Wednesday, February 13, 2008



We had opportunity to demo Sony’s new HD camcorder, the HDCAM EX. We had a commercial shoot scheduled that day, so we took that camera out instead of the HVX. Here are my first impressions, starting with the good:

It has a better viewfinder than the HVX, and a better zoom preset. Unlike the HVX, you can preset the zoom speed in increments from 1-100. We made extensive use of this, you can actually tell the difference between a zoom out at “6” versus a “7”. It also has a cool “flip” built in lens cap.

It records on Express SxS cards which are much, much cheaper than P2 cards.

Battery life was great. We shot all day with one battery.

Now the bad:

First of all, it looks like a Proboscis Monkey. Ugly. Why does Sony load on all that equipment to the mic mount? Weird.

There is a feature that sounded good, it’s kind of a feathering that can be applied to the zoom or focus, instead of a hard stop. That’s cool, but the interface was typical Sony: buried in sub menus. We spend 15 minutes messing around with it on set and it never worked like we hoped. From the website, it sounded like it was a feather that you turn on to the zoom. In reality, you have to preset the zoom (or focus) in and out and the amount of feather, you then hit a button and the camera performs the pre-recorded maneuver. It never really worked right for us.

The camera records at 720 and 1080p. It also records at variable speed from 1-30fps and 60fps. It’s important to note that you cannot overcrank in 1080p, just 720p. This may be a bit of a disappointment if you are expecting to shoot in 1080p.

The last important note is that it does not have a standard A/V output jack, it’s some weird proprietary connector. NG.

One concern I had was the recording format. Sony chose to go with a long GOP 4:2:0 format. I only shot with this camera, so I can’t report how the image held up in post, although I heard it pulled a key pretty well. It was a bit of a pain to upload the images to FCP, Sony or Apple needs to do a bit more there. I did check out the images and they looked great. Still images are stunning. Motion images have a bit of a stutter. Sort of like the way the old XL1 rendered motion in “movie mode”

Still all things being equal, I’d pick up this camera over the HVX.

Panny: it’s your move.