Sony DSR-PDX10 3-CCD DVCAM Camcorder Review
by Ignacio Rodríguez de Rementería

The following is Part Two of a hands-on report of the (NTSC) Sony DSR-PDX10 DVCAM camcorder.

Audio:  A clear winner here. Audio is very clean, much better than on other DV cameras I have experimented with. The built in stereo omni mics performed surprisingly well, with the supplied on-camera directional doing quite well too, although the gain is not very high and it picks up a lot of handling noise if the high pass filter is not used. Of course the latter is to be expected from such a small camera and the mic mount provided by Sony is not of the suspension type. Connecting a wireless mic receiver to the other XLR input proved to be straightforward and the result was very good sounding. To my ears, as good as my portable pro DAT machine.

On my wish list: some more gain and perhaps a better directional mic. It would also be desirable for the camera to record all four channels of DV audio; the built-in omni on one stereo pair, the XLR inputs on the other stereo pair.


Well, this is the disappointing part. My old PC3 came with a neat little outboard battery charger, so it was easy to buy high capacity batteries and run the camera off one while charging the other(s). No such luck with the PDX10; since it comes with an external power module that cannot charge batteries by itself, you need to charge the battery in the camera, and charging only takes place when the camera is powered down. Also the capacity of the supplied M type Infolithium battery is quite inadequate. You will not realistically get much more than an hour out of it. Of course if the PDX10 were to use the same S type batteries as the PC3, it would be a whole different story for me. Owners of other Sony cameras which also use type M batteries might benefit greatly from the extra chargers and batteries. I used to have a Mavica which used type M, but I gave it away a year ago.


Having played around with the PD150, XL1 and also a few shoulder mountable cameras, I can say the PDX10 is not the easiest kind of camera to handle. It does not seem particularly well balanced, is too small to put on your shoulder, is too big to hold comfortably and keep steady with one hand (at least one of mine), and it gets worse when you attach the XLR input module and directional mic and wireless receiver. I guess it will get terribly worse with a wide angle adapter, although a high capacity battery might compensate a bit since it sits on the rear. Considering the kind of cameras film guys usually put up with (not to mention having to run a separate recorder for sound), we are still better of with a badly ergonomic DV camera. Surely this little wonder is lighter and easier to hold and operate than even some DV cameras. The XL1 comes to mind. Still, I remember I could put an old Betamovie or Panasonic VHS camera on my shoulder and get a more stable image. If you want to buy a shoulder mountable DV camera you have to spend much more, it's quite frustrating. I guess it's necessary for the manufacturers to offer some kind of real added value in their pro equipment, because since the DV revolution all the semi-pro stuff has gotten so good!

photo from NAB 2002Enough whining on the ergonomics. There is something I am very happy about: tape and battery can be removed and inserted without having to detach the PDX10 from a tripod mount. This may sound trivial, buy it really is not when you use something like a GlideCam. In the case of the PC3, every time I ran down the battery, I had to take the camera body off the GlideCam, change the battery, put it back on and recalibrate the whole thing, which is quite a pain.


The manual is of the usual Sony suction kind. I was hoping that, with this expensive new camera, I would get to understand exactly what AUTO SHTR really does, but I still don't. The manual is of the most basic nature, every camera function is covered, but there is little effort from Sony to explain how to get the most from the camera. I would expect a manual for a pro camera to at least get into little details like exactly which parameters do the different AE programs affect and things like that. Color printing with image samples would have been a nice touch.

Final thoughts:

To me the PDX10 seems a very high quality piece of equipment, costing enough less than the PD150 to get you a portable illumination kit AND a cheap MiniDV camera for the tear and wear of NLE. This, and the promised "16:9 native" performance, is why I preferred the PDX10 over the PD150, even before I had compared their images side by side.

A mention about the DVCAM format: I don't care much for this mode. In my years of use of the PC3 and other MiniDV cameras, I have never seen a DV tape losing content in SP mode nor heard from other people about such problems. So I expect to be using the PDX10 in SP mode. According to the manual the camera writes locked audio only when using DVCAM. So I might end up using DVCAM on some projects where sync is critical. Using DV SP, I will always be able to play back the resulting tapes in any cheap MiniDV toy and not kill the heads so soon on the PDX10. Interestingly though, the PC3 seems quite happy to read DVCAM tapes and locked audio.

My advice as of September 2003: if you need a versatile, broadcast quality camera now and don't need to do night-time exteriors, go for the PDX10. If you can hold off buying a camera for about nine months, wait and see what will come of HDV, the rumored high-definition prosumer format using DV-like media in a similar price range. After JVC shook the industry with the MPEG2 "HD on DV" tape trick, Sony and Panasonic will probably respond with something similar which will become the next step of the DV revolution, and perhaps drive HDTV with some much needed independent and local content. Also, I hope Sony responds to the Panasonic AG-DVX100 camera with at least a 30p camera in this price range. It's about time Sony gave us something better than the line doubling slow shutter thing.

Finally, I bought a cool little Vivitar 0.5x wide angle adapter for little money (much less than a Sony or Century Optics), it's not the best quality, but since it is really 50mm, I am only using 37mm of it and not getting much distortion from the edges. It does not vignette noticeably in video mode... just a very slight darkening at the top left in 16:9 mode. It visibly vignettes in photo mode, which uses the full height of the CCD array.

Read the first half of Ignacio's review.
Back to the Sony DV / DVCAM User Reports Menu
Written by Ignacio Rodríguez de Rementería
Thrown together by Chris Hurd

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