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Sony HVR-A1U HDV Camcorder

Spot takes a first look at a pre-production model By Douglas Spotted Eagle

The Sony HVR-A1U is the fourth offering from Sony in the 1080i HDV format.
Bringing its fourth HDV camera to market, Sony is about to start shipping the second in their professional offerings for the HDV shooter. The HVR-A1U is the latest addition to the HDV market, and is a dynamite camcorder both for DV shooters and HDV shooters. Good things come in small packages.

Palm-sized, the HVR-A1U doesn't look like what it is; a power-packed camcorder with professional features. Although this camcorder is on the same body frame as the consumer-oriented HDR-HC1E , the similarities end there. Although the HDR-HC1E camera is a very impressive camcorder for the price, by the time you add a Studio Devices or Beachtek device, an external mic, better hood, you'll be at the same cost as the A1U, and that's without the other special features found on this camcorder.

Now Hear This!
The first feature you'll likely notice with the A1U, is the prominent audio module sitting on the top of the camcorder. The audio module provides balanced inputs (2),  phantom power to external microphones, low frequency roll-off, attenuated/padded input, and record channel selection. The audio module also offers a shock-mount for the included ECM-NV-1 microphone. The microphone can be removed, and any microphone put in its place. I recommend buyers consider a different microphone, as the included mic is acceptable, but not nearly as good as Sony's other higher end microphone offerings such as the ECM 670. The shock mount may also be easily removed, reducing the size and profile of the audio module. If you'll be using wireless devices or long cable runs, removing the shockmount will also provide room for the wireless receiver to fit into the shoe mount on top of the audio module.

The audio module connects to the proprietary AIS or "Active Interface Shoe" found on the top of the camera. This shoe may also be used for mounting a small light or microphone from Sony, provided that the mic or light has the AIS connector on it. When not in use, the AIS mount is nicely covered by a permanently attached cover. Sony clearly thought audio out very nicely on this camera, given that there are both balanced and unbalanced options, depending on user preference, and how the camera will be used in various shooting scenarios.



The Front End
From the front end of the camera, a solid, rubber lens hood is attached, complete with a mechanical lens cover that protects the lens. This cover, however, cannot be kept on the camera if thread-mounted filters such as a Sky 1A are placed on the front of the lens, as the hood has a bayonet that fits inside the front of the camera lens. The bayonet can be removed with a jewelers screwdriver, and then does allow the hood to be mounted over top of a Sky1A or other filter, but there is nothing that will lock the hood into perfect horizontal position, so the reasoning behind the bayonet makes perfect sense. I recommend leaving it on. (having it in an odd angle doesn't affect the quality of the frame no matter what) The soft rubber face on the lens hood also acts as a preventative and protection for the rest of the lens assembly, as it is wider than the lens ring.

Zooming may be accomplished with a manual adjustment of the zoom ring, or controlled by the zoom control found just over the right thumb area of the camera. Focus may also be manually adjusted using the same ring. There is a setting on the side of the camera that allows for manual zoom OR focus, but not both at the same time, as they both use the same ring. The ring has a nicely incised edge to it, making it easy to grip. With my particular style of working the lens, after a while these small indentations began to bother my fingers, so during part of my testing time, I put a wide rubber band over the zoom/focus control to make it more comfortable. This likely wouldn't bother most users.


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