It’s no secret we love the PMW range – we’ve been making cooing noises over the 100 since NAB, and the EX1 and EX3 are our in-house staples. So when we heard a new model was on the way, expectations were high. Luckily, from what we’ve seen so far the PMW-200 delivers, solving some of the niggles that we had with the EX1 and delivering a rich feature set at a respectable price point.
Let’s get these covered off quick: the £5500, handheld, 2.5kg PMW-200 has a six hour battery life and can record up to two hours of 4:2:2 50Mbps footage onto a 64GB SxS card (it holds two). SxS is the preferred media, but SD cards, XQD cards and Memory Sticks will do in an emergency.
It’s got three 1/2″ Exmor CMOS sensors (the same family as the EX1 but the next generation along), making it capable of F11 up to 2000 lux and giving it a signal to noise ratio of 56 dB. It records SD and HD at 4:2:0 and 4:2:2. Formats supported include MPEG, MP4 and MXF (more on those later). At the front you get a 31.4 – 439mm 14x zoom lens from Fujinon.
According to the Sony press release, it’s EBU compliant for long form broadcast, and with HDMI, HD/SD-SDI, Genlock and Timecode all present and correct, Sony seem to be positioning this as a serious production camera, despite its modest form factor.
Like we said, this is the next generation of the EX1’s sensor. Capable of shooting Full HD 1920×1080 without pixel interpolation, the PMW-200’s three 1/2″ sensors give you a fairly massive surface area, and this translates into improved low light performance and greater sensitivity. If you need to shoot in fairly extreme lighting conditions without losing detail in high or lowlights, Sony reckon this sensor should see you right. The PMW-200 is the only handheld on the market that offers this sensor size alongside 50Mbps 4:2:2, so if you’ve struggled with 1/3″ sensors in the past it’s well worth looking into.
The lens comes with a three-ring manual control (lens, iris, zoom) with built in Optical SteadyShot for stabilising wonky handheld shots. Automatic controls are available for anyone who needs them, and there are also macro, expanded focus (where the focus point is magnified on the LCD and viewfinder) and manual focus assist options available.
We’ll let Sony lead the way on this: “As well as shooting at HD 422 50 Mbps, the camcorder also supports MPEG HD 420 in MP4 file format, which is compatible with XDCAM EX camcorders and DVCAM at 25 Mbps.The file format is also selectable between MP4 (FAT) or MXF (UDF) in HD and AVI (FAT) or MXF (UDF) in SD,” say their press team. The downside? SD is only available at 25Mbps and, unlike the PMW-500, it doesn’t support MPEG IMX. That 4:2:2 capability will come in handy if you carry out chromakey work – the extra detail will make it far easier to get clean lines for your key and avoid any blurred or pixellated edges.
A word on recording options…
You can’t parallel record with the PMW-200, so there’s no instant backup, but you can copy footage from one card to another after you’ve bagged a shot, switch automatically between cards when one runs out, enable simultaneous recording (all your clips are recorded as a single, giant clip) and assign a card for each setup (so all your interview footage can be on card A, while your cutaways are in card B).
The best of the new features
The PMW-200 lets you cache images for up to 15 seconds before you record, making it a godsend for docu and ENG crews. Granted, doing this will eat through your battery life, but it grants you a much larger margin for error than other models.
A firmware patch due in November will allow you to control your PMW-200’s iris, focus, autofocus settings, peaking, white balance, expanded focus, recording and playback from your iOS or Android device, whether that’s a smartphone or a tablet. You’ll just need to add the CBK-WA01 controller to your camera and download the update.
Multi-matrix mode for in-camera colour correction
Designed to eliminate the need for colour correction in post, multi-matrix mode is designed to give you far more precise control over colour. In usual colour correction, all of the colour control parameters impact on each other. Multi-matrix mode divides the colour spectrum to be divided into 16 distinct blocks, and lets you alter the hue and saturation of each without affecting any other part of the image. If you’re going to be matching footage between cameras (or need to pass your PMW-200 footage off as having been shot on something else) this will be a massive help.
Shutter angles, slow shutter and extended slow shutter
Want cool visual effects on your slow-mo footage? The PMW-200 lets you slow things down to 60fps, then mess with your shutter angle to your heart’s content, giving you the same consistent intermittent effect as a film camera. (The official frame rate range is 1-30 in 1080 mode and 1-60 in 720.)
With the strong foundation built on the EX1 and the EX1R, this is a camera many people have expected for a long time, and it brings the highly regarded XDCAM 422 codec to a handheld. Borrowing the form factor of the EX1 and much of the feature set of the PMW-500, this camera is set to be a production workhorse for many.
With improvements to the LCD and 3-ring Fujinon lens, the PMW-200 and its smaller version, the PMW-100, have demonstrated a true evolution of Sony’s XDCAM EX range. Extending the cache record to 15 seconds and allowing continued recording of clips is not only valuable to the camera operator, but a real time saver in the post-production environment.
While the camera does not support the proxy or live view that you get with the shoulder mount XDCAM 422 models, there are some exciting new features. One of the main ones is the possibility of controlling record, iris and zoom from your smartphone or tablet. This involves using the additional WA01 we have seen already in conduction with XMPilot, and extends the functionality into camera control.