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Sony Professional HVR-A1U CMOS High Definition Camcorder with 10x Optical Zoom (Discontinued by Manufacturer)

2.4 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
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  • Powered by NP-FM50 InfoLithium rechargeable battery pack
  • CMOS camera system , records to conventional DV tape stock
  • 16:9 widescreen recording , 4:3 conversion capable
  • High-definition video camera records in 1080i, 720p, and 720i specification with analog down-converting
  • Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T 10x optical zoom lens; digital Super SteadyShot System dampens hand jitter and vibration
  • 16:9 widescreen recording; 4:3 conversion capable
  • Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 10x optical zoom lens; digital Super SteadyShot System dampens hand jitter and vibration
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Technical Details

Product Description

Product Description

The Sony HVR-A1U camcorder captures 1080i HDV images using a newly developed 1/3-inch type, 2.97-megapixel (total) CMOS sensor with new Enhanced Imaging Processor(tm) technology that optimizes the performance of the CMOS sensor. The result is HD quality imaging that has been used to produce television and professional film content. Available at an extremely affordable price, the HVR-A1U will be another powerful option for HD field acquisition by all video professionals.


The HVR-A1U is a compact and lightweight handy-type camcorder, ideal for shooting environments that require mobility. Its size, combined with its long battery life (up to 80 minutes of high-definition recording with the included battery), make it easy to get the shots you need, when you need them.

HVR-A1U camera
See large image
HDV 1080i
The HDV 1080i specification features 1080 effective interlaced scanning lines and 1,440 horizontal pixels. Interlaced pictures, which have been common to TV broadcasts from the beginning, alternately display odd and even numbered lines between each screen refresh. The HVR-A1U can also record at the HDV 720p specification, which features 720 effective progressive scanning lines and 1,280 horizontal pixels. Progressive scanning fills both odd and even numbered lines with each refresh, providing a flicker-free picture.

Not yet ready for HD? The HVR-A1U can convert material from 1080i down to 480i and output this digital video signal through its i.LINK interface or as analog signals through component, composite, or S-video connectors. When down-converting these signals, the aspect ratio displayed can be converted from 16:9 to 4:3, and display modes can be selected from squeeze, letterbox or edge crop.

1/3-inch Type, 2.97-megapixel CMOS sensor
The HVR-A1U incorporates one 1/3-inch type primary color CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) 2.97-megapixel sensor with a formatted for a 4:3 aspect ratio. The advantage of a CMOS sensor over CCD is it's ability to process a large volume of picture data at a very small size, which makes it possible for a camera this size to capture HD video. The trade off for this kind of chip over CCD, however, is a small loss in picture uniformity and dynamic range.

HVRA1U camera audio levels
Keep an eye on audio levels on the LCD monitor
The HVR-A1U adopts the MPEG-2 compression format, which uses 8-bit digital component recording with a sampling rate of 4:2:0. The camera uses MPEG-1 Audio Layer II audio compression format, allowing for two-channel recording with a sampling frequency of 48 kHz/16-bit. It features a built-in stereo microphone, as well as two XLR audio input connectors for use with professional-grade microphones or external audio sources. Each input level for CH1 and CH2 can be independently adjusted using two audio level dials on the camera body and viewed with an audio level meter on the LCD monitor.

Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 10x optical zoom lens
The HVR-A1U is equipped with a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* high definition lens with a 10x zoom function. It has the same optical coating as is used on all of the Carl Zeiss prime lenses, which produces sharp, high-contrast images with virtually no chromatic aberration.

In order to facilitate zoom control and recording operation during low-angle shooting, an additional zoom lever has been added to the camera body. There's also a zoom/focus ring located on the lens body that allows for fine adjustments in zoom position. Furthermore, the supplied wireless Remote Commander unit can be used for external control.

Large, 16:9 widescreen color viewfinder and LCD monitor
View your subject through the built-in viewfinder, the swing-out LCD display, or both. The HVR-A1U features a 0.44-inch type color LCD viewfinder and a 2.7-inch color LCD monitor, both in a 16:9 aspect ratio. You'll save battery time by using just one, but you may want to use one for adjusting focus and the other for monitoring audio levels. When eschewing auto focus for the fine-tuning manual focus, you can double the magnification at the center of the screen, making it easier to confirm focus settings during manual focusing. Also, the camera's "peaking" function can provide sharp outlines on the monitor to help with manual focus.

Electronic Super SteadyShot system
Sony's electronic Super SteadyShot System helps remove the slight hand jitter and vibration that is often the bane of video production--especially during telephoto shots. It does this by trimming off edges of the frame on the fly to counteract movement.

HVRA1U Tele Macro
Tele Macro picks up details on subjects from a distance
Tele Macro
It may seem like a contradiction in terms, but the Tele Macro function allows you to capture a macro image from a distance, which is useful for shooting small moving objects. Additionally, this function puts your subject in proper focus while leaving the background out of focus.

The Hollywood look
The HVR-A1U has features that can make your videos look more like they were shot on film. Cinematone Gamma allows operators to quickly setup and load a gamma curve with similar contrast characteristics to a film gamma curve. The Cineframe feature allows movement to be reproduced at 24 frames per second--the speed of film--as opposed to video's 30 frames per second standard.

No new tape stock
The HVR-A1U is compatible with conventional DV tape stock, but Sony recommends the use of DigitalMaster PHDVM-63DM tape, with its dual layer of magnetic material, which delivers higher RF output, lower noise, 95% fewer errors and 60% fewer dropouts compared to regular DV tape.

More camera features

·Assign button -- get quick access to a variety of settings   ·Time Code Preset -- fill in any timecode starting value
·Shot Transition -- creates smooth automatic transitions between scenes   ·Color Bar -- Two types
·Status Check -- displays camera setting menus for audio, output signal, assign button and exposure lever functions and hours meter on the LCD monitor   ·Zebra -- displays a striped pattern in the LCD monitor and viewfinder across highlight areas, helping manual exposure settings
·Quick REC -- shortens the record interval from stop mode.   ·Personal Menu -- allows operators to customize the setting menu
·Battery Info -- displays the attached battery's current charge level and its current remaining recording time on the LCD monitor   ·Histogram Indicator -- allows you to easily evaluate the brightness of your scene
·Super Night Shot -- allows operators to capture images in black and white using a built-in infrared light   ·Skin Tone Detail -- reduces detailed signal for skin color, smoothening the reproduction of human skin
·Black Stretch -- allows more contrast to be seen in dark parts of the picture without affecting mid-tones   ·Backlight Compensation -- produces natural tones for both light and dark areas of backlit subject

What's in the box
HVR-A1U camera, AC-L15 AC adaptor, power code, NP-FM50 InfoLithium rechargeable battery pack, lens hood with lens cover, RMT-831 wireless Remote Commander unit, A/V connecting cable with S video, component video cable, USB cable, Memory Stick Duo (16 MB), Memory Stick Duo adaptor, ECM-NV1 monaural electret condenser microphone, XLR audio adaptor, shoulder strap, and operating instructions.

Product Information

Product Dimensions 14.1 x 7.6 x 6.6 inches
Item Weight 5.5 pounds
Shipping Weight 5.5 pounds
Item model number HVRA1U
Batteries 1 Lithium ion batteries required. (included)
Customer Reviews
2.4 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

2.4 out of 5 stars
Best Sellers Rank #12,406 in Camera & Photo
#63 in Electronics > Camera & Photo > Video > Professional Video Cameras
#606 in Camera & Photo > Camcorders
Discontinued by manufacturer Yes
Date first available at Amazon.com February 17, 2006

Warranty & Support

Product Warranty: For warranty information about this product, please click here


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Customer Questions & Answers

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Angela Kovacs on November 19, 2006
I bought this camera to start my production business with and it was the best move I could have made. This camera is great for a beginner like me. It is user friendly while still allowing for ajustments. The HD is also amazing, my customers that have there videos in HD are absolutely floored we they get their finished product. A few things that I can recommend are getting a tripod as well as an extended battery. The stock battery only provides about 45 min with LCD and if you add anything other then the shotgun mic it lowers it even more. Make sure you use only high quality tapes. (I found out the hard way) Good tapes for this camera are going to cost about $10 to $15 but they are worth it when you reduce the time for re-tape due to drop-out on the film. All together this for me is a great camera for the price. Anything better is going to run you about $8000 or more.
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Correction: High-definition video camera records in 1080i, or 480 NTSC (known as standard DV or DV) specification with analog down-converting. -->It does NOT record in 720p, or 720i. However, this is not an issue, just a correction. Also, all the output (for editing) is firewire; a digital format. You can watch the output on a TV using composite, svhs or component. Audio is RCA L/R.

As the other gentleman observed, this is more a serious amateur (dare I say pro?) camcorder that begs to be used. This is far more than the average user would want or need. It's bigger and heavier than the basic camcorder. But it shoots HDV 1080i and has gained a reputation as a documentary camera in situations where the camera may get damaged.

Key features over the sibling HC1 and HC3
It's same size as the HC1, except the added on audio "stalk".
No built in flash, but you are shooting video, not stills.
Audio is far more flexible than the other ones. HC3 is in-camera only. HC1 L&R channels are tied together, no independent controls. HC1 also will only accept unbalanced input (or spend $269 on BeachAudio converter and another $200 on shotgun to get equivalent). A1u is balanced input (XLR) and separate audio.

A1u also has black stretch switch for better definition of darker shaded scenes. Also if you output to 4:3 SDV, you can choose letterbox, stretch or cropped output. Other camcorders don't offer this (not sure about HC3).
Overall a1u has over 50 added features vs HC1.

Also, if you intend to edit HDV, it's an expensive proposition. Be sure to thoroughly research this before committing. It requires a fairly beefy PC. Expect to consume about 13 gig per hour of video.
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This camcorder is from the Sony Professional division with pro level warranty support. Sound is 70% of the experience and this camcorder delivers pro level XLR connectors with 48V power. For best sound results manually set the volume as high as possble keeping the peaks below 0db. The CMOS sensor produces amazing HD quality. A head shot of a person wearing a ball cap facing into strong direct sun with a deep shadow across their face does not blow out the highlights and shows full details in the shadow. I'm using Sony Vegas 7 to edit the results and I'm very happy with both the camcorder and Vegas.

This is bigger than the small consumer camcords but is about the same size as my old Sony Digital 8 camcorder and it's smaller than any other pro camcorder. Pro shooters are always amazed and comment on how small it is. Nothing produces this level of pro results without spending a lot more money.

While as good or better than the current crop of small HD consumer camcorders for shooing in low light there are better pro models such as the Sony Z1 and V1 for low light. The manual settings are via the touch screen and a not included PDA stylus is a must have to keep finger prints of the screen. 24fps can be done but you need Cineform Connect HD to do the pulldown from the Sony CF24 as the native CF24 is choppy until you use Cineform. If 24fps is a must the Sony V1 is a better choice.
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I have been shooting consumer video since 1981. I started with a reel to reel system, worked with a camera and VHS portapack, did 8mm, Hi-8 and replaced my Digital 8 camcorder with this HDV camcorder earlier this year. Primarily, I use it for family functions, but I do shoot things that require me to gather better sound than what comes out of the built-in mics. The primary reason I bought this camcorder was - at the time - it was the lowest price HDV camcorder that had a way to connect to external audio sources. I wanted a Canon A1, but didn't want to wait the extra year or two it would take to save up for that!
I also liked the idea that it used tape. I have a DVR that I fill up all the time and then have to dump onto tape or DVD to store what I want to keep. Also, in my informal in-store tests, the picture with the AVCHD codec just didn't look as good... at this time. I use standard DV tape mostly, but I clean my heads regularly and only record on the tapes once. I can think of two lost half-seconds of video where the key frame was corrupted in about forty hours of collection.
Primarily, I found three things to be important going from SD to HD. One, picture stability. Use a tripod as much as you can and don't make sudden movements. Two, you need a lot of light to shoot good HDV. Three, focus is absolutely critical in HD.
The touch screen menu system took me awhile to get used to. However, you can adjust the menus to have a personal set of menus; putting the menu selections you use mostly at the beginning of the list. Even so, Murphy's Law seems to dictate that you need to hit at least two menus to get to what you want. On a tripod, I find I can navigate quickly to the fader button without too much shake; this is much harder to do when I am doing a handheld shot.
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