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Sony XDCAM EX Pro Handhelds
Sony PMW-300, PXW-X200, PXW-X180 (back to EX3 & EX1) recording to SxS flash memory.


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Old October 21st, 2009, 08:15 AM   #1
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Thoughts on 2/3 vs 1/3 CMOS and 35MB/s EX Codec

I bought my EX3 about 6 months ago, and use the EX Codec on Sony's SxS cards. I wonder how much better the PMW-350's 2/3 inch sensor picture quality will look (in comparison to the EX1/3) if the end result is still is somewhat 'compressed' (4:2:0) to the MPEG-2 EX Codec.

Understandably, the shooter will have more narrow depth of field potential, and better low-light capabilities, but will the actual picture quality *look* *that* much better in comparison after it hits the EX Codec? Obviously, time will tell as we get side-by-side comparisons and we all draw our own conclusions.

We can see the "less noise" and better greens- but will our clients after the footage reaches a final delivery format of Blu-Ray, DVD, or Web- which has an additional level of possible compression?

I would think the true benefit of the 2/3 inch sensor difference would be far more noticeable recording to a NanoFlash (4:2:2 50MB/s)- it's better quality to start and work with in editing. (Chromakey, etc)

Just wondering everyone's thoughts on the subject of whether it's 'worth it' to consider 2/3 inch chips given we still need to withstand some level of compression to stay in the relative price range of less than 20k...
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Old October 21st, 2009, 09:33 AM   #2
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Hey Ed, though questions.

I think the only way to answer "is it worth it" is to look at your clients' expectations and look at your won expectations.

Do you want to offer top-end broadcast level outut?

Is top-end broadcast level output overkill for what you do?

Does having a best possible I can offer video image help you sell your own services more?

Does having a best possible I can offer video image put you in financial distress which makes you uncomfortable?

The EX-1 + Nano is a great team, so will be the PMW-350 + Nano.

The only difference is if your work or desire is worth the extra $11-$15,000.

Visually, if you are going to DVD it would probably be tough to notice unless you have really shallow DOF in a shot with the 2/3" chips.

1080p Blu-ray on a large television, maybe. The 2/3" chip cameras seem to look a bit more refined, but that will need to be seen with the upcoming release of the PMW-350
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Old October 21st, 2009, 10:35 AM   #3
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I'm not to familiar with CMOS, but at least one big thing when i went with 2/3" 6 months ago was dynamic range and low light abilities. First gig I was shooting was a freeride skiing contest, with snow and grey/dark rock inbetween grey and a clear sky..needless to say 2/3" left the 1/3" cameras we had trailing far behind. 1/2" are a bit better than 1/3", but 2/3" are that bit better again. Shooting a lot, almost all the time, outdoors this has become a big thing to me.
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Old October 21st, 2009, 10:38 AM   #4
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I think it's clear from Alister's comments, the PMW350 is noticeably better. So how noticeable? I think the difference is going to be there if you look for it. The whopping advantage in the video signal to noise ratio, 59db versus 54 for the EX1/3, is going to result in a more lifelike, transparency, more clear looking, more reality.
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Old October 21st, 2009, 10:46 AM   #5
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AND TO CLARIFY.........


The Sony EX1/3 uses 1/2" chips not 1/3" chips.

You get roughly a 10% bigger chip from 1/2" to 2/3" chips.
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Old October 21st, 2009, 11:28 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nathan Hudson
AND TO CLARIFY.........

You get roughly a 10% bigger chip from 1/2" to 2/3" chips.
How do you figure it so small?

Although I don't know the actual exact dimensions, surface area increases as the square of length or width, so mathmatically the increase from 1/2 to 2/3 is (.67/.5)^2 = 78% increase in surface area, WAY bigger than 10% no matter how you figure it.
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Old October 21st, 2009, 01:26 PM   #7
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what i was clarifying was that the ex1 and ex3 DO NOT have 1/3" chips.

i wasn't thinking surface area and quickly typed thinking of the measurement of an inch and the size differences of 1/2" to 2/3". So my bad on that.

However, I would say that it would be a lot bigger difference between a 1/3" chip and 2/3" chip but not nearly as much coming from a 1/2" chip 2/3" chip.
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Old October 21st, 2009, 02:39 PM   #8
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Thanks for everyone's thoughts and insights (especially Tim)!

And my bad as well for typing 1/3" instead of 1/2". I meant 1/2" of course, and hate math. :)

I come from an age where I was taught to strive for "broadcast quality" and the best possible image, and bigger cameras and bigger imagers meant "more professional". (or at least that was the client's perception)

But now, with more advanced gear, cheaper prices, smaller gear and the general confusion over what broadcast quality or even high-quality (HD?) truly means (are we talking BBC HD, Discovery HD, Your local news in HD, Blu-Ray, YouTube HD) I wonder how much I should be spending [if the clients care enough to understand] and if it even matters in the end.

Yes, "broadcast quality" still means something, but if at the end of the day the client sees it over satellite or cable (and thus compressed/converted/re-sampled/split or some combination) or it's played back on some improperly setup device, it doesn't matter how much I spend. I guess some things will never change.

Thanks again, everyone!
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Old October 21st, 2009, 08:04 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Przyzycki View Post
But now, with more advanced gear, cheaper prices, smaller gear and the general confusion over what broadcast quality or even high-quality (HD?) truly means (are we talking BBC HD, Discovery HD, Your local news in HD, Blu-Ray, YouTube HD) I wonder how much I should be spending [if the clients care enough to understand] and if it even matters in the end.

Yes, "broadcast quality" still means something, but if at the end of the day the client sees it over satellite or cable (and thus compressed/converted/re-sampled/split or some combination) or it's played back on some improperly setup device, it doesn't matter how much I spend. I guess some things will never change.
HD are a relative term, HD on Discovery HD can be Deadliest catch are Sony Z1/Z5 and on BBC HD...well Planet Earth a period defined how good HD broadcast can be. Different types of programmes, and different tools(except the cineflex shots on Deadliest catch..). Some times HDV are accepted as HD broadcast, on other occasions high end gear and even film are the only options to get the results the producers strive for.

What's broadcast quality for some are not good enough to others, depending on market and programme. There are no perfect cameras around, all carry compromises in some way. If the client don't care if for the details offered by a 2/3" over 1/2" and 1/3", why bother spending x amount to get it? But if you on the other hand need flexibility on lenses...without a disastrous ergonomic(EX3), then a proper shoulder mounted is worth the cost.

And I agree that if the end result is played back improperly...why even shoot HD some times. I was horrified when I heard of my first gig with my new Hpx500 6 months ago was delivered on DVCAM when all was shot and produced in 720p50 dvcprohd, they didn't even bother mastering in a proper format..even dvcpro50 are way better than dv, usually digibeta master are the norm.
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Old October 21st, 2009, 08:08 PM   #10
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Ed,

I have less and less interest in codec bit rates and image resolution, most of today's mid to high end cameras look plenty good. However, I am very much in favor of larger sensors. Shallow depth of field is what gives our footage life and depth and for the type of work I do, I would consider nothing less than a 2/3" imager. This comes at a price and in that respect, the PMW-350 is a fantastic buy for its cinematic abilities.

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Last edited by Thierry Humeau; October 21st, 2009 at 09:47 PM.
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