Stepping Up with Sony's HVR-Z5U
A B&H Roundup
By David Speranza
Sony likes to release its higher-end camcorders in twos, so it was no surprise when last September's announcement of the prosumer HDR-FX1000 included specs on the pro-level HVR-Z5U. These two HDV cameras are nearly identical in terms of build and imaging, but the Z5U offers some important step-ups for professional shooters. The most significant are dual XLR audio, native progressive 24p/30p, DVCAM recording, SMPTE timecode support, and full docking ability with Sony's new HVR-MRC1K compact flash recorder.
But let's review the similarities. In our hands-on look at the HDR-FX1000, we noted all the great new features and improvements Sony brought to its replacement of the prosumer HDR-FX1. Those same upgrades apply to the HVR-Z5U, which we were also lucky enough to spend some face-time with prior to its official December release.
Like the FX1000, the Z5U has Sony's new G-Series 20x wide-angle lens (72mm filter), three Exmor-enhanced 1/3" CMOS sensors (1120k pixels apiece), low-light sensitivity down to 1.5 lux, dedicated zoom/focus/iris rings, three built-in ND filters, and the same Xtra Fine 3.2" LCD screen found on the flagship HVR-Z7U (with an outstanding 921K pixels of resolution). Both cameras also shoot in 24p/30p progressive modes to produce a more cinematic look, but where the FX1000 uses what Sony calls "progressive scan," the Z5U also offers native progressive mode. (The difference, as will be explained later, is less about image quality than how that image is recorded and edited.) One feature not previously mentioned is the 1.5x digital extender, which extends the zoom range to 30x with a minimal loss of quality.
Limited to a preproduction model for this review, we were unable to shoot actual footage to test out the camera's specs against real-world results. But there was more than enough in the Z5U's build and control set to determine what makes it different from its prosumer sibling.
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