September 07, 2009

Sony in Std Def camcorder shock…

At a time when all new camcorders are presumed to be High Definition, if not even higher definition, Sony has gone all 2003 on us and released what must surely be the last ever standard definition camcorder, the new DSR-PD175P – a direct replacement for the popular PD170.

It records to DV tape, for those of you who want something to sit on a shelf gathering dust and to probably still work in 50 years time ("But YouTube is my archive, why would I want anything else?"), and is aimed at "emerging markets", including Russia, Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East where the demand for SD is apparently still high.

Sony's PD170 was beloved by many, especially people shooting weddings, because of its abilities in low light, recording down to 1 lux. Its successor isn't quite as effective in the dark, although it isn't far off at 1.5 lux.

The PD175 does have the advantage of being 16:9 native and uses three of the same 1/3-inch Exmor ClearVid CMOS sensors found in the rather nice Z5.

The camera has a fixed 20x Sony G lens (with a wide angle of 29.5mm), three ND filters (1/4, 1/16, 1/64) and independent focus, zoom and iris rings. It also has an improved high resolution LCD panel and viewfinder. To aid migration from the PD170, the PD175 also uses L series batteries, removing the need to buy new battery systems (unlike most of Sony's HDV cameras).

It can also record to Compact Flash, by plugging in the HVR-MRC1K solid state recorder (using an i.LINK/FireWire connector), and adds a 25p progressive scan mode for a more filmic look. The 25p image is recorded as an interlaced signal in two fields, for compatibility with editing and monitoring equipment that accept interlaced signals (and, more important, compatibility with the DVCAM standard), but can be recombined into a 25p image during the edit.

Its Smooth Slow Record function enables smooth slow-motion playback by capturing images four times faster than normal (200 fields per second). In this mode, quad-speed images are captured for six seconds, stored in the built-in buffer memory, and then recorded to tape (in either DVCAM or DV format) as slow-motion pictures lasting 24 seconds.

It should cost about the same as the PD170, although the HDV-equipped HVR-V1E only costs about 20% more.

David Fox