Laurence wrote on 8/11/2007, 8:45 PM
I just saw one of these at Circuit City the other day. Boy is it small!
Spot|DSE wrote on 8/11/2007, 10:44 PM
At the risk of touting my own article, I'll point out that the piece you linked to is a fluff piece. Read their conclusions at the end, the camera 'should' do this and that. There are also several incorrect comments, one of which is the claim that you must use the docking cradle for anything. It's just a convenience, ours is still in the wrapper.
They didn't shoot any vid with the camcorder,, as there wasn't a prototype available when that article came out. We saw one of the first US models about a month ago, and then purchased one off the shelf to have a production model roughly two weeks ago.

For what it is supposed to be, it's a great lil' cam. I feel sorry for anyone not using Vegas or Liquid for this content, however. iMovie 08 stinks with it, given the conversion, and Ulead kept crashing, so I gave that up. Vegas manages it, albeit very slowly. Of course, earlier AVCHD models from Sony ie; SR7 are almost the same cam, with greater feature offerings.
We have footage for downloading, problem is that for some reason, most browsers block the MTS stream.
Laurence wrote on 8/11/2007, 10:49 PM
Can you use Gearshift with the AVCHD footage? It seems like you should be able to.
farss wrote on 8/11/2007, 11:25 PM
We've had one for a couple of week now, can't really comment on it. The boss seems to like it so much he won't let anyone else play with it. I think we also got Sony's sort of underwater housing for it but it's too cold to go swimming.
One winge of mine about Sony of late is every second camera they bring out seems to use a different battery.

Spot|DSE wrote on 8/12/2007, 12:07 AM
Yes. The settings for GearShift aren't currently optimized, but indeed, it works, and is how I created an event vid just this evening. We're in the process of updating now.

If you do shoot with this cam, never go below the 9Mbps range. It looks horrible. The 9Mbps or 15Mbps converts down to 720p nicely, and of course looks very good at SD widescreen for DVD delivery. Looking forward to being able to burn straight from this cam to BD.

The battery on the CX7 is the same battery found on the HC3,5,7, SR7, an prolly a couple others, but I do agree that it stinks to have 3 different batteries in my small camera case. Sometimes I'm using V1, Z1, A1, or HC series camcorder.
RBartlett wrote on 8/12/2007, 1:45 AM
Thanks for the review Spot.

I do feel VASST/SMG was slightly harsh on the salesperson in the opening section of the review! Believe me, I'm the first one to perceive these heroes as to being an obstacle to a purchase rather than an aid. It is, IMHO technically accurate to say that 15Mbps AVCHD is throwing away more information than is kept by DV25. Some might put that down to a merit of worth described as quality. Also, as you know AVC is also being used by professionals, not necessarily broadcasters, as their low bandwidth 'streamcorder/rushes' format. I've read comments from program makers who appear to be adopting AVC into their "draft" workflow.

I'd reflect that neither of the salesperson's statements assists with the sale and cross format comparisons are rarely equal in all other things anyway. The worker will of course be keen to sell something a little less pocketable if possible.......

<Still smiling + slighty furrowed brow>
A more tangible critique for you:

I was hoping to read about how little if any mechanical noise would be picked up by the on board mic (as there is no tape or hard disc mechanism running) or otherwise. Also as to whether this meant that handling noise or lens motor noise was any more violent without format/transport mechanisms at play? I'd expect a quieter camcorder to be a huge benefit as a vacation tool.

I appreciate from the review that audio is a weak feature on this unit. Can you tell us some more about the CX7 in this regard please? Is it too weak to benefit from the extra silence?

I did thoroughly enjoy the review. Thanks again.
Laurence wrote on 8/12/2007, 6:44 AM
I am really glad that Gearshift is going to be modified a little to work with this camera. It seems to me like this is the way to go for this type of footage.

Will the raw clips play back from a PS3? It seems like a great way to view the footage would be to just popl the card into one of the PS3's camera card slots.
Laurence wrote on 8/12/2007, 7:51 AM
By the way, if VASST is updating Gearshift, could you maybe shorten the proxy name? Maybe just "GSP_" or better yet just an underscore "_". I love Gearshift, but I am just so tired of looking at directories full of file names that when truncated by the file manager, all look the same: "GSPROXY_CLIP...". Other than that, Gearshift is pretty much perfect.
Spot|DSE wrote on 8/12/2007, 8:47 AM
On the audio side, the camera is absolutely silent. No, I did not pick up any motor noise from the lens, and this was carefully listened for. Putting the camera tight against the ear, there is a very faint midrange vibration when the lens is zoomed, but the mic is so poor, it doesn't hear it. The lack of ability to shift the audio from 5.1 to 2.0 is lacking as well.
The mic isn't very good, as one can hear in the YouTube stream. It cannot handle extremely loud/high SPL, even with the pad enabled.

As far as the salesperson, I was actually light on him based on the experience. Allegedly he'd been trained in AVCHD, and was full of all sorts of BS. More than anything, it was offensive to hear the kind of garbage he was spouting.
We do this sort of "shopping" on at least a monthly basis as part of how we research the market for various clients. I'm pretty familiar with the banter and sway of a salesperson.
GeorgeW wrote on 8/12/2007, 9:17 AM

Looking forward to being able to burn straight from this cam to BD.

From CX7 Review: As BD (Blu-ray Disc) becomes more available, this will speed significantly, particularly with improvements on the editing/NLE technology being developed and announced.

Out of curiosity, are these general comments on the industry, or specific comments on upcoming Vegas/DVDA Blu-ray Functionality?

4eyes wrote on 8/12/2007, 7:38 PM
Will the raw clips play back from a PS3? It seems like a great way to view the footage would be to just popl the card into one of the PS3's camera card slots.Yes, at least the .m2ts files I've played do playback in a PS3, also the mp4 (h264) videos playback in the PS3 if you compile them properly. The M2TS is the transport container similar to vob,avi,mov etc. So if the PS3 can play the codec within the .m2ts container then it will.
The avchd disks playback in the ps3, Sony & Pioneer Blu-Ray Players, couldn't get any of the Samsung Blu-Ray players to playback avchd content (the samsung players also don't list anything about avchd support). Didn't try the panasonic Blu-Ray player yet.
Still & all hd-mpeg2@25CBR still yields my best quality.
m2ts @ 12MBS h264 isn't all that bad though, nice thing is that the avchd disks are red laser & compatible with AVCHD Blu-Ray players. The directory structure of the avchd disk appears to me to be the same as a Blu-Ray Disk (except the avchd is burnt on a red laser dvd using 2.6 udf format). The actual video files are in a m2ts container (mpeg transport stream container). I've found that most Blu-Ray disks use the hd-mpeg2@25MBS (VBR) in the m2ts container while the avchd disks use the avc(h264) codec in the m2ts container.
So a .m2ts file(s) can have different codecs in it, usually they are either hd-mpeg or AVC(h264).
RBartlett wrote on 8/13/2007, 10:16 AM
Thanks for the additional info on the CX7 Spot. Useful to know.

Yeah, let's never have too high an expectation of a salesman. I'm sure they do try to offer the best for the customer where they can (afford to). ;-)

Appetite wetted, - thanks.
Laurence wrote on 8/13/2007, 8:12 PM
There are some CX7 clips (converted to m2t)[/link]. Boy the footage looks good.
Laurence wrote on 8/16/2007, 1:07 PM
Ok, I ordered a CX7 today. I got it mainly for family type footage. If I can get the quality I saw in the samples in the previous post, I'll be one happy dude.
Laurence wrote on 8/22/2007, 8:20 PM
Well I've had the CX7 for a few days and I'm ready to report some initial impressions:

The CX7 is definately a different breed of camera. It doesn't have some things that most people view as absolutely necessary: things like a manual focus wheel or any way to set audio level manually or monitor audio levels. However, for everything that is missing, there seems to be something cool that you never would have thought of to take it's place.

One of these cool things is that it will buffer three still shots while you are shooting video. This is important because the video is being written to the same card as the stills.

Another cool thing is that if you use the little bluetooth wireless system that Sony sells, the wireless can be recorded as the center channel with the camera mics doing the surrounds. That sounds a whole lot better than I ever thougth it would and is super easy to set up. You can also record just the wireless in mono if you want.

You can't really focus manually at all, but in it's place is a pretty good spot focusing system where you can touch the part of the screen that you want to be in focus.

According to the manual, the auto focus looks for faces and will focus on a face rather than any large faceless entity that happens to be sharing the screen. I haven't been able to tell how well this works yet, but in theory it sure sounds good.

Anyway, the real surprising thing is the image quality. In good light, it is hard to tell the difference between this and the high end Sony HDV cameras. There might be a hair more grain, but overall the image is very impressive.

In low light, the grain and noise of the single CMOS gets combined with the compression algorythm to produce an image that is a little grainy and nowhere near as spectacular as well lit footage. It's not horrible, but you can see grain and noise and compression artifacts that disappear once you have more light.

Also in low light, the auto focus seems to hunt for focus a bit more than my HVR-A1. This is probably partially due to the algorythms that look for faces being challenged by the noise and grain of the lower light. On the other hand, the spot focus feature can get you past this problem.

The still camera is nothing spectacular but it is about as good as a regular point and shoot stand alone camera with similar specs. It says six megapixels but it is actually about half of that interpolated up to the higher resolution. None the less, the optical stabilization does work in the still camera mode as well, as does the spot focusing and spot metering setups, so you can definately get stills that look as good as if you brought a separate point and shoot camera with you.

Would I use this as a main camera on a pro shoot? No I wouldn't. It doesn't have things like a lanc controller, manual focus, manual levels, audio meters or a headphone jack. It's a great second B-Roll type camera though and if you work the way the camera is designed, using the spot focus and spot metering functions, you can get some shots that look every bit as good as the high end HDV cameras.

I just did a trip to the Galapagos where we travelled by horseback to the lava fields of Isabella Island. I'm about 200 pounds and I had another 15 pounds or so of video and photo equipment strapped to me during the ride. The poor horse! Anyway, that's what got me looking at these tiny solid state HD cameras. The CX-7 would have been perfect for that trip.

I also do a lot of non-profit work. People who are down on their luck really don't like to be professionally shot "looking poor". With a camera like this though, I just look like somebody's uncle with a home video camcorder. Meanwhile, with the CX-7 I'm getting really spectacular quality footage.

As far as editing goes, the AVCHD footage loads fine in Vegas 7e, but I can only get about 4 fps on my P4. The easiest way to deal with this is to just change the extensions from MTS to M2T and run Gearshift. Gearshift really should be modified slightly to deal with the MTS extension directly, but in actual practice it is not a big problem even the way it is. Proxy editing is very easy. You don't get the crashes you do with corrupted m2t clips and I have yet to see a two black frames instance. On the other hand, the renders are a little slower than with HDV mpeg2.

This is one heck of a camera for home use. I know I will be taking a lot more footage of my two children than I ever have before. Being able to just pop the SD card into the PS3 and immediately see the footage in high definition is just too cool for words. Now I'm lusting after one of those new stand alone DVD burners that can burn a Bluray compatible AVCHD disc with one button press. They aren't that much more than a second 8 gig memory stick would be!
Laurence wrote on 8/26/2007, 9:35 AM
I used the CX7 on a real estate shoot on Friday. The footage came out looking just wonderful. The indoor stuff with all the lights turned on in the middle of a sunny day looked great. If you squint you can see a hint of grain but you really have to look for it. Everything was shot on a tripod and the AVCHD compression was no issue at all. I've shot these with three cameras so far: a Z1, an HVR-A1 and now the CX-7. With all three cameras the footage looked outstanding (for an empty house that is).

Editing is pretty easy. You just change all the MTS extensions to m2t using utility[/link], then run VASST Gearshift to edit with proxies. I believe that Gearshift is being modified to work with MTS clips directly. Previewing the AVCHD directly from the Vegas timeline gives me less than 2 frames per second on my P4, so working without proxies really isn't an option.

I just tried the high quality SD mode on the CX-7 today and was really impressed. The picture really jumped out at me as being higher quality than what I'm used to seeing from SD resolution. What it looks like is well downrezzed HD with. It is kind of cool that you can go back and forth between SD and HD and that the clips get put into separate areas on the memory stick. Unlike HDV cameras where you pretty much have to stick with one format throughout the entire tape.
4eyes wrote on 8/26/2007, 1:33 PM
Can I ask you what directory structure does the cam write out to it's media?
Does the directory start with BDMV? Or, BDAV.
Depending on the structure, unless I'm wrong you may be able to burn a avchd dvd directory using the directory structure and playback on the PS3 (udf 2.5 or 2.6).

Curious whether it's a directory structure or just individual files.
If there is a BDMV directory structure you should also be able to use Nero showtime or Powerdvd and use the playback from folder feature, then highlight the BDMV folder.
Laurence wrote on 8/26/2007, 7:08 PM
The structure is in common with other Sony devices including Sony still cameras, the PSP and the PS3. There is a DCIM directory for still photos, an MP_ROOT directory for SD mpeg2 clips, and an AVCHD for HD mpeg4 clips. Within the AVCHD directory is another directory named BDMV, so the Nero Showtime or PowerDVD playback applications should work, though I suppose they would choke on all but the most powerful PCs.
4eyes wrote on 8/26/2007, 11:22 PM
This is the directory structure of my avchd disks that I create that have menus & chapters.
It's also the same directory structure used on the Sony handycams avchd mini-dvd high-def recorders. It's also similar to the same directory structure used when creating a Blu-Ray Disk BDMV format on the harddisk, although a BDMV disk has more directories than the avchd disks.

I've burnt dvd's using this BDMV directory structure to dvd's and they play in the PS3 in UDF 2.5 or 2.6 mode (Only Vista will read the 2.6 udf disk on the computer) Pretty sure you can read the 2.5 udf formatin XP if you have packet reading/writing software installed.
Note: The default udf mode in Nero doesn't work, need to use 2.5 or 2.6.

Using Nero I burn the BDMV folder to a dvd in UDF mode only (2.5 or 2.6)
------Nero DVD-ROM (UDF)
------Nero Multisession Tab = No Multisession (close this disk)
------Nero UDF Tab | Options = Manual settings (advanced users only)
------UDF partition type: = Physical Partition
------File system version UDF 2.5 or 2.6
------Label = AVCHD

------- /BACKUP
------- /CLIPINF
------- /PLAYLIST
------- /STREAM/ - (Files under the Streams Folder)
------------------- 00000.m2ts (Video File H264)
------------------- 00001.m2ts (Video File H264)
------------------- 00002.m2ts (Video File H264)
------------------- 00003.m2ts (Video File H264)
------------------- 00004.m2ts (Menu File - The very small files if more then one are the menu files)

If you have the same directory structure and files this should work and play in the PS3 with the last file (smallest one) being the menu file. The disks I've made also play in the Sony Blu-Ray Players.
Just duplicate the BDMV folder to a dvd in the udf 2.5 or 2.6 format. i would use 2.6 because that is what most avchd disks are created at. Sometimes the files have a .mts extension for harddisk creation and .m2ts for optical media. I don't know the difference why the 2 different extensions.
Laurence wrote on 8/27/2007, 9:44 AM
Wow does AVCHD render slow! I'm rendering a little three minute project that I edited pretty easily using Gearshift proxies. Now I'm doing a render and it looks like it is going to take several hours. Ouch!

Edit: Render done in about half the estimated time, but still quite a bit slower than HDV.
4eyes wrote on 8/28/2007, 8:43 AM
This is an example of a cool device that the PS3 can connect to and playback the media.
Has it's own built in nPnP server & ftp server. 2 drives max and flexible configuration.
Pioneer's Blu-Ray player (expensive) is also uPnP DLNA compliant to receive streaming media.

I'm running a uPnP server (windows based). So all I do is render the files directly into the uPnP's shared directory and view them immediately on the PS3 via the network. I play full 25MBS just fine
via the network, haven't tried wireless.

Dlink uPnP Media Server:

Laurence wrote on 8/28/2007, 12:44 PM
The Playstation 3 impresses me more with each update. My only real complaint with it is that my 7 year old son is always on it when he's home from school playing video games ;-)