July 26, 2012

Sony PMW-200 XDCAM camcorder

Many fans of Sony’s venerable PMW-EX1R looked at the introduction of the 50Mbps single-sensor PMW-100 and wondered when Sony would bring 50Mbps recording to their camera. Well, now it has… mostly. The new PMW-200 does have three half-inch Exmor CMOS sensors and full HD 4:2:2 5 50Mbps recording (as required by pretty much every broadcaster as the minimum bitrate for HD), but the form factor familiar to EX1 users has changed slightly. The PMW-200 is a somewhat more compact body, similar to the PMW-100, so it could take a little time to get used to new ergonomics.

Sony has taken a long time to offer 50Mbps in a decent lower-budget camera. Canon’s XF300/XF305 and Panasonic’s AG-HPX250 have had the field to themselves for a long time. It has meant that EX1 users have had to fit external recorders if they were shooting for broadcast. However, both the XF300/XF305 and the HPX250 use 1/3-inch sensors, but some broadcasters, such as Sky, believe half-inch chips are the minimum standard for HD (they often also ask for 100Mbps recording, so it may not be the end for all external recorders). The half-inch sensors should also deliver better low-light performance than their smaller rivals. Of course, if you already own an EX1R and an external recorder, the PMW-200 is not so much an improvement as a potential B-camera.

The XF range is currently the most popular for low-budget broadcast work, not just because it meets most broadcasters’ requirements, but also due to it using low-cost Compact Flash cards. The HPX250 uses Panasonic’s more expensive P2 cards, while the PMW-200 will primarily use SxS cards, which are only slightly cheaper than P2 – although at least the PMW-200 offers the option of using lower-cost SD, Memory Stick and XQD cards using an adaptor.

Besides 50Mbps, Sony covers all the legacy formats it is famous for, including 35Mbps MXF, 35Mbps/25Mbps MP4 and DVCAM. So if you still occasionally have to work in a Standard Definition environment and can’t edit in HD before outputting SD, then you are covered. Unfortunately, this flexibility uncovers one of the bugbears we’ve found using the PMW-100 – having to choose to format the cards using either UDF or FAT. Unhelpfully, the PMW-100 manual didn’t explain why you’d want to do that, so we had to work it out. If you want to record in 50Mbps (HD422) or 35Mbps (HQ), you have to choose UDF. You can’t record 50Mbps in FAT, but you can record 35Mbps (HQ) or 25Mbps (SP). It’s something you shouldn’t have to think about, but you do….

There is a slip-ring on the lens to switch between 
auto-focus (AF/MF - above) and full manual focus (below) 

Zoom lens: While the PMW-100 has a not-particularly-wide 10x zoom lens, the PMW-200 has a much better Fujinon 14x zoom, that goes from a very-nearly-wide 31.5mm to 440mm (35mm equivalent). You’ll still probably want a wide-angle adaptor for it, but you’ll probably only really need it in confined spaces.

The lens has three independent rings for zoom, focus and iris adjustment, plus greater precision through indications of ring positions on the 3.5-inch (852x480) LCD screen.

Recording: It has some frame rate flexibility with its Slow and Quick motion function which goes from one to 30 frames per second in 1080p, or 1fps to 60fps in 720p mode (but only if recording to an SxS Pro or SxS-1 card – and you can immediately play it back without using an external converter or processing on your editing system.

Most new professional camcorders now have cache record, which continually buffers what you are pointing at in its memory, but the PMW-200’s is longer than most at 15 seconds, which it will then write to your card once the record button is pressed, which is great for news or reality programmes – although it does assume you have the camera switched on eating battery power…

Other features: genlock and timecode interfaces for multi-camera operations; four-channel 24-bit Linear PCM 48kHz audio; dual XLR audio inputs; dual card slots; two ND filters (1/8ND and 1/64ND); optical SteadyShot; shutter angle as well as shutter speed settings; HD/SD-SDI, HDMI USB and iLink (IEEE1394 – HDV and DV) interfaces; five assign buttons.

Price/Availability: The PMW-200 weighs about 2.3kg (plus battery and cards, etc) and should be available from mid-September. There was no price in the press release, but CVP had it for pre-order at £5,160.00 + VAT (€6,580 or under $8,000 - essentially the same list prices as the EX1R is now).

There will also be a WiFi remote control from an iPad, iPhone or Android device (adaptor CBK-WA01 required), which is scheduled to be available by December with a free firmware upgrade (workflow above), including the ability to add metadata as used in Sony's successful XMPilot workflow.

“With the new PMW-200, we are putting one of the most versatile handheld camcorders we’ve ever developed onto the market,” said Bill Drummond, Strategic Marketing Manager, Professional Solutions, Sony Europe.

“The PMW-200 combines exceptional picture quality, seamless HD422 50Mbps workflow and a whole host of other useful features, with an ergonomic form factor. The result for users is an agile, lightweight solution that meets their varied needs and is the perfect partner for shoulder camcorders such as the popular PMW-500. It is also the ideal A-camera in its own right for HD broadcast production.”

Freelance cameraman, Alister Chapman, has done a good video overview of the PMW-200 and runs through the new features and how they can be used:

By David Fox

July 06, 2012

NEX-FS700 shooting with Matt Davis

On Wednesday 11th July, one of our local dealers, Prokit, has an interesting seminar on shooting with Sony’s NEX-FS700 presented by the very nice Matt Davis – (‏@matt_davis on Twitter), producer/director/editor and cameraman…

The NEX-FS700 is essentially an updated NEX-FS100 and Davis will demonstrate the key differences between the two cameras, such as the switch from CineTone to CineGamma, and shooting slow motion (the FS700 can do 200 or 240 frames per second, depending on whether you are shooting 50Hz or 60Hz).

Other features include: the Super 35mm sensor (on both models); uncompressed HDMI output; built-in ND filters (lacking on the FS100); and 3G-SDI output for 4K recording (needing an external recorder and firmware upgrade).

The Sony Masterclass will run from 10am to 4pm at Prokit’s base in Chiswick, west London, and will cost £50.

By David Fox