October 22, 2009

Sony EXpands XDCAM EX range

Sony has updated its EX1 camcorder and added a new shoulder-mounted model with 2/3-inch sensors.

Improvements to the new PMW-EX1R are mainly the result of customer requests, and include:
• an improved hand grip (making it more comfortable for hand-held shots)
• easier to access switches (although the one-push auto focus button hasn't been moved, and is still in the wrong place for hand-held use)
• smooth handle zoom transitions (stop/start)
• HDMI output
• one-click S&Q (Slow and Quick) mode [button glowing in photo - right]
• a 15-second buffer for continuous pre-recording
• a higher-resolution viewfinder (the same as on the Z5 and Z7)
• an image inversion option that reverses an image upside down and left/right for a Cine-style depth of field adaptor
• a new IR-cut filter to give deeper (non infrared contaminated) blacks
• an improved audio limiter.

It retains the EX1's three half-inch 1920x1080 CMOS sensors, a Fujinon 14x HD zoom lens and a dual focus ring mechanism.

Besides its 35Mbps and 25Mpbs HD formats, it now has 25Mbps Standard Definition DVCAM recording – although given that the only difference between DVCAM and DV was that DVCAM used a faster tape speed (to reduce the impact of any tape drop out), why continue to call it the more professional sounding DVCAM for a tapeless system (other than that, of course)?

That Sony has added SD to its HD range shows that there are still plenty of people who still need to shoot SD but want to buy a tapeless/HD camcorder to future-proof their investment (although why Sony didn't realise this two years ago when it launched the EX1, who knows?). It has also added a 1440x1080, 35Mbps, recording mode for compatibility with users of its XDCAM HD optical disc systems (the EX1 already recorded 1440x1080 at 25Mbps for HDV).

It has two SxS memory card slots, which allow it to record up to 280 minutes of HD using two of the newly introduced 32GB SxS cards – there is also a new, lower-cost range of cards (the SxS-1 range), which trades off a shorter lifespan (five years of daily use – with life indication displayed in the viewfinder) for its use of cheaper flash memory, and has 800Mbps transfer speed. It should cost under £450 for 32GB, compared to at least £600 for a 32GB SxS PRO card.

A lot of EX1 users had been using a lower-cost SxS alternative – SDHC-to-ExpressCard/34 adapters, from the likes of Delkin, E-films and Hoodman (for lots more on these have a look at Guy Barwood's excellent site). Obviously, Sony would rather you use its own products, so it has responded with a new adaptor (MEAD-MS01) that will allow you to record to Sony's own 8GB, 16GB or 32GB Memory Stick Pro HG Duo HX cards (although not as reliably as SxS and at the expense of some features, such as high speed recording, and with lower transfer speeds). The adapter should cost less than £100. Current EX1 and EX3 models will also be compatible – through a firmware upgrade that should be available early 2010. Users can also add a 120GB hard-disk recorder, the PHU-120K.

The EX1R should be available in December for about the same cost as the EX1 (under £5,500).

PMW-350 shoulders responsibilityThe new lightweight PMW-350 will sit comfortably on your shoulder and has the extra quality (and shallower depth of field) of three 2/3-inch 1920×1080 CMOS Exmor sensors.

It has timecode in/out, genlock in, and HD-SDI and HDMI out, making it suitable for studio use, and records to the same HD formats as the EX1R (with the option of DVCAM).

It can be bought with a bundled 16x lens (as the model PMW-350K), and has automatic lens aberration compensation, independent focus, zoom and iris rings; auto focus mode, manual focus assist. However, the lens isn't particularly wide, with a focal length of f 8mm-128mm (which is the equivalent of 31.5mm-503mm on a 35mm lens).

It boasts good, low, power consumption (15W), giving it a longer run time on a single battery.

It should typically cost under £14,000 without lens and under £16,000 with lens, and will be available January 2010.

David Fox

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