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Michael Pruitt-Bruun
More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 3, 2009 at 3:47:50 am

Many of you are already familiar with the stuttering zoom issue present with some ex cameras. There have been posts here and on other boards describing it, with various responses from Sony.

This has become an on-going issue with the ex3 that my business partner and I initially purchased in early July. I think we’re on camera number 4 now, having opened up at least two other boxes with new cameras. In short, slow- to mid-speed zooms cannot generally be executed without a pulsing or stuttering action of the lens under constant rocker pressure. In attempting to work around the problem I’ve found that ramping past the slow-zoom range in the rocker position (ignoring the initial stutters), trying to settle on a steady mid-speed zoom will also fail. It’ll work for a moment, but then the zoom speed accelerates (without further rocker pressure) and starts to get away from you. Reducing rocker pressure at this point brings you back into pulsing and stuttering territory. I cannot properly express just how frustrating and embarrassing it is to lose shot after shot like this. Sony is aware of the problem, as they have offered explanations to us either on the phone or in person. But when it comes to their official responses in regard to a specific camera they will not acknowledge that the camera malfunctions.

We took the first camera back to the dealer and put it on their tech’s bench to demonstrate the problem. The dealer immediately suggested that this was a problem that occurred only at 24p, as he had already been given an explanation by Sony before we ever brought it to his attention. This was not the case, as we were able to reproduce the problem then and there at 1080/24p, 1080/30p and 1080/60i. Our dealer sent the camera to Teaneck for repair and Sony sent the camera back indicating they had given the camera and lens a thorough going-over, but acknowledged no malfunction. Obviously a camera that can’t zoom properly is not only a liability, but is pretty much useless for most kinds of work. When a director or producer asks you for a slow zoom, telling him/her that your equipment isn’t capable of it isn’t acceptable. The dealer understood, and we opened up two more boxes to find each new camera exhibited the same problem. We gave them back the camera.

We went to Abel Cine Tech in hopes of finding a functioning camera, and with the hope that if we had to send the camera to Sony again that Abel might have sufficient influence to illicit better attention. In the meantime we had bookings for the camera, so we had plenty of opportunity for real world field tests under different kinds of shooting scenarios. We really wanted to make each camera work, perhaps more than we reasonably should have. If you’ve spent any time working with this camera, maybe you’ll know why.

In fact, on our first visit to Abel there happened to be a Sony rep there. We demonstrated the problem present with the new cameras, then demonstrated its absence in Abel’s floor model. His response was honest, but I was amazed to hear him say, in effect, what do you expect? Their Cine Alta division is manufacturing a $9000 camera, you can’t be surprised if the manufacturing tolerances are a bit off. Maybe they’ll do a better job with the next model iteration.

After working with the new camera for a time we took it back to Abel and told them the results. They asked that we try the repair route again before another exchange, and we agreed to try it. We spoke with the tech who worked on the camera at Teaneck and he indicated that he would replace the front element in the lens. We also spoke with another Sony rep during that time and he brought up the explanation involving the 24p malfunction. Apparently this has something to do with an excess of data overwhelming the processor while zooming in 24p. Obviously he hadn’t actually tested this theory himself. And why would this lead a tech to replace a lens element? We got the camera back with Sony’s assertion that function was normal. We tested the zoom with a variety of video format settings, and it still didn’t work properly.

The staff at Abel have been very helpful and sympathetic. I don’t know what conversations might take place between a dealer and a manufacturer, but there doesn’t seem to be anything they can do. Our options seem to be either keep hoping we’ll eventually get a properly functioning camera, or we’ll just have to hand them the camera back and give up on the ex3. It’s disappointing. We really want to move forward with the ex3, but you can’t invest in a camera that makes you look incapable of executing standard camera moves.

I still can’t get over the idea that you can go out and buy a $300 video camera and it will zoom properly, but that Sony might hope to suggest that this malfunction doesn’t take the ex cameras outside the realm of fitness for purpose.


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Jay Gladwell
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 3, 2009 at 1:31:18 pm

I've read a few of these alledged stories in diffrent forums about stuttering zooms. I don't doubt that some are experiencing a problem when they attempt a zoom when using the rocker. However, just for the record, I have yet to encounter this problem with my EX3 and I've owned it and used for nearly a year.

One can't help but wonder how many are actual physical problems with the lens and how many are user issues.

And if you want to get technical, it's not Sony but Fujinon who built the lens. So any issues with the lens should be directed at them.

Just something to think about.



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Craig Seeman
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 3, 2009 at 1:50:23 pm

Have you tried the zoom with the top handle? Set speed and test. You'll find exactly where the issue starts. I had this with my EX1 in January 2008 and by February Sony had replaced the camera and that worked fine. There's plenty of good cameras for Sony to be able to replace. If some work and others don't than Sony as to examine their QC and specs on the build.



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Michael Pruitt-Bruun
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 3, 2009 at 2:31:57 pm

Hey Craig,

I remember that you had this issue as well, and i remember that Sony came through for you and got you a camera that worked properly.

I did do some tests with the handle-rocker. The first Sony tech i spoke with asked me if this was the problem, and if it were that Sony wasn't bothered. I told him that while i was able to reproduce the problem with the little handle-rocker, i wasn't concerned about that. I never use it. The issue was that the camera would not execute a proper zoom with the primary rocker.

Michael


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Craig Seeman
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 3, 2009 at 3:59:48 pm

Michael, using the top handle zoom lever (it's not a rocker as it's not touch sensitive. It's on/off in the shape of a rocker) is important is it verifies the exact speed point the failure occurs. Sony can't claim it's "clumsy" handle use in that case.

You can simply go to the tech and say, put on low speed and set to 10, then set to 5 and compare. If you leave to the rocker description you leave it to the subjectivity of the tech and their own possible clumsiness to verify the fix. In my case they replaced the lens and verified it continued to fail and then replaced the entire camera. One trip to Sony and I had a new camera with working zoom in three weeks. It took about a week to replace lens and test and then about two weeks to authorize the replacement. There was no need to send the camera back and forth because it was easy to describe and have Sony tech test for a specific failure point.

When dealing with techs (I have been one on both hardware and software) you need to have very specific protocols and documentation. If the tech is given a subjective description (how does one describe touch sensitivity) they are going to make a subjective judgement. Others have had the issue and Sony has made good on the fix or replacement since obviously there are known good cameras.

I've had two problems with my EX1 (the other was a botched firmware upgraded) and it both cases giving the tech a specific testing protocol resulted in immediate fixes.



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Michael Pruitt-Bruun
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 3, 2009 at 4:53:09 pm

Craig, i appreciate what you're saying. i believe the inability to directly demonstrate the problem in the presence of Sony's tech may account for some of the problem here. I have frequently wondered just how their tech is testing the problem in making a determination. Would someone who hasn't spent years as a camera op be able to make a clear determination? Certainly everyone for whom we've demonstrated the problem has had no doubt.

The problem with referring the tech to the "button" on the top grab handle is that Sony seems to have issued marching orders to their techs that any problem associated with that zoom control is not going to be supported. If i describe the problem as a function of that button they won't respond, apparently on the premise that this button at slow speed (pre-set internally, as you know) is not part of the normal function of the camera. And i won't argue that point. But their argument implies that the failure with the primary rocker IS a real malfunction. So they keep redirecting the conversation back to the button. I assume these marching orders arrived some time after you and a few others had the problem with your earlier cameras.

This is the frustrating part. Sony will acknowledge that there is a problem, but won't address it. They will issue disclaimers for the top button (they see there is a problem), but won't acknowledge it as it concerns the primary rocker. They'll state that there is a problem, but only as a function of 24p sample rate. Maybe they consider that acceptable, but what does that indicate when the problem is found at lower sample rates? Why did they replace the front lens element?

The disclaimers or explanations seem to be given without any reference to actual cameras exhibiting the problem. I don't know if it's a smoke screen, or just idle speculation on their part.


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Craig Seeman
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 3, 2009 at 5:13:23 pm

[Michael Pruitt-Bruun] "The problem with referring the tech to the "button" on the top grab handle is that Sony seems to have issued marching orders to their techs that any problem associated with that zoom control is not going to be supported. If i describe the problem as a function of that button they won't respond, apparently on the premise that this button at slow speed (pre-set internally, as you know) is not part of the normal function of the camera"

Sorry but I don't buy that based on first hand experience. They sell a product and it must function as described. They took care of my issue. Don't accept otherwise. The zoom button is user settable. I was able to give them the speed threshold where the failure was easily and consistently observable. I did this over the phone when they had my camera and the compared it to another camera. If it failed at the same point on all cameras they could argue it as an inherent limitation but if they verify it working on one and not another it's a quality control issue. You're defeating yourself IMHO. You're dealing with failable human beings and mass produced technology in which any given element at any given time can go wrong. Do what you want but the two times I've had issues, Sony handled them to my satisfaction.



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Michael Pruitt-Bruun
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 3, 2009 at 5:30:08 pm

Craig, I was specifically told by the tech in Teaneck that they would not address any failure of the "button" zoom. How does that indicate that i'm defeating myself? I appreciate what you're saying, and your taking the time to say it. But the game has changed since you dealt with this problem.

Nevertheless, we have no intention of settling for a camera that doesn't zoom properly. It just isn't an option. It may be ONLY a $9000 camera, but how could you pay that amount for something that wasn't able to perform its normal functions?


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Craig Seeman
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 3, 2009 at 5:41:01 pm

[Michael Pruitt-Bruun] "Craig, I was specifically told by the tech in Teaneck that they would not address any failure of the "button" zoom. How does that indicate that i'm defeating myself? I appreciate what you're saying, and your taking the time to say it. But the game has changed since you dealt with this problem. "

You ask to speak someone above him in the chain. He's only a tech. Try to contact Juan Martinez. Unless Sony issues a service support statement (and they used to when I was a chef engineer) there's no reason to take an informal statement as an official position. Being one of those well intentioned failable humans he may well be misinterpreting an instruction.

Simply put, either Sony gives you a printed policy position or you have every right to assume you will be serviced and if refused that too should be in writing as a tech report for your camera (non) service. Often that would be as simple as "Tested zoom controller, meets factory specifications."




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Michael Pruitt-Bruun
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 4, 2009 at 1:49:39 pm

Again, Craig, I'm with ya man. The Sony rep we spoke with at Abel was Juan Martinez. He was the person who suggested Cine Alta couldn't be expected to produce a camera with a proper zoom at such a low price point. I don't think he was offering that as a policy statement though. We attempted to pursue the matter further with him, but he didn't reply to our email.

Everything you're saying is sound reasoning. But so far it seems clear that the only policy in effect here is that of stonewalling. We are certainly open to further suggestions though, from you or anyone else in the community. So far our policy has been one of persistence. We may have to walk away from the ex3, for the time being at least, but we're still trying to get this resolved.


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Craig Seeman
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 4, 2009 at 2:31:54 pm

[Michael Pruitt-Bruun] "The Sony rep we spoke with at Abel was Juan Martinez. He was the person who suggested Cine Alta couldn't be expected to produce a camera with a proper zoom at such a low price point."

That's very sad to hear. Coupled with the recent events around Snow Leopard this speaks very poorly of Sony support. Buying a camera should not be a crap shoot. Yes lower price point cameras have compromises. If a camera can't execute a function reliably . . . you don't include it. If the camera can't reliably execute a smooth zoom below a certain speed, you don't include that speed. If Sony want's to issue a Tech advisory sayings speeds below X are not supported they should do so so the potential customer or current user is informed. Sadly this is right in line with Sony not posting any statement warning people not to upgrade to OS 10.6.

[Michael Pruitt-Bruun] "so far it seems clear that the only policy in effect here is that of stonewalling."

I now some people are adverse to publicly posting about such issues but I commend you for doing so. When reviewing a product, customer service and reliable build consistency is fair game. If it impacts current or future sales than Sony has to address those issues or JVC and Panasonic will benefit.





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Michael Pruitt-Bruun
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 3, 2009 at 2:26:22 pm

Hi Jay. You sound skeptical. I understand that, but you also appear to be reading something into my comments that i haven't put there. I am not suggesting that your camera doesn't work properly. In fact, i'm suggesting it does. Mine doesn't. That's part of the point i'm making.

And if i were you, i would also wonder whether the problem were user-induced. We reproduced the problem in front of dealers, techs and Sony reps. For those of us dealing with the problem, it's very clear. There hasn't been any dispute on that point. But i understand why you might reserve judgment, not having actually seen it yourself. I would do the same.

As far as the ultimate source of the problem, I'm not really interested in speculating on Sony's character. I'm describing the issue as it has unfolded. I don't really care who's to blame for the manufacturing errors, as that doesn't get me any closer to a solution.


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Jay Gladwell
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 3, 2009 at 2:41:20 pm


No, Mike, I wasn't reading anything into anything. Nor was implying anything, other than what I said outright.

"I don't really care who's to blame for the manufacturing errors, as that doesn't get me any closer to a solution. "

You should care! And approaching the correct party responsible could work wonders for solving your problem.



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Michael Pruitt-Bruun
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 3, 2009 at 2:49:00 pm

Jay, so long as ex lenses are used, the issue seems to follow the camera. We've tried swapping lenses from another ex3 that worked properly. As far as i know the problem may be a combination of issues. I'm not in a position to make a determination about that, and frankly that's not my responsibility. Neither Sony nor Fujinon would be too bothered about my conclusions anyway. I'm sure there are many vendors that Sony buys parts and assemblies from. Would it help me to know who supplied a certain relay or capacitor?


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Bob Pierce
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 4, 2009 at 2:41:30 pm

I have an EX1 that, although I don't think it's malfunctioning, has never really been capable of smooth zooms, at least not in the way I'm used to from using regular broadcast lenses. The speed of the rocker is simply too fast for smooth, slow zooms and is not adjustable. To do a slow zoom you have to use such a light touch that it becomes impossible to do reliably, and ruins too many shots. I've given up trying. Does anyone know if the external zoom controllers offer better control?
Thanks,
Bob Pierce

http://www.lightstreamassociates.com

Mac Pro 2.66 - 8GB memory -
Mac Book Pro 2.33 Duo -
FC Studio 2 - Kona Lhe
Adobe Production Suite CS4 -
Sony Multiformat 14" - Panasonic 42" Plasma -
Ikegami HLDV7 - PVW EX-1



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Craig Seeman
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 4, 2009 at 2:50:49 pm

I can set the zoom speed to 2 and use the top handle zoom to do slow creeps. It's far more reliable than trying to use the rocker. Granted it's not the smoothest stop and I do forgive an "inexpensive" camera that. If that top handle zoom is not giving reliable results then you have a problem that Sony should deal with.



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Bob Pierce
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 4, 2009 at 2:56:22 pm

Yes, that's what I do too. And I agree that it's a reasonable tradeoff for a camera that costs less than the lens alone of a true broadcast camera. It just surprises me that no one really talks about this as a shortcoming. Still wondering if external controllers can do better.
Bob

http://www.lightstreamassociates.com

Mac Pro 2.66 - 8GB memory -
Mac Book Pro 2.33 Duo -
FC Studio 2 - Kona Lhe
Adobe Production Suite CS4 -
Sony Multiformat 14" - Panasonic 42" Plasma -
Ikegami HLDV7 - PVW EX-1



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Michael Pruitt-Bruun
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 4, 2009 at 3:15:01 pm

We've found the problem to be consistent whether using the handle "button," the primary zoom rocker or a variety of external zoom controllers. Let me reiterate that the issue is not the same as the abrupt start you frequently find on the smaller cameras. Under a static rocker position the zoom may either stutter without pattern, pulse rhythmically, or accelerate unexpectedly. It is not present in every ex. Just in every ex3 that we have tried to purchase.


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Craig Seeman
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 4, 2009 at 4:34:23 pm

Yes, the problem is the camera communication to the lens. Interesting that you're seeing this in every EX3 you've attempted to purchase. When checking cameras you might note the serial number because if you get two close together that fail, you'll want to make sure you test one from another lot.




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Rick Diamond
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 4, 2009 at 7:35:10 pm

I too have an EX3 with the stuttering zoom problem. The word that I got from management at Teaneck is that any speed under 10 will not be addressed as a fixable problem. They are basically acknowledging that the lens is inexpensive and that this issue is one of the trade-offs.

Rick


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Craig Seeman
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 4, 2009 at 8:33:53 pm

So does this issue go away using another lens?



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Rick Diamond
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 4, 2009 at 8:58:03 pm

I haven't tried it yet myself, but I would expect that if you put on a "broadcast" lens that feathers in and out smoothly and can make clean slow moves, than it should work that way on the front of the EX3. A major problem of course is that the lens would cost as much or more than the camera itself.

Rick


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Craig Seeman
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 4, 2009 at 9:06:36 pm

The question would be if the issue is the lens or the lens interface on the EX3. If the issue is with EX3 communication itself the lens may not make a difference.



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Rick Diamond
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 4, 2009 at 9:25:00 pm

That's an interersting point. It's either a very scary thought or it could mean that a firmware update could rectify the problem. Personally, my gut feeling is that the problem entirely lies with the lens itself. It's very cheap and Sony will openly tell you that.

Rick


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Michael Pruitt-Bruun
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 4, 2009 at 11:50:43 pm

If you put a different kind of lens on there it works fine. You're bringing a different servo along with it. However we took the lens off the floor model at Abel (which works fine) and put it on one of our malfunctioning cameras and the problem stayed with the camera.


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Craig Seeman
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 5, 2009 at 12:07:29 am

So it seems the lens camera combination that comes with the EX3 "kit" is on the edge of the tolerances. Probably enough variance on the camera or the lens may result in a working/non working (stutter) zoom. It does mean that some cameras can handle the lens a bit better than others. Does Abel have any cameras close in serial number to the floor model?



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Michael Pruitt-Bruun
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 5, 2009 at 3:25:08 am

No, Abel's floor model is a bit older I think. Just about all North American stock was cleared out in early summer and Sony resupplied everyone in early July. I'd love to be able to find out when the next batch ships.

We asked if we could buy Abel's floor model.


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Bob Wojda
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Sep 15, 2009 at 1:26:06 pm

My stock lens shutters at low speed as well. I sent it back to Sony and they determined it was operating within their expectations. At NAB last April I brought it up with both Sony and the Fujinon rep. He basically said "What do you expect from a prosumer lens". (Guess I expected it to work.) In fact on display in the Fujinon booth was the wide angle fuji and it had the same stutter. My solution was an expensive one; buying the fuji BERM lens. It really fixes the problem and I still use the stock lens for steadicam, jib and letus 35 work where I don't need to zoom. But I gotta say I'm totally disapointed with both Sony and Fuji on this problem and I will never buy another fujinon lens (bought the BERM before NAB) and will think twice about Sony in the future (although I love the XDCAM resolution and format).

Bob Wojda


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Michael Pruitt-Bruun
Re: More stuttering zoom stories....
on Nov 2, 2009 at 2:17:18 pm

that sounds very much like our experience, Bob. i hadn't posted a follow up just because by the time we finished dealing with this i was pretty fed up. it was very disappointing to buy a malfunctioning camera and be told "tough sh!t."

i forget just how many cameras we exchanged, 3 or 4?, but on the last one we took it in to Abel to exchange it within the allotted 2 weeks. when we got there they asked that we try the repair route again. even though we didn't really expect a different result, we were open to whatever might move things along. the folks at Abel indicated that if sony didn't come through on the repair we would still be able to exchange the camera.

that turned out to be a bit of a "gotchya." they were tired of dealing with us and said they couldn't do an exchange as we'd had the camera too long. they threw us a bone though. they let us swap for their floor model, which had quite a few hours on it from sitting in the show room, but the zoom works fairly well. better than any of the other ones that we'd purchased and exchanged. which is to say, it isn't perfect, but it's usable in a manner the others obviously were not.

buyer beware.


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