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Sony Demos Solid-State XDCAM Camcorder

At a formal unveiling in New York, Sony conducted its first full-scale demonstration in the U.S. of a new solid-state compact camcorder for professional video production. The camcorder was announced but not demoed at NAB and was launched at Sony’s exhibit at IBC earlier this month.

The new PMW-EX1 model expands Sony’s XDCAM line-up HD tapeless production and acquisition systems, which also includes optical disc-based camcorders and decks. The new camcorder is the first Sony professional camera to use Flash storage technology. It records and stores content to ExpressCard high-speed media, offering what Sony describes as greater workflow flexibility with selectable bit rates, in addition to editing and effects capabilities.

The PMW-EX1 will be available in November for a list price just under $8,000. It uses Sony’s newly developed SxS PRO solid-state memory as its recording medium. Pronounced “S by S,” the SxS memory card, which currently delivers up to 800 Mbps of high-speed data transfer, enables nonlinear capabilities like instant random access and file-based operation. Equipped with two SxS memory card slots, the camcorder can record up to 100 minutes of high-quality HD footage at 35Mbps, or 140 minutes at 25Mbps using two 16-GB SxS memory cards. The 16-GB card is priced at around $900.

“The XDCAM EX series–with its full HD picture quality and system flexibility–is a powerful tool for boosting quality and efficiency in an array of HD production applications,” said Bob Ott, vice president of optical and network systems for Sony Electronics. “It’s also compatible with a broad range of nonlinear editing systems.

“Combined with the ability to capture and transfer footage using ExpressCard technology, the new standard of PC card interface, I believe this new camera will prove to be a very reliable and flexible compact camcorder for HD video production.”

The imaging devices used in the camcorder are three newly designed 1/2-inch type Exmor CMOS sensors, each with an effective pixel count of 1920 x 1080. This 1/2-inch type image sensor allows the camcorder to provide an extremely high sensitivity of F10, a signal-to-noise ratio of 54 dB, and horizontal resolution of 1000 television lines, according to Sony.

“This large 1/2-inch type image sensor can capture images with a shallower depth of field than other hand held camcorders’ smaller-size image sensors, allowing for more creative freedom of expression,” Ott said, adding that the low-light capabilities of this new sensor will be of particular interest to those professionals who need to capture footage in challenging lighting applications.

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. It offers a choice of bit rates—either 35 Mb/s (high-quality mode) or 25 Mb/s (standard-play mode)–depending on the desired picture quality and recording time.

The HQ mode supports both 1920 x 1080 and 1280 x 720 resolutions. The SP mode supports 1440 x 1080 resolution at 25 Mb/s, which provides compatibility with HDV 1080i products. As a result, footage recorded in the SP mode can be seamlessly integrated into HDV™-compatible editing systems by connecting the camcorder through an i.LINK (IEEE-1394) digital interface.

The PMW-EX1 camcorder is equipped with a built-in Fujinon 14x zoom lens, which is included in the price of the camera. According to Ott, this lens was specifically designed to work with this camcorder. It offers a wide angle of view of 5.8 mm (equivalent to 31.4 mm on a 35 mm lens), and many convenient features for diverse shooting situations.

The new camcorder offers a slow and quick motion capability—known as overcranking and undercranking in the film world—for creating unique looks or special effects of slow and fast motion. Sony says that nonlinear editing manufacturers are developing compatible interfaces for the camcorder. They include Adobe, Apple, Dayang, and Matrox, among others.