Sony Xdcam Microsite

Sony XDCAM EX PMW-350K

Sometimes it seems as if little has changed in ENG-style camcorders since Sony introduced the first one-piece Betacam, the BVW-200, at NAB 1989.

The BVW-200 was the first 2/3in. 3CCD shoulder-mount camcorder. By introducing small, solid-state CCDs to replace the fussy high-voltage Saticon tubes of previous two-piece Betacams, Sony shrunk the BVW-200 in size and power consumption. A Sony brochure at the time boasted:

Sony Xdcam Driver

XDCAM HD422 Family Brochure PDF 1.99MB Click here to view. XDCAM Family Brochure PDF 4.25MB Click here to view. XDCAM HD Family Brochure PDF 4.47MB. Oct 15, 2012 Go to the Sony Microsite for your area ( Sony Asia in your case: Welcome: Sony Professional Solutions Asia Pacific) and just look up the EX1 (NOT EX1R) in the Support section. Clip Browser 2.6 should be available for both Mac and Windows. Go to the Sony Microsite and search for XDCam Downloads. Click the link that says, 'Product Firmware and Setup Utilities.' Then you should see a link for the 'PDW-U1 XDCAM Drive (SD/HD)'.

  • Shoulder weight of 15lbs. 3oz. fully loaded
  • Perfect balance—adjustable shoulder pad for different lens attachments and batteries
  • Extremely low power consumption
  • Shorter length and lower profile for better peripheral vision
  • Quick startup and improved layout for all operational controls
  • Uncompromised technical performance that fully exploits the inherent superiority of Betacam SP recording capability
  • Freedom from daily technical alignment and easy maintenance
  • Enhanced reliability.

Breakthroughs then and now. The first-ever 2/3in. 3CCD camcorder, a Sony BVW-200 from 1989, and the first-ever 2/3in. 3-CMOS camcorder, Sony’s new PMW-350 with Fujinon autofocus 16X zoom lens.
Photo illustration by D.W. Leitner

I know in broadcast trucks & studios that are sony-based use XDCAM disks for VTs which use the XDCAM codec, that until that changes there it will always be. Level 1 1 point 5 years ago. Sony PMW-F3 review Written on 06 March 2011. I’ve grown used to the fact that the new raft of large-sensor cameras are shaped like shoe boxes. There are a lot of electronics to pack inside and the circuit boards being rectangular have to fit in an orderly manner.

Fast-forward to today and substitute the operational weight of Sony’s new XDCAM EX PMW-350, 13.9lbs., and SxS flash-memory storage for Betacam SP recording, and, remarkably enough, you have a perfectly apt description of Sony’s first 2/3in. 3-CMOS camcorder, the PMW-350.

The PMW-350 also happens to be Sony’s first shoulder-mount camcorder with solid-state memory recording. The first with HDMI. The first with no Power Save switch. The first with no color filter wheel, simply electronic presets for color temperature and three steps of neutral density. The first 2/3in. camcorder with autofocus. Ever.

The beginning of a new Sony camcorder era? Let’s take a look.

The PMW-350’s 16X, f=8mm-128mm, f/1.9 hybrid Fujinon HD zoom with autofocus. At $1,400, a stocking stuffer.

The PMW-350’s street price at New York’s B&H is $18,900 with the supplied Fujinon HD zoom lens and $17,500 without the lens. That’s not a typo. The Fujinon zoom adds $1,400—not the usual $14,000 plus.

What’s going on here? The PMW-350 borrows a page from the 1/2in. PMW-EX3‘s book, which introduced a hybrid zoom that, like those of Sony’s 1/2in. PMW-EX1 and 1/3in. HVR-Z7U, can focus either mechanically to permit use of repeatable focus marks or electronically (infinite spin) for autofocus.

The 16X, 8mm-128mm, f/1.9 hybrid Fujinon zoom supplied with the PMW-350, however, is a 2/3in.-format lens with a standard B4 mount. The lens was designed expressly for the PMW-350 and provides autofocus control as well as lens file data (chromatic aberration compensation, dynamic shading) and metadata (aperture and focal length, stored in the video stream). The only electronic trick it neglects is optical image stabilization (OIS). Sony says virtually every PMW-350 sale to date includes the supplied lens. At that price, it’s a stocking stuffer.

The images created with Carl Zeiss DigiPrimes looked spectacular. Note viewfinder electronically masked to 2.40 “Scope” aspect ratio.
Photo by D.W. Leitner

Xdcam

That first one-piece Betacam from 1989 carried a list price twice as much as today’s PMW-350—with lens, an investment approaching $50,000. It delivered a whopping 550 TV lines of standard definition from CCDs containing 250,920 pixels each. Today’s PMW-350 touts 1920×1080 CMOS sensors with 2,073,600 pixels for “1000 TV lines or more.” It provides all flavors of HD: 1920×1080, 1440×1080, 1440×720, and 1280×720 in the usual interlaced and progressive forms at frame rates of 59.94fps, 50fps, 29.97fps, 25fps, and 23.98fps.

Compression is efficient MPEG-2: 35Mbps VBR or 25Mbps CBR. A huge RAM cache stores 15 seconds for recording before the record button is even pressed.

An ironic touch: This 21st century marvel also delivers good old standard-definition DVCAM format, both 480- and 576-line.

CCDs are thirsty and that first BVW-200 drew 19W, modest compared to brawnier Betacams that followed. (Remember heavy brick batteries?) The remarkable PMW-350, although an HD camcorder, draws a mere 18W even when powering an LCD color viewfinder (more on this in a moment), autofocus zoom, directional stereo mic, and 32GB SxS card. One item it doesn’t have to power is a fan. Cool-running, low-power CMOS sensors bestow utter silence to the PMW-350, which is the only 2/3in. HD camcorder, I think, that can claim no internal motors.

Sony DWR-S01D digital wireless dual-channel slot-in receiver used with the PMW-350. To the left, Sony’s DWT-B01 bodypack transmitter. A sophisticated, expensive setup.
Photo by D.W. Leitner

Imagine my satisfaction upon charging a slim 14.4V Sony BP-GL95 lithium ion battery and encountering, in the viewfinder, a battery life indication of 263 minutes. That’s more than 4 hours of 1080p from a full-size 2/3in. camcorder, folks!

Moreover, the PMW-350’s Exmor CMOS sensors introduce unprecedented sensitivity. (Sony’s unique Exmor architecture arranges on-chip A/D on a column basis for faster manifold output and improvements to dynamic range, rolling shutter, noise, and fixed pattern noise.) Using a standard frame rate, 24fps, and a standard metric, an 89.9 percent reflective gray card illuminated to 2000 lux, a 3CCD Sony F900R rates f/10, a 3CCD Sony F23 rates between f/10 and f/11, and a PMW-350 rates f/13. (A higher f/stop number is better.) I think this is the first instance of 2/3in. CMOS sensors outgunning CCDs in sensitivity.

A note about the lenses I used on the PMW-350: I spent only a matter of minutes with a preproduction version of Funijon’s 16X autofocus zoom. Nonetheless, I was impressed on many levels. It’s compact, light, and well-integrated with the PMW-350. Price point and value are incredible. It outwardly resembles the family of Fujinon autofocus zooms found on the PMW-EX1 and PMW-EX3. If you’ve used them, you know they’re not chopped liver.

I also field-tested a couple of Zeiss DigiPrimes. As expected, they looked spectacular.

The lens I used mostly was a 16X Canon 7.7mm-123mm, f/1.8, with 2X extender—a true HD ENG lens. In Canon parlance, it’s model KJ16ex7.7B IRSD PS12 with eDrive.

Sony Xdcam Ex

(If you haven’t encountered a Canon eDrive zoom lens, you’re missing a treat: motion control in a handgrip. EDrive handgrips contain high-resolution rotary encoders from Canon’s copier business, granting microprocessor control over all lens motor functions. There’s a four-way toggle switch on the handgrip with a user interface window and all sorts of ways to control zooming speed, acceleration/deceleration, and zoom range. Canon eDrive zoom lenses can remember various lens parameters at various focus lengths and perfectly repeat prior zooms, much like Sony’s Shot Transition feature on HDV handhelds. EDrive zoom lenses perform the slowest, crawliest zooms in the business.)

The 16X Canon eDrive zoom lens looked great too, but it’s lengthier than the 16X Fujinon autofocus zoom and threw off the balance of the PMW-350. At the same time, I inadvertently added counterweight with a Sony DWR-S01D digital wireless dual-channel slot-in receiver inserted in the tail slot of the PMW-350. (Paired with a Sony DWT-B01 bodypack transmitter, this is a terrific—if terrifically pricey—dual-channel system for dropout-free digital transmission/reception. I lust for one.)

The sliding shoulder pad with quick-release rebalances the PMW-350 when lenses and accessories are changed.

To tweak the balance of the PMW-350, I loosened the latch under the shoulder pad and slid the pad back and forth—per Sony, the greatest margin of adjustment in any shoulder-mount camcorder—until I found that sweet spot of perfect balance. What a difference it made! The PMW-350’s low center of gravity is not yet the equal of an Aaton, but it’s getting there.

The PMW-350’s superb 6500K color viewfinder deserves a review of its own. (6500K is the white point of pro broadcast monitors.) If you read Leitner’s Cinematography Corner, No. 3 back in October, you’ll remember my excitement at the time: “Two features will leap out immediately to operators everywhere: a new … Fujinon lens with hybrid auto/manual focus … and a new viewfinder based on the 3.5in., 920,000-dot LCD introduced on the EX1/EX3 series. For me, viewing through it was like looking directly at a studio HD monitor. All I could say was, ‘Wow … who needs peaking?'”

Not your grandfather’s viewfinder. Good enough to adjust with color bars?
Photo by D.W. Leitner

Having now used the color viewfinder quite a lot, I stand by my initial impressions. I viewed many PMW-350 images—near, far, daylight, tungsten, bright, dark—directly on a huge 46in. Samsung LED display (exploiting the PMW-350’s handy HDMI output) and simultaneously in the viewfinder. While minimal peaking does aid fast focusing, I found that dialing in any amount of peaking coarsened the PMW-350’s viewfinder image and separated it from the recorded image. Alphanumeric indicators in the viewfinder also grew blown-out and garish with peaking. With no peaking at all, however, the viewfinder image closely matched the camera’s output yet remained easy to focus by eye. The “Focus Mag” 2X magnification function proved useful as a check.

After 20 years of camcorder viewfinders that failed miserably to achieve fidelity to the images they were framing, never coming within miles of delivering the aesthetic experience of a 16mm or 35mm viewfinder—even black-and-white master Ansel Adams viewed hi-res color images in his optical finder!—we at last have an electronic color viewfinder that’s worthy of being set up to the SMPTE RP 219-2002 bars generated by the PMW-350.

I know it’s a tiny LCD screen with a generic tendency to crush blacks. I know there’s no hue or color phase adjustment (we have to trust Sony on that). Nevertheless, there exist brightness and contrast knobs on the front of the viewfinder. Thankfully, in the VF Setting menu there is a B&W mode useful for adjusting contrast and setting blacks with the +2 percent and +4 percent black bars.

In the same VF Setting menu there exists another item, Color, with an arbitrary -99 to +99 range. The manual says that Color “adjusts the density” of colors in the viewfinder, and I presume this refers to chroma or saturation. Why not give us the equivalent of “Blue gun only” to facilitate this adjustment with accuracy and repeatability?

In other words, why not take the PMW-350’s color viewfinder seriously, as we would any professional monitor? We’ve always been told, don’t make critical color and exposure decisions in the viewfinder, it’s not meant for that. But with a viewfinder this good, why not?

DayGlo orange behind switches on the PMW-350, left, and new PMW-EX1R, right, make settings easier to read.
Photo by D.W. Leitner

Note to Sony concerning future placement of Peaking, Contrast, and Bright dials and Mirror, Display, Zebra, and Tally switches at the front of the viewfinder: I know it’s traditional—every shoulder-mount camcorder ever made has done it this way—but why exile these critical viewfinder controls to the one place least visible to the operator? Every time I adjust them, I, the operator, have to put down the camcorder and move around to the front to see what I’m doing. Why don’t these dials have detents or setting markings like any pro monitor?

I suggest the following: Move these important controls around to the rear of the viewfinder block, in full view of the operator. (You’ll be the first kid on the block to boast of having done this.)

Many noteworthy features and functions of the PMW-350 I’ve had to skip over in this brief review: genlock, timecode in/out, and HD-SDI for starters. In closing, I’ll single out a few of my favorites.

As on the new PMW-EX1R, Sony has placed DayGlo orange behind all black sliding switches. Now it’s a cinch to glimpse their position in dim circumstances. A simple improvement but terribly helpful.

Wonders never cease. A focal plane mark below the new electronic color temperature button.
Photo by D.W. Leitner

Also simple but terribly helpful: a focal plane mark! It’s something no film camera would be without, yet it’s as rare as hens’ teeth on video cameras.

There are seven, count ’em, assignable switches, eight if you include the RET button on the lens handgrip. (I like to assign RET to “Focus Mag” to magnify the image 2X for fine focusing.) The seven include a mini-toggle, a sliding switch, two buttons on the handle, the electronic Color Temp switch, and two unassigned buttons on the side. The last three glow with an orange light when engaged.

As in other Sony CMOS camcorders, a useful histogram is available in the viewfinder, as well as a “Lens Info” indication which dynamically displays depth of field along the top of the image. (It worked great with the Canon eDrive zoom.) Both functions are assignable either to buttons or switches.

Dual SxS slots accept new Sony adapters that permit alternative use of economical Memory Sticks and SDHC cards.

Lastly, Sony has recently announced adapters to permit use of cheap consumer SDHC cards and Sony Memory Sticks in XDCAM EX camcorders. The Sony MEAD-SD01 SD Card adapter and MEAD-MS01 Memory Stick Pro adapter will arrive in this month for about $120. A PMW-350 will require a firmware upgrade to use the latest Class 10 SDHC cards from Panasonic and SanDisk, but fortunately the PMW-EX1R and PMW-350 are Sony’s first-ever user-upgradeable camcorders (via SxS card). For information on this and future upgrades, click on the Resources tab at Sony’s XDCAM EX microsite.

At 20 years and counting, Sony’s one-piece shoulder-mount camcorder remains a classic. Pointed squarely at the future, the new PMW-350 uniquely distills these decades of design and field use into a mature bread-and-butter product for the 21st century.

As for HDCAM cassettes, is it me, or are they starting to feel as outdated as VHS cassettes? If only someone could figure out how to archive the growing mountain of digital video files, to make them as secure and long-lasting as film …

bottomline

Company: Sony
pro.sony.com
Product: PMW-350
Assets: Light, well-balanced; records to SxS solid-state memory as well as less-expensive SDHC or Memory Stick Pro cards with adapter; Exmor CMOS sensors offer unprecedented sensitivity and low power consumption; included 16X Fujinon lens is first-ever 2/3in. zoom with autofocus; color viewfinder one of the best yet; DayGlo orange behind switches improves readability.
Cons: None. State-of-the-art from stem to stern.
Price: $22,000 (list)

Sony Xdcam Microsite

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Camcorder Geek » Sony

Sony Electronics is expanding its line of solid state camcorders with two new models designed to broaden the shooting capabilities for professionals and consumers. The company is introducing its first professional camcorder that implements the AVCHD format, the HXR-NX5U, as well as a consumer AVCHD model, HDR-AX2000.

The professional HXR-NX5U model is part of Sony’s NXCAM family of video products for professionals. It features Sony’s Exmor™ CMOS sensor with ClearVid™ array, to deliver full high-definition resolution and low light sensitivity with low noise. The camcorder will record AVCHD up to 24Mbps, delivering 1920x1080 high definition images with both interlace and progressive modes along with native 1080/24P, 720/60p and MPEG-2 standard definition recording. Only the professional NX5U camcorder includes both HD-SDI and HDMI™ outputs, as well as two-channel linear PCM audio capabilities. Other unique features for the professional NX5U camcorder include 720/60P recording, built-in GPS function, SMPTE Time Code I/O and an upgrade option for 60i/50i switchable.

AVCHD technology has been widely adopted in Sony’s consumer camcorder line. In the professional market, Sony has already introduced one AVCHD-based model: the compact point-of-view (POV) camera and solid-state recorder combination, model HXR-MC1.

According to Sony, AVCHD is a highly efficient long-GOP codec based on MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 Long-GOP image compression, a member of the MPEG family of codecs. This approach is consistent with Sony’s current line-up of MPEG professional camcorders, including the HDV™, XDCAM® HD optical and XDCAM EX™ series.

Sony Xdcam Software

The new NXCAM model also shares the 20x optical zoom G lens used in Sony’s HVR-Z5U professional camcorder. The camcorder uses two types of consumer media along with an optional HXR-FMU128 128GB Flash Memory Unit for more than 11 hours of recording time at 24 Mbps. The HXR-FMU128 unit can be easily removed and simply powered through a computer’s USB connection, to make file downloading or editing easier and faster. Besides the Memory Stick PRO Duo™ media, users are also able to record HD content on class 4 or higher SDHC cards.

The new HXR-NX5U will be available this month, at a suggested list price of $4,950, which is the same as Sony’s highly successful HVR-Z5U. The HXR-FMU128 unit will also be available this month, at a suggested list price of $800. It can only be used with the professional model HXR-NX5U, not with the HDR-AX2000.

For High-end Prosumers

With both the HXR-NX5U and the HDR-AX2000 Handycam® camcorders, professionals and more adept consumer videographers can achieve a deep cinematic look with film-like movie quality and advanced color settings.

Together, the EIP and Exmor CMOS Sensors imaging system allows both HXR-NX5U and the HDR-AX2000 camcorder to provide extremely high image quality with smooth gradation and detailed image reproduction.

Recording full 1920x1080/60i high-definition video at up to 24Mbps, the HDR-AX2000 features progressive scan at 1080/24p and 30p, giving video film-quality motions for brilliant scene reproduction. Sony’s new prosumer camcorder delivers HD broadcast-quality images with the convenience of a non-linear recording format to Memory Stick PRO Duo™ media for editing and playback. CinemaTone Gamma™ and CinemaTone Color settings complement the 24P capabilities by providing the color and gamma range for an even more high-end feel and extra control over image expression.

The model uses three 1/3' Exmor™ CMOS Sensors with Exmor derived technology to improve the color reproduction of video recordings and capture sharp, detailed images even in less than perfect lighting situations. Noise reduction is accomplished via the unique column-parallel analog-to-digital conversion technique and grid arrangement of the photo diodes, which are designed to provide high sensitivity, deep resolution, high-speed reading, and a wider dynamic range. The Exmor technologies combine to allow the new camcorders to perform significantly better in low-light environments with sensitivity of 1.5 lux.

The EIP processor is able to rapidly process the vast amounts of pixel data read from the three 1/3” Exmor CMOS Sensors, and record beautiful HD and colorful video. The Exmor CMOS Sensors were developed using some of the most advanced technologies in the semiconductor industry. They handle video data in 1920 x 1080p and 4:2:2 color space for high-quality signal processing before recording it to the dual Memory Stick PRO Duo media. Together, the EIP and Exmor CMOS Sensors imaging system allows both HXR-NX5U and the HDR-AX2000 camcorder to provide extremely high image quality with smooth gradation and detailed image reproduction.

The new camcorder uses Sony’s 3.2” (16:9) (measured diagonally) Xtra Fine LCD™ screen (921K) and Xtra Fine LCD electronic viewfinder (0.45-inch, 1,227,000 dots) for high-resolution and high-contrast images with remarkable color reproduction.

Equipped with a refined level of optical performance, both HXR-NX5U and the HDR-AX2000 also have a 29.5mm Wide-Angle to 590mm Telephoto G-Lens, extra-low dispersion glass and 20x optical zoom. The fixed lens is optimized to perfectly complement the cameras’ advanced image sensor and image-processing technology.

Sony Xdcam Camcorder

Optical SteadyShot™ image stabilization with Active Mode improves on existing Optical SteadyShot image stabilization by allowing the camera lens to shift over a greater range of motion allowing the camera to compensate for greater degrees of camera shake and deliver a stunning level of image smoothness.

Xdcam

Both models feature three built-in neutral density filters for adjusting the amount of light entering the image sensor through the lens and enables prosumers to define their own manual settings for iris, gain, white balance, shutter speed and focus for increased creativity and control. Use of any of the three manual rings for adjustments to zoom, focus and iris provides even more flexibility and makes it possible to fine-tune the settings. This allows users to conveniently assign features used often to shortcut buttons so they can be accessed quickly without going through a menu.

Sony Xdcam Microsite Software

Since professional quality video requires professional quality audio, both models feature dual XLR 3-pin audio jacks for +48V phantom power to external microphones. Additionally, the grounded connection allows insertion/removal of connectors in live equipment without picking up external signals.

Sony Xdcam Microsite

The HDR-AX2000 camcorder is scheduled to be available in March for about $3,500 at authorized dealers nationwide, Sony Style® retail stores and online through www.sonystyle.com.

Sony Microsite Xdcam

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