NEW! (7/22/02) sample images
Note: if you're interested in the GL2, don't miss this extensive review from Barry Goyette on dvinfo.net.
I got my Sony DCR-TRV950 a few days ago. I must say that I expected the camera to be equal or better in every area compared to TRV900 that I've had for the last several years. Such is not the case.
Here are some things that I've noticed that are a step in the wrong direction from the TRV900. Most of these are ergonomic in nature:
Just shot some outdoor video and had a chance to compare the TRV950 vs. TRV900. This was a very limited test, but here are my initial impressions of video quality. Under very bright conditions I found the following:
I did all of the testing on my Sony 36XBR450 using a panel of 3 people to judge the two cameras. Everyone was in agreement that the 950 had better color saturation, more accurate fleshtones, had a little more detail, and was smoother (i.e., less video noise).
One additional comment on the downside, I also noticed that the plastic body of the TRV950 lets a lot more tape handling noise through -- especially noticeable when rewinding or fast forwarding. Wish they would've retained the tape handling and metal body of the TRV900.
(July 15, 2002) I had another chance to compare the TRV950 to the TRV900 in low light settings.
Basically, in order to get an image close to the TRV900 (Standard 1/60th of a second shutter speed), I had to slow the shutter speed down to 1/30th. I don't want to draw the wrong conclusion here, but I believe this means that the TRV950 is about 1 f-Stop less sensitive than the TRV900.
It is difficult to compare the cameras because Video DB gain on the TRV950 is not indicated on the display - so I can't really judge if both cameras had the same gain-up.
Here's a link to the GL2 brochure - with a brief explanation of how they do pixel-shifting. Also, you'll note that they no longer use the word "progressive" when referring to their non-interlaced video mode. In fact, it sure sounds like they are combining 2 frames together to de-interlace the image. www.canon.ca/pdf/7920A001_EB.pdf
(July 19, 2002) Not totally satisfied with my recently acquired TRV950, I just purchased a GL2 to compare with my TRV900 and TRV950.
First off, the GL2 is a lot bigger than the TRV950 and not nearly as portable. Optically, I was surprised that the 20X zoom on the GL2 only provided a small (but definitely noticeable) increase in magnification at the far end of the zoom compared to the 12X zoom on the TRV950. Image quality seems excellent though. With the GL2, I was able to focus on a can of Coke from about 18-20 feet away at maximum zoom and read the list of ingredients easily with the camera connected through the S-Video connection on a 36" TV. I tried but was unable to do the same with either the TRV900/TRV950. This was a tough test since it was under low light - but it is useful to note the distinct differences in each camera.
Here are the results of my tests to date.
Low Light testing.
TRV900 - Good job with poor lighting - colors and lighting were boosted, but reasonably true. Some Grain/Video Noise in image. TRV950 - Not nearly as good as TRV900 - images were much darker than TRV900 - requires changing shutter speed to 1/30th to get close to the TRV900. Not much grain/video noise though. Very smooth but dark image. GL2 - Very bright image in poor lighting - seems overboosted/unrealistic. Had to go to -3 on Exposure to make it roughly equivalent to the TRV900. Image was the grainiest and had the most video noise of all 3 cameras. Also noticed Red colors bleeding into surrounding white areas. Didn't notice this with any other color.
TRV900 and TRV950 - Excellent in focusing in very low light situations. Seldom gets fooled and quick to recover. GL2 - Slower to focus. Occasionally gets fooled and takes a while to lock in to image.
TRV900/TRV950 - Excellent in getting the white-balance correct with incandescent lighting. GL2 - Had to manually set White-Balance to Incandescent lighting to equal the Sony.
TRV900/TRV950 - Excellent, Large LCD screen - not quite as bright as GL2. Viewfinder image calibrated to LCD display. GL2 - Much smaller LCD - Viewfinder image is much brighter and colors do not match the LCD. (The LCD is much more accurate to what is being recorded).
I plan to do some additional testing with the three cameras this week -- and hopefully will be able to figure out which camera works best for my needs. At the moment, all 3 cameras have strengths and weaknesses. And I am also feeling that neither the TRV950 or GL2 is a tremendous improvement over the TRV900. So I have to say that I'm more impressed with the TRV900 now than I was before I began this testing. Considering this camera was introduced 4 years ago makes it that much more impressive.
I wanted a 3CCD camera and eventually (after a week of extensive research) desided upon another Sony (e.i. TRV 950). I seriously considered a Panasonic MX 350 and a Sony PC 120, and tested all three (and my PC10) both outdoors and indoors. The shop allowed me to use them for 30 minutes. However, my requirements are perhaps slightly different from those of an average 'prosumer' as I am only an amateur (and proud of it :-) and usually film outdoors and often at high altitude when trekking or climbing.
I was looking for a robust, high quality 3CCD cam and as lightweight as possible, The MX350 was lighter (250 grams less) but I did not like its controls. The main on/off button seemed to be very delicate, same the zoom switch. I also preferred the colours and the image quality on TRV 950 (when compared with 350). TRV 950 is heavier but looks and feels more solid.
My initial impressions were part of the discussion on dvlive.com here. This is what I wrote a couple of days ago:
"I have had a TRV 950 for 5 days, as some of you may remember from the other thread on this list. Having done more tests, I am quite happy. The image stabiliser works incredibly well - I have never seen something like this before. I actually tried to shake the camera and the image was even, not a sign of shaking ! (How could it be ?)
The colours are saturated and 'true', and it looks that after a day spent on trying filters (skylight, ND and PL) that I could easily fit an ND filter and forget any changes when going to the high mountains again. I tried both AE and 'beach/ski' modes and do not know yet 100% how to adjust the camera best to shoot on snow. Will play with it and would be most greateful for advice.
TRV 950 is not very hungry on batteries, what comes as a pleasant surprise to me. I assess that the M71 (midsize) batteries will each allow me to do one 60 min tape over 5-7 days. This allows for some deterioration due to low temperatures. I have already bought one jumbosize M91 battery as a backup together with the standard size 50/51. My main batteries will be 3 midsize ones."
I do not yet have enough experience to write a proper review of 950. In any case, there is a very comprehensive review of 950 by Robin Liss at camcorderinfo.com.
I can, however, make some preliminary comments on Phil's points.
2. The lens cap requires some skills but I mastered it in less than a minute :-)
3. I do not consider that 950 has a "cheap plastic case" - just the opposite. It looks very solid to me !
6. The tape loading mechanism also looks quite solid, more or less same principle as in my trusted PC 10.
7. The cam is very well balanced - I like its "feel". I always use two hands even when filming with the small PC10.
8. No external controls for the VCR functions - agree, I would prefer them to be outside the LCD cover.
11. Zoom controls are sensitive, I noticed it when comparing with others.
No problems after the 10 days of various trials and tests. All depends on proper positioning of one's fingers.
Good points: 1-4. Colours and the image quality seem fanstastic to me but remember that I never used a 3CCD cam before :-) I have been particularly impressed by the 950 image stabiliser as this was one of the main atributes that I considered essential (I practically never use tripods, tried once in the Karakorum and gave up).
Since my initial tests (mentioned above), I carried out more tests (went for a short walk/climb last Sunday) and found that 950 is exactly what I need. I followed/repeated all the simple procedures that I use in the Himalaya, filmed in difficult places, shook the camera intentionally and, so far, am really pleased with my choice.
I will be in the Himalaya in the post-monsoon season (October-November) and will later report on how TRV 950 performed in real life :-)
I have now done about 2 hours of film with my 950, mostly in Kalbarri (700 km North of Perth) in the Murchison River canyons. This was relatively easy trekking but included some quasiclimbing up and down the gorges. I tried to develop safe outdoor filming procedures for my 950 and generally see the quality of the output.
950 is much heavier than my tiny PC10, there is no doubt about it. 950 is is also quite bulky and difficult to hold securely in one hand, particularly when removing the cam from the bag (I have a Lowepro D-Res 240AW) in more difficult situations (eg. climbing or in any more demanding outdoor situations). I had a simple routine for PC10 and now have developed a new one for 950.
To secure the cam, I have attached a strong strap (webbing) to the eye at the back (close to the battery). This is how the procedure goes:
I unzip the bag with my left hand, then grab the camera by its grip strap (and not by the cam's body) with my right hand and use the left hand to put the main strap around my neck. Then I hold the camera in my left hand and operate the controls with the right hand (I do not use the grip strap). When going back into the bag: first grab the grip strap, then remove the main strap from around the neck and push the cam into the bag, and zip it up with the left hand. It takes 2-3 seconds.
It may look like a lot of fuss (and it is :-) but I must eliminate any chances of mishaps. I am now relatively confident that this routine will work in real mountains. In Kalbarri, I put the cam back into the bag after virtually each shot/cut so I repeated the operation at least a hundred of times.
I did not like is the notorious lens cap. I now agree that it can be a nuisance. It is tricky to put on and off, and what to do with it when filming or just walking. I have improvised a rather simple solution of using a piece of Velcro. The fleecy part goes on the top of the flash cover (I have therefore found a good use for the flash :-) and the other/matching part is attached on the _inside_ of the cap.
The lens cover dissangaged a couple of times when I was removing the camera from the now tight fitting (explanation follows) bag. This may be a problem in outdoor conditions as the lens cover is then held only be the lens cap. I improvised by using a piece of sticky "carpet" tape on the RH side of the camera and secured the cover to the cam's body. All this worked reasonably well throught my week of pleasure trekking which included a few steep places.
The quality of pictures was, in my opinion, magnificent and the camera performed very well in really very strong light. This aspect was already mentioned by other contributors to this page.
As I wrote before, the 950 is not power hungry at all. One jumbosize M91 battery I already had seemed to offer unlimited power. In fact, I got used to it so much (although it is quite bulky and extends the cam for 4 cm so the fitting of the cam into my bag is tight) that I decided to afford myself some luxury of excess power (and some extra piece of mind in the field) and decided to go for 3 M91s rather than for 3 midsize M71 batteries. The cam with the rather big M91 battery handles very well in one or two hands and also holds well when looking through the eyepiece (there is good room for one's nose).
The image stabiliser worked well even when I used telezoomming. I do not use tripods but try to stop breathing when filming and always hold a cam (also my PC10) in both hands.
Australian Video Camera and Desktop Video magazine ( www.videocamera.com.au), July 2002 issue, has just published a long review of 950 (they usually put camera reviews on their web page so you may check the page soon). The reviewer performed various tests and comparisons and awarded the cam 5 stars for Chrominance, Signal-to-Noise Ratio and Jitter, and 4 1/2 stars for Frequency Response. "On the test bench the picture quality and resolution from the TRV950 camcorder is superb". The cam resolved "excellent 520 horizontal lines". Some weaknesses were also listed: "specifically little gain control, the absence of an Optical Image Stabiliser and Progresive Mode for stills from video plus a zoom control that was a little oversensitive". In conclusion, "It is compact, relatively light and generally the video is about as close to perfect as a consumer camcorder can be". Amen :-)
Peter, another 950 owner, has just written to me with a problem:
"Inside, usually only when there's a very strongly sunlit window in the shot, I sometimes get these very visible long vertical lines that extend down through the frame, beyond the light source. Sometimes they're red, sometimes white. Sometimes just a thin line or two, sometimes like a whole "shower" of wide vertical bands. Easily seen in either the LCD or the eyepiece. If you move camera position, the bands change or disappear. --Sound familiar?"
Peter asked me to:
"--Turn on camera to video, zoom back lens to wide, and from inside, aim towards a window w/very strong light in it, like that you'd get in morning or late in the day. You'll probably have to get the right day/time of day for strong enough sunlight. Move camera around so that you get some slightly different angles of shots framing some of the really bright window along with some of the darker interior that's around it. --Anything showing up? If you see them, you'll know. It's called Vertical Smear. I'm trying to find out from Sony if the 950's are having trouble in general with it."
I did everything Peter requested but my camera showed nothing suspicious. I even tried to overexpose it but the system handled everything well, at least to my judgement. Zebra patterns (when turned on) worked as expected. Perhaps other owners of 950s might wish to comment on Peter's problem ?
I don't really feel competent to offer a technical appraisal of the camera at present as I have only had it a few weeks and as yet have not had the chance to use it a great deal. A UK camcorder magazine 'Camcorder User and DVD Movie Maker - August 2002' reviewed it this month and raved about it. I have the problem that most of your group of people have substantial experience of the TVR 900. I have none. My route was from a TVR 20. So it is difficult to offer any kind of comparison that will be of use to them.
I will offer some observations though. There was a comment from one person about Sony's decision to use a 37mm lens. It is interesting that they have not used a badged Carl Zeiss lens. Is their lens better or is it a Zeiss lens? The technical spec suggests that the light gathering capability is better than the 900 with the new CCDs so perhaps the 52mm lens was not needed, but when you look at the front of the camera without the lenshood on you think there should have been something bigger there. It will be interesting to see one of your experts comparing the resolving power of the new lens against the old and its low light capabilities.
I like the minimalist approach to the exterior of the camera with only the bare essential buttons exposed. I am also very pleased that I now have a top loading cassette compartment and that it doesn't creak like the TVR 20 one did as you held it when filming because of a poorly designed closing catch.
I am not so sure about the added extras in the camera. Do high end video camera users want Blue Tooth and low quality still capabilities? Have you time to fiddle with the touch screen and turn the camera into a mini computer. I did have a go at trying to get the camera to talk to my blue tooth mobile phone but it is going to be hard work to make use of the facilities. I suspect they will remain largely unused. Same with the flash. The USB connection will be useful for some people. The laser rangefinder sounds interesting but I haven't got round to setting up a light show for the neighbours yet! Are the kind of people who will use the camera the sort of people who will be emailing stills to their friends. I suspect the real users of the camera will be after high end consumer video.
The quality of the pictures seem excellent but I am comparing it with the TVR 20 and as I said it is early days yet.
I found your site to be interesting and informative. If someone is deciding whether to buy this camcorder all I can say is that I am very pleased with it and the only review I have seen so far said it was brilliant.
I have had the TRV950 for about a month now and I think it is a definite improvement on the TRV900 but with some reservations.
The lens aperture will only open to f1.6 as to 'open' on the TRV900. This explains why the picture is darker on the various low light tests which are about. This means about a stop less exposure. If you want brighter video in dark conditions you are going to have to drag the shutter speed control.
I like to shoot close to f5.6. To do this with the TRV950 you will need either more light or ND filters plus a little patience. To know what aperture you are using you will need to shoot for about 10 secs and replay with data code on - this way the camcorder will tell you the f-stop. This can be fiddly I know but it works, then either pile on the ND or light as conditions allow. Maybe someone will find a RM95 hack to display f-stop.
Yes the camcorder is less noisy than the TRV900 as observed by filming a red plastic bucket against a leafy background. Not surprising since the 2x oversampling theoretically should cut the noise floor by 6dB. However I wish they had retained the gain shift feature to allow -3dB shooting in bright conditions. Dont get me wrong CCD/Colour noise is still present but not as prominent. I guess we will have to wait for 8x oversampling before we get noise free supercams!
Some comment has been made about the transport controls being accessible only with the LCD out which consumes battery power - the trick is too leave the LCD screen ajar by about thirty degrees such that it does not illuminate giving enough room to access the transport controls.
Multi spot metering and touch focus (I use the back of my little finger nail) is a real benefit and works very well. My favourite is to shoot at telephoto with hardly any DOF and touch focus near and far subject just like in the movies - totally awesome and works perfectly every time.
A x2 Polariser and ND4 filter which you can stack to effect an ND8 if required. Also a sunshade for the LCD is useful.