canon XL1s producers moving into MiniDV. For
(PAL version). Why? Because the Canon some, the Canon XL1s’ interchangeable
XL1s “allowed him a freedom he hadn’t lens system is its major and deciding plus.
The new 16x Mechanical Servo Zoom
experienced before.”
Lens, with calibrated manual focus and
calibrated power zoom, may be reason
enough to go with the XL1s. Then there’s
Clear Scan.
But I prefer the PD150. First of all, I
don’t buy the notion that pixel shift interpolation fully compensates for the XL1s’
lower resolution. The XL1s image does not
equal the PD150’s sharper, higher resolution image. And though Canon has
cleaned up the XL1s’ circuitry, when it
comes to the crunch the PD150 still outperforms the XL1s in the dark and in high
contrast light.
You may usually shoot on manual, but
there’s nothing like good auto functions
for reference and quick setup. Some of the
PD150’s auto capabilities, like autofocus
and white balance, exceed the XL1s’.
The PD150 is lighter, more compact,
and has a flip-out LCD screen—consequently it’s far more versatile than the
XL1s, and you can shoot from pretty well
any position conceivable. Just attach a
monopod, and you can use the PD150 like
a steadicam; or simply stick it on a sound
boom, and so on. Plus, if need be, you can
run a hell of a lot faster with this cam.
The PD150 does not not draw attention, nor intimidate—you can get it into
places that are otherwise verboten to the
media. It’s less liable to be confiscated in
nasty political situations, and people talk
more freely in front of this cam.
If you need to rent more PD150s for a
multi-camera shoot, just about every rental
place and video coop has them. Not so for
the XL1s.
Also, DVCAM has a track pitch of 15
microns versus DV’s 10 microns; DVCAM
tape has a better carrier-to-noise ratio and
experiences fewer dropouts. The PD150
shoots DVCAM as well as MiniDV.
And how about aesthetics? Well, I figure the Sony DSR-PSD150 opens up a
wellspring of creativity like few other camcorders available today.
Peter Dudar is a creative director and videographer/filmmaker working in Toronto who may be
contacted at pdudar@rogers.com.
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