When the Sony EX1 was released, five years ago, it was an incredibly important camera, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it was the only handheld full HD camera on the block. Secondly, it had three half inch sensors, making it great in low light. Thirdly, it had a real lens which allowed focus, aperture and zoom to be set manually. Last, but not least, it was the first Sony’s handheld camera to record to solid state cards. All of this should have made it the ideal ‘small’ camera for long form documentaries. However, it had one fatal flaw, namely it could only record internally at 35Mb/s 4:2:0, meaning it was not ‘broadcast quality’ (as defined by the EBU or BBC).
The workaround was to use an external recorder. However, the problem with external recorders is that they cost money, utilise power, add weight, require mounting, can loose their physical connection with a camera during recording, introduce an additional layer of things that can malfunction and are prone to operator error…i.e. forgetting to press record (sic).
A couple of years ago, Canon provided a solution to the problem, in the shape of the incredibly successful and popular XF305 and XF300, both of which are full HD handheld cameras that record to solid state media (CF cards) at 50 Mb/s 4:2:2. As a result they fully comply with EBU standards for HD production and are BBC approved. Recently Panasonic stepped up to the plate with their similarly specified HPX 250. However, the one drawback of both of these cameras are their one third of an inch sensors, which places some limitations on their usefulness in very low light situations.
So if you want to shoot a long form documentary, in low light and don’t want to use an external recorder, what’s the solution? Quite possibly Sony’s new PMW-200, which is, essentially, an enhanced and updated Sony EX1r that can shoot 50 Mb/s 4:2:2 internally. The camera (which can be remotely controlled by WiFi and which offers 4 channel 24bit audio (finally someone got the memo that its not the 1990s) hits the streets this September for around £5K+VAT. Here’s an in depth preview by freelance cameraman Alister Chapman
© 2012, Paul D. All rights reserved. Moral Rights Asserted.