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Sony Showcases XDCAM-EX

This week, Sony released more details about XDCAM-EX, its first solid-state professional tapeless system.

Announced at NAB, XDCAM-EX marks a significant expansion of Sony’s XDCAM tapeless production platform, which up until now, has focused on optical disk. XDCAM-EX captures and stores content on SxS PRO solid-state memory, a specification jointly developed by Sony and SanDisk Corp. and based on ExpressCard high-speed media. It’s this distinction that Sony officials say distinguishes XDCAM-EX from its chief competitor, Panasonic’s P2, which is based on PCMCIA, a standard that Sony says is rapidly disappearing in favor of ExpressCard. ExpressCard offers higher data rates as well as a smaller form factor, which will result in more compact, lightweight camcorders, the company said.

“The PC ExpressCard is widely acknowledged to be the replacement for the PCMCIA card format,” said Bob Ott, Sony vice president of optical and network systems for Sony Electronics. “The current generation card technology that competitors use is in danger of becoming the equivalent of the three-and-a-half-inch floppy disk.”

Ott said that more and more laptop makers are abandoning the PCMCIA standard in favor of ExpressCard, citing major laptop suppliers as Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer, Toshiba and the Apple MacBook Pro as supporters of the new standard.

“Soon an ExpressCard slot will be the only type of card slot available on any type of computer,” Ott said.

The SxS memory card currently delivers up to 800 Mbps of high speed data transfer, and like Panasonic’s P2, enables nonlinear capabilities like random access and file-based operations. The XDCAM-EX features two SxS memory card slots, which will allow recording of up to 100 minutes of HD footage at 35 Mbps or 140 minutes at 25 Mbps, using two 16-GB memory cards.

The interface for XDCAM-EX is supported by a number of NLE manufacturers including Adobe, Apple, Avid, Dayang, Grass Valley, Matrox and Sobey.

The camcorder features three newly designed 1/2-inch type Exmor CMOS sensors, each with an effective pixel count of 1920x1080, allowing the camcorder to provide an extremely high sensitivity of f10, a signal-to-noise ratio of 54 dB, and horizontal resolution of 1,000 television lines. The camcorder is switchable between 1080p, 1080i and 720p, with multiple frame recording capabilities of 59.94i, 50i, 29.97p, 25p and native 23.98p. The standard play mode (SP) at 25 Mbps provides compatibility with HDV 1080i products. As a result, footage recorded in the SP mode can be integrated with HDV-compatible editing systems by connecting the camcorder through an iLINK (IEEE-1394) digital interface.

The camcorder is outfitted with a high-quality, high-definition Fujinon 14x zoom lens, which was specifically designed to work with the XDCAM-EX. It offers a wide angle view of 5.8 mm (equivalent to 31.4 mm on a 35 mm lens). The camcorder also offers a “Slow and Quick Motion” capability, also known as “undercranking” and “overcranking.”

One similarity the XDCAM-EX shares with P2 is the media cost: The 16 GB SBP-16 model will go for $900, the same price as P2’s 16 GB card. An 8 GB card is priced at $500. The camera and cards will be available by November; the camera will go for a suggested price of less than $8,000.