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Sony XDCAM PMW-F3 CineAlta
HD recording with a Super35 CMOS Sensor.


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Old November 20th, 2011, 12:04 PM   #1
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Sony F3, or PMW 500, PDW 700/800

This question goes out to any owners/operators of the F3 or PMW 500, PDW 700/800.
My question is how do they compare as far as image?
Noise, detail, portability, set-up, etc.
Because of your access to either camera, which camera are you favoring for certain projects?
I know some of you may say.... of course, it should be the PMW-500/ PDW-700/800 because of 50Mbps 4:2:2. However, some would say, the F3 is best for the better image, because of the DOF with PL mounting, plus adding an optional external recorder would achive 50Mbps 4:2:2 recording if needed.
Some of you may ask, why not put the PMW 350 in this comparison as an altenative choice? Simply put, I can't.
From what I've seen on broadcast telvision & online, the XDCAM 2/3 CCD looks stunning to me! From "60 minutes" to "the Apprentice".
About a year ago, I recall Doug Jensen & Paul Cronin conducted a fair test of the PMW 350 & PDW 800. Although both cameras have 2/3 imagers, In my opinion, the PDW-800 won hands down!
In advance, thanks to all who may give their opinion in this comparison.
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Old November 20th, 2011, 01:16 PM   #2
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Re: Sony F3, or PMW 500, PDW 700/800

As an owner of an F3/KiPro and regular user of the PDW-700, I'd say they were completely different tools for different jobs. As far as image quality goes, particularly with noise and detail, the F3 wins hands down for me. However, you do have to factor in good, expensive (and usually heavy) glass as well. Because of this, for portability, set-up, etc the 700/800's are so much easier to use. Once you put a nice zoom, viewfinder, shoulder mount and external recorder on an F3, it's quite a handful for run&gun or actuality shoots - like "The Apprentice". So if it's ultimate picture quality I want I'd go for the F3, but if I'm running around grabbing shots then a PDW-700/800 does make life (and focussing) a lot easier!

I'm waiting to see how usable the new Sony 14x lens is for the F3. I realise it's very slow, but with the low noise available on this camera, it'll be interesting to see if it makes it a more viable run&gun solution?
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Old November 20th, 2011, 01:39 PM   #3
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Re: Sony F3, or PMW 500, PDW 700/800

I would largely echo what Paul says.

I use DSLR lenses on my F3 so the package is quite manageable, even with the Gemini or Samurai on the handle. With a good shoulder mount with a V-Lock battery on the back, Cineroid EVF to the side of the lens and a reasonable DSLR zoom, if you stop down to f5.6/f8 the F3 is moderately useable as an ENG camera. It's not a 700/F800 and if that is the type of camera you need, thats what you should get, the F3 is a different beast but there is some crossover.

I love the image quality from the F3. I know many are looking at the F3 with the new Sony lens, but one small thought to consider is "should you buy the lens or buy an EX1 for less money and get similar DoF to the EX3 + Sony zoom by using the EX1 wide open and have the benefit of having two cameras"? Having said that I do find that I am prepared to work through or around the F3's run and gun difficulties to get the benefits of the shallow DoF and high IQ rather than use an EX1 or other ENG camera.

For news the F3 is probably a non starter, but for docs and maybe current affairs it will depend on your style of shooting.
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Old November 20th, 2011, 03:53 PM   #4
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Re: Sony F3, or PMW 500, PDW 700/800

I've done a number of shoots mixing PMW350s, PDW700s and PMW500s and I actually prefer the image from the 350. To my eye it is fractionally cleaner. Not a lot in it really but if you are happy with CMOS instead of CCD and only 35Mbps on board the 350 is an excellent camera. I haven't used the 800 and that obviously has additional features which you may need. I really like the disc workflow but the SXS workflow is far cheaper (in the long term) and quicker.

If you did consider the 350, you could buy a 350K AND an F3 AND a Nano Flash for less than the PDW800. That would give maximum flexibility from two great cameras and money left over for accessories.

My biggest dislike of full size cameras is portability. Not so much the camera but the sticks needed to support them. If you are shooting alone, carrying the camera and sticks on foot is fairly back breaking.
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Old November 20th, 2011, 09:28 PM   #5
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Re: Sony F3, or PMW 500, PDW 700/800

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Marriage View Post
I've done a number of shoots mixing PMW350s, PDW700s and PMW500s and I actually prefer the image from the 350. To my eye it is fractionally cleaner. Not a lot in it really but if you are happy with CMOS instead of CCD and only 35Mbps on board the 350 is an excellent camera. I haven't used the 800 and that obviously has additional features which you may need. I really like the disc workflow but the SXS workflow is far cheaper (in the long term) and quicker.

If you did consider the 350, you could buy a 350K AND an F3 AND a Nano Flash for less than the PDW800. That would give maximum flexibility from two great cameras and money left over for accessories.

My biggest dislike of full size cameras is portability. Not so much the camera but the sticks needed to support them. If you are shooting alone, carrying the camera and sticks on foot is fairly back breaking.
I agree with this assessment ... I do believe the less expensive combination of the EX1/EX3, F3 and nanoflash/samurai/gemini would cover the different activities one would need to engage in for corporate, news, net, commercial productions. The PMW 350 is an excellent choice as Mike said ... but the package of owning the 350, gemini and the f3 is pretty well into Epic territory. Given that choice ... Epic ... humm ... !
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Old November 20th, 2011, 09:53 PM   #6
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Re: Sony F3, or PMW 500, PDW 700/800

Trell,
It would depend on what your requirements are.
As an independent DP for 60 Minutes(As well as other network magazine programs) and owner of both the 800/700, EX 1/3, and two F3's, the 700/800 has been the requested camera from management. 50 Mb 422 is what they require.
That being said they have accepted EX1/3 material at 35Mb and upped on a Nano to 50Mb for 3 rd camera lock down, underwater, car mounts, and various edgy mounting situations. For that matter they also accept Canon 5D and Go Pro files, again for edgy mounts. Although the post people hate to deal with those, if the image is there, and the story is enhanced, it makes the time line.
I introduce the F3 to CBS for the Royal Wedding Special in Feb '11 and , and then April '11. In June' '11, I used it on 60 Minutes. Continue to do so.
I delivered on optical via the Nano 50Mb 422 route for both broadcasts. In addition we have used it on CBS 48 Hours.
I do not like using anything but my 800 for handheld. I can not stop and say, " do it again", because I lost focus trying to predict where the bird was going. That being said I purchased the Able Cine Pro FV, and awaiting delivery to see if hand held is possible for non scripted work.
Aside from the DOF and low noise floor, great low light capability, the F3 looks fantastic. I use the Sony Primes and Zeiss ZF primes along with Nikkor Zooms/MTF adapter. On bigger budget gigs Zeiss Masters/Optimo are rented.
99% of the time the camera is mounted. Portraits, b-roll and such. Every producer who has seen the F3 loves it, until they ask you to zoom in with a 50mm prime attached.
This is in a 709 world. Imagine S Log.
I have charted all the Sony cameras to match via DSC/Leader. After color matching, only the optical, noise floor, and imager differences make each camera distinctive to the common man's eye.. I have had no experience with the 500.



"My biggest dislike of full size cameras is portability. Not so much the camera but the sticks needed to support them. If you are shooting alone, carrying the camera and sticks on foot is fairly back breaking."

After you properly rig an F3, it weighs as much or more than the 800, depending on the appendages added. And you can not just set it down like an 800. You will need a Porta brace type bag that meets the dimensions of the monster you have created, or break it down completely between locations/set ups.
I hate shooting alone, but that is a reality with the industry. Get a minimum tripod, Sachtler FS8 or so.
Ok so if I had to chose which one and only one. I'd go with the 800. But if I had control of the scene it would be the F3.
So as I said it depends on what your client base requires.
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Old November 20th, 2011, 10:10 PM   #7
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Re: Sony F3, or PMW 500, PDW 700/800

Dennis, as an F800 and F3 owner myself, I agree with everything you've said. That sums up the differences pretty well.

Mike, you can you post a few links to some PMW-350 footage (doesn't have to be yours) that you think is particularly impressive?
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Old November 21st, 2011, 03:30 AM   #8
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Re: Sony F3, or PMW 500, PDW 700/800

Great post Dennis.

Doug, here's a cinema trailer that mixed Sony HDC-1500 (same CCD block as the 700/800) and 350 footage. After "Nation" the rest is 350 footage. It not the greatest edit ever as it was working with what was shot in performances and camera tests and is a little cobbled together.

The compression rather slaughters it but the 350 footage looked better on an HD monitor. The HDC-1500 footage was recorded to HDCAM and the 350 onboard at 35Mbps. By the time it reached the film-out you couldn't see much difference but the HDC1500 definitely had more noise:

This also mixed PDW700 and PMW350. We also had an EX3 but I'm not sure if it made the edit:
One Man, Two Guvnors in the West End - YouTube

I also just shot this for Tesco but unfortunately the compression is rather severe! It is the video on the right which says New:
Augmented Reality - Tesco
I'm posting it because it was a recent shoot where I thought about using an F3 but in the end went with the 350. I'm glad I did as it saved time on set and the DOF is quite shallow enough. It looks quite "corporate" but I think it the look suits the film.

In every case, the limiting factor to image quality was time (I couldn't change the high contrast theatre lighting) or my talent :)

I presume the 800 can be tweaked a little better than the 700 but unless I had clients demanding discs or CCD I would struggle to justify the massive leap in cost from the 350. I am in a similar position to Trell where I considered selling my 350 for an F3 but decided it wasn't flexible enough for me. However, I am considering owning both. Had I invested more in a 700/800 I wouldn't be able to afford an F3.

Of course, we are probably a little biased towards our own cameras but the 350 is such a good value, high quality camera, that I don't think it should Trell should dismiss it too soon.
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Old November 21st, 2011, 08:46 AM   #9
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Re: Sony F3, or PMW 500, PDW 700/800

Thanks Mike. Actually, I was hoping you'd be able to point me to something that was strictly 350 footage and with very little grading so we could see what the camera could do on its own. It is hard to judge the quality of 350 when other cameras have also been used. I can't tell what is what. But I appreciate you taking the time to post them. The two theater promos look great.
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Old November 21st, 2011, 08:59 AM   #10
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Re: Sony F3, or PMW 500, PDW 700/800

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Originally Posted by Doug Jensen View Post
I can't tell what is what.
That was kind of the point :)

I think the IQ differences between the 700/500 and 350 will be more setup and operator dependent. IMO workflow and features should be the main deciding factors. However, I've never used the 800 so can't comment on that in detail.

I'll see what I've got in terms of 350 only footage. I'm not able to post everything that I have.

This was 350 with a little 5D Mk2 thrown in just to annoy you! ;)

"Lanson Wimbledon"

There was only minor grading, crushing the blacks a little. The interview isn't great as we were hiding from the rain and the light wasn't ideal.
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Old November 21st, 2011, 09:13 AM   #11
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Re: Sony F3, or PMW 500, PDW 700/800

Also agree with Dennis when on your own it is tough. I just sold my PMW-500 after owning a PDW F800, and PMW-350. I love the CCD as did my clients, but contracts change and I am now going to EX3/Nano for the coming years contract.

Dennis makes a few great points as always. You have to let us know what the job is and your clients requirements. If you are a one man gig and on the move the PMW-500 is the best camera I have used for run and gun. With two 64GB SXS-1 cards and very nice sticks you can do the one man gig. This is what I used for 70 productions this year with wireless attached and It never failed me. You can nail the shot if you have nice glass.

But if you are locked down and have help on the set (I wish), I guess the F3 could be great. Still have not used the F3 since I am on the run every day I shoot.
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Old November 21st, 2011, 04:21 PM   #12
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Re: Sony F3, or PMW 500, PDW 700/800

[QUOTE=Doug Jensen;1698609]Thanks Mike. Actually, I was hoping you'd be able to point me to something that was strictly 350 footage and with very little grading so we could see what the camera could do on its own. It is hard to judge the quality of 350 when other cameras have also been used.


Hi Doug, here are some samples I put together for you of some work I have done with my PMW-350.
No grading,SXS onboard recording 35 mbs
From what I understand from many of your posts I red, you really appreciate all the EX line a part from the PMW-350...thank you for your time and your posts in this great forum..I really appreciate all your posts, I always read them with great interest.
Samer
Attached Files
File Type: wmv PMW-350.wmv (23.20 MB, 276 views)
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Old November 21st, 2011, 05:06 PM   #13
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Re: Sony F3, or PMW 500, PDW 700/800

Hi Samer,

Yes, you are correct, I am not a fan of the 350. Compared to the other XDCAM cameras, I find the colors and sharpness to be dull and lackluster no matter what settings are used in the Picture Profile menus. It is the flattest, dullest picture out of any of the Sony cameras. I'm know it is possible to get an acceptable final result if someone chooses to grade the footage, but that is not my workflow. Also, the camera has a really bad rolling shutter problem that is unlike any of the other EX cameras. The 350 is the only camera that uses those 2/3" CMOS chips.

I am not the only one who feels this way and a number of 350 owners have written to me directly to ask for recommendations, but I don't have any unless they want to grade the footage. I'll put my EX1 up against the picture of a 350 anytime someone wants to bring their 350 over and set them up side by side. There's no way a 350 is similar to an F800. They are night and day in picture quality and features. Obviously that is only my opinion and others are free to disagree and buy the camera that they feel is the best value. Personally, after what I have seen first hand, I would never be willing to shoot anything with a 350.

The F800/700 is used for Survivor, 60 Minutes, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Community, Apprentice, and many other network shows -- and those are some of the best looking shows on television. I don't know of a single network prime time show that uses the 350.

Unfortunately, I can't download your attached file, and even if I could, I have nothing that will play a WMV file. Can you post something at Vimeo?
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Last edited by Doug Jensen; November 21st, 2011 at 06:45 PM. Reason: typo
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Old November 21st, 2011, 06:31 PM   #14
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Re: Sony F3, or PMW 500, PDW 700/800

Quote:
Hi Doug, here are some samples I put together for you of some work I have done with my PMW-350.
No grading,SXS onboard recording 35 mbs
Certainly nice colour in those shots. The camera needs to be set up correctly of course like it appears you've done here. I would like a 700/800 as a run-around camera but it's hard to justify if you aren't doing lots of broadcast and reality.
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Old November 22nd, 2011, 02:26 AM   #15
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Re: Sony F3, or PMW 500, PDW 700/800

Doug,

I tend to shoot quite flat out of choice and grade so maybe that is why our opinions differ so much. That said, I don't perform much heavy grading, more tweaking which takes very little time in post.

The rolling shutter is there but I've never noticed it to be worse than cameras like the EX1. It's certainly nothing like a DSLR. I've never lost a shot because of it. Flashguns look horrible but that is true of all CMOS sensors.

Like I said, I can't speak for the 800 which certainly should be superior but I've intercut 700s, 500s and 350s on a number of occasions and never seen any difference in quality apart from the 350 being less noisy. I can see absolutely no difference in sharpness. I've also had an EX3 in the mix on a number of occasions and there is clearly more noise in the image and to my eye it looks a little murky.

The other thing to point out is that Doug and I appear to shoot very different subjects. I shoot many interiors like theatre. Lots of high contrast and low light and no need to look particularly real. Doug appears to shoot a lot of nature and landscape with a more organic feel. It may be a case of horses for courses!
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