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posted by - Friday, 20 November 2009
Topics Sony
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Ever since they arrived on the scene in 2007, Sony’s line of XDCAM EX cameras has been popular with filmmakers working on a broad range of projects. The EX1 and EX3 can be found in the hands of freelancers all over the world, and on the sets of major television shows. With the announcement of the new EX1R and the PMW-350 (which we more commonly refer to as the EX350), the lineup now offers a choice of form factors to suit every professional application. Each of these cameras has its place both in function and in form, but they all share the same easy workflow and record to the same high quality format.

The following breakdown will distinguish the cameras in the XDCAM EX lineup and highlight the advantages of each. We have also compiled a chart, which compares the features of these cameras – view chart.

EX1R – Compact HD Without the Small Chip

Sony EX1RThe PMW-EX1R is the ‘R’evised version of the PMW-EX1 camera. These revisions include DV recording, HDMI output and improved form factor. The features that made the EX1 so popular, however, have not been changed. The EX1 is a small form factor camera designed for handheld operation, but with none of the usual limitations. It has a ½” 1080p three-CMOS imager, which is the largest sensor available in a handheld camera. It also has a fully manual Fujinon lens with very minimal optical aberrations, as well as a large, high-resolution LCD and newly designed LCOS viewfinder. And finally, it records to SxS solid-state media, with record times of 100 minutes on a 32 GB card (in highest quality mode). Finding all of these features in a small camera was unprecedented when the EX1 was released, and today the EX1R is still a leader among Compact HD cameras.

EX3 – An EX for Your Studio

Sony EX3The EX3 came out shortly after the EX1 and quickly became very popular. We see this every day in our office, as Abel’s rental department has several EX3 cameras in constant use. The EX3 has all the features of the EX1, but with several options that make it work for an even broader range of applications. The EX3’s most significant advancement was the introduction of interchangeable lenses. The camera comes with the same lens as the EX1, but it can be removed and adapted to work with other 1/2” lenses, 2/3” lenses or a variety of other optics. This was a welcome change for camera owners who had already invested in high quality lenses. The EX3 also added timecode, genlock and remote control connectors, features that allow the EX3 to be used on multi-camera shoots and in studio environments. Lastly, Sony changed the form factor to be semi-shoulder mounted, which further enables operators to produce smooth handheld shots. In conclusion, the EX3 features the same 1/2″ imager and LCD as the EX1, but with these functional and form factor modifications, it is an excellent choice for use as a small studio camera.

EX350 – The First 2/3” Shoulder Mounted EX

Sony EX350There are many 2/3” cameras out there, and Sony has been building them for many generations. However, the PMW-350, (not to be confused with the PDW-350, a XDCAM disc based camera) stands out as a unique piece of technology. It is the first 2/3” camera to feature three 1080p CMOS chips; there are a handful of 1080p CCD cameras, but this is the first 2/3” CMOS camera by any major manufacturer. The sensor does incredibly well in low light with F12 sensitivity, one of the fastest cameras I’ve seen to date. It is also very sharp, rivaling any 1080p camera in terms of MTF.

The EX350 features the standard B4 mount found on all 2/3” professional cameras, so it will accept any 2/3” lens. There are two models available, one without a lens (PMW-350L) and one with a Fujinon lens specifically designed for this camera (PMW-350K). The lens that comes with the EX350 is very similar to the one found on the EX1R and EX3 cameras, with fully manual and auto focus modes. In many ways, the EX350 combines all the functions of the EX1 and EX3, but it comes in the standard shoulder-mount design that many camera operators have come to know and love. It features the same color LCD, which can now be removed if needed, as well as all the professional inputs and outputs for field and studio use. And, of course, it records to the same SxS media cards.

What is going to really make the EX3 a success, however, is the price. The camera body with viewfinder and lens is going to list for an estimated $22,000. In the 2/3” world this is very inexpensive. We won’t see the camera on the market until early 2010, but it’s sure to become a popular choice for HD acquisition once it is available.

Tapeless Media – You’ve Got Options

The biggest concern amongst production companies and camera owners when looking at these cameras is how to deal with the memory cards. Sony and other companies have come up with a couple different options that help ease these concerns.

SxS Memory CardSxS Media CardsFast, Reliable, Long Shelf Life

The original media card with 16GB and 32GB size options. This is an extremely fast media card with a long shelf life. It will download to a computer in no time, and reliability is not a concern.

SxS-1 Media CardsFast, Reliable, Limited Shelf Life, Half Price

Sony just announced these cards at half the price of the original SxS cards. They have all the speed and reliability of the original cards, but have a 5-year life span. Many operators find that in five years they’ll want to upgrade to bigger card in any case.

Memory Stick & SDHC AdaptersInexpensive, Widely Available

One of the most popular recording options for these cameras are flash memory adapters. These adapters allow you to use high-speed SDHC cards and Memory Sticks instead of SxS cards. They don’t have the transfer speeds of the SxS/SxS-1 cards for downloading, and recording slow motion on them is limited, but they are comparably very inexpensive. The eFilms MxR adapter and the Hoodman SxSxSDHC adapter both work with Class 6 SDHC cards and are very popular. Additionally, Sony has announced a memory stick adapter (MEAD-MS01) for adapting memory sticks in the same way. As the price of these cards drop, which happens everyday, SDHC and Memory Sticks could easily become a shelf-able media option like tape.

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