Sony HXR-MC2000 Hands-On Review

3D - HDR-TD10 (2011).
Professional models - HXR-NX70 (2011). HXR-MC2000, HXR-MC50 (2010).
Flash Memory / consumer - HDR-CX260V, HDR-CX580V, HDR-CX740VE, HDR-CX760V (2012). HDR-CX360V, HDR-CX560V, HDR-CX700V (2011). HDR-CX110, HDR-CX150, HDR-CX300, HDR-CX350V, HDR-CX550V (2010). HDR-CX100 (2009). HDR-CX12 (2008). HDR-CX7 (2007).
Hard Disk / consumer - HDR-XR260V (2012). HDR-XR150, HDR-XR350V, HDR-XR550V (2010). HDR-XR100, HDR-XR200, HDR-XR500, HDR-XR520 (2009). HDR-SR11, HDR-SR12 (2008). HDR-SR5, HDR-SR7 (2007).
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Sony HXR-MC2000 Hands-On Review

Post by acgold7 » 03 Feb 2011 01:21

Introduction

Sometime in the past few months, Sony very quietly snuck a new shoulder mount, low-end pro camcorder under the radar. Lost in the hoopla over its new updates of the stunning XR and CX mini Handycams, the new HXR-MC2000U (also available in E, P, C and J versions) is a tapeless update of the HVR-HD1000U.

While both of these cams carry the “pro” prefixes in their model numbers, don’t confuse these with a true professional camcorder. Both are based on the tiny handycams in the consumer line. The HD1000 was based on what was then the top consumer HDV Handycam Sony offered, the HDR-HC7. The HC9 came out later but that offered few features over the HC7 and was the end of the HDV tape line for Sony, at least in terms of compact consumer cams.

The MC2000 is based, not on the current top-of-the-line CX/XR550, as one might expect, but rather the mid-range CX/XR350, which has a smaller chip and fewer functions. Apparently the Marketing team at Sony decided that basing this new cam on the top of the line consumer cam was overkill. This decision has raised some consternation among fans of the 500 line; they obviously wanted to see the stellar performance of these smaller cams translated to the larger shoulder-mount model.

But what the MC2000 has going for it, in theory, is the Exmor “R” sensor, a vast improvement over its first generation progenitor. Could a tiny ¼” chip perform as well as the much larger, 1/2.88” chip in the 500 series?

Let’s find out.
Adam

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HXR-MC2000U Auto Mode

Post by acgold7 » 03 Feb 2011 21:32

Are you serious? Auto Mode?

Yes, purists and real professionals will sneer. Auto mode is never as good as tweaking settings manually. Or is it? A camera can’t really know your intentions or what it is actually looking at, the theory goes, so Auto can never be as good as the intelligence of a human being.

But the newer Sonys come with a new “iAuto” setting, which is short for Intelligent Auto, and which you’d better know because the term “iAuto” doesn’t appear anywhere in the manual that comes with the MC2000. Intelligent Auto is supposed to “see” what you’re shooting and choose a group of settings that are most appropriate for the shot so you don’t have to.

And even without the “I” part, the target market for this cam, and all consumer level handycams as well (which we can’t forget this is based upon) is likely to rely on the Auto mode more often than not. And given how smart the Auto functions are on the higher-end Sonys I have – most notably the Z5, which is quite frankly a genius compared to me – I had high hopes for this mode.

But as you’ll see in the frame grabs below, I was cruelly betrayed.
Adam

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HVR-HD1000U vs. HXR-MC2000U: Body and Lens

Post by acgold7 » 03 Feb 2011 23:39

For our first test, we set the new HXR-MC2000 up against the model it is ostensibly designed to replace, the venerable HVR-HD1000. Physically, they are virtually identical and appear to have been stamped from the exact same mold. They share accessories, and the only noticeable difference is that where the older cam has a tape compartment, the new MC2000 has a sliding door covering the card slot, which can accept either Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick PRO Duo/PRO-HG Duo or an SD/SDHC/SDHC card (class 4 or faster). For our testing, we recorded to the internal 64GB Flash Memory, which in the highest quality mode should hold about six hours’ worth of video.
Both Cams.jpg
A side-by-side view of the HXR-MC2000, left, with the HVR-HD1000 to the rear/right.
Both Cams.jpg (118.82 KiB) Viewed 58190 times
Here are some early frame grabs, downscaled to 720 x 480. Note that the HXR-MC2000 goes wider than the HD1000, which is probably useful in quasi-ENG and Run-n-Gun scenarios. According to published specs, the MC2000 is the equivalent of 29.8 mm -357.6 mm, while the HD1000 is 40 - 400.
HD1000-2pm wide 1.jpg
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MC2000-2PM wide 1.jpg
MC2000-2PM wide 1.jpg (115.02 KiB) Viewed 58211 times
HD1000-2pm close.jpg
HD1000-2pm close.jpg (85.45 KiB) Viewed 58211 times
MC2000-2PM close.jpg
MC2000-2PM close.jpg (79.58 KiB) Viewed 58211 times
You will no doubt immediately notice that the HD1000 looks sharper. And it may well be, due to its larger chip. But don’t judge yet. I’d expected the newer cam to have a sharper image, because even thought the chip is smaller, it’s the “new and improved" Exmor ‘R’ sensor. So I was a bit puzzled to see the newer chip look softer.

But here’s where Auto mode came and bit us. On the MC2000, iAuto kicks down the recording quality one notch, so the cam is not recording at its highest potential, no matter how you may have set it previously. The HD1000, being an HDV tape cam, has only one quality mode. So we’re not looking at an apples-to-apples comparison here.
Adam

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HXR-MC2000U vs. HVR-HD1000U Low-Light Test (1)

Post by acgold7 » 04 Feb 2011 00:42

Next we added two more cams to the mix – the HDR-XR520V, which has the current top chip in the small Handycam line (and which many had obviously hoped would be the basis for the MC2000) and our current low-light champ, the HVR-Z5. We lined them up like a firing squad on our patio:
Brigade.jpg
The firing squad, from left: HDR-XR520V, HVR-HD1000, HXR-MC2000, HVR-Z5
Brigade.jpg (130.51 KiB) Viewed 58191 times
We zoomed all of them in fully and focused on the same cluster of leaves around sunset. The first series of frame grabs are from about twenty minutes before the sun went down.
HD1000-440P.jpg
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MC2000-440P.jpg
MC2000-440P.jpg (62.54 KiB) Viewed 58211 times
XR520V-440P.jpg
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Z5U-440P.jpg
Z5U-440P.jpg (69.27 KiB) Viewed 58211 times
But once again, note how Auto bit us. It turns out the XR520V kicks is quality level down two notches on Auto, and shifts to Auto White Balance to boot. So both color and resolution take a huge hit in this mode – I would have expected the XR520 to shine in this test.
Adam

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HXR-MC2000U vs. HVR-HD1000U Low-Light Test (2)

Post by acgold7 » 04 Feb 2011 00:54

Here are the next four, taken exactly at Sunset, 5 pm local time. Note how the shoulder-mounts are both obviously struggling with noise in the fading light. But still I think the HD1000 is, surprisingly, better -- but remember the MC2000 is not shooting at its highest quality level and is on Auto WB to boot.
HD1000-500P.jpg
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MC2000-500P.jpg
MC2000-500P.jpg (54.5 KiB) Viewed 58211 times
XR520V-500P.jpg
XR520V-500P.jpg (62.2 KiB) Viewed 58211 times
Z5U-500P.jpg
Z5U-500P.jpg (62.27 KiB) Viewed 58211 times
Adam

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HXR-MC2000 vs. HVR-HD1000 Low-Light Performance (3)

Post by acgold7 » 04 Feb 2011 01:34

And now the final four from this round of testing, taken 20 minutes after sunset. Basically they've all given up except for the Z5, which had its max gain locked at 9dB but still produces an almost-decent picture.
HD1000-520P.jpg
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MC2000-520P.jpg
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XR520V-520P.jpg
XR520V-520P.jpg (25.49 KiB) Viewed 58210 times
Z5U-520P.jpg
Z5U-520P.jpg (28 KiB) Viewed 58210 times
But clearly, letting Auto mode make some crucial decisions was skewing the test. It was time for Manual.
Adam

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Data for Frame Grabs

Post by acgold7 » 04 Feb 2011 23:39

But before we move on, here's the actual camera data from all the stills posted so far.
Cam Data.jpg
Cam Data.jpg (34.02 KiB) Viewed 58196 times
Note that, when all the cams are fully zoomed in, the max aperture on each is smaller than it could go when shooting wide.
Adam

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HXR-MC2000 HVR-HD1000 HVR-Z5 HDR-XR520V in Manual Mode

Post by acgold7 » 09 Feb 2011 07:20

As the Auto mode on both the MC2000 and its cousin, the XR520v, was clearly making some compromises in terms of resolution and color in order to achieve what it thought was the best exposure, it was time to do a little overriding. So, on all four of our test cameras, we locked the WB to Outdoor. We made sure the SteadyShot was off to ensure that the Active mode wasn’t doing and zooming or scaling to allow it the breathing room it needs to work. And on the tapeless cams, we locked each into the highest quality setting they would support. We then re-ran our low-light tests, squeezing off a minute or so of video every fifteen minutes around dusk here in the Great Northwest. At the darkest point in the test, we also engaged the Low Lux mode on the XR520V and the MC2000 to see if this thing was really any good.

On the frame grabs below, unlike in the previous thread, we did not resize them, but rather simply cropped them. We did this to avoid any potential artifacting or aliasing that resizing might cause, so you’re basically seeing a pixel-for-pixel section of what each camera caught.

On to the frame grabs. First, full Wide at 1pm, just to establish a baseline:
Cropped MC2000 Manual 1pm wide.jpg
Cropped MC2000 Manual 1pm wide.jpg (90.54 KiB) Viewed 58163 times
Cropped HD1000 Manual 1pm wide.jpg
Cropped HD1000 Manual 1pm wide.jpg (86.54 KiB) Viewed 58163 times
Cropped XR520v Manual 1pm wide.jpg
Cropped XR520v Manual 1pm wide.jpg (94.33 KiB) Viewed 58163 times
Cropped Z5U Manual 1pm wide.jpg
Cropped Z5U Manual 1pm wide.jpg (73.67 KiB) Viewed 58163 times
Remember, these are not full frame HD grabs; they are an 800-px wide subsection of a 1920 frame.

To my eye, the HD1000 still performs surprisingly well, even though it is scaled from 1440 to 1920 to achieve its widescreen mode (as does the Z5, which looks alarmingly soft here).

Now, Full Zoom:
Cropped MC2000 Manual 1pm close.jpg
Cropped MC2000 Manual 1pm close.jpg (45.15 KiB) Viewed 58163 times
Cropped HD1000 Manual 1pm close.jpg
Cropped HD1000 Manual 1pm close.jpg (42.38 KiB) Viewed 58163 times
Cropped XR520v Manual 1pm close.jpg
Cropped XR520v Manual 1pm close.jpg (42.17 KiB) Viewed 58163 times
Cropped Z5U Manual 1pm close.jpg
Cropped Z5U Manual 1pm close.jpg (51.88 KiB) Viewed 58163 times
As before, even at full quality and resolution, the MC2000 looks undeniably soft to me, even though its smaller chip gives better DoF, as evidenced by the leaves behind the post, which are closer to being in focus than on any of the other cams. Given its age, the HD1000 holds up remarkably well, it appears, and along with the Z5 gives the most cinematic shallow DoF. The XR, I think, comes in a close second. But note the blown-out highlights with all four cams.
Adam

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HVR-HD1000 vs. HXR-MC2000 Split-Screen Comparison

Post by acgold7 » 09 Feb 2011 21:23

Before we get into a million detailed frame grabs -- which I'm not convinced show the real-world results in a test like this -- let's take a look at some quick side by side video:



To me it's pretty clear which is sharper.

HD FX mode on the MC2000.

Settings:
MC2000 -- 1/60th, f3.4, 15dB Gain, Outdoor WB.
HD1000 -- 1/60th, f2.8, 12dB Gain, Outdoor WB.

Taken at 4:45 pm local time -- about a half hour before Sunset in deep shade.

Hm. Maybe it's the gain. Let's look at something shot earlier in the afternoon.



1pm.

MC2000 -- 1/90th, Outdoor WB, f3.4, 0dB Gain when wide, 1/60th & 3dB Gain when close
HD1000 -- 1/60th, Outdoor WB, f4, 0dB Gain when wide, f3.4 when close

It almost looks as if the focus on the MC2000 is off -- appears to be locked on neither the leaves nor the fence.
Adam

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Re: Sony HXR-MC2000 Hands-On Review

Post by Doughie » 10 Feb 2011 18:29

Good stuff.
To me, having had a quick look at the first video, honestly, i prefer the HD1000 image. I find the MC2000 image soft and somewhat two-dimensional and lacking a bit of contrast. It's not a bad image at all, but the HD1000 image to me is punchier, more contrast, and it feels more "3D" than the Mc2000.

Just my opinion, based on a quick look.

In reality, both will generate very nice images in good light of course.

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