Sony HVR-Z5U High Definition Handheld Professional Camcorder, A solid, functional workhorse

I have always loved sony camcorders, and when i finally was able to afford my own, i made sure i did a ton or research to ensure that i got the best one. Let me tell you, the sony hvr-z5u hdv is the best camera i have ever seen. Amazing quality, comes with a nice shotgun mic as well. I got the wireless microphone to go along with it, and it hooks up great. The only disparaging thing is the camera is a little on the heavier side; for a handheld camera. Other than this is a highly recommended product.

We were one of the first companies to purchase the z1s and z1us back in the day. Workhorses onboard the boats in saltwater. Couple of years ago we tried switching to the new digital cameras. But almost immediately switched back to the z1s. Yea, 1:1 logging and capturing is a bore, but the picture quality is worth it. Couldn’t find any more z1us new, but got turned onto these z5s. Menu setting controls were moved and made smaller, which makes initial set-up a pain in the ass, recommend doing this before going on location, but other than that, hesitant to even write this because there are only a few of these ‘old’ new cameras still available and we’re stocking up.

When considering a camcorder, you need to consider how nice a unit you need. This is a professional unit with 3 1/3′ cmos sensors. Camcorders with bigger chips(like 1/2′) are even better in low light and have a narrower depth of field but are bigger, more expensive, heavier and typically use better quality video formats with higher bit rates. Single chip consumer camcorders in low light loose resolution and have more noise than the 3 chip versions and don’t have the features of pro models. This unit is a good compromise using the proven hdv video codec which while not as efficient as avchd, is easier to edit and looks amazingly good given it’s fixed 25mbps bit rate. Every codec has some artifacts and if you freeze frame, you can see some compression artifacts, especially if the there is fast action. The real question is what you can see in full motion video. You just don’t see most of the artifacts in hdv and, if you watch netflix, consider that their hd bit rate is 3mbps. The 1/3′ chips have some narrow depth of field at longer focal lengths and keep the unit relatively small but it’s nothing like a dslr. Plus you get a 20x zoom that would be hard to incorporate in a bigger chip camera or dslr.

Key specs for Sony HVR-Z5U High Definition Handheld Professional Camcorder:

  • Zoom Ratio Selectable – Sony G Lens 20x (optical), servo/manual, 30x (digital) when D.EXTENDER is set to [ON]
  • Focal Length – f = 4.1 to 82mm (3/16 – 3 in.), (f = 29.5 to 590 mm in 16 – 9 mode, f = 36.1 to 722 mm in 4 – 3 mode 35mm equivalent)
  • Built-In Optical Filters – Clear, 1/4, 1/16, 1/64 ND
  • Recording Frame Rate NTSC model – HDV – 1440 x 1080/60i/30p/24p DVCAM, DV SP – 720 x 480/60i
  • Minimum Illumination – 1.5 lux (auto gain, auto iris, 1/30 shutter)

Comments from buyers

“An Amazing Camera
, Best tape camera we’ve ever shot with.
, Best handheld camera I have ever seen

Tough, feature laden, reliable, and completely functional. It takes awhile to learn the the important features and i bet nobody knows all of them. I finally surrendered to the fact and now use an aftermarket shoulder mount. Be sure to buy the obscenely priced hvr-mrc1 memory unit accessory. I like the memory unit for two reasons. First, it’s a back up to the tape. Second, it’s faster to dump the data from a cf card to a computer than doing from tape.

This camcorder had great high-def quality. If you are looking for one i would recommend that you should buy this camera. Overall this camcorder was great for weddings and other events.

We are reasonably pleased with this sony camcorder, even though the menu system and settings are complicated and therefore annoying.

I have several of the older z1s that have received lots of run time. The hvr-z5u fixes many of the issues we have had with the z1s. Wider angle, longer lens, zebra level entry on the monitor, much better management of the mic controls and other subtle improvements. And of course the slow motion feature. So over all we could have probably bought a different machine but this is one proven producer.

This is the oldest, largest, and heaviest camera of the four i use for shooting documentaries. And it is the one i end up grabbing most often – it is just that good, especially with the optional cf card recorder. At first i recorded to both card and tape as a backup, but i don’t even bother with tape any more. I’m not sure what secret sauce sony is using to get such high-quality images, but i suspect the g lens in this thing deserves much of the credit.

The z5u is a serious piece of equipment. I’ve had it for a couple of weeks now, and only until today i feel i know it well enough to write a decent review. First off, the camera looks really sleek, feels solid and very well built. Its look isn’t as metallic as the z1, but the feel is very similar. Of course, you can use it from day one with everything on auto, but if that’s all you’re ever gonna do, you’re better off with something much less expensive, like those tiny hd cameras that are popping up everywhere. Speaking of day 1, your first accesory is necessarily some kind of carrying bag or hard case. Sony has a backpack that’s amazing, but costs more than 500 bucks. I got the kata bag, which is perfect. I also got the large battery, and the cables that are not supplied with the camera (firewire, hdmi, xlr extension). Also, i got sony hd master minidv tapes, as well as a 6pack of regular sony minidv tapes.

I’ve owned the z5u for about 4 years now. It’s a great piece of equipment. Out of the box you can get great video with it. You will be amazed with your shots. It is a pro-level camcorder, so if you’re coming from a consumer-based camcorder, like a hv20/30/40 vx2000 or something similar, you will notice right away how much more substantial and robust this thing is. It’s larger (not too much larger than a pd150), heavier and has more buttons and dials. The menu choices are much greater and can be daunting, i would seriously recommend doug jensen’s ‘mastering the sony hvr-z7u’ training dvd [by vortex media as these two camcorders are nearly identical. That dvd will cut your learning curve by 80%. It did for me, which made the investment in the dvd worthwhile. ]

Can i used this sony professional camcorder cameras works all over the world because i need the one that can be used in african like nigeria. Pal is the only one that works in nigeria. Am buying this product it’s the right for me to used in african or let say nigeria.

The hvr-z5u high definition camcorder is the successor to the hvr-z1u, housing many of the features of its predecessor in a more compact package, plus adding many more. Records hdv in 1080/60i as well as 1080 in 30p/24p native progressive recording modes, plus standard definition dvcam/dv. Features 1/3′ 3 clearvid cmos sensors, high peformance g lens, exmor technology for low light situations, hdmi / ieee1394, xlr audio, built in filters, automatic settings, and a large host of manual adjustments (gain/shutter/iris/focus/white balance/audio level) and menu settings to acheive exactly the look you demand as a working professional. By adding either the hvr-dr60 or hvr-mrc1 recording units, one can acheive a powerful hybrid recording solution.

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Reviewed Item
Sony HVR-Z5U High Definition Handheld Professional Camcorder
3 of 5 stars, based on 14 reviews