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Thread: Buying a Sony HVR-A1E

  1. #1

    Default Buying a Sony HVR-A1E

    Hello. I may be just about to buy a second hand Sony HVR-A1E for 900.

    The price seems to be about right (I saw one go for that on ebay). However, I'm trying to compare it to other machines, new and second-hand and its proving hard to decide.

    The disadvantages of this machine appear to be:

    • It records to mini-dv in HDV, a format on the way out not onto an SD card in AVCHD. Wear and tear on minidv drums and mechanisms lead to favour SD.
    • The cassette loads from underneath and so the cam needs to be dismounted from a tripod to load a cassette.
    • Its not big enough: while this is a sales advantage (its compact) some would say that a big shoulder mounted cam looks better for PR. Also it has no handle and cannot be shoulder mounted.
    • Optical zoom is only 10x while a run of the mill general camcorder does 40x
    • Uses single module CMOS not 3CCD
    • no HDMI but firewire is ok


    • Its compact (but not light)
    • Has XLR mic inputs
    • It has lots of funky settings that I don't yet know how to use
    • Supplied with a wide angle lens, 2 batteries and a light (looks like a flash)
    • Low usage (40 hours)
    • A new entry level semi-pro camcorder such as Sony HVR-HD1000E is 1400 without accessories.

    My needs for now are journalistic but I may film danse show in low light / from 30 m. I'm wondering if this cam can do both jobs.

    Your light on this matter appreciated, Tx

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Surrey, UK
    Blog Entries


    I think you've neatly summed up the advantages and disadvantages and you're trying to delegate the decision to someone else!
    Of course you're hoping for someone to come up with a killer reason for or against.

    There are advantages to tape:
    * You just keep them, so you've always got an archive of the raw data.
    * if a tape or case breaks, you can still recover most - if not all of the footage fairly easily

    On the other hand, you could always use a solid state/HDD unit plugged into the firewire for your storage (extra cost and more to carry around of course).

    The size issue is a double edges sword. Sometimes using a small camera is less likely to draw attention and so can be used in situations where people might take offence if they see abig one (people are under the misapprehension that you shoudl not be allowed to make money out of their image). But as you also say, there are occasions where a bigger cammera affords you some sort of "authenticity" and "officialdom".

    The A1E is a bit betwixt and between, sizewise, but I find people are so used to the miniscule handhelds that as soon as I turn up with my aging Panny NV-GS400 on a tripod, people get out of my way and ask "Are you from the BBC?"

    What I would add is: If it's a decision between being able to afford it and buying this now, and putting it off until something else comes along, there is always something better just around the corner and if you're nt careful, you'll always be waiting for it. If you buy it now, you can start working with a good camera now. If you wait six months, you'll be six months less experienced.
    Last edited by TimStannard; 06-28-2011 at 04:28 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Warsop, Nottinghamshire.
    Blog Entries


    I've got one - it's a terrific little camera and would recommend. One test to make before you buy though - the firewire socket - make sure it outputs correctly. Too many people have hot plugged them and burnt it out. If you do buy it - always turn off before plugging or unplugging.

  4. #4


    Thanks for your answers. Tim: 'delegating' yes a bit but I've bought a lot of hardware of the last couple of years, doing comparative grids of pros and cons etc. but here I found the area more complicated than many since there are many models and makes and I don't have much experience in filming. In addition, while I have a desire to get into it, the objective is incompletely defined and the camera is available now. The price of decent cams has surprised me and to some extent I need reassurance that if the cam is not what I need that I can get out and onto something more appropriate.

    Your last point about rapid change in the offer market is the most convincing since it applies to nearly technology in general. I decided to buy the A1E since even if AVCHD and SD are coming in strongly, DV tapes seem to be fairly proven technology and while they may phase out over 3 years I don't think there just going to disappear overnight. I can put up with the wait and the weight!

    As for being from the BBC I'll just have to live through that myself ...

    Andy: thanks for (again) reassuring me about the A1E being a good cam since I'm taking this decision v quickly. It seems to have a lot of [useful?] settings to understand. Firewire works.

  5. #5


    i've had two of these, theyre a brilliant ENG camcorder for use in news gathering enviroments.
    as somebody just said, tapes can be fixed.
    the quality is awesom in my view and its a single chip HD camera at 720p.
    i think if you cant up your budget to say a Z1 or a V1, go for it, get yer gigs and cash in then upgrade. in the meanwhile it will do what it needs to do!

  6. #6


    not good in low light
    can transcode HDV to SD
    Don't worry about the zoom handhelds are hard to hold steady and 40x zoom is not going to help

  7. #7


    I was thinking of getting a hand held support, like a one stick tripod (a unipod?) to help with stability.

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