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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 December 19th, 2009, 11:10 AM   #1
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SxS vs SDHC simplified

Last summer I shot a long project onto 32 Transcend 16gb SDHC cards with an EX1. I got "media restore" error messages about 50% of the time, but only ever at the very start of recording onto the cards. After a few takes, they all settled down and I rarely got an error message later on in the card. But it bothered me a lot that I would occasionally have to reboot the camera on more severe 'media restore' messages and potentially miss a shot. I never did lose any footage with any of these errors, but it bothered me & I began to think about a solution for this problem.

So I searched around and found a netbook with an ExpressCard slot and an SD card slot (Lenovo S10) for $300. I went back to shooting on the SxS cards (16gb) and then doing a computer transfer on the Lenovo S10 from the camera original SxS card straight over to the SDHC card in the other slot using ShotPut Pro and sometimes ClipBrowser. Since I had to transfer and backup the footage data anyway, I figured that cloning to the SDHC card instead of direct writing to it would be a good compromise and eliminate the 'restore media' error problem - which it did.

Sony is about to release a new generation of SxS cards which will retail for about 1/2 the price of the originals - albeit with a 5-year write/rewrite lifespan instead of 50 years, no big deal there.

I would highly recommend this workflow as a way to get back all of the advantages of SxS including over/under crank along with the confidence that SxS cards give you in the camera (never any 'media restore' messages). Buying a couple of cheaper SxS cards and cloning to the SDHC, then handing the SDHC card to the client seems to me to be a perfectly acceptable and confidence-inducing solution at a reasonable cost.

Oh, and now I don't have to drag my big MacBook Pro out into the field either. Here is a link to a page that lists a few netbooks with expresscard slots.
ExpressCard | NetbookBoards.com
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Old December 19th, 2009, 12:28 PM   #2
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You shouldn't be using cards that give you "media restore" errors.
I've been using 32GB Sandisk Ultra II since January 09 have never had a media restore message. I tested the cards by recording straight through one to the other (nearly 4 hours) and then also a series of short records deleting individual files periodically so it would have to overwrite erased recordings as ell. Rock solid, No issues.

Currently ATP ProMax are reportedly reliable.

It's simply impractical to bring a laptop or netbook and try to transfer during some shoots.

The new SxS cards are not half the price. At B&H the original 32GB SxS are $845 and the new less expensive 32GB shows at $750 although I believe I've seen them for about $650 elsewhere. Hardly anything resembling half the price.
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Old December 19th, 2009, 01:17 PM   #3
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I probably should have said 'reduced price' instead of 1/2 price.

Not to argue with your other point that I 'shouldn't be getting media restore errors', the cards I was using were the Transcend Class 6 16gb cards that many people recommend as very reliable and provided by the client. That about half of the 32 card batch created these error messages and not the other half leads me to believe that Transcend has a QC problem, but returning them for other cards was not a viable option at the time. There is no such thing as 'restore media' error messages in cloning to any brand of SDHC card. I have used SanDisk Ultra II 16gb cards with much less problems. Simply put, it is far more reliable and robust to shoot on the SxS cards than SDHC in my 2 1/2-year EX1 shooting experience - not to mention the over/under crank issue. The afford ability factor is far outweighed by the reliability factor in my opinion.

My point, in main is that if one is going to provide professional equipment and services to a paying client, it is best to opt for bullet-proof over bullet-resistant. SxS is the former, SDHC can be the latter.

I also can't even imagine not having a transfer facility like a netbook or laptop available for on location transfers whether it is utilized during shooting or directly afterwards.
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Old December 19th, 2009, 02:17 PM   #4
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It obviously depends on the shoot, but there are certainly times when any laptop on a shoot would be impractical. But the idea of shoot to SxS, download to SDHC as a way of delivering media has a lot to commend it. (Especially if you could keep the original SxS recordings until hearing that the client has verified the SDHC copy.)

So how to have your cake and eat it? The EX1R and PMW350 have a "copy all clips" mode, so it's possible to copy (reliably) from card to card (SxS to SDHC) with nothing extra to the camera and in much better than real time. Whether that new feature could be a firmware addition to existing EX1/3 cameras I don't know.
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Old December 19th, 2009, 03:13 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Bruce Schultz View Post
I probably should have said 'reduced price' instead of 1/2 price.
I hate the fact that these new SxS cards @ $750 (instead of the old $850) are still priced so high!

I, like most people, assumed they would be priced in the neighborhood of 50% of the old cards. Alas, B&H (a very reliable Sony dealer) has them priced at 88% of the original card price.

So now you get 50% less card life span for a whopping 12% discount!

I don't get Sony: surely the whole SHDC card/adapter market has seriously cut into their SxS card market, and introducing these cards at a really low price point would have wooed over a lot of of EX shooters still nervous about adopting SHDC.

I think these new SxS cards at this price point are a terrible option and would prefer spending the extra $100 to get the more robust technology!
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Old December 19th, 2009, 04:00 PM   #6
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Hi Bruce...

I'm interested in your use of a netbook. I simply need the option of an express card based "pass through" to an external portable HD until I get back to the MacPro Desktop. While I am a mac editor I don't want to bring my MBP 17 along on shoots. I am shooting SxS on an EX1R.
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Old December 19th, 2009, 05:07 PM   #7
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I probably should have said 'reduced price' instead of 1/2 price.

Not to argue with your other point that I 'shouldn't be getting media restore errors', the cards I was using were the Transcend Class 6 16gb cards that many people recommend as very reliable and provided by the client. That about half of the 32 card batch created these error messages and not the other half leads me to believe that Transcend has a QC problem, but returning them for other cards was not a viable option at the time.
So the camera is screaming at you that the cards have a problem and yet you were still using them? That's akin to driving your car with the brake warning light on. It's not a question of if there will be a failure, but when.

There are critical warning signs that a card could fail and you ignored one of them. Just because you ignored them doesn't convince me that the cost reduced SxS cards will represent better value for money until I see a UK price. If a client handed me a SDHC card to shoot on I'd refuse to shoot on it and would provide my own ATP cards and charge them for cost explaining that this would be far cheaper than a potential remount.

Transcend cards are to be avoided IMO and every user should test their cards be it SxS or SDHC before they use them for a paying gig.
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Old December 19th, 2009, 06:27 PM   #8
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the camera is screaming at you that the cards have a problem and yet you were still using them?
Not one frame of footage was ever lost due to these slightly annoying and intermittent media error messages. That's something I made sure of after the first error message or two. Some things you just have to take in stride. On my F900R, I occasionally get a rapid red light error message about the tape contact pressure and I have to ignore it until the shoot is done because it's a false error that needs to be reset in the tape transport system with a scope. No footage ever lost or damaged, but nerves a bit jangled. It happens. My experience with Transcend cards is not good and I don't use them any more, just the San Disk Extremes now.

Maybe it's the fact that I've shot video (and now motion progressive digital) and film for over 30 years around the world with never a fatal error (plenty of minor ones though) that I can have a slightly more nuanced view of cameras and production problems one can encounter when least expected - but never should one completely ignore the obvious.

In all forms of photography my motto is that Murphy is my co-pilot, so I must remain at the controls at all times so he doesn't have a chance to take over.
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Old December 19th, 2009, 06:35 PM   #9
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Hi Bruce...

I'm interested in your use of a netbook. I simply need the option of an express card based "pass through" to an external portable HD until I get back to the MacPro Desktop. While I am a mac editor I don't want to bring my MBP 17 along on shoots. I am shooting SxS on an EX1R.
I can see two options available to you. As mentioned above, the new EX1R that you are using now has a "copy all clips" feature that the original EX1 didn't have. You could get a MxR (or suitable other reader), put it in the B slot and use this feature to copy your clips from the SxS to the SDHC in the MxR. If this works you've eliminated the need to have a laptop/netbook at all on set - at least as far as cloning the original footage to one or even two SDHC cards for backup.

I included a link to a list of netbooks with ExpressCard slots in my original post. I think the Lenovo S10 that I use is discontinued, but I'm sure a comparable netbook is still available with a little searching - or maybe Ebay for the Lenovo.
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Old December 19th, 2009, 06:47 PM   #10
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Thanks, Bruce...

I took a look at the link and also the lenovo website. While the EX1r has the capability to directly transfer content...it would be nice to have a small portable unit to show the clips to clients with the added redundancy of transfer to external hard drive.

Also it would be nice to have a netbook tucked away for emails on the road...

I was told to make sure the express card slots in the netbooks have sony drivers...I know enough to know I don't know enough...so wanted to check back with you for follow up.

Has the Lenovo held up for you?
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Old December 19th, 2009, 08:02 PM   #11
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Thanks, Bruce...

I took a look at the link and also the lenovo website. While the EX1r has the capability to directly transfer content...it would be nice to have a small portable unit to show the clips to clients with the added redundancy of transfer to external hard drive.

Also it would be nice to have a netbook tucked away for emails on the road...

I was told to make sure the express card slots in the netbooks have sony drivers...I know enough to know I don't know enough...so wanted to check back with you for follow up.

Has the Lenovo held up for you?
Sharon, the only drawback to the netbook is that it doesn't have the horsepower for full speed playback. I even have some difficulty with a full MacBook Pro in this regard sometimes. You can shuttle across the footage in Sony's ClipBrowser software to check it is all there, but if you really need non-stutter playback then you would want to re-insert the cloned card into the camera and use it's playback capacity to check it. I've never lost a frame of footage using SxS cards and transferring them to either SDHC or hard drive via USB in over 2 years and hundreds of transfers, so the stutter problem is a non-issue with me - although it might not be acceptable for others. The netbook would be just as you describe it - as a transfer device but not as a reliable playback device.

On the Sony drivers, you can download the drivers, ClipBrowser, Final Cut Pro Transfer all from a few different Sony websites for free. Just Google to find them. There are Win as well as Mac drivers for SxS cards. It is strongly recommended that you use either ClipBrowser or Shotput Pro (about $100) to do the actual transfers as they both provide copy error checking as opposed to simple drag/drop copying. One last thing, I wiped the Win XP off the netbook and installed Windows 7 32bit on it and everything works, plus it is faster to boot and work with.
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Old December 19th, 2009, 08:35 PM   #12
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Thanks, Bruce...

This is just the kind of info I need. Good to know about full playback...but that you can at least have piece of mind that there is something transfering through clip browser to the external HD.


I will take a good look at the lenovo again and look through in more detail the other options provided in your link.

Thanks again!

Sharon
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Old December 19th, 2009, 11:50 PM   #13
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As far as SXS-1 prices are concerned, I just paid $569 if you buy two, $589 for one, online. I just received them yesterday. Yeah, still not 50% of the original cost, but I'm not waiting. I want the peace of mind that SXS vs MXR will afford me.

I'm not sure about the rules advertising vendors that don't advertise on this forum, but I just Googled "SXS-1" and the vendor was at the top of the page.

Last edited by Tony Newman; December 20th, 2009 at 12:10 PM.
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Old December 20th, 2009, 12:49 PM   #14
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I used to include a Fujitsu Amilo Netbook with an Express card slot on most shoots until I tried the NextoDI NVS2500. Now I just take that. It transfers 3 to 4 times faster than my Netbook, has a variety of verification options and will playback clips, all be it a little slowly and jerkily. It will slip in a large pocket and has an internal battery that last for ages. A full 16Gb card takes about 3 and a half minutes to backup. In the studio I plug it in to the edit suite via eSata, so once again it's very fast. It is soooo much simpler, easier and faster than a netbook or laptop. It's also smaller and lighter. You can even plug a second drive in to the bottom of the unit for multiple backups or to make a copy for a client.

There is also the Sony PXU-MS240 which has removable hard drive cartridges, again, very fast, very simple. The MS240 can be plugged in to the camera to play back clips stored on it.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 08:04 AM   #15
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Great product, Alister, but expensive. Looking at my $2k Mini DV field viewer that is now a doorstop makes me wonder about investing that much in these dedicated devices.
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