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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 28th, 2012, 09:27 AM   #1
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PMW-200, some first impressions from a beginner-intermediate user

I bought this camera a couple of weeks ago and am so far liking it. I own a DSLR that I use mostly for still photography and would not consider using it for the documentary (and occasional event) coverage that I shoot.

Biggest plusses to me:

+ The 4:2:2 codec, the excellent low-light ability, the respectable latitude, and the variety of gammas . I've been experimenting with the various hypergammas and am happy with the looks I'm able to achieve in post.

+ The lens control. The three-ring manual control over the lens couldn't be easier to use. I went from a Canon XF100 to this, and there is no comparison as far as physical interface goes.

+ It's excellently balanced. It feels slightly better in hand to me than the Panasonic HPX250, and much, much better than the Canon XF300, two other cameras that I had considered. I've used an EX1R, and this camera is easier to handhold, IMHO.

Some minor annoyances:

+ The main record button has far too much resistance. It takes a really heavy push to put the camera into record mode. I've missed shots because of this. I will probably use Record Cache most of the time.

+ I'm speaking from memory from using other cameras, but I'm pretty certain that there is a higher-than-average amount of barrel distortion on the wide end.

+ The manual. It does a passable job of covering most of the bases, but in areas needed the most (i.e. audio settings and picture profile settings) it fails in every way to explain even the fundamentals. I mean, where does one even learn about AGC Spec? Trial and error and experimentation are fine and all, but I wish there was some good documentation for the intermediate user.

+ Although the camera performs well in low-light, I was hoping for less mosquito noise overall. My expectations were probably too high.

+ It should have a USB 3.0 port. USB 2.0 is, well, lame. Seriously lame.

+ The camera feels short of assignable buttons. I've assigned Histogram, Steady Shot, and Markers On/Off, but there are at least three other functions that I would like to have on hand.

+ I wish it had one more ND setting.

+ The SxS and Audio Level doors are awful. It's only a matter of time before they get chipped or broken off the camera altogether. They really should have been built sturdier.

Last edited by John M. Kim; December 28th, 2012 at 06:05 PM.
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Old December 28th, 2012, 01:24 PM   #2
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Re: PMW-200, some first impressions from a beginner-intermediate user

Agree with a lot of these points. Though if they had of put USB3 port on the camera they wouldn't sell as many external readers. The plastics on the camera do make me think I'm going to break it as well, I upgraded from a Z1 which after 7 years is still working without any damage to the main camera. Hoping the PMW-200 will last 3/4 of that.
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Old January 7th, 2013, 08:11 AM   #3
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Re: PMW-200, some first impressions from a beginner-intermediate user

I just purchased the PMW-200 as well and am wondering if it's too much camera for my needs (well-lit broadcast documentaries). John, I noticed that you went from the Canon XF100 to the PMW-200. In your opinion, is there a $3,000 noticeable difference to the viewer?
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Old January 7th, 2013, 08:36 AM   #4
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Re: PMW-200, some first impressions from a beginner-intermediate user

Tough to answer whether or not there is a $3,000 noticeable difference to the viewer. The truth is that it all depends on the camera operator.

But I think I know what you're getting at. The answer is: in ideal lighting situations, in the hands of a good operator, the layperson (meaning not camera people like us) will probably not see a huge difference in quality between the two cameras. The XF100 performs quite well overall, especially in good light.

But with all respect, I think you're asking the wrong question. The PMW200 is head and shoulders better from an operating perspective, and its low light ability is so much better than the XF100. And because of its larger sensor, for medium and long shots you will have much finer control over your area of focus.

I ultimately sold the XF100 because I wanted full manual control over the lens. I wanted three-way controls, and the iris control (which I had assigned to the custom dial) on the XF100 frustrated me to no end. And I really struggled to get good footage indoors, even in decent non-direct lighting. I have high expectations, and I learned from that experience that there is no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to price vs. quality in cameras.

The $3000, amortized over time, is IMHO a small investment for a camera that gives you the better chance of getting a good, usable picture.
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Old January 7th, 2013, 09:05 AM   #5
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Re: PMW-200, some first impressions from a beginner-intermediate user

Thanks John. Is there anything you liked better about the XF100?
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Old January 7th, 2013, 09:19 AM   #6
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Re: PMW-200, some first impressions from a beginner-intermediate user

Better? I suppose the size/weight. But that's not a big issue. After all -- to the person you are shooting, or when you are out in public, either way it's unmistakeable that you have a camcorder in your hand.

Compact Flash cards, but only because I happen to have a bunch of that media from shooting with DSLRs, and not because I have any problem with SxS cards. I found used 32GB SxS Pro cards at decent prices on the auction site.
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Old January 7th, 2013, 09:24 AM   #7
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Re: PMW-200, some first impressions from a beginner-intermediate user

Quote:
Originally Posted by John M. Kim View Post
I have high expectations, and I learned from that experience that there is no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to price vs. quality in cameras.
So in your opinion, you believe the quality of image you see with the PMW-200 compared to the XF100 justifies the price?
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Old January 7th, 2013, 09:26 AM   #8
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Re: PMW-200, some first impressions from a beginner-intermediate user

Again, you are asking the wrong question.

But to simplify matters, the answer to your question is yes -- I've owned both the XF100 and the PMW200 and I don't regret selling one and buying the other, and I'm satisfied with the cost/performance value of the PMW200.
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Old January 7th, 2013, 09:31 AM   #9
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Re: PMW-200, some first impressions from a beginner-intermediate user

What would be the right question?
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Old January 7th, 2013, 03:00 PM   #10
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Re: PMW-200, some first impressions from a beginner-intermediate user

Camera choice is not just about image quality. As important as that is, you'll have to consider the ergonomics of the camera, the media, the type of footage you are shooting (verité? indoor concerts? outdoor sports/action? green screen? multi-camera?), the codec and the implications in post, any additional accessories you need and whether or not those accessories are compatible and easy to find for your camera, the popularity of the camera platform itself (especially important if you are a production house and need to commonly hire freelancers or additional cameras of that type), and so on -- not to mention whether or not you actually enjoy shooting with the camera!

I'm not belittling your question -- I was just pointing out that, as I was getting at before, if you shoot properly with any modern camcorder the footage will be at least tolerable or better to your average viewer. The majority of salient points behind a camera purchase decision occur before it even gets to that point.
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Old January 7th, 2013, 03:09 PM   #11
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Re: PMW-200, some first impressions from a beginner-intermediate user

I appreciate that John, and I'm fairly comfortable with my purchase. I did painstaking research (also looking at the XF300 and HPX250) prior to buying this camera but after an investment like this, one can't help but wonder if they made the right choice. In this case though, for my needs, I believe I did.
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