I know you hate the question- 'Which camera is better?' And I know it's just a tool and the artist is what really matters.
That said, I'm buying a new camera for our internal training videos and web adds and stuff. Everything is displayed online in standard progessive scan files. I'm looking at the Sony's HDR-FX1, FX7, HVR-Z1U, and V1U. All I can really find is press releases. I can't find where to compare the products on CNET and B&H.
Assuming all the studio and minimal location pictures will be equally nice looking, can you let me know if any of the features, like XLR's or handily placed LCD's make one of these shine. I am aware of basic ways to wire XLR to mini and alternate viewing options but there must be a reason some are more expensive than others.
You mention "studio" and by use of "minimal" location that studio will be predominant. Do you know that the V1's HDMI output can allow you to avoid the HDV (mpeg2) compression of the other cameras? That would give the V1 a BIG advantage IMHO. It can allow for much better graphics compositing/green/blue screen for example.
I'd also only consider a camera with XLR ins unless you plain on recording to an external sound device. Once you start adding devices (such as the Beachtek) you're negating the already marginal cost advantage of the non XLR cameras which also have fewer features in other regards.
The Z1 gives you the advantage of shooting both PAL and NTSC if that's important to you. It's inerlace only though so if you're target is predominately progressive, you'll be deinterlacing everything. The Z1 handles low light a bit "better" (better is subjective since it involved such things as detail, noise, color as well as light sensitivity) than the V1 but that's only critical if you shoot low light.
All you can find are press releases? Are you "Googling?" There are a PLETHORA of reviews on all the aforementioned cameras . . . probably an overwhelming number. The quality of the rewiew itself may vary but given the popularity of the cameras they were heavily reviewed camaras.
I wouldn't buy the Sony V1U for it's jacks, given that the audio frequency response of it is "dumbed down". See http://aamserver.dnsalias.com/basspig/HVR-V1U_PCM_Audio(DV).htm for the actual response tests.
In other respects, yes, the V1U is quite good--as long as you plan to use studio lighting and have the levels at at least 20KLux. The stronger the lighting, the crisper the images. V1U shoots great outdoor footage on a sunny day, but indoor results vary. Normal room lighting is not enough, as the picture gets soft and noise increases to intolerable levels for a professional production. But this is somewhat true of all HDV cameras.
I'd consider having a camera with XLR jacks over minis important even with mediocre audio. There's just far to many issues with mini jacks and such cameras often make it difficult to split the audio, take a line feed (which you can do on Sony cameras with XLRs), disable AGC on one (or both) channels.
One might have a close look at the Sony XDCAM EX but we'll have to see the early reviews after IBC. It might be a different price point.
From what you're describing, the only Sony camera I'd suggest in your line up would be the V1U because it's native 24p. However, have you looked into Panasonic and JVC solutions? I wouldn't go the Canon route since they do not offer a native 24p camera.