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Matt Dunn

A1/HC3/FX1 Questions from a Beginner

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Hi folks. I am looking to get into videography and will most likely be using the system in local waters (off Boston, MA). An average dive will probably be 80-120 feet with little ambient light, and anywhere from 5-25 feet of visibility.

 

My question(s) - please feel free to treat me as if I know nothing. You won't be far off at all. :D

 

1) In general, if I am looking for a camera that will grow with me as I become more proficient but that will not totally break the bank, which among the A1/HC3/FX1 would you recommend. If you would recommend another camera, why?

 

2) In low-light situations, will proper lighting be sufficient to overcome the low-light problems of a given camera? In other words, given a certain set of money and the need to be able to handle low-light situations, is that money better spent on the camera or on lights?

 

3) Other than this site, what resources would you recommend for someone looking to learn more about HD technology, HD camera technology, etc. Websites? Books? Magazines?

 

4) What questions am I not asking which I should be asking?

 

Thanks in advance to all who respond. I'm not usually this much of a pain in the posterior. I hope to able to contribute in the near future.

 

-Matt

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HI Matt, welcome to WP.

 

1) i would look at the pro version of the HC1 (why can't i ever remember the name of it?) it offers MWB control that is quick and easy to get to. There are several excellent choices in housings out there. THere is a pinned topic about this camera that has a lot of info on there from people when they first started trying it out. This camera is nice and small yet offers plenty of room to grow.

 

2) lights will be very important to you in the waters you are diving. You might want to start a new topic about lights. I am not sure what the consensus is on lights these days. lots of possibilities out there, from housing manufactur lights to tech divers lights like Salvo and Halcyon

 

3) quite a few websites out there give good info. try dvinfo.net for discussions on lots of different areas of video. And don't be shy to post here. Lots of knowledgeable folks around.

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1) Mike means the A1 and I would agree with him.

 

2) Get yourself a good pair of HIDs. Don't know which to recommend at the moment. See what the housing manufacturers recommend first.

 

3) Likewise dvinfo.net. Also there's a book by Douglas Spotted Eagle called "HDV: What you need to know". Maybe you could try that. Also some of the editing software forums are good for HDV experts (e.g. Sony Vegas forum and I expect Final Cut Pro forum).

 

4) Which housing are you going to choose? If you get an A1 then look at Gates or Ikelite for mechanical controls. Amphibico or Light and Motion (and maybe USVH or Sea and Sea) for electronic controls.

 

Nick

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Just to play devil's advocate, it's hard to beat the reduced size and weight of the HC3. Life seems to be a tradeoff. The HC3's white balace is a little harder to get to than the A1u, but HC3 is more compact. -Barrett

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Actually, my biggest concern is "upward mobility" (for lack of a better phrase) vs. technology life-cycle time. In other words, I want to be in a position where I don't outgrow the camera, but I also don't want to over-invest in a camera that isn't going to be useful/supported in a few years.

 

As a for instance, if someone said, (just hypothetically), that it takes a couple of years before you really learn the ins and outs of video cameras and the technology and coincidentally, a couple of years is essentially the lifetime of a camera, I would think I would be far better off purchasing "less" camera and learning. If, on the other hand, the life cycle is a bit longer, I don't want to go cheap and get stuck in something that doesn't allow me to expand my own horizons...

 

Am I making any sense to anyone? :lol:

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Absolutely Matt. So get an A1 :lol:

 

By the way if you get "HDV: What you need to know" make sure you get the 2nd edition. The first edition was rather brief and is a bit outdated now.

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I was told the other day that the A1-U, which is what I am now using, has been discontinued and that Sony will be coming out with a 3 cmos chip cam in the fall. Can anyone confirm this?

Steve B)

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I'd read that the FX1 had been discontinued, but that's the first that I've heard that the A1 has been. I've even read somewhere that the HC3 had been discontinued and that was only a month or so after it's release!! Too many rumours out there and not enough fact IMO.

 

Cheers, Simon

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Digital devices improve rapidly and as a result tend to be discontinued often. What doesn't change often is the format. (8mm, Hi8mm, miniDV, HDV) Formats seem to hang around 5-10 years. Format changes cause editing, storage, and compatibility issues.

 

timeline_graphic.gif

 

I wouldn't get all that excited about particular cameras being discontinued. (Unless, you're a housing manufacturer, of course!) The differences b/t camera iterations are generally quite small. (PC100 through PC1000, VX2000 vs. VX2100, V900 vs. V950).

 

For uw you interface more with the housing than the camera so you are better off first picking a housing then picking the best available camera to go into that housing.

 

regarding the FX1: We shall only see what will soon be.

 

:lol: Barrett

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I myself emailed the great Chuck Nicklin about the FX1/A1U debate, and not only did he give two enthusiastic thumbs up to the A1U, he's also a big fan of L&M's housing for it.

 

I'm looking to make the jump to HDV in the next month or two, and I'm more than a little bummed that Sony's already discontinued several cameras (if that rumor is true.). Looks like the Z1 is becoming one of the only high-end options...might even see what that 3CMOS chip camera is all about...anyone know?

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I am really happy with my Z1U with L&M Bluefin HD housing. The size of this setup (including dual 50W HID lights) does however in my opinion become optimally useful when attached to a scooter. To swim with a big unit like this in strong currents can sometimes be somewhat challenging. It does however produce amazingly good video.

 

post-2380-1153202091_thumb.jpg

 

 

A smaller setup as a second unit would be nice, especially when travelling. This may be an option as soon as the wallet permits... :guiness:

 

Anders

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Plenty of wear on the lens-guard there Anders. How is the surface of the lens itself holding up?

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Plenty of wear on the lens-guard there Anders. How is the surface of the lens itself holding up?

 

 

Hi Nick,

 

It is actually not wear, just water reflecting off the sun...

I hope that the lens-guard will never be worn like it appears on that particular picture, because that would reveal the truth about the actual level of my diving skills... :guiness:

 

Anders

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I think I'm keeping remotely within the thread when I ask this, but is there any rumbling of a newer Z1-esque HDV camera in the works from Sony? I'm looking at the Bluefin HD setup, and I'll be heartbroken if I invest that kind of cash only to learn the Z1 is gonna be discontinued in favor of a camera that DOESN'T fit in the Bluefin housing in the next few months.

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I have personally so far not heard of any rumors regarding replacing the Z1, but it will off course eventually happen. I have only read the rumors to drop the A1 and FX1 in favor for a camera that would land somewhere inbetween. If those rumors are true or not, the future will tell. There are however other people on this board that has far better insight of the developement, and knowledge about UW-videography than myself.

 

In my opinion, you kind of have to see what you need today, and a Z1 is capable of producing very nice footage for quite some time to come. There are still plenty of people out there shooting amazing video with regular DV cameras as well...

 

As far as UW-housings for the Z1 goes, I think the L&M Bluefin HD housing is a clear winner. I looked very closely at the different options before I decided, and I am very happy with my choice to go with the Bluefin HD housing. You should however upgrade the lens from the flat port to either the 80 degree wide angle or the upcoming UWA lens to give the camera and housing full justice...

 

Also look at your needs and how you will use the housing, meaning if you really need something of this size and cost. With lights it gets fairly big, and that should be taken into consideration in relation to how you will use it and what conditions you will be diving in.

 

Sincerely

 

Anders

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I went with the A1U due to the size of the LM housing for the FX/Z1. I am regreting that decision as the low light performance of the A1 is very poor and a true wide angle lense not available. I've heard the H3 has a better lux rating but the manual white balance issues rule that out for me and also no WA. I guess others are using the A1 with lights or in shallow clear water which doesn't sound like your intended medium. I've read good reports here on the FX/Z1, even if discontinued it should still prove to be an excellent unit for years. Good Luck. John

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Hey John,

 

I just wanted to update you and other A1U/HC1/HC3 users. We are working on an wide angle option for the Bluefin housings and hope to have prototypes by the end of August with shipping in Q4.

 

The preliminary specs are 80 degrees, 1/2 zoom through, $600 retail, with little to no effect on the housing buoyancy.

 

Designing a full zoom through lens would require more lens elements, more cost, and most importantly would cause the housing to be front heavy.

 

Thanks for your continued support.

 

-Barrett

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Nick was asking about lens coating on the Bluefin FX1 so I thought I'd give the low down.

 

We stopped coating the outside of lenses several years ago. We have not found an acceptable (read robust) coating. We have sold Fathom lenses and found that they also do not maintain an external coating.

 

We do, however, coat the inside of lenses and internal lenses to improve the optical characteristics.

 

Some of our lens are chemically tempered to harden the glass surface and improve the depth rating without increasing the weight. Products like Windex interact with chemical tempering. It is generally a good idea to clean lenses with alcohol and water (preferably distilled water, but that's probably overkill.)

 

And in the spirit of full disclosure we had a batch of FX lens that were coated which was a bummer. We believe that two of those went out and have subsequently been replaced. The rest were sent back to the vendor.

 

That's probably more than anybody wanted to know.

 

-barrett

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Hello everyone,

I have been following the Wetpixel video forum since Nov 2005 and this is my first entry. I noticed that a lot of you pro's were following the HVR-A1U setup with baited breath at first to see how best to set up/configure it for UW use. I have a fully manual/one touch white balance Ikelite housing and would appreciate if we could have a consensus or for users to put in their two cents worth on how they have found the best results with their present set up? I have not seen an entry for quite awhile on how people have decided to set up the A1U. I am very interested because I will be taking mine for the first time to Grand Cayman to experiment with in 3 weeks and then onto PNG on Sept. 25 and I would like to be prepared. Please and thank you. Vormark

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Barrett- Put me down for that lens, you have my address. John

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... I am very happy with my choice to go with the Bluefin HD housing. You should however upgrade the lens from the flat port to either the 80 degree wide angle or the upcoming UWA lens to give the camera and housing full justice...

I'm all confused now. I thought the 80 degree lens was the standard lens and no flat port existed :guiness:

 

So the 80-degree lens is an upgrade on top of the standard housing or travel pack? If so, does the flip macro work with both?

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Nick, I think the 80 degree lens costs $1900 ontop of the housing.

$4999 Special Housing Price.

$1900 For 80 degree lens.

 

$6900 US all up.

 

I may be wrong though.

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Hey Nick,

 

The Bluefin FX1 / Z1 comes standard with the flat port and flip macro element.

 

If you use the optional 80 degree port a different flip can be fitted that will give you full zoom through to macro capability.

 

These are the ports that are currently shipping - still waiting for shipping dates on the multi element 100 degree port.

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I'm all confused now. I thought the 80 degree lens was the standard lens and no flat port existed  :guiness:

 

So the 80-degree lens is an upgrade on top of the standard housing or travel pack? If so, does the flip macro work with both?

 

 

Hi Nick,

 

Yes, as the others mentioned, the 80 degree wide angle lens is extra. The housing comes with a glass flat port and a flip down macro lens. That one only works with the flat port though, so I have temporarily removed the glass in it and installed an Expodisc a la VideoDan. The extra flip down macro lens I had to purchase ($500) to get full macro ability with the 80 degree lens, I have removed in favor of the Expodisc.

 

That means that I have "lost" the true macro ability with this lens, but since I discovered that the 80 degree lens gives really good close-up shots (that cover my needs) on its own it is no big deal. It is also a very easy switch should I decide to shoot real macro on a particular dive.

 

I wish the 80 degree lens came standard with the housing since I personally do not have as much use of the flat port, but even so it is well worth its price. It is a really good lens.

 

Anders

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I already mentioned this, but as someone looking to make the jump to the bluefin, can anyone give me an idea of the difference in imaging between the flat port lens and the 80'? What do the shots look like and why the need for a lens other than what L&M ships it with? It would seem a little rediculous to offer a housing for a 1080i camera that DOESN'T have a lens that works well with it.

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