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Sony ENG / EFP Shoulder Mounts
Sony PDW-F800, PDW-700, PDW-850, PXW-X500 (XDCAM HD) and PMW-400, PMW-320 (XDCAM EX).


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Old October 29th, 2010, 06:53 AM   #1
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How long will XDCAM optical be supported

I know this is difficult to answer precisely, but how long roughly will Sony support the XDCAM optical format?
More specifically, how long will it be possible to get the Sony PDW F350 camera serviced? As some of you may be aware I've been asking a lot of questions on the forum lately about various professional camera systems. I want to buy a replacement HD camera for our new company, but on a tight budget. The Sony PMW 350K is an option, and very nice it seems too, but a little bit too much for us at present. The Sony F350 could be a good choice, but only if the format will be around for some time.

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Old October 29th, 2010, 08:01 AM   #2
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Have you looked at the PMW 320? 1/2" version of the 350 and far cheaper.
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Old October 29th, 2010, 08:13 AM   #3
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Don't worry, XDCAM optical is going to be around for many many years. In fact, Sony will be releasing several new optical products in the upcoming year. And even if they weren't going to release new cameras, they'd still continue servicing existing models for many years.

In my opinion, XDCAM optical is still the best recording medium on the market. Unlike flash memory cards (SxS, P2, SD, CF, etc.) you don't have to do do any data wrangling, multiple back ups, re-formatting to use again, etc.

For about $20 each, the XDCAM optical disc that you shoot on is your permanent master. You can put it on the shelf for storage, hand it to a client at the end of a shoot and not have to worry about getting it back, etc. Sony says it will last 50 years and can be reused up to 1000 times if that's what you choose to do.

I think the only reason optical drives are not built into every Sony camera is because they too big and require too much power for the smaller cameras to handle. Not to mention cost of manufacturing. If it wasn't for those three factors, every Sony camera would be recording on optical. Everyone I know whjo uses it would agree that it is the superior recording medium.


The bottom line is to choose the camera that best meets your needs in size, price, and features. Whether it records on SxS or optical shouldn't matter too much in your decision making. Both will be around for many years and both have proven workflows that are easy to master.
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Old October 29th, 2010, 08:41 AM   #4
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Many thanks Mike and Doug for your posts. I'm always impressed by the responses I get on this forum; always helpful and enlightening! First off; Mike I really meant to put the PMW 320k and not the 350k! The 350k would be fantastic but too much money for us at the moment. This new series of cameras by Sony do look the business though and one could well be a future used purchase down the line. Doug; your info is very reassuring and interesting and certainly helps our decision making.

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Simon
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Old October 29th, 2010, 10:37 AM   #5
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Simon, in terms of cost remember to factor in that you can get the 320 with the kit lens which may save some money. The SXS workflow can save you more as well. You'll need a lot of hard drives to back everything up properly but they are comparatively cheap now.

I haven't used the 320 but own a PMW 350 and have used a lot of EX1 and EX3s. I also used the F350 a few years back. The 320 will give you a far better viewfinder, several stops more low light, wireless receiver slot and lower power consumption. I hear that overall the PQ on the 320 is better than the PDW.

The PDW offers the disc workflow and CCD (so no CMOS rolling shutter).

Personally I think the 320 is well worth the extra money but if the PDW does what you need you can probably get a great deal. If you do go with the PDW, push hard for a bargain. I think it is beginning to be considered a little dated and remember to factor in a decent lens.
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Old October 29th, 2010, 11:34 AM   #6
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I agree with Doug that optical disks offer a very reliable workflow. As a professional photographer, I've worked with solid state media (compact flash cards) for the last ten years and it happened to me twice that data on a CF-card got damaged during the process of dumping to the computer. In one instance the pix on it were of the start of the Tour de France, so hard to reshoot...

This said, I think solid state media are the future, there's no doubt about that, but I still feel more comfortable using my PDW-F350 (that I bought second hand for the price of a new Sony Z7) than a card-based cam. It offers the same non-tape, clip-based workflow and that is a tremendous advantage. Moreover I can put the optical disk on the shelf and take it back whenever I need it.

Of course, I have been looking into the PMW-320, as my 1/2 inch lenses will still fit on that camera, and I would welcome the lower weight and power consumption. The build quality of my PDW-F350 appears a little more solid. So for the time being, I'll stick with this marvellous camera and it's optical disks.
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Old October 30th, 2010, 04:13 AM   #7
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Great info Mike and Luc; it really is a hard decision! Both the PDW F350 and the PMW 320 are obviously lovely cameras and very capable. The used PDW F350 I have my eye on is a complete kit and ready to shoot at £8000 (which includes free shipping). I don't know if that seems expensive? The hours are quite low and in the 600 region for the laser and it has a decent Canon lens. With the PMW 320 I would have to pay around £3000 more, but then it would be new and guaranteed. Is it possible to transfer video files straight from the memory card of the camera to a Mac computer?

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Old October 30th, 2010, 05:21 AM   #8
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Hi Simon – Yes you can easily drop the footage into your computer from the card – you will require XDCAM Transfer software which you can download from the Sony website.

I see that the F350 is drawing you in… If it were me, I would not pay £8000 for it, so if that will be your final decision then I would do some haggling.

However, there is another thing you may need to consider. If you use an optical disc camera, while you can use the Firewire port from the camera to off-load your data to the computer you will find that the Sony U1 drive (approx 2 grand, not sure of the actual price these days) much quicker and more convenient. This will also keep the hours off of the optical drive mechanism. You can see that unit on the link I gave you before.

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Old October 30th, 2010, 06:03 AM   #9
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You can get the 320 with lens for around £8,400+VAT (£9,870 inc VAT). Personally I think it is worth the extra unless CCD over CMOS or disc workflow is critical to you.

If you are buying the U1, the 350 becomes more expensive than the 320. SXS cards are an upfront cost but you'll probably be saving money within a year. You can probably save a few hundred on batteries with the 320 as well.

I agree with Luc the the PDW F350 is probably slightly better built but the 320 is still solid and SXS has less to go wrong than the disc mechanism. And of course, the 320 at that price is new!
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Old October 31st, 2010, 03:13 AM   #10
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To complicate your choice even a little more: you're not obliged to use SxS cards in the 320. Sony's selling adapters as well for SDHC as for their propriety Memory Sticks. These are much cheaper than the SxS and the only feature you lose is the slow motion. I suspect SDHC cards will eventually be less expensive than optical disks, so you could then afford to shelve them as 'masters' when you're done shooting.

But... if you decide for the PDW-F350, I would advise not to pay more than 6000,- euro's without lens. I compared SD to HD lenses in the 1/2 inch format and I found that some of the older Canon's - like the H20ax6 - perform very well, even in HD. You can get these very cheap. This particular lens was sharper than the Fujinon HD-wide-angle that I had.
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Old October 31st, 2010, 03:44 AM   #11
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Cheers for that Luc - interesting. The F350 I'm looking at has a Canon J15a x 8B IRS HD lens with it plus batteries and charger. Is this a good lens?

I'm also interested to compare the build quality of the PMW 350 (or 320) with the PDW F350. There have been references to this in this thread. Does the PMW series use a lot of external plastic or is it mostly metal? Likewise, what about the PDW F350. I have to say that from photos the PDW camera looks as though it has a metal casing, but it is hard to tell with the PMW series. We need a camera that can withstand a few knocks on location. I'm not a great fan of light weight plastic in cameras.
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Old October 31st, 2010, 04:08 AM   #12
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I haven't tested that lens, so I cannot confirm if it is sharp enough for HD acquisition, but it sell second hand for about 125 $, so it won't do much harm if it's not up to your expectations. Usually these older Canon lenses are very sharp. Anyway, I wouldn't pay much more for a PDW-F350 with this lens and some batteries than 6500,- euros.

I checked out the PMW-320 and -350 a few times at my dealers and there is a lot of plastic on the sides. It weighs about half the weight of the PDW-F350, so that's not so surprising. But, nowadays some polymer materials are stronger than steel, so it all depends of what material Sony has used here.

After all, we're comparing two camera's that are not comparable in price. As I said, you can find a very good PDW-F350 with low laser hours (and with a decent lens) for max. 8000,- euros, whereas a new PMW-320 with the dedicated Fujinon lens will still set you back at least 13.000 euros. On paper, the image of the PMW-320 is certainly better (1920 x 1080 instead of 1440 x 1080 of the PDW), but I've seen clips made with my PDW-F350 projected on a 6 meters wide screen, and the sharpness + overall image quality is just awesome. So I wonder if the naked eye would see any difference.

Moreover, as a professional stills photographer, who has been buying digital still cams since 2000, I have learned that cramming more pixels in a small chip inevitably means more noise. The best you could do is compare some clips from both cameras.

What I will do - but then again I'm only a hobbyist in video - is wait a few years until the PMW-320 will be available on the second hand market and buy one then. Mainly for the difference in weight and the power consumption, compared to my beloved PDW-F350. I'll miss the optical disk though...
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Old October 31st, 2010, 06:22 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Glidewell View Post
The F350 I'm looking at has a Canon J15a x 8B IRS HD lens with it plus batteries and charger. Is this a good lens?
The J15 is an SD 2/3" lens. 8mm at the wide end won't be very wide angle if used on a 1/2" camera. It wouldn't be my choice of lens for the F350.
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Old October 31st, 2010, 06:39 AM   #14
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This probably means that the camera comes with an adaptor from 1/2 to 2/3 inch, which is not bad, because that's a rather expensive part... and it opens opportunities to buy the more readily available 2/3 inch lenses. Only for real wide-angle shots, you would have to buy an original 1/2 lens.
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Old October 31st, 2010, 08:47 AM   #15
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8mm is barely wide enough on a 2/3" camera. On a 1/2" camera like the F350, it's going to be the equivalent of 11mm. There's no way most people could stand using that lens as their regular lens. In fact, I had a 2/3" adapter for my F350 a few years ago and used it once with my Fujinon 15x8 lens. Once was enough. The adapter was sold the next week. The main lens I have on my F350 is the Fujinon 18x5.5. That is a nice focal length for that camera.

On the subject of build quality, the PDW-F350 is built like a tank compared to the PMW-320, 350, and 500. Those other cameras feel light and cheap, but I'm sure they hold up just fine with normal care. You find the same thing with professional SLRs. The high-end models feel rock-solid, and as you work your way down the line in price, they progressively feel lighter and cheaper. All the SxS cameras feel lighter and cheaper than the optical cameras.
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