Who doesn't love the Sony HX9V? It's a fairly small pocketable camera that provides a full 1080/60p and probably the best image stabilization you'll find in a point and shoot. The Sony HX9V was such a great camera, that we decided to use it for our entire coverage at PMA at CES2012.
Hard to believe, but Sony has made a good thing even better with the announcements of a few new cameras including the HX10V and HX20V. The HX9V had 16x Zoom, while the new HX20V has an incredible 20x zoom. They've even managed to make upgrades to the already impressive Image Stabilization, and enhanced Digital Zoom quality. You'll have to skip towards the end of the video (above) to get information about the new cams. Both HX10V and HX20V digital cameras are already available for Pre-Order.
If all that is not enough for you, they're even throwing in an HX30V camera with 20x Optical Zoom and built in Wi-Fi. While most camera phones lack the features of a solid Point and Shoot camera, the Wi-Fi addition in the HX30V lets you take advantage of all it's features and then sync up with your smart phone so that you can immediately share it through your Photo Galleries and Social Networks (Instagram?).
Yup, within the first few minutes the Steadicam Smoothee walked through the door it was laying helplessly in pieces on my workbench. As I suspected, it's quite easy to modify this little stabilizer. With a quick release adapter, a top stage that can be fine tuned Left/Right & Forward/Back for easy balance, and one of the smoothest Gimbals on the market, i'm calling this the 'Cheesycam Baby Merlin'. If you haven't seen how smooth the Gimbal is, check out the earlier video (here).
The original Steadicam Merlin will run you about $800 dollars (click here to see), and I know there's a ton of people who want something similar for their GH2 or Sony NEX5n cameras. With this DIY, you can have just about the same features for 1/5th the price! Here's how I went about the mod.
Peel Back the sticker at the base and you'll find a few small screws. Remove the metal plates inside so you can drill through the base.
I reassembled the base (without the metal plates) and then drilled through the center (almost center - oops). Using a 3/8" Drill Bit, I was able to stuff a 1/4 x 20 coupler perfectly inside.
On the underside of the coupler, I added a washer and 1/4x20 screw to keep it from pulling through the top. On top I added my weight bracket. You could use just about anything here, and my counterweight was at 13.6 oz. which is needed to counter balance the 5D Mark II + 50mm F/1.4 (2.6lbs total).
If you want to build your own counterbalance that can swing left to right, and allow you to adjust weights up or down, check out this little mock-up using basic off the shelf parts (below). An Eye Bolt will be at the top of your counterweight setup (attached to the base of the Smoothee). A threaded coupler will allow you to attach a long all-thread rod. You can use heavy washers on the rod and a pass-through thumb knob at the bottom. You'll probably need a second thumb knob above the washers to clamp them down. If you need to make it less bottom heavy adjust the weights upwards. If you need to make it more bottom heavy, adjust the weights downwards.
Click image for larger view
Or you could also start with one of these slotted metal Dual Camera brackets to build up your swinging counterweight system.
Dual Metal Camera Bracket
Not really a cost saving idea, but If you really wanted that finished look like mine has, then here's where I cannablized the lower counterweight bracket from.
Opteka Video Camera Stabilizer
For the Quick Release plate, I used a hacksaw to cut straight across and filed it down flat.
Drilled a hole down the middle of the QR plate, and added a screw underneath. I had to trim a bit underside to get the screw to fit.
There you go! A modified Steadicam Smoothee made into the Cheesycam Baby Merlin. A nice stabilizer with an adjustable top stage, a Quick release mount, Fine Tuning knobs for quick balance, and adjustable weights underneath with movement to counterbalance uneven weight.
Originally modified to use with my Sony HX9V or Canon S100, but sturdy enough to rock my Canon 5D Mark II + 50mm F/1.4 (2.6lbs.) This is a no-brainer awesome Stabilizer for all kinds of smaller cameras like the Micro Four Thirds, or Sony NEX5n / NEX-7 type cameras. Right now these little Smoothee stabilizers are on sale (click here).
I'll be attending CES - Las Vegas in a few weeks and am seriously considering doing most of the coverage on just the Sony HX9V. I'm not the only one obsessed with the little cameras ability to get decent video out, especially for just quick informational product interviews. (audio will be recorded separately). BBC cameraman and Vimeo member Johnnie Behiri even decided to try it out on a little segment with his BBC correspondent Bethany Bell (below).
Definitely amazing quality for a camera that fits in your shirt pocket, and the Image Stabilization is the best i've used in a Point and Shoot. The only problem i'm thinking about is that on a two camera angle setup, the footage might not mix very well with another camera - So I thought i'd grab myself another one. B&H already lists this camera as discontinued (could just be manufacturing delays), and over at Amazon there's about 4 new ones left (not too bad a price).
I planned on just looking for a used one for a cheaper price, but ran into another option. If you didn't know, Sony has an eBay store and recently listed a bunch of Manufacturer Refurbished HX9V cameras. Free shipping, full warranty, and a bit cheaper than buying new. Check out the Sony eBay store of other goods (click here).
Sony HX9V 'Exmor R' Full 1080/60p - Refurbished Price
Just for fun, thought I would test to see how much difference a basic ND filter and CPL could do to improve on the HX9. The ND will bring the shutter speed down on bright days to reduce the strobe like effect. The CPL, of course will improve overall image when dealing with Polarized light. This is a basic Cokin P system filter holder (this one can hold up to 3 filters). There is a slot for a CPL that can be rotated. I've also stacked two Cokin P hoods to help prevent lens flares on the large filters. Normally the filter holder is attached to the filter ring of a lens. There's no filter ring so a friction arm keeps things in place while still being adjustable in case I need to zoom. Yes this can all be used on pretty much any other camera. If it all works well, i'll build a stage of sorts to be able to mount it on a tripod.
[Update] Here's a video sample with and without the ND Filter. The focus was thrown off from pulling the ND in and out, but if you leave it in the Auto Focus is fine. I could try stacking ND filters to cut down the shutter speed even more. Notice how choppy the water looks without the ND filter and how it flows with the ND filter on. Overall, the ND filter makes a pretty big difference.
Another practice run on the Electric Skateboard. I'm determined to learn how to ride this thing, and I think I'm getting pretty comfortable. I picked up quickly for someone who never really knew how to skate. I had to warm up a 21 year old car and decided it would be fun to chase it around. Surprisingly this car still gets her 35+ MPG and passed the smog so clean, the Smog techs were in awe. Keep in mind i'm still not shooting with a Video camera Stabilizer, this is all with a short Velbon UltraStick monopod and the Sony HX9 point and shoot camera. The full 1080/60p helps with these moving shots. I'm almost pretty comfortable to take out my Steadicam Vest and Glidecam setup, so that should yield much better results.
(above) Just testing out my new Sony HX9 point-and-shoot camera. What an amazing little thing. Besides the ability to capture full 1080 60p at it's highest resolution (much more than Canon DSLRs), there's a plethora of very cool features to make sure your photos come out perfect. Imagine that not very long ago we paid several thousands of dollars for high end video cameras that don't even come a quarter to the quality we have today in a tiny inexpensive point and shoot.
Remembering the VX2000
The new HX9 has built in HDR mode that will take three pictures and balance out the shadows and highlights. Sure that's something we've seen before. It also has a built in Anti-Shake mode which will take about 6 images together, takes all the best ones, removes all the motion blur and leaving you with one very sharp image. This is especially helpful when going hand held using the full 16x optical zoom. There's also built in image stabilization which keeps both photos and videos incredibly stable.
Taking an image in low light and worried about ISO noise? There's a feature for this too. The HX9 will take about 6 images in fast succession, merge them one on top of the other, and apply a very subtle noise reduction. Macro modes, shooting in high key lighting, sports, landscape, and more. The HX9 can make any amateur a seasoned photographer in a few minutes. Of course I believe Sony has 'the best' algorithm for taking panning Panoramic images too. Just sweep your hand across a scene (even in a small room) and the Sony HX9 will automatically stitch it together into one long panoramic. Guess what? You can also do these sweeping Panoramics while the camera is in Portrait position (tall wise), and the camera has a fast enough processor to stitch these 43MP images in about a second. (Yes about 43MP).
(above - My sample slow motion from Sony Vegas when played back at 40%).
Several others have already owned this camera since it's release, and I've only had the camera for the past few hours still learning the features and menu. There has already been some excellent footage shot with this camera like the one below from Vimeo member Jeen de Vos Producties.
I won't say it's better footage than a Canon 5D Mark II, but a fun test from Vimeo member Ryan Czaplinski shows you what it looks like in a side by side comparison. (Below)
The DSC-HX9 can use both Memory stick and SDHC cards, and a few things i'm not a fan of is limited Manual Focus (only in certain modes) and that you need to charge the battery with the camera. This would be just a bit troublesome to carry a spare battery and have it charging on the side. Of course, for the quality that this new camera provides and for the cost, i'm super happy with it. If you're not into interchangeable lenses, the HX9 with it's full 1080 60p features (good for slow motion) are hard to pass up.