The popular Sony EX-1 was the first handheld camera using ½” sensor at 35 mbps at the time but broadcasters and high end videographers have, amongst other things, requested a higher bit rate. To meet this request the Sony engineers developed the PMW-200 recording at 50mbps, MPEG2 codec, with a similar ½” sensor to the EX-1, which has now been on the market for several months and recently approved by the EBU for Tier 2L acquisitions for mainstream broadcast acquisition.
The PMW-200 lens from Fujinon is a 14x zoom starting at 5.8mm. As you’d expect, and like the EX-1, the 3 rings control focus, zoom and iris each being marked with calibration marks. The focus ring slides forwards for auto focus and slides back for full manual control. If you use in manual it’s been said that it really does feel like a true pro broadcast lens.
There is an option to control many of the cameras features remotely via android application. For existing owners of PMW-200’s this may require a firmware upgrade via the pro.sony.eu site.
The zoom ring can be operated manually or servo driven and controlled by the main zoom rocker on the hand grip or a small zoom rocker on the handle. This zoom has an improved servo design and as a result slow zooms are a little smoother than on the EX1R. The iris ring can be switched between auto and manual and is very smooth. Because this lens is very similar to the original EX lens you can use the same Sony zoom through wide angle adapter if you need extra wide shots and it has the same connector for remote zoom control.
Both cameras have ND filters to cope with the vast majority of lighting situations. There are 2 ND filters operated by a sliding switch giving you 3 positions, clear, 1/8th and 1/64th. It’s been noted that with improvements to the image processing and noise reduction in the cameras electronics there is a small reduction in noise and as a result useable sensitivity and operation is very similar with control over gain, white balance shutter speed. They also use the same battery, SxS cards for the media and connectivity.
The PMW-200 is designed to record on to very robust and secure SxS media but also on offer is XQD media that although requires an adapter, is a new type of media developed by Sony and used by the likes of Nikon and a few other players. This allows you to record 50 mbps on a less expensive media. You also have SDHC / memory stick pro duo so depending on budgets and application there is a range of different media that you can choose from. Unlike some cameras in this range the PMW-200 doesn’t record to both slots at once (for back-up etc) but with super reliable SxS cards this shouldn’t be an issue.
The HD-SDI output from the PMW-200 gives 4:2:2 10 bit whereas many other cameras in this sector offer only 8 bit.
As with any professional handheld camcorder the audio provision is well featured with a built in stereo microphone at the front of the cameras handle as well as two XLR connectors (with phantom power) for external microphones or line level inputs. On the side of the camera you have controls for selecting the internal or external audio together with switches to flip between automatic or manual audio gain including adjustments to set the manual gain level.
The fitted 3.5” LCD screen flips up and out from the top of the camera handle and can be twisted right around which is perfect for self-shooters enabling the correct framing as well as being laid back flat against the top of the handle or flipped up vertically. The screen itself is bright and clear and has a remarkably wide viewing angle.
The PMW-200’s main menu structure is very similar to other EX cameras being logically laid out and easy to navigate. You have the normal menus and sub menus for camera settings, audio settings, outputs, monitoring, timecode and general system settings.
In a recent report Alister Chapman mentioned:
“In the camera menu you’ll find settings for the more advanced modes that the camera has, which include Interval Record for time-lapse, Frame Record for animation and stop frame filming, Picture Cache and S&Q (slow and quick) motion. The Picture Cache mode is particularly useful for capturing unexpected events. In this mode the camera continuously buffers the video from the camera sensors into an internal memory. When you press the record button recording starts immediately but in addition the (up to) 15 seconds prior to pressing the record button are also recorded. I use this mode a lot when I’m shooting thunderstorms and lightning as I can simply point the camera at the storm, wait for the lightning to strike, then press the record button.”
In a recent live stream BroadcastShow used two PMW-200’s and one PMW-150 (the main difference being this version has a 1/3in sensor with a fixed 20x zoom lens) using the HD-SDI output to feed into a studio production switcher. In this configuration the cameras were set-up in 720p mode with a PMW-150 being light enough (around 2.5kg) to be used on a Polecam long head to capture overhead shots. You can watch the show plus the interview with two Sony specialists talking about both PMW-200 and PMW-150 here.
There are currently offers on the PMW-200 and PMW-150 cameras until the end of March to include accessory packs when purchased via a Sony authorised reseller – these can be located at: www.pro.sony.eu