The Camera And Settings
Before I move on to the field test, I think it is pertinent to talk about the camera and the settings available and what was used on the test. I tested the NTSC version of the HVR-V1U, which allows 24P, 30P and 60i recording in 1080. For most of the test, I used 30P, knowing full well it demanded a little more light to get a good picture. However, the detail gain from the P-scan frame is worth the trade off plus the ability to use 1/30 shutter speed for low light without too much strobic effect. With 30P, I also had more frames to use in slow motion sequences and for high action like baitballs. 24P would’ve been difficult to avoid strobic effects.
I’ll forgo the full review as Adam Wilt has done a great job here. I did do a comparison test with a printed resolution chart just to see if there are any differences with the ports and without. There was no significant drop in resolution (there is a slight drop) but the flip filter did make it drop a little more. The plastic filters are known to increase birefringence as well.
In setting up the camera, the Endeavor allowed the use of custom Picture Profiles which allows more image control. My camera and PP settings were as follows and explanations follow on my choices:
Format: 1080 30P
Focus Macro: ON
AE Shift: -1
AE Response: FAST
AT Iris Lmt: F5.6
Gain Lmt: 6db
Quick Rec: ON
Display/Batt Info: Detailed
Letter Size: 2x
Custom Picture Profile Settings:
• Color Level: +3
• Sharpness: 5
• Knee Point: low or high
• Blk Compnstn: Stretch
Blk Compnstn was on Stretch, to bring up the colors. SteadyShot was never designed for underwater. I experimented with the Wide Converter setting and it still moved a bit when the background got busy with fish. Since there was something on the lens port like a bubble or dirt, I knew it wasn’t me causing the movement. Focus Macro was on because with the 94° lens, it’s focusing on a virtual image and having the added length when zoomed didn’t hurt at all.
I shoot auto AE sometimes and find Sony cameras tend to overexpose; as a precaution, AE shift was at -1. Pulling it back a bit made for better pictures in my opinion. Another reason is that Sony tends to use shutter speed to control exposure in auto shutter mode, either over or under cranking it down to 1/30 which makes panning fast to follow a subject harder. This is definitely a personal taste setting.
With digital video cameras being just 9x cropped sensor cameras in 35mm, the diffraction at high f-stop values is noticeable. That’s why the maximum on all video cameras is F11 or less. Due to the diffraction issue (which isn’t a major thing but I like to have things at the optimum for the test) I limited iris to F5.6 because there was no choice for f8. It was f4, 5.6 or 11. I can see the difference between f5.6 and 11 (being the closet pixel-peeper I am) so I stuck with 5.6 as the limit and often used manual shutter mode to control exposure. In retrospect, I think leaving it at f11 would’ve been better with the lack of ND controls on the housing.
The histogram is the only way to accurately gauge exposure with the HD monitor, since zebra isn’t available. Marker Settings has to be off to show camera info display. Quick Rec allows the camera to record images faster to tape. The only caveat is for those who shoot with transitions on camera and don’t intend to edit on a NLE. The tape roll isn’t smooth and so your last scene may not be where you think you stopped on the tape. The Display/Batt Info should be set at Detailed so you have all the settings in front of you. Letter size at 2x is just easier to see on the screen.
Custom Picture Profile Settings
HDV, being 4:2:0, is flatter and lacks color, so a little boost in Color Level helps. Most post production types will shriek in horror at that but I like the look. The sharpness setting of 3-5 improves the detail level without too much anti-aliasing. With the conditions I was diving in, low knee was crucial in controlling highlights. But when the situation called for, a high low was more useful too. Hence the need for 2 PP profiles since that is the only way to access knee control. For general underwater shooting, I think Medium gives the best picture though.
I must STRONGLY stress that most of these settings are personal and everyone MUST experiment to get the image they like. The V1U does a decent job of customizing images. For those interested in shooting 24P, there are 2 modes, 24P and 24Pa(24PA is not in the earlier printed or PDF manuals). Basically both are stored in the 60i data line on tape, but 24Pa mode stores an A frame for NLEs to recognize cadence for 24P. 24P mode does not sync to timecode or the start of the clip. Check with your NLE on which one it supports as it may not work without some updates.
Continue on to the next page for the “Field Test”....