Sweet shots Shawn.
The reason I'm really convinced it's in the processing is that I've seen that same 'look' from many different Sonys regardless of lens. I think it's an image type they go after depending on the camera line. Despite having very different sensors, in good light the A65 & A57 produced very similair videos. They obviously have very similair processing.
There's also obviously something different going on in video mode when you use the Alphas as opposed to the NEX (VG20 or NEX7). When you hit the video button on the Alphas the image enlarges and is cropped relative to the still frame image, which I assume is due to the cropping of the sensor in video mode. This doesn't happen in the NEX as the still image area is exactly the same as the video image area. So obviously two different image processing schemes are needed just to deal with these two approaches. I'm not saying one method is flawed, just different requiring different processing.
It reminds me of some TV manufacturer's approach with some TVs. Often a somewhat hyped picture with too much edge enhancement and a too blue picture is what draws customers in the showroom. They're not accurate, but manufacturer's know that consumers are drawn to them and it sells. Others wll not appreciate the look and immediately get them ISF'd. Still others will hate the ISF calibrated look, saying it looks too drab. It's a very rough analogy, but it does come to mind.
The Alphas produce a very contrasty image and are very punchy, but to me the NEX looks more like what my eyes see. I shot my wife late yesterday in our backyard (that didn't come out right!
). The A57 produced a very punchy, contrasty image. Shadows on her face were quite dark, but dramatic. The VG20 shadows were lighter and less dramatic, but more detail was visible in those shadows. The VG looked more like my eyes saw it. With that said, it's quite possible more people might pick the A57 video as the clip they'd prefer. It wouldn't surprise me in the least. As with TVs, better accuracy doesn't always sell. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the 57 was inaccurate, I'm just saying to my eyes the VG was more natural.
Remember, in theory these cameras have different missions. The Alphas are still cameras first and videocameras second. That's not to say they can't produce excellent video, they do. But the VG is designed as a videocamera first and still cam 2nd. BTW, the VG20 does produce some gorgeous stills, just not with 28mp resolution, but enough for me. It also can't fire off 10 fps or more like the Alphas. But for me, more importantly, the VG does have that gorgeous Sony color in still mode.
A last word on my argument about a 'look. I can throw the $298 18-55 E lens on the VG20 and get precisely the same look as I get from the $899 E 18-200 lens. Truth be told Shawn, it's a tad sharper than the 18-200 at the same focal length! So here we have a lens that's 1/3 the cost, yet produces exactly the same imagery.
You should try one just to see what I mean. To my eyes it's just a little more natural, unprocessed look. And yes, I think you'd appreciate the ergonomics for longer shooting sessions. You also have unlimited clip times if that's important, so no worry about a 29 minute cut-off. That may or may not be important to you.
Great tools, all of them. We're lucky to have them.