Sony refreshes HDV line- HVR-S270U and HVR-Z7U

sonyhdvnew1.jpgAs reported on Frank’s Thoughts on HDV, Sony finally applied model numbers and statistics to the new professional HDV camcorders introduced at IBC 2007.

Moreover, several previously unannounced features and accessories were also revealed: especially the tiny, external Compact Flash recorder which puts DV / DVCAM/ HDV data from the camcorder directly onto flash media. Also displayed are the “Alpha” lens adapter and information about optional interchangeable lenses for the 1/3″ chip camcorder and more…

Information and images from the European and Japanese announcements reveals:

Compact Flash (left) and (right) in Figure MEMORIREKODINGUYUNITTO: MEMORIREKODINGUYUNITTO seated at the HVR - S270J, right Figure: MEMORIREKODINGUYUNITTO seated in the HVR - Z7J.

The Next Generation of HDV Production

Basingstoke, UK November 14th 2007– Sony today announced the latest generation of HDV™ production technologies includes two new camcorders that feature interchangeable lensprogressive recording capabilities, increased sensitivity for low-light conditions, hybrid solid-state recording and an array of other features designed for general TV production, videographers, budget movie-makers and corporate video production professionals.

The HVR-Z7E handheld HDV camcorder



The HVR-S270E on-shoulder HDV camcorder



The HVR-MRC1 solid-state recorder
supplied with the camcorders


The HVr-M35E HDV recorder / player


These flagship professional HDV products expand Sony’s line-up of HD production technologies, which includes the recently introduced PMW-EX1 XDCAM EX solid-state memory camera and the soon-to-be-available HVR-HD1000E shoulder-mount HDV camcorder.

hd1ports.jpgWhat’s interesting is that the HVR-HD1000 (u) is mentioned here. After numerous pictures and hands-on with the camcorder at a Sony press event in NYC, it looked like the MemoryStick slot (shown to the right) in that camcorder was for stills only, not for the recording of video- and certainly not HDV video as MemoryStick cards are not big or fast enough.

The new camcorders use Sony’s new 1/3-inch 3 ClearVid CMOS Sensor™ system enhanced by the technology of Exmor™. With its 45-degree rotated pixel layout, the 3 ClearVid CMOS Sensor system offers sufficient pixel surface area while it keeps high resolution. The technology of Exmor features a unique column-parallel analog-to-digital conversion technique and dual noise canceling, resulting in high quality digital signals with extremely low noise, similar to the imaging technology used in the PMW-EX1 camera.

Either Sony is now touting and branding their specific technologies, or these are new technologies indeed- features not found on the V1U-series camcorders. The V1U series were considerably less light sensitive than the FX1/Z1U series CCD-based camcorders and those were considerably less sensitive than the PD170/V2100 series SD camcorders.

The integration of the two new technologies allows the new camcorders to perform significantly better in low-light environments with sensitivity of 1.5 lux.*

This imaging technology is complemented by Sony’s Enhanced Imaging Processor™ (EIP) system to achieve high resolution, high sensitivity, wide dynamic range, and excellent colour reproduction.

sonyhdvnew1.jpgThe cameras’ shooting flexibility is further increased through the ability to attach different lenses. Both models are equipped with a universal standard 1/3-inch bayonet mount mechanism to make lens changes faster and easier. Each camcorder comes standard with a 12x high-quality, multi-purpose Carl Zeiss lens for HD video, with a Vario-Sonnar™ T* coating to reduce reflections. A specially designed 8x wide-angle lens is also available as an option, to suit a diverse range of shooting requirements.

I know many Canon XL-series camcorder owners who love heir camcorder specifically because of this feature. Even though far fewer actually own several lenses and often move between them based on situation, at least it offers the future capability. The smaller S270 camcorder looks to take a serious bite out of that market. Canon has the upper hand, however, with about a bazillion more lense options than Sony.

These two newly designed lenses give Sony’s two new professional HDV camcorders the same functionality as popular fixed-lens camcorders like the HVR-Z1E and HVR-V1E, thanks to built-in features such as auto-focus, optical stabilizer, and automatic back-focus adjustment. Natural-touch lens operation is available by the improved design of the focus, zoom and iris rings. The new focus ring offers two types of manual focus, plus an auto focus mode that can be easily switched by sliding the focus ring forward or backward. The zoom ring has gearwheel mechanism and the iris ring now encircles the lens barrel.

It is also possible to use the α lens series designed for Sony Digital SLR stills cameras with a special adaptor.

Again, taking a page out of the Canon XL-series playbook. Of course, this wasn’t possible before because Sony didn’t have a SLR camera business. It was only with the recent acquisition of Konika-Minolta‘s “Digital Maxxum” line that became Sony’s Alpha, did this become an option. As with Canon, it is good for a manufacturer to enable the user to leverage the gear they buy in as many ways as possible. It makes it a much more attractive solution to first-time gear buyers.

The camcorders offer 1080/50i and 25p native progressive recording capabilities. The 3 ClearVid CMOS Sensor system and EIP technology create true 1080p images, which can then be recorded as progressive signals by the HVR-Z7E and HVR-S270E camcorders in the HDV format. The progressive HDV streams can be output from an i.LINK connector and used for progressive editing with compatible NLE software.

Remember that these figures come from the European Press Release. It is interesting that the European camcorders are not 60i and 24p capable as well. We can expect that the American camcorders will do 60i and 24p, but will they also do the European standards- like the HDV camcorders that came before them. In that case, it might make sense that the US models with more frame rate capability would be the smarter purchase.

UPDATE: the US press release notes: “The camcorders offer 1080, 24p and 30p native progressive recording.” So it looks like we’re back to limiting the capabilities of the camcorders. (I wonder if any of the iPhone hackers can work on camcorders…) Thankfully- the deck handles everything.

z7e.jpgThe HVR-Z7E and HVR-S270E can switch between 1080p, 1080i in the HDV format, DVCAM, and DV recording, and both can down-convert material from HD to SD, and output the video signals through its i.LINK interface and other SD output connectors. The HVR-Z7E has an HDMI output. The HVR-S270E is available with HD-SDI or SD-SDI connectivity, and also supports embedded audio and timecode.

The HVR-Z7E and HVR-S270E are equipped with new XtraFine™ LCD and XtraFine EVF which offer high-resolution and high-contrast images with remarkable colour reproduction. The HVR-S270E features a new LCD/EVF configuration called “Dual Finder”. The LCD located on the EVF enables multiple styles of operation.

Hopefully this is improved over the viewfinder on the HVR-HD1000u, which I found to be lacking. The LCD was very small compared to the 3.5″ LCDs we have come to expect on Sony HDV camcorders. The Viewfinder was not a high enough resolution to provide reasonably accurate imaging of HD video material.

The new camcorders offer the option of hybrid recording when using a supplied memory-recording unit, which attaches directly to the back of the HVR-Z7E or the side of the HVR-S270E and eliminates the need for cables. The unit automatically synchronizes with the recording action of the camcorder and a special shoe connector inputs and outputs an HDV/DV stream and supplies power to the unit.

ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. I recently wrote about the lack of solutions in this realm and the fact that the flash media recorder has its own connector means that the Firewire remains free, the SDI remains free to connect to other peripherals.

hvr-dr60w.jpgIt looks like you could use the flash media recorder, the HVR-DR60 external Firewire-based hard drive recorder, AND also record to tape- all the while sending out an uncompressed (not HDV) 1080 HD signal from the HD-SDI spigot. I don’t know of another camcorder, or single manufacturer that offers the ability to record to three separate formats at the same time- let alone do it so easily!

You can get a 16g Sandisk Extreme III card right now for $300.
That’s 20 MBps read and write speeds. Far above the needed 3.6 MBps.
Compare this to the $900 price for a 16g P2 card or $530 for an 8g SxS card. Puulleease. I really have to hand it to whomever at Sony made the decision to use non-proprietary flash media here. Kudos!

s270wflash.jpgThe Japanese site has the photo that shows how the flash media recorder connects to the right side of the camcorder, right behind the hand grip. This looks like very good placement and I would expect that Sony has it so it gets screwed down into place so it will stay firmly anchored on the camcorder when you put it in the camera bag.

It also leaves plenty of other camera body real estate available for wireless microphone receivers and other accessories. Get out your Velcro!

Once you learn the placement of the various buttons, I bet pros will be operating the flash recorder by touch, with their right hand, while the camcorder is on their shoulder.

This unit captures the HDV1080i, DVCAM, or DV stream output from the camcorder and allows users to record HDV/DVCAM/DV files to a standard CompactFlash® solid-state memory card, while users are simultaneously recording to tape.

mrc1.jpgIt will be compatible with Sony’s Professional 300x CompactFlash card as well as standard CompactFlash cards (2GB minimum capacity, 133x minimum speed) for secure recording, high-speed access, large data capacity, removable media convenience, and resistance to vibrations. The recording times on an 8 and 16 GB CompactFlash card in HDV, DVCAM and DV format are approximately 36 and 72 minutes, respectively.

The HVR-Z7E can deliver more than 60 minutes of recordis270big.jpgng time on miniDV videotapes, and approximate recording times of 63 minutes** with Sony’s DigitalMaster cassettes (PHDVM-63DM). The HVR-S270E also accepts standard-size cassettes to provide more than 4.5 hours of continuous recording, with approximate recording times of 4 hours, 36 minutes** on Sony PHDV-276DM videotapes.

This will be the first HDV camcorder to use full-size cassettes. In essence, it is the HDV version of the DSR-250 with many, many improvements. I work many events where a 60-minute record time is simply not acceptable. Short of spending thousands more on external hard drive solutions, the ability to record for more than 4.5 hours without stopping is going to be reason alone for people to purchase this camcorder. s270aud.jpgThere is no other HD camcorder, especially under $10,000, that comes close to this.

Then add the tri-format recording capability. HD-SDI output for studio use.

Add four channels of audio recording in the camcorder. I tried to blow up the image on the web of the camcorder’s four audio level controls. (click the image to the right for a closer look!) There hasn’t been a single camcorder till now that offered this capability- despite the fact that four channels of audio is in the HDV specification.

The HVR-M35E record and playback deck is compatible with HDV native progressive recording modes and supports HD/SD-SDI output with embedded audio and timecode data. The deck’s HD/SD-SDI output capability allows it to interface with other systems requiring HD/SD-SDI compatibility. It has a 50i/60i switchable function, and supports HDV1080i (50i/60i/24p/30p/25p) and DVCAM/DV (50i/60i).

m35e.jpgThe deck supports standard- and mini-size cassette, and accepts standard cassettes shot on the HVR-S270E or other shoulder-mount DVCAM camcorders. It can play back four-channel audio data in HDV1080i format recorded by the HVR-S270E, and it can also play back four-channel audio data in the DVCAM format. It also includes a 2.7-inch wide Clear Photo LCD plus™ screen, monaural speaker, edge crop adjust and a Duplicate Plus function for copying video and audio from another VTR.

The new products are each planned to be available in February.

*At 1/25 shutter, auto iris and auto gain
**In HDV format


Studio Daily has US pricing information…

HVR-S270U $10,500
HVR-S7U $6,850
HVR-M35U $5,540

…as well as some odd thoughts and quotes, like this:

Why is it a shoulder-mount camera? There’s still the obvious perception issue: a guy with a big camera on his shoulder looks more like a serious shooter to some people than the guy running around with the Handycam…

It’s quotes like this that make me think that the people writing or speaking have not tried to shoot for 4+ hours with these camcorders. Today, there is less of a perception issue of bigger is better than yesteryear. In fact, small, covert camcorders are often preferred. Like this recent discussion on FreshDV:

Where did the focus on “unobtrusive” come from in the wedding/event world? How does a “cinematographer” balance that with crafting a story…polerig.jpg

Handholding any of these smaller HDV camcorders just plain hurts after a few hours. You could get some wonky rig to try and redistribute the weight on your shoulder, your hand and your waist… But if anything makes you look amateurish and “I don’t do this enough to be able to hold this camera for very long,” or “This isn’t my real job,” it’s a bunch of rods and tubes holding up your camcorder for you.

I’ve never seen local TV news stringers- you know, the kind of people that do this for a living- rigged up with some 4-part harness to hold their camera for them.

On-shoulder camcorders, when balanced, can be wielded for hours with much less fatigue- creating better footage for your clients. This is the primary factor for those who choose on-shoulder versions when alternatives are available. Also, in many cases, Pro cameras are just big. That’s just they way they are. If you want to fit in a full-size tape mechanism, you are just going to need a big enclosure to encompass it.

(From left) HDV camcorder, HVR - Z7J, HDV camcorder, HVR - S270J, MEMORIREKODINGUYUNITTO (The HVR - Z7J, the HVR - S270J, which supplied), the recorder HDV HVR - M35J.

Thanks again to Frank for his thoroughness.
Here’s a list of available and impending accessories:

New Accessories
Wide Zoom Carl Zeiss Lens
VCL-308BWH (for HVR-Z7E) (available in June 2008)
VCL-308BWS (for HVR-S270E) (available in June 2008)

α lens adaptor, LA-100W
LA-100W (available in June 2008)

CompactFlash Card
NCFD16GP 16GB 306x CompactFlash Card (available in April 2008)
NCFD8GP 8GB 306x CompactFlash Card

VCT-SP1BP Camcorder Support (for the HVR-Z7E)
Weight support for stable/comfortable shooting
Support for several shooting styles (e.g., high-angle shooting)
Quick-release function from harness for excellent mobility
Perfect design for a camcorder Monopod
Carbon shaft for light weight and rigid design

RM-1BP Remote Controller supplied as standard

AC-VQL1BP AC Adaptor Charger (for the HVR-Z7E)
Four-slot battery charger (one pair of parallel chargers)
Two selectable charging modes (Normal/Full)
Charging information:
Remaining time to charge complete
Current available time for shooting
Battery Log information
Total charge time
Total charge cycle
Last operation date

SH-L32WBP LCD Hood (for the HVR-Z7E/S270E)
LCD hood for 3.2-inch LCD monitor
Adjustable shade (360°shade)
Folding design provides compact portability while attached to camcorder

HVL-LBP LED Battery Video Light (HVR-Z7E/S270E)
LED reliability and low power consumption of 16W
Battery power from NP-F770/F970
Wide compatibility for flexible installation (cold shoe/screw bolt/screw hole)
Ideal for wide-angle shooting and interviews
Spot (600 lux @ 1m) or flood-lighting (300 lux @ 1m) with attached condensing lens ON or OFF
Light diffuser attached to soften shadows and reduce contrast
Long operating time: approximately 3 hours with the NP-F970
(at maximum brightness)

If these products are at the GV Expo in Washing DC this week, you can expect detailed photos and information.

Click the RSS Link so you won’t miss a detail.


18 Responses to “Sony refreshes HDV line- HVR-S270U and HVR-Z7U”

  1. 1 ajay
    November 17, 2007 at 5:07 am

    Is it really that hard to create a 2/3 chip camera with interchangeble lenses that can record to a widely used flash media for under 10k? I would love to see anycamera manufacturer step up and fill that void

  2. November 17, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Yes it is that hard. One of the biggest costs (aside from R&D) is the imaging chips. Camcorders with three 2/3″ imagers (tube or CCD) have primarily been broadcast. That level of gear has typically been $20,000 and up. The market for that level of camera is decreasing as more and more production uses “off the shelf” prosumer and even consumer camcorders. With a dwindling market, there is no reason for any manufacturer to waste valuable R&D to make expensive camcorders with larger imaging chips.

    If chip size is that important to you, then look at some of the fastest DSLR cameras. Very large single chip (you didn’t say three chips, frame rates approaching 24p, recording to numerous flash media, and a wide selection of interchangeable lenses.

  3. November 17, 2007 at 10:28 pm

    I find it incredibly funny that a segment of my comment from FreshDV was placed here under a name that is very similar to mine.

    Is it really that hard? Sony offers 1/2 chip in the EX1. Interchangeble lenses & compact flash recording in these new cameras. Besides the S270, there are priced for under 10k. Is it that far off to expect that the EX1, for example, could have an interchangeble lens option for another 2k? Not to me.

    1/2 chip to 2/3 chip is a big step in terms of production cost (not sure about R&D, since they seem to have every technology already in place to deal with it). But let us not get carried away, shall we?

    The prices are reflective of what Sony believe they can get for the products. People aren’t knocking down doors for these options. I sure wish they would.

  4. November 17, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    As for knocking down the doors… I think Sony has really provided a slew of incredible features at a very nice price point with these latest HDV camcorders. There will always be people who demand more. And for those people there is RED, Genesis, and Silicon Imaging. Higher end options are available- at higher end prices.

  5. 5 jose yactayo
    December 4, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    does anybody know if this new model’s (Z7)compression rate is 4:2:2 or 4:1:1 ?

  6. December 4, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    These are HDV camcorders. They follow the HDV spec and use MPEG-2, giving us a 4:2:0 color space in HDV. This is not so bad because it matches the 4:2:0 DVD color space, as opposed to DV which is 4:1:1 and, mathematically, when you get to DVD from DV you have 4:1:0.

  7. 7 paul
    December 31, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    Is it Genlockable?

  8. January 1, 2008 at 8:38 am

    The big camera has a Genlock port. The small camera lacks a dedicated jack for genlock, but Sony indicated some sort of bi-directional SDI genlock. I don’t know the specifics on this. It might enable single-cable hookup if it were true.

  9. February 15, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Here’s the link to the first hand-on review of the Sony Z7U that I posted on VU.

  10. March 5, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Hello I just picked up the z7u. I like it so far, even though i havent had a chance to use it on a hob. One dumb question. If I shot HDV mode. then want to capture the footgae, do I use teh Firewire cable like I do now with my PD170 footage? does it degrade anythink.. is the iLink cable different, or it basicaly a fire wire cable with a bigger end.

  11. March 6, 2008 at 12:19 am

    HDV is the same data rate as DV. That’s how it uses the same tape and mechanism. If your editing program supports HDV natively, then the ingest process is the same. If your program needs a transcode (like iMovie does) then the computer will take in HDV but convert it to something else to edit with.

    The physical cable has not changed. It’s the same 6-pin or 4-pin cable we’ve had for well over a decade.


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