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Sony XDCAM EX Pro Handhelds
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Old October 21st, 2010, 12:41 AM   #1
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XDCAM EX - Where to from here?

Hi all,

Over the past few weeks I have been researching prosumer cameras so that I can get serious about my videography hobby. In the end the EX1R won the day but before I shell out the dough I was hoping that some of you may be able to shed some light on the following questions:

Is there any gossip out there about new models of the XDCAM EX series coming from Sony? I'd hate to buy the EX1R and then three weeks later find that a new model has been released.

In terms of development of the line, do any of you have any insights into where Sony may be heading with future development of memory card recording and XDCAMs?

Does Sony have a reasonably predictable interval between model updates and/or enhancements and if so, where are we now in the cycle?

As you can imagine, shelling out for the EX1R is a big step up from the dear old HDR-HC3 's that I have now, so I'm just a tad nervous.

Cheers

Russ
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Old October 21st, 2010, 02:42 AM   #2
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Sony's product cycle varies a lot with the product line.
For the high end consumer HD cams (SR-12 thru CX550) it's been about a year recently.
For the pro cams, less frequent and real unpredictable.
IMO, the EX1r is pretty refined & may not change significantly for a while.
The new New Thing for Sony is the NEX VG 10- a $2K (APS sized chip) Handycam intended to enter competition with the DSLR video revolution. There is lots of speculation that Sony is cooking up a larger Pro version along these lines- maybe for 2011 release... or not.
My view is that the EX1r is a very rich featured, high quality professional camera that produces absolutely fantastic images. This is not a camera that will fall short of the mark for quite a while.
So, if you truely need a professional level camera, and the EX meets your requirements, it's hard to see how you could go wrong with it.
P.S. You might want to give some thought to just how far you want to take your "video Hobby", and what sort of tradeoffs you might be making. The EX is an awful lot of camera, with a significant learning curve. It has scads of features that you may never need beyond just fooling around to see what it does. It is big and heavy for a "handicam" form factor. Honestly, it is at the limits for hand held shooting, and I am one of the many that can hardly get a decent handheld shot with it.
If your honest apprasial of your ambitions make you suspect that the EX may be more than you really need at this time, there are some very interesting small cams that would be a big step up from your current Sony in terms of performance and imagery- The CX550 is absolutely brilliant for such a tiny cam, the new VG10 is bigger, has a few more manual controls, is a truely new type of videocam, and makes great looking images.
Good shooting :)
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Old October 21st, 2010, 07:21 AM   #3
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Thanks Bob,

the decision to purchase the EX1R was made after considerable deliberation and after seeking the opinions of many peers on other fora. Some background:

My wife and I are semi-retired and only work to fund our travels around Australia. We have been faithfully recording these travels using two HDR-HC3 Handycams but the limitations of these are becoming apparent as we gain more experience. We are getting close to the point where we could sell documentaries of our travels.

Friends and relatives are glowing, but also brutally honest in their appraisal of the work that we've done so far and it is their assessment that they would pay to watch our work if we tighten the production a bit, that drives us to strive for better things. This, alone, was certainly not enough to make us decide on the EX1R. During the process of choosing the right camera it was pointed out to me that there is a dearth of stock clips of the Australian Outback and countryside.

I researched this and found it to be true. So, we concluded that we could combine our travels and an opportunity to make some money by creating stock footage of outstanding places that we visit. Clearly, a very good camera would be needed if we are to offer good product to the market.

I have a technical background - 35 years in electronics and IT- and have already read the Manual for the EX1R to be sure that it was not too complicated to be practical, and I'm satisfied that I should be able to become adept at operating it. I agree fully that it is a hefty piece of gear and most of the time will be used for set shots when mounted on a tripod.

We can afford the camera, so it comes down to "will we use it?" I believe that we will because we have both the enthusiasm and, fortunately, the time to do so.

Thank you for your input and I did check out the cameras you mentioned, but I think I'll go mad and get the EX1R. I very much value your opinion that the camera is unlikely to "date" quickly. That was exactly the reassurance I was seeking. Worst case? I can always flog it off if it turns out to be a bad decision.

Cheers

Russ
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Old October 21st, 2010, 09:04 AM   #4
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After reading the above, the only thing I'd add is that for future use stock shots, you may wish to add something like the nanoFlash, and shoot at least 50Mbs and 4:2:2. Potential customers may find the (broadcast approved) codec desirable.
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Old October 21st, 2010, 12:38 PM   #5
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After reading the above, the only thing I'd add is that for future use stock shots, you may wish to add something like the nanoFlash, and shoot at least 50Mbs and 4:2:2. Potential customers may find the (broadcast approved) codec desirable.
I would agree that the nanoFlash is a great addition to this camera especially if you may be selling stock footage. I would suggest capturing the highest bitrate possible and stick with I-Frame only for that purpose.

The EX1/3 cameras will give you absolutely spectacular images if you learn how to use it. If not, the old saying still applies, garbage in garbage out. It does take some time to learn how to get the most out of the camera. And I'm not talking about the technical stuff. Going from your HC3 to the EX will require you to rethink some of your shooting techniques. Do yourself a favor and really practice using manual controls. In auto mode the EX can give very good images but most of the stuff that blows you away from these cameras are done by very good camera ops using manual settings.

A couple of other things to consider that you'll need to shell out for and will find that, because it is for a "pro" camera there is a premium price tag attached:

Extra batteries, There are some very good 3rd party offerings. I like the larger capacity batteries with a D-Tap.

Plenty of storage, both for the camera and for your editing machine

At least a good UV filter - don't skimp on a cheap filter for a $6k camera (I've got the EX3 which still has the IR issue so I had to get an IR/UV filter which runs about $200. But it also provides protection for the lens.

A good tripod is a MUST for this level of camera. Expect to be looking at a minimum of $700 for something that you could get by with. If your doing a lot of long zooms you'll probably find that in order to get smooth pans you could be in the $2-3K range.

Depending on what you're shooting you might want a decent shotgun or wireless lav mic.

Finally an probably most important, especially if you're traveling, is a good case. I use Pelican cases which I absolutely love.

I'm confident that you'll be very happy with the camera.

-Garrett
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Old October 21st, 2010, 12:49 PM   #6
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All I'd add is that I shoot with an EX1 (not "R") and I still can't imagine how I'd have spent 6,000.00 any more productively at the time...

I'd also agree on the Flash Nano...
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Old October 21st, 2010, 12:57 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Russell Heaton View Post
Thanks Bob,

the decision to purchase the EX1R was made after considerable deliberation and after seeking the opinions of many peers on other fora.
Russ
Sounds like you are on it, Russ!!
Definitely, if you are looking to shoot commercial grade productions, you couldn't go wrong with the EX1r.
As mentioned, just be prepaired to work thru the learning curve, and to make the necessary changes in your shooting habits and techniques.
I would highly recommend Doug Jensen's "Mastering the EX1" DVD and his "Handbook for the EX1" (Vortex Media):
Vortex Media: VIDEO & PHOTO Tools and Training
These educational tools will take a lot of the mystery out of the EX. The "handbook" will live in your camera bag and be useful forever :)
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 12:33 AM   #8
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Thanks, everyone, for the replies.

I have taken on board your points (and done my sums) and using Aussie prices the accessories will end up costing more than the camera! Mind you, the same could be said about my fishing tackle when compared to the price of the kayak that I fish from....nothing much changes in life does it?

nanoFlash is now on the list. Storage is covered - at least for the editing machine - we have 18 TB of storage atm, of with about a quarter is used. I will seek further advice on this forum about camera storage. I'm interested (but a little sceptical) about these adapters that mount cheaper forms of memory.

Additional batteries is an interesting one. Because the camera is 12 Volt, I can run it from my car, my caravan, the battery I use for my echo sounder and so on. The echo sounder battery is enough to run the camera for about 9 hours going on the specifications I've read. It's relatively small (I could wear it in some sort of pouch clipped to the tripod or my trouser belt.) So I reckon I might get just one genuine spare battery and improvise with the rest. The 12 Volt operation was actually the deal clincher when it came to choosing the camera because we are travelers and everything we own has to be able to run from 12 Volts. (TV, Laptops, Stereo, water pumps etc, all 12V and powered by solar panels.)

Hadn't thought about filters - definitely on the list now. We have a good shotgun mic. but have never used it because the HC3 cameras we have at the moment don't have a mic. input....dohhh! Will definitely be saving for lav mics, but they might have to come a little while after the main cash hit. Thoroughly agree about the Pelican case. We use them now for all of our electronics.

Tripod. Aaaaarrrgh! One bad thing about traveling permanently is that you have to be able to fit all of your worldly possessions into a motor vehicle and caravan (trailer, to those based in the US). We are at capacity now, so something will have to go to fit a tripod in. Weight is an issue as well, as we are right on the Gross Vehicle Mass for the vehicle and the 'van right now. I know that the Sony tripod that we use for the HC3's wont be up to the task, but buying one for the EX1R is going to be as tough a decision as deciding on a camera was!

And the Vortex Media training material...you must be psychic Bob. My next post was going to be a question about just how good is their stuff? I was wondering why their training came on three disks and VASST's EX1 training was only on one disk? Anybody been able to check both of these out and have an opinion about them?

Cheers

Russ
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 02:52 AM   #9
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There are 3 or 4 EX1 training DVDs out there. I have seen them all, and I have watched the forum comments for several years- my observation is that there is a pretty solid consensus that the Vortex program is the most comprehensive, well organized, and best presented/produced of the lot.
Some of the others are quite good as well, but if you are just buying one, the Vortex is really all you need.
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 07:54 AM   #10
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Russell,
I went through a similar decision when upgrading from an XH-A1. I went with the EX1R in September and am very glad I did. If you've exhausted the capabilities of the HC3, there are many features in the EX1R that you will love from the histogram, colored focus peaking to physical switches for the audio and refined menu structure that reflects two years of field experience. The programmed transitions and 3 fully manual zoom rings are killer. I can finally setup focus and exposure on strictly the LCD with confidence the shot will be right.

If you plan to do handheld, consider the Hoodman Loupe for the EX1 and the Westside AV plate with small shoulder rest. It will also hold your Nano.

Take a look in the private classified section of DVInfo. There was a nice set of Miller sticks and Vinten head for sale at a good price. That will solve your tripod problem. Don't cheap out on the tripod. If you do, you will regret it and end up buying a good one in the end so "buy your third tripod first". :-)

Also, to save you some research on SXS cards, the most popular strategy I have seen is to have enough cards that you don't have to offload during a shoot. Do that at EOD when you can concentrate and avoid human error. Also, it's an advantage to have fewer large cards vs many small cards (subject to the budget of course). I'm only using Sony SxS or SxS-1. YMMV.
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 09:29 AM   #11
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I am an EX3 owner and I found the Vortex Media materials to be invaluable. They may seem expensive, but I figured if I was going to spend $8000+ on a camera package, I might as well become an expert at it! And I was right, even though I have been a professional shooter for many years, there are little tricks and advice that I use every day now. I can't imagine going on a shoot without my book in my bag.

And to add my advice on tripods: This is an area where I recommend you have to spend twice the amount that you want to spend. I know, I know. Good tripods cost a lot of money, but with good reason. They hold their value. Cameras come and go, tripods remain! Just know that if you take care of it, you'll be able to sell it later for at least 60% of what you spent for it. But YOU MUST GET A GOOD TRIPOD. There is nothing worse than fighting a cheap tripod day after day, but not being willing to get another because you have already spent $$ on this one. Cut to the chase and don't buy two tripods, one to get you to realize that you should have spent $$$$ in the first place. You will hate hate hate a bad tripod, but a good tripod is a joy forever! This is only my advice, take it or leave it!
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 04:26 PM   #12
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Russell,

Just be aware that the transition from consumer grade to professional grade can and will be a money pit. You have already witness that in the above posts from the 'extras' you will require. I certainly agree with all of the recommendations and you can already see the costs more than doubling.

What are you going to be editing with? Final Cut? Please keep in mind the cost of Final Cut Studio as well. You may then possibly need After Effects & Photoshop etc. Of course there are Windows based editors as well, but they still cost.

Not wanting to be a party pooper, but these are a fact of life when you move up to pro grade. But the results can be and are stunning. Just wanting to keep you up to date with the overall big picture.

Best wishes with your endeavours.
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 06:09 PM   #13
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Hi Russell,

Going back to your original question about cameras around the corner. We know that Sony will be putting out a full frame sensor shallow depth of field camera within the next 3 to 6 months. This is the big one for many. No one is sure of cost. Sony says affordable but speculation is all over the place from even the most seasoned shooters wondering where this camera will land in the pricing end of things. There is also a 3D camera coming out that will be in competition with Panasonic's $20,000 3D camera.

The camera you are looking at, the EX1R is a new revision to the EX1. The EX3 received a tepid revision a few months back. There is no scuttlebutt about anything coming out in the EX line in the near future.

There are a fair number of threads popping up on numerous forums of late asking a similar question to yours. The general response is to wait for the new cameras to come out with those being Panasonic's AF100 (AF101 in PAL land) and the unnamed Sony camera I mentioned above.

Frankly, I would hang tight and put your camera money aside and spend new money on your editing environment or good lighting gear or good microphones.

Below is a link to a page with a video interview with a Sony rep about the new 35mm, full frame sensor camera that is due out in a few months.

http://www.macvideo.tv/camera-techno...icleId=3240098
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 11:22 PM   #14
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There is a new niche of large sensor video cameras that are creating quite a buzz because they offer shallow depth of field and are more compatible with film style lenses, like film primes. Great for dramatic videos but for a mom & pop crew like you folks seem to be, more of a hassle. For lightweight run & gun 'doc' style videos like yours, the EX1R sounds perfect. Just my 2 cents.
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 01:01 AM   #15
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There is a new niche of large sensor video cameras that are creating quite a buzz because they offer shallow depth of field and are more compatible with film style lenses, like film primes. Great for dramatic videos but for a mom & pop crew like you folks seem to be, more of a hassle. For lightweight run & gun 'doc' style videos like yours, the EX1R sounds perfect. Just my 2 cents.
I think 2011 is going to be an interesting year indeed.
The brand new Sony APS chip NEX VG10 is selling like hotcakes. I shot a big event with one a couple of weeks ago. I had also shot the same event last year with the EX1. It is interesting to compare the final BR delivery products.
The EX footage is, of course, excellent and had the sharp, colorful, sort of hyper realistic look of "video".
The VG10 footage leaves a different impression. The DOF, even at f- 5 or 6 provides a subtle, but distinct difference from the EX. The footage is maybe not quite as laser sharp (maybe the lens is not as good, maybe it's just the impression the shallow DOF makes on someone used to looking only at video??), but doesn't look objectionably "soft". Color is very good. Overall, the footage is very pleasing to look at. Maybe it does look more like film. Of course the VG10 is just a first edition consumer cam, but it certainly gives a hint of the possibilities.
For 2011, I would not be surprised to see Sony come out with a larger APS cam, with EX1 features, interchangable lenses, etc. in the same price range as the EX. Or, to avoid eating into EX1r sales at the moment, maybe they will introduce the big 35mm pro version at a higher price, and save the APS version for a later date.
Whatever they release next, it seems to me that this is likely to be the direction for 2011 & going forward.
Sony is going to seriously target the DSLR revolution.
On the other hand, I do believe that the EX1 may grow old, but will not be dying anytime soon :)
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