The biggest revelation is the low light performance. Canon’s XH-A1 was the champ for the last year in the worst illumination, but Sony’s HVR-Z7E actually outperforms it slightly. The image is a little brighter, and maintains detail in darker areas. Best of all the amount of noise is less, which must be the Exmor processing technology working its magic. It doesn’t wipe the floor with the Canon, and you need to make a side-by-side comparison to really see the difference. But as this was a weak area for CMOS technology in the past, the HVR-Z7E signals its coming of age at last.
The Z7E offers two ways of editing your footage. If you recorded to tape, you can hook up via FireWire and capture using the traditional methods. But if you also recorded onto CompactFlash, the whole process will be much faster. You can simply slot the card into a reader – or attach the HVR-MRC1 to its docking station and use that. Then the footage can simply be dragged across to a local hard disk much more quickly than real-time capturing would have taken. HDV is recorded as M2T, compatible with most professional editing apps, and DV/DVCAM as AVI or Raw-DV. We had no trouble editing footage in Adobe Premiere Pro CS3.
The lofty price of the HVR-Z7E will put it out of the reach of all but the most serious videomakers. Corporate and events cameramen will long for it, but may struggle to justify the expense. Nevertheless, it points the way forward for professional camcorders, particularly now Panasonic has announced that more models using AVCHD and SD will be arriving later in 2008. Sony’s embracing of solid state recording is a sign of how tape’s days as a primary recording medium are numbered, even if it’s still the most cost effective choice for long-term archiving. With its removable lens system and choice of recording systems, the HVR-Z7E is a great camcorder for electronic news gathering and independent filmmaking alike.
Score in detail
Image Quality 10