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We should all be so lucky. Congratulations on the upgrade.
You should be able to lock at the max aperture of 1.6. The business of automatically stopping-down from 1.6 to 2.8 when zooming in sounds odd. There must be a way to override. It can’t go “lower” meaning the aperture can’t be made any wider (e.g., 1.6 to 1.2) to let in more light. That’s the spec so you will have to live with it. (Still, 1.6 would be considered a “fast” lens.)
HD is new technology. It just isn’t there yet in low light. Same thing happened when digital came on the market; for a couple years you could find analog cameras that could beat the brains out of the digitals in low light. About 2 years ago I attended a promotional workshop for one of the first consumer HD cams. They had a Canon X1 or X2 there for comparison. They were showing how the HD cam was equal to or better than the Canon, but all of the shots put up on the monitor were of well lit subjects around the room. I’m the one in the audience who had to ask that both cams peer into the shadows. The poor showing of the HD demonstration camera in this comparison seemed to stun the presenters at the time.
Well HD is coming up but it still has a way to go in the low light department. I had a demonstration of the $3200+ consumer version of your cam about 2 weeks ago, covering a wide range of lighting, and it is clear that HD has done some major catching up. Still, this model is rated at only 3 lux. Your professional model is rated at 2 lux. What is your VX2000? I suspect it is 1 lux, the same at its successor the VX2100.
Since you are buying professional level equipment you should be starting to think about bringing a light kit to your gigs, so that your results actually attain the super image quality your cam is capable of producing, provided it can see your subject.
Other than that, your VX2000 will provide better images in SD in low light than your new cam can provide in SD or HD. Another surprising thing: I have read a review of your cam that said first, that the HD images are a stunning eye feast; but that when shooting in SD, in good or bad light, the HVR-Z1U produces images that are visibly softer than SD images shot by the VX2100. In other words, the VX2100 is better for shooting SD than the HVR-Z1U. So when a job calls for atmosphere/low light and/or SD, consider bringing your backup cam.
REGARDS … TOM 8)