We started spring cleaning early this year and, while doing anything remotely difficult in December felt incredibly strange, we have to say that getting rid of our old kit actually felt pretty good. We’re up to date now! We’re flexible! We can shoot videos that don’t look five years out of date! It’s all pretty exciting.
One of the hardest parts of the entire exercise was getting rid of our trusty EX1/EX3 combo. Having gotten us through more case study shoots, product demos and terrifying windows into our collective subconscious than we care to remember, these cameras have earned themselves a special place in our hearts and besides, they’re good, dependable cameras.
But we had to face facts. They’re old cameras. The images they produce aren’t as high quality as those produced by some of their latest rivals, and they don’t make it easy to get fashionable effects like shallow DOF. They had to go. And, if you’re being honest, your EX3 is closing in on the end of its shelf life, too.
In order to help you get through the switch with maximum dignity and minimal angst, we’ve put together this roundup of resources for our four favourite replacements: the PMW-200, PMW-300, NEX-FS700 and PXW-Z100, all of which are perfect for different reasons. And if you don’t see what you need here, you can always put a question to our team by calling 03332 409 306 or emailing broadcast@Jigsaw24.com.
Sony’s PMW-200 is designed to be the direct successor to the EX1, incorporating familiar controls and features but giving the overall image quality a bump thanks to a new image sensor. This sensor was developed to help combat rolling shutter issues, so you can kiss those goodbye, and will also support high frame rate recording, should you feel the need to recreate select scenes from The Hobbit at full speed in your back garden (we have absolutely not done this).
The always dependable No Film School have some key specs and a pretty comprehensive video review here (the presenter is really quite keen on Fujinon lenses) and, although they’re big EX1 fans, they do find time to wax lyrical about our favourite feature: the PMW-200’s 15 second cache recording capability. If you’re going to be doing events work or ENG, having all that extra time is going to make it a lot easier for you to capture key moments, and we don’t know anyone who’d turn that down.
For a more comprehensive overview, head over to XDCAM User and take a look at their review, in which an EX1-loving videographer takes the PMW-200 out on shoots in Singapore and the UK. It’s the closest you’re going to get to touching the PMW-200 without pawing it in a showroom.
The essential info
One thing that confused a few PMW-200 users in the early days was the fact that you had to choose whether to format your memory cards as UDF or FAT, seemingly for no reason. Luckily, UrbanFox have worked it out: you want UDF for higher 50Mbps recording, and FAT for your lower nitrates. And once you’ve got your cards formatted and your footage shot, here’s how to make sure your XDCAM MXF footage will work properly in Adobe Premiere Pro.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you’re delivering XDCAM clips to clients, they might not be able to play the footage directly on their Macs. Try this handy workaround to get your footage working with QuickTime Player.
PMW-300: The new EX3
If interchangeable lenses are an absolute necessity for you and you’ve always been an EX3 user, the PMW-200’s ample charms may not quite be enough for you. You’ll want the PMW-300, which offers a broadcast quality, EBU-approved 50Mbps codec and interchangeable lens on top of everything you’d expect from an EX3. Like the PMW-200, it features an updated sensor that’ll really help with rolling shutter issues and enable you to shoot HFR.
Let’s start official. You can take a look at the key specs in this Sony brochure, and see Sony Professional’s Ulrich Mors chronicle leaving the EX1 for the PMW-300 in this official video, during which he also feels the need to dunk a SxS card into a glass of water. We do not condone this. There’s also this promotional video, which both showcases what the PMW-300 can do and proves that violins are cool.
There isn’t a wealth of material out there about the PMW-300, probably because it arrived not long after everyone had gotten extremely excited by the PMW-200. Once again, XDCAM User’s Alister Chapman saves the day, producing an epic review comparing the PMW-300 and PXW-100. You should read the whole thing for a practical, thoughtful overview, but for those with limited time, here’s a spoiler:
“I like both of these cameras and would be pleased to own either. But of the two cameras, I think the PMW-300 is the better all round camera. I really like the 300, I think that Sony have really got this one right (with perhaps the exception of the release catch for the shoulder pad). The picture quality is once again best in class and rivals many much more expensive and larger cameras. It’s going to be a good all round camera that will find a home on corporate shoots, news and documentary shoots as well as in low budget studios. The new viewfinder is really delightful and is a big part of what makes this camera so good.”
As well as inspiring us to make a frankly embarrassingly over the top test video in a frantic ten minute filming session, the FS700 got a lot of early love for its super slow motion capabilities and ability to shoot shallow depth of field, which has become popular in corporate videography circles, shorts and, well, everywhere else.
Another thing we love, though, is that you can pair it with Convergent Design’s Odyssey 7Q to scale up to 4K. This is a 7.7″ OLED monitor-slash-recorder that lets you record DNxHD 8 or 10-bit YCC to 1080p, 60/60i, 720p, 60 (.mov, .mxf). How does that get you 4K? Well Convergent Design have set up a new system that allows you to either buy firmware updates for 2K, 4K, HFR and various shades of RAW outright, or rent them on a day-by-day basis.
If you’re typically shooting HD but need 4K for a specific project, you can just hire that firmware for the duration of your shoot and stop paying for it when you don’t need it anymore, making this a really cost-effective way to kick start your 4K workflow. (This is actually why Original Concept TV chose to use the FS700.)
Philip Bloom was an FS700 fan, and you can see his test video here. If you’re a 4k skeptic, you might appreciate this review from Studio Daily, in which Barry Braverman is slowly won over by the FS700’s ‘all natural’ charms. This typically thorough effort from the ever-useful XDCAM User is worth a read, as are this review/video overview from our friends at F Stop Academy and this effort from The Film Bakery.
Over on News Shooter, Sam Price-Waldman has undertaken an epic quest to find out if the FS700 is the perfect documentary tool, and his write up is simultaneously very useful and aesthetically pleasing thanks to some lovely screengrabs.
If you want a slightly more long-term view, take a look at this retrospective of one year with an FS700 from Get Deluxe.
The essential info
If you’re here for the super slo-mo, you’ll want to watch this 90 second guide to setting it up for slow motion, and check out No Film School’s guide to dealing with Flicker before you start shooting (there are also some nice sample shoots there, if you want to take a look at some existing shots before you buy). Finally, if you’re wondering which peripherals to buy, we obviously recommend you call our team, but a close second option is this FS700 kit walkthrough from Next Wave DV, which is a nice guide for anyone trying to work out what they’d like to include in a starter kit.
Widely hailed as the camera that’s going to do for 4K what the Z1 did for HD, the Z100 is a compact, affordable 4K camcorder that’s proven popular in the corporate and videography circuit, not least because the ROI trimming lets you shoot a single angle of 4K and then trim it to give the impression that you’ve shot an interview from different distances.
Your 4K footage is captured to 10-bit 4:2:2 intraframe XAVC, which is the same codec used in the F5 and F55. It records to the brand new XQD card, and its dual slots allow for mirror or relay recording.
Let’s kick off with this Sony-sponsored roundup from filmmaker Matt Davis, who shares his first impressions in a pleasingly sleek and dramatically soundtracked video (he’s also done an unboxing video, if you want to go right from the start). Filmmaker magazine claims this isn’t a review but it does read suspiciously like one…
The essential info
Start off by getting your fill of specs from Sony’s official PWX-Z100 brochure, then listen to Alister Chapman run through the differences between this and its prosumer sibling, the AX1, at IBC. Florian Friedrich has ventured slightly further afield, shooting some test footage in his studio and outdoors so that you can see what the camera is capable of. We refuse to hear a word against his peerless choice of soundtrack.
There are also a few slightly sketchy looking tutorials online explaining how you can convert your Z100 footage to ProRes so you can edit it in FCP, but we should warn you that we’re yet to try these out.
Want to know more about replacing your EXCAM? Get in touch with the team on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, reviews and tips, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.
By Liz Sunter