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Sony PXW-Z280, Z190, X180 etc. (going back to EX3 & EX1) recording to SxS flash memory.

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Old December 22nd, 2018, 07:20 PM   #1
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Realistic card options with the PXW-Z280?

I've got an important side project coming up next year which has to be shot in 4K XAVC-I 25p (or 24p) and S-Log3. I was thinking of hiring an FS7 (plus adapter plus lens) which, of course, records to XQD cards. But, having used an EX1R for many years plus getting a Z150 last year, I'm much more used to the fixed lens XDCAM style of camera and am looking at possibly hiring a Z280 for this project. Plus I can't help, in the back of my mind, pondering the pros and cons of maybe buying a Z280 instead of hiring.

The thing about the Z280 which has me scratching my head the most is which cards you can use (with an adapter) due to its SXS card system.

1. On page 130 of the Z280 manual, it says the only compatible recording media for XAVC-I at 4K (3840 x 2160) is the SXS Pro+ card. My local dealer (Videocraft) lists a 128GB card at about $1200 and a 256GB card at $2,400! Yet the FS7 records 4K XAVC-I to XQD cards with no problems. My first question is: Have any members successfully recorded 4K XAVC-I on the Z280 to XQD cards using the adapter (QDA-EX1 Media Adapter)?

2. I was intrigued by the statement on page 26 of the manual, "When recording in XAVC-I recording format ... an unsupported media error may appear on the screen indicating that normal recording is not possible, depending on the SDXC cards used."

So does this mean that, if you use the right SDXC cards (and I have a heap of Sony SDXC cards from when I bought the Z150) with the adapter, it can record 4K XAVC-I? The Sony cards I've got have a maximum write speed of 90 MB/s. The 4K XAVC-I bitrate (from a Sony brochure on the FS7) is supposed to be 240 Mb/s for 24p (23.98p) and 250 Mb/s for 25p. This is, I believe, a 10-bit codec. So 10 bits to a byte. This means 24 MB/s for 24p and 25 MB/s for 25p. (If I've screwed up with the maths or my assumptions concerning this, feel free to jump in.) This is less than a third of the maximum speed of these cards, so I'd hope that my Sony SDXC cards could handle those bitrates quite comfortably. I took one of my Sony cards over to Videocraft to test my theory out on their display camera, but unfortunately they didn't have an adapter (MEAD-SD02) available. So I'm wondering if any of our members have successfully recorded 4K XAVC-I at 24p or 25p onto SDXC cards with an adapter? By the way, this particular project would never shoot higher than a 25p frame rate.

3. Finally, the table on page 130 of the Z280 manual says the 4K XAVC-L (Long) codec is unable to be recorded onto SDXC cards. Yet my Z150 records 4K XAVC-L onto SDXC cards just fine. So it seems kind of hard to believe that the Z280 wouldn't record this to SDXC cards with an adapter. Again, has anyone tested this out?

Thanks very much!
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Old December 22nd, 2018, 11:06 PM   #2
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Re: Realistic card options with the PXW-Z280?

Watch the following video. It will explain all. The Z280 can record a full UHD signal in 50/60p to XQD cards running using Sony's XQD Express Card Adapter. For me if you don't have SxS cards this is the best way to go as the cards can do double duty in the Z7 as well. With SD cards and adapters the Z280 is limited to HD resolutions.

The XQD cards need to be the G series 440/400 MBs cards to cover all codecs and frame rates. Remember now there are two new XQD cards out from Sony. They are the new 120GB and 240GB cards. They are the QD-G120F and the QD-G240F. These are built based on the new PCI Express card architecture and certain cameras require firmware updates. In the case of the Z280 that is firmware v1.2 released at the end of October. The original firmware on the Z280 is totally fine with the original G series XQD cards of 128 and 256GB. See the attached PDF for more info.

BTW I love my FS7 with the 18-110 lens but I know where you are coming from with your past EX experience. I still have an EX3 that is still doing great service on certain jobs. Especially with an ACM-21 adapter and 2/3" B4 lens. It's a great problem solver for certain types of events. I'm thinking of replacing it with the Z280 hence having researched all the Z280 card options. I'm just hanging off until NAB to see if Sony are going to bring out a PXW "Z" model with an interchangeable lens and side viewfinder, a la EX3. If they don't it will be an EX3 upgrade to Z280 I think.

The video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2q2...ature=youtu.be

Chris Young
CYV Productions
Sydney
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Camcorder_XQD-GFE_Official_20180830-1.pdf (59.5 KB, 17 views)
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Old December 26th, 2018, 11:48 PM   #3
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Re: Realistic card options with the PXW-Z280?

I just tested out our new PXW-Z280 with the G-series 256 GB XQD cards in the official Sony adapters, and XAVC-I at max quality in UHD resolution, and everything worked just fine.
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Old December 27th, 2018, 04:11 AM   #4
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Re: Realistic card options with the PXW-Z280?

Good to hear the confirmation from someone who has actually tried. Thanks for that!

Chris Young
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Old December 27th, 2018, 08:05 PM   #5
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Re: Realistic card options with the PXW-Z280?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric Darling View Post
I just tested out our new PXW-Z280 with the G-series 256 GB XQD cards in the official Sony adapters, and XAVC-I at max quality in UHD resolution, and everything worked just fine.
That's great to hear with the 256GB card. I know the 240GB card is a bit newer and 'rugged'. Anyone try the 240GB one yet?
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Old December 28th, 2018, 08:38 AM   #6
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Re: Realistic card options with the PXW-Z280?

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Originally Posted by David Knaggs View Post
My local dealer (Videocraft) lists a 128GB card at about $1200 and a 256GB card at $2,400!
Really the way to go is with an external recorder/monitor such as the Atomos Ninja Flame - less than $800 and mega flexible.
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Old December 28th, 2018, 10:10 PM   #7
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Re: Realistic card options with the PXW-Z280?

Why drag around all that extra hardware? That's just ruining a fast, easy to use, lightweight camera with a bunch of unnecessary junk. If you can't afford the cards, you can't afford the camera.

BTW, all of my S-Series XQD cards also work with every format and frame rate.
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Old December 29th, 2018, 12:25 AM   #8
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Re: Realistic card options with the PXW-Z280?

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Originally Posted by Keith Rollinson View Post
Really the way to go is with an external recorder/monitor such as the Atomos Ninja Flame - less than $800 and mega flexible.
Sure you could do that but from my POV that totally beats the object of having a one piece camera that has a very high spec codec internally that is every bit as good as the ProRes files. Why make the camera into a lugfest with all the extra kit hanging off it?

I use an Atomos Inferno as a backup on mission critical shoots with the FS7 but those files have never been used, touch wood, because we get totally acceptable results from the XAVC internal 422 10-bit 4K files. No way would I use it on a Z280 if I was on the move. Too cumbersome and restrictive IMHO.

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Old December 29th, 2018, 10:18 AM   #9
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Re: Realistic card options with the PXW-Z280?

Quality-wise, I see less of an argument for going with ProRes files. But, ironically, workflow-wise, perhaps more of an argument can be made, depending on the nature of the shoot, of course.

If you're running in the highest quality codec the camera offers (XAVC-I), you're dealing with real frames every time, just like ProRes, but the resulting files are arguably less compatible with legacy editing systems (with which, some editors are strapped due to cost or facility issues). So, there's that potential post-production workflow concern.

Further, I do take some issue with cost/performance ratio, too. While it's true that if you are concerned with the cost of a couple of media cards, the camera might not be the right choice, I think that once you start multiplying the number of cards, you can quickly get to a point where media costs get quite high. A 256 GB XQD card costs $450. That one card gives you less than 1 hour of running footage in XAVC-I and UHD resolution. If you're running all day without an opportunity to dump media, you're talking about at least a half-dozen cards. The cost on that is upwards of $3k, once you add in two adapters, a media reader and a carrying case for spare/spent cards, and that's if you have just a 6-hour daily run time maximum.

Compare that to a Ninja Flame cost ($800), which does provide the added benefit of a "real" monitor that can even work in full daylight conditions. Samsung 860 Pro 512GB SSD drives run about $140 right now. Equivalent media costs combined with the $800 sunk investment on the Ninja Flame (which also has arguably more used ownership value), you're talking roughly $1350 after caddies and cables and what not (especially if you already have a host of L series batteries to run the Ninja). By my math, that's less than half the cost, plus it comes with a pretty decent monitor. If you're running on presenters moving about on a stage from a tripod all day, that's certainly a good choice, and dare I say it, an even better business decision.

Is it always good to have that extra stuff bolted on to your rig? Certainly not, and that's one of the main reasons to buy the Z280 in the first place, since you don't have to fumble with lens mounts and lenses. But each assignment should dictate the kit requirements, and sometimes, a Ninja Flame is just the ticket. In the end, you probably want BOTH options, especially if the Z280 is your only rig, and you take a belt-and-suspenders approach to mission-critical assignments.
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Old December 29th, 2018, 12:50 PM   #10
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Re: Realistic card options with the PXW-Z280?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric Darling View Post
A 256 GB XQD card costs $450. That one card gives you less than 1 hour of running footage in XAVC-I and UHD resolution.
At what frame rate, 60P? Why would anyone in their right mind shoot presenters on a stage at 60P? Why not shoot at 30P XAVC-I 4K and then you'll get 1.7 hours on a single 256GB card and 2.2 hours @ 24P. And going one step further, why does anyone need XAVC-I for presenters on a stage? Switch over to XAVC-L 4K and you'll get 5.2 hours on the same card. Unless someone is going to be doing some heavy grading, XAVC-L and XAVC-I will be indistinguishable from each other. And going even a step further, I'd say that 4K for presenters on a stage might be overkill anyway. Maybe it's possbile to drop down to XAVC-L50 HD and then you'll have 9.8 hours of record time on one card. And then you can even switch to dirt cheap SD cards and save money on media. My advice is still to invest in a couple extra memory cards and skip all the hassle and complexity of an external recorder. External recorders are for people with inferior cameras that don't have decent internal codecs and/or reliable media.
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Old December 29th, 2018, 01:11 PM   #11
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Re: Realistic card options with the PXW-Z280?

Points well taken, all. Just saying there are potentially more economical ways to shoot, particularly if you're in need of a larger studio config style monitor for following presenters around a stage or something like that.

One added, but not unimportant, concern is sub-optimal lighting conditions, which none of us ever encounter (hah!). Despite the camera's excellent low light characteristics, there are situations where one might want to do some lift/gama/gain adjustments. The less noise the better, and the higher the color space the better. In the PXW-Z280, that equates to using XAVC-I vs. XAVC-L to minimize noise and banding as you stretch the picture's levels around.

That all being said, you are right that the camera is supremely adjustable, and there's a codec built-in for just about any situation you're likely to encounter when using such a camera. Just to be clear - I'm not advocating to choose the Ninja Flame device as the primary recording mechanism for this camera.
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Old December 29th, 2018, 02:17 PM   #12
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Re: Realistic card options with the PXW-Z280?

You make good points too, and I'm not saying there might not be some legitimate reasons to use an external recorder -- but most of the time I would seriously question that choice. A lot of people, especially those coming from DSLRs or other sub-par video cameras have the misconception that an external recorder is a necessary piece of equipment to obtain high quality recordings. And as you know, that is not the case with the Sony's professional camcorders. The great thing about the Z280 is just how small, nimble, and simple it is to shoot with and I hate to see people screw that up by adding curb feelers and fuzzy dice. The best choice for extending card capacity it almost always going to be to choose a different recording format or get more cards.
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Old December 29th, 2018, 07:19 PM   #13
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Re: Realistic card options with the PXW-Z280?

Thanks to everyone for their insights and comments so far.

Eric: Thanks for personally testing out the XQD card (and adapter) with XAVC-I and 4K. I really appreciate this coming from a member. That's what I was hoping for!

Christopher: Thanks, as always, for your well-researched info. It definitely looks like they are phasing out the 256GB XQD card in favour of the new 240GB card, so that firmware upgrade looks essential, going forward. I agree with you about the benefit of potential "double duty" with XQD cards (Z280 and/or FS7). The economics also make much more sense. This side project is going to be fully funded by me and, even though it's scripted, I just wouldn't feel comfortable with less than 5 hours of recording media for each day. According to this chart (which was worked out for an FS7), the 240GB card (QD-G240F) will record 105 minutes of 4K XAVC-I at 25p.

https://pro.sony/s3/2018/07/17103818...nal_140918.pdf

So 3 x 240GB cards should give 315 minutes (5 1/4 hours), which should be more than adequate. A 240GB card retails for $625 and the adapter for $80 (I'd leave each card permanently in its adapter), so 3 cards and 3 adapters would be about $2,100. Compare that to the cost of 3 SXS Pro+ cards at around $7,500, which comes to three-quarters of the price of the camera itself! So, if looking to purchase rather than rent, you'd be up for $10,000 for the Z280 camera plus a bag plus batteries plus $2,100 for the cards. Not too bad, actually. And, as Doug pointed out, if your requirements are better suited to XAVC-L or HD rather than XAVC-I, a single card might be all you'd ever need. In my own case, I'm now considering shooting this project in multi-cam (3 cameras) due to limited availability of the location, where I might not get the time to shoot all my coverage with a single camera. But the Z280 looks like a great long-term camera to purchase, I must say. It's so versatile!

Keith: Thanks for mentioning the option of the external recorder. Always worth considering. With this project, capturing in 4K (UHD) XAVC-I and S-Log3 will be perfect for me and I feel that this is where the Z280 really shines. Compact, no need to change lenses and everything recording to internal cards. It's very no-fuss. Doug summed it up perfectly! I'll have more than one function to perform on this particular shoot, so I want to keep the camera operation very simple and in the style that I'm most used to.

Thanks, again!
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Old January 7th, 2019, 02:29 PM   #14
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Re: Realistic card options with the PXW-Z280?

When I got the camera, it was the first batch being sent out and took a chance at the media and ordered it at the same time. It paid off, because I am able to record ALL formats at all speeds without ANY dropped frames even during super long recordings with the following XQD pieces:

Sony XQD SXS card adapter: $38 X2 = $76
Sony 128gb XQD G series card: $230 X2 = $460
Lexar 2gen XR2 XQD card reader: $45 Total: $581

Total: $581

Made a video about it.

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