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Old February 15th, 2012, 11:17 PM   #1
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Need to Replace Aging Sony DSR-300's

Hi folks,
Brevity is not my strong suit, but I'll do my best. A couple of co-workers and I are being tasked with making recommendations for replacing our aging Sony DSR-300 DVCAM camcorders. These cameras are about 12 years old, and as you know, a lot has changed in 12 years! I am trying to "bone-up" on the latest and not-so-greatest (yet, very good) in order to make a proper recommendation. I could use your help in compiling some potential replacement camcorders. It would also be great to have some details (pros and cons) to back up any recommendation(s).

I work for local government television in Florida. We produce video content for our PEG channel as well as our website and YouTube channel.

Pinellas County Florida Communications - PCC-TV
pcctv1's Channel - YouTube

Our PEG channel is available on cable television only (BrightHouse, Verizon, Knology) and is delivered in standard definition. (Most likely will never be HD) Eighty percent of what we produce is delivered to all three destinations...TV, Web, YouTube.

We need to find a solution that allows for HD and SD acquisition, with a major focus on great SD quality. We have had PD-150's along with the DSR-300's, but never felt the video quality was anywhere near that of the DSR-300's. We also have one HVR-Z1U and it too has disappointing SD quality compared to the 300's.

Our shop is heavily invested in DVCAM. It would be nice if a DVCAM solution exists, but realistically that may not be possible. I'm guessing these days disc recording options are much more plentiful. Complicating matters somewhat is a combination of editing systems in use. A couple of us, me included, are using Avid Media Composer 5 with Mojo SDI for post. Capturing from DVCAM. We have 3 editors who are using VERY old Premiere Pro 2 systems! (Don't laugh) They are also capturing and exporting to DVCAM.

I would like to see us stay as professional as we can afford...XLR audio, camera light mounting/powering, quality sensors, manual configuration and operation (gain control, filter selection, manual focus/iris). If I were to make a guess on budget, I'd say the highest we could spend on each complete system would be $8 to 10K. Of course if there is a less expensive solution, but still high quality, that would be even better.

I feel like I'm missing something, but that is the gist of it. I'm happy to receive any and all suggestions and if I need to provide additional information, please let me know.

Here's the first of many "thanks".
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Old February 16th, 2012, 06:17 AM   #2
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Re: Need to Replace Aging Sony DSR-300's

Dan, I feel your pain. The 300 is a GREAT camera but like you said, it's 12 years old and things have changed.
Just a couple observations. As you know there is very little new in the way of DVCAM camera, like none. I guess Sony didn't see the need with the advent of all the new Solid State cameras. Other than the the Z5, Z7 HDV and their high end line, HDCamSR etc there isn't much left in the tape segment of cameras at all.
So allow me to throw some stuff on the wall and if any of it sticks, great. ;-)

The most obvious thing if you really want to keep the DVCAM format is to keep the 300 and use it til it dies. Bury it then find another one on the big auction that starts with E. The other option to ugrade and still have the DVCAM is to find a preowned DSR450. DV/DVCAM..mini or large shell tapes...16:9 native OR 4:3 switchable, 2/3 inch chips...truely an awesome camera. I still rent one toady for certain work (if my friend isn't using it to make his living)
Option 3...gotta get into the new century and move to some form of solid state. The EX1R or EX3 comes to mind. With the proper rigging you can use either AB or V-lok batteries, (I'm sure you have a few laying around ;-0) great HD look even with out the Nano or other form of exterior recorder, can record in SD, theyre both 1/2 cameras although the EX3 allows for changing of the lens and the EX1R is fixed.
To me there would be a lot of reasons to move to the new technology but then it's not my money or workflow. Like I said, I'm just throwing some stuff out there. See what sticks. good luck in your making your choice the DSR300 is a superb piece of gear and a hard one to replace.
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Old February 16th, 2012, 08:14 AM   #3
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Re: Need to Replace Aging Sony DSR-300's

Just a +1 on the EX cameras. They shoot DVCAM in 60i and 30p both anamorphic 16x9 and edge crop. It's just that the video is stored on SxS cards instead of tape. Sony makes a $2xx USB card reader and plugins for ingest into your NLE. If your NLE is too old for their plugins, Sony supplies standalone utilities that replace what you did with a deck to mark, cut and ingest from the card and copy to your hard disk for direct import into your NLE.

All told, I think Sony knows and supports the broadcast workflow well with the PMW line of cameras. Coming off a shoulder mount, you will find the EX3 form factor nice and there are full sized shoulder mount options in the product line should you want them in your arsenal. I think that's an important thing about the PMW product line. You get the same CODEC from the $6k EX1R handycam on up through mini shoulder and full shoulder form factors.
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Old February 16th, 2012, 02:15 PM   #4
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Re: Need to Replace Aging Sony DSR-300's

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Originally Posted by Dan Eggleston View Post
Our shop is heavily invested in DVCAM. It would be nice if a DVCAM solution exists, but realistically that may not be possible. I'm guessing these days disc recording options are much more plentiful.
The obvious answer must be the Sony PMW320. In form factor it's very similar to the DSR300 (shouldermount), it's also 1/2" chips (do you have any decent lenses on the 300's you'd like to keep using?) - but is high def capable and solid state. (Pretty impossible to find a camera nowadays that isn't high-def native!) There are two versions - body only("L" version), and one with a kit lens ("K" version) which is not that much more expensive, and the kit lens is pretty good for the price. Transitioning from a DSR300 to a PMW320 should be a simple process.

Maybe most importantly, it comes with a DVCAM option which will be directly compatible with your edit systems - the only difference will be that the digits come from solid state memory instead of tape. Otherwise directly compatible with DVCAM tape, the files can obviously be laid directly on DVCAM tape without any transcoding etc.

I have to correct one thing Les says - the EX1R has a DVCAM mode like the PMW320, but the EX3 doesn't. The EX3 records 1080 and 720p only - if you want SD you have to do a post downconvert. If the PMW320 is too expensive for you, I'd therefore say the EX1R is the next choice - but you are giving up shoudermount ergonomics etc.

If you've got the money, next model up is the PMW350 - very similar to the 320, but 2/3" chips rather than 1/2", and a lot more expensive. You also need to pay extra to enable the SD mode on that.

Finally, they all natively take the SxS memory cards, but will all take SDHC cards via an adaptor. It is neccessary to individually check cards before first use, (there are occasional duds out of the packet) but once proved OK they are generally very reliable subsequently. (Probably better than a DVCAM tape!) That's true for HD 35Mbs - even more the case for DVCAM 25Mbs datarate. A 16GB card will give an hours running time at 25Mbs, and the camera can seemlessly switch between two cards - or can take higher capacity cards.

This also means that for ingest for editing, it's a matter of just putting an SDHC card into a slot and reading the files. No need for expensive readers (as with SxS or P2) and if editing with a laptop just put the card directly into the laptop SD slot.

Currently $11,400 from B&H after rebate (incl lens), see
Sony PMW-320K XDCAM EX HD Camcorder w/16x Zoom Lens PMW-320K B&H
A bit above your $8-10,000 budget, but personally I'd say worth reaching for. Either that, or a definite compromise on some of "camera light mounting/powering, quality sensors, manual configuration and operation (gain control, filter selection, manual focus/iris)." Maybe if you can reuse existing lenses?
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Old February 18th, 2012, 11:02 PM   #5
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Re: Need to Replace Aging Sony DSR-300's

dan just a year ago, i left my dsr300 after 11 years. great cam but old technology now. i debated for months and ended up getting the ex1r and i love it. great for handheld stuff. i use the sony tripod plate for it and bought a heavy duty base from westsideav that i put the tripod plate adaptor for my sony tripod plate. westside av also sells a great shoulder mount adapter you can use anton bauer batts or the vmount.
lowlight and overall xperience on this cam is fantastic. i also bought a hoodman loupe that fits over the lcd making it a very sharp viewfinder. i have absolutely no complaints. even though it shoots in dvcamas well youll end up shooting everything on hidef. you can always downconvert. theyve got a 400.00 rebate on them now. i also love the fact of no more tape costs. my sxs cards have been flawless. theyve come down to 449.00 for a 32gb that will get u just under 2 hours.
just back up your shot footage on more than one drive and at one of those being external.
you can email me privately and im glad to talk to you about it
good luck
jim
you can get 2 of these with 2 32gb cards each for alittle over 13k total.
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Old February 19th, 2012, 09:50 AM   #6
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Re: Need to Replace Aging Sony DSR-300's

Thanks for all the thoughtful replies...some really great feedback and exactly what I was hoping for.
As you might imagine, we have a fairly significant archive of footage and DVCAM tape makes for cheap and easy storage. Jim touched on it...the other day I was discussing this with one of our shooter/editors and archiving was a concern. Currently all of our edit stations have their own media storage. Our Avid systems are 2 TB raid arrays. When we got them in 2007 it seemed like a lot, but with HD footage I'm guessing that's nothing.

Having this thread to look back on will help us a great deal as we start itemizing the things we need to make the switch.
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Old February 19th, 2012, 12:57 PM   #7
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Re: Need to Replace Aging Sony DSR-300's

Dan -- the focus on this thread has been the cameras, but it sounds like your edit systems will also need an upgrade if you want to do anything in HD. The size of your RAID storage and how to archive is only a tiny part of that. Is that factored into your budget?

-Terence
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Old February 19th, 2012, 01:26 PM   #8
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Re: Need to Replace Aging Sony DSR-300's

You're absolutely correct, Terence, we are going to need to do some upgrading in the edit suites as well. As for the budget, what started out as a liberal starting point for cameras, is now looking a bit more ominous...for our department director at least.

When we bought our four Avid suites back in August 2007 we got nicked for about $25k for each suite. (Computers, Mojo, Software, Storage) That was a very significant purchase to say the least. On top of that, these systems were originally Avid Xpress Pro suites that were upgraded to Media Composer a couple of years ago, so there's already been one "upgrade" already.

We're likely going to need a knowledgeable vendor to come in and help advise on the most cost effective way to make the infrastructure changes we need to make.

I greatly appreciate the candor of the discussion, because it needs to be understood and accounted for that this transition is more than just buying cameras and the appropriate peripherals for the cameras.
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Old February 19th, 2012, 02:08 PM   #9
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Re: Need to Replace Aging Sony DSR-300's

dan as far as your edit suites, a new computer with plenty of hd space to edit hd will be drastically less in price now.
i had a great system built for under 1500.00
its an i7 processor with 3tbs of hd space. using the ex1r, im able to easily edit 3 layers of full hd in realtime without the dreaded rendering time. of course that also depends on your editing software. im using grass valley edius and ive never had to render anything with it. thats what i love about it.
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Old February 20th, 2012, 02:52 AM   #10
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Re: Need to Replace Aging Sony DSR-300's

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Originally Posted by Dan Eggleston View Post
We're likely going to need a knowledgeable vendor to come in and help advise on the most cost effective way to make the infrastructure changes we need to make.
Dan, just be careful relying on a "knowledgeable vendor." I've seen a number of organizations waste a lot of money on unnecessary editing kit that a vendor recommended they buy. A decent spec off the shelf computer is more than capable of HD video editing. Add your software of choice and maybe a breakout box and monitor and you're good to go. RAID arrays have obvious benefits but are far from essential with the XDCAM codecs.
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Old February 20th, 2012, 05:53 PM   #11
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Re: Need to Replace Aging Sony DSR-300's

just to echo what mike said. before i bought my ex1r, i borrowed a friends to shoot a wedding. since i didnt have my system yet, i bought an hp computer with an i7 processor from costco for 800.00.loaded my editing software and it handle my full hd easily, with multiple layers. too many of my friends spend a ridiculous amount for a computer. as long as my cmputer can handle hd without a hiccup and i dont have to render, thats fine with me.
good luck
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Old February 20th, 2012, 05:54 PM   #12
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Re: Need to Replace Aging Sony DSR-300's

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...the other day I was discussing this with one of our shooter/editors and archiving was a concern. Currently all of our edit stations have their own media storage. Our Avid systems are 2 TB raid arrays. When we got them in 2007 it seemed like a lot, but with HD footage I'm guessing that's nothing..
Not really. If for HD you go the EX 35Mbs route (be it with an EX1R or PMW320) it's 35Mbs v 25Mbs for DVCAM, not that much difference in terms of minutes/GB.

I think you have to separate the problem in to three parts:

camera replacement
edit system - is an upgrade necessary?
workflow - tapeless to replace tape

The main thing a camera replacement will give you is file based workflow, but if you wish to remain SD/DVCAM that won't have that much impact on the edit systems - it'll just be a case of importing from memory cards rather than tape. And you'll still be able to playout to DVCAM tape to archive as before. And they will allow an HD upgrade in the future if not at the same time.

If you want to go HD (even if downconversion for transmission now) then an edit system upgrade may be necessary, but I'll echo what Mike says; too often vendors and manufacturers are the worst people to get advice from. They exist in business by selling things, their prime interest is unlikely to be suggesting the cheapest route for customers.

It's at this point that you may need to think more seriously about archiving - DVCAM tape is not going to be any use for HD. Large hard drive storage is one possibility, and necessary for ongoing work, but for longer term archive the current preference seems to be data tape such as LTO. (And whilst the tape systems may become obsolete eventually, the files shouldn't. Longer term preservation then becomes file transfer in non-real time - not real time video transfer.)

The other thing you may like to think about is shared media storage between several edit stations?
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Old February 21st, 2012, 09:07 AM   #13
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Re: Need to Replace Aging Sony DSR-300's

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Originally Posted by Dan Eggleston View Post
I would like to see us stay as professional as we can afford...XLR audio, camera light mounting/powering, quality sensors, manual configuration and operation (gain control, filter selection, manual focus/iris). If I were to make a guess on budget, I'd say the highest we could spend on each complete system would be $8 to 10K. Of course if there is a less expensive solution, but still high quality, that would be even better.
Based on your budget EX1r is your camera Dan,
and believe it or not it is still the best pro quality for the money, it is 1/2", 10X zoom great preamps, dual XLR, manual everything as well as not too bad full auto option,
you'll love your power options, large Sony or Switronix will give 4-5 Hrs, if you use IDX for your 300 and it last for couple hours, EX1r can run on that nearly all day, you will also love how small and light it is , I was shooting for years with 390 before I got mine, so i can tell:), but it is not a handheld camera, even with the shoulder rig it will not be as comfortable on your shoulder as 300,
and of course you will love the image EX1r can produce, but not out of the box, you will need to learn how to use picture profiles to get the best out of EX cameras;
you'll hate rolling shutter, but unless you're ready to spend substantially more on PDW models better get used to it;
All in all you will love EX1r, it's amazing for the money camcorder and that is not just my horrible opinion,
rent it for a day, you'll make decision,
best
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Old February 21st, 2012, 07:16 PM   #14
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Re: Need to Replace Aging Sony DSR-300's

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...10X zoom...
Actually it's a 14x Fujinon lens and with the resolving power and sharp image, I can zoom in post to the point I don't miss the 20x on my old Canon one bit.
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