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Review: Sony HVR-Z7 & HVR-S270 1/3” 3-CMOS HDV camcorders

Sony gets serious about HDV with two fine cameras based on the same core components.

By Adam Wilt | May 21, 2008


The shoulder-mount S270 (left) and the handheld Z7 (right) share the same innards.


The HVR-Z7 and HVR-S270 camcorders take Sony's commitment to the HDV format to the next level. Both are based on the same core technology: three 1/3" ClearVid CMOS sensors viewing the world behind interchangeable lenses. The cameras share the same EVF and LCD panels, the same microphones, the same rich feature sets (including CF card recording, and both interlaced and true progressive HDV modes), and the same fundamental performance, but they're packaged very differently. The Z7 is a svelte Handycam, while the S270 is a no-excuses shoulder-mount camcorder, bristling with dedicated buttons and switches, full-sized BNC connectors, large-cassette capability, and four channels of audio recording—a first for HDV.

The US$6,850 (list) HVR-Z7 weighs about 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg) in shooting configuration, a bit heavier than an HVR-V1 or HVR-Z1 but lighter than an HVX200 or PMW-EX1. It's a compact and well-balanced package.

The $10,500 (list) HVR-S270 weighs in at around 15 pounds (6.8 kg)—no Handycam this, but a solid, hefty unit that feels instantly familiar to shooters used to DSR-300/400/500-series units or other, similar shoulder-mount camcorders.


HVR-S720 (above left) and HVR-Z7 (lower right)


Because the core camera is the same for both models, I'm reviewing them together. Let's start with a summary listing of similarities and differences, then look at the two cameras in more detail.

Similarities



  • 3x 1/3" ClearVid EXMOR CMOS sensors, with Enhanced Image Processing

  • Sensors use 1440x810 diagonally-arrayed photosites

  • ISO 400 @ 0dB gain: comparable to EX1 in 1080p modes, slightly faster than HVX200, faster still than the HVR-Z1, much faster than the HVR-V1

  • Interchangeable lenses; accepts any 1/3" lens. Adapters available for B4-mount lenses as well as Sony Alpha DSLR lenses.
  • 12x stock Zeiss lens, 4.4mm-52.8mm, with mechanical zoom and dual-mode auto/manual focus (like the EX1's lens) and free-spinning servo iris ring

  • HDV, DV, and DVCAM recording on tape and/or CF cards (using included HVR-MRC1 recorder)

  • Standard 1080i HDV recording as well as new, true 30p and 24p recording modes (US models)

  • Same menu options; same range of special functions

  • Same EVF panel (though differently housed), same flip-out LCD

  • Six-pin i.Link (FireWire, IEEE1394) connector



Differences


HVR-Z7



  • $6,850 list, under $5,700 street price

  • Handycam form factor; 5.5 lbs

  • Stock lens has rear-mounted handgrip, for centered, balanced handholding

  • Two channels of audio with two XLR inputs

  • HDMI output

  • Proprietary multipin connectors for component, composite, Y/C, and audio outputs; cables provided (except for Y/C).

  • MiniDV cassette for 1 hour of DV / HDV recording (40 minutes of DVCAM)

  • Many operations accessible only through menus

  • 7.2 volt InfoLithium battery system compatible with other recent Handycam batteries.

  • AC adapter/charger, NP-F570 battery included



HVR-S270



  • $10,500 list, under $9,000 street price

  • Shoulder-mount form factor; 15 lbs

  • Stock lens has centered handgrip, for shoulder-mounted operations

  • Four channels of audio (unique to this camera and the M35 HDV VTR) with four XLR inputs

  • HD-SDI output

  • All A/V connectors use standard BNC or RCA connectors; no special cables needed

  • Timecode output

  • MiniDV or standard DV cassette compatibility, for up to 4.5 hours of DV/HDV recording

  • More functions directly accessible through switches and buttons, without diving into menus

  • 12V power; 4-pin DC-IN connector and V-mount connector for batteries and power supplies compatible with other professional cameras

  • AC adapter/charger, battery, and tripod quick-release plate NOT supplied!




The big one is the HVR-S720; the HVR-Z7 is half the bulk


Next: Common Elements

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Comments

stephen v2: | May, 22, 2008

Great review, as always Adam. Your reviews of cameras have always been the gold standard for me covering both form, function, format and performance at the level of detail yet with the clarity to understand exactly what you are seeing.

Of course, I’m still tempted stay on on the fence due to limits of 1/3” sensors with 1080p images. I still only own a well-loved DVX100a (which often gets uprezzed to 720p for unsuspecting folks) and still borrowing renting higher rez cameras these days (including the Red One on a recent shoot).

Scarlet, on paper, sounds like the perfect cam but I wonder if a mass-market, ready to shoot & edit mass market camera will prove harder for Red than the Red One to actually deliver.

Maarten Toner: | May, 27, 2008

Thanks for this extended review, will need to test it out and see how it compares to the EX1 in real world. One of the things I really like about these cams is: they solve the backup issues I have with P2 and SxS. Just shoot to tape for later and edit from the CF card. Shame there is no 60FPS option in HDV.

Burn-E: | January, 08, 2010

“[true progressive] formats are not backwards-compatible with older gear (currently, only the Z7, S270, and the M35 VTR can read them)”—Adam, I think you should clarify that these Native Progressive formats are identical to Canon’s “F” format (only in HDV mode, of course). While Canon uses interlaced sensors, and Sony uses progressive sensors, what is recorded to tape has the same format. You might ask around, as you are probably familiar with engineers in these two companies. I suppose that Canon proposed to add native progressive format to HDV 1080i spec, but Sony snatched a cool name for it. Again, there are numerous reports on the Web that these formats are fully compatible.

Adam Wilt: | January, 12, 2010

Burn-E: Sony’s true progressive formats may indeed be the same as Canon’s, but I had no direct experience with their compatibility, so it wasn’t my place to expatiate thereon. It is true, as you say, that there are now numerous reports on the web about this (there wasn’t that much info a year and a half ago when I wrote the review), however it would be redundant for me to mention this now, since you have already done so!  [grin]

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