IBC 2010: Sony Expands XDCAM Camcorder Line With PMW-500

At IBC last week, Sony unveiled the latest addition to its XDCAM line of tapeless-acquisition camcorders: the PMW-500 shoulder-mount professional camcorder. It’s Sony’s first memory-based shoulder-mount camera to record XDCAM HD422 video at 50 Mbps.

In addition, the new camcorder is capable of recording either MXF or MP4 files to solid-state SxS memory cards. The PMW-500 is also equipped with three ⅔-inch Power HAD FX CCD image sensors and can record both 1080 and 720 HD pictures at 50 Mbps.

Although the PMW-500 does not match the production level of the PDW-F800 optical-disc camera (priced at $40,000-plus), Sony looks for it to serve as a more cost-effective ($27,900) and flexible (thanks to the use of SxS memory cards) solution for broadcasters, live event production, documentarians, rental companies, and independent producers. It is scheduled to ship the first week of November.

“The PMW-500 represents the next step in the evolution of the XDCAM product range of tapeless technologies,” says Bob Ott, VP of product marketing and management for Sony Electronics’ Professional Solutions of America. “Customers have been requesting an XDCAM HD422 memory camcorder to complement the phenomenally popular optical-disc camcorder, and this new model is an ideal solution.”

The PMW-500 has two slots for recording onto SxS memory cards, which provide a high level of reliability and fast access to recorded data. Sony is also adding a higher-capacity 64-GB (SBS-64G1A) card, which can record two hours of material at HD422 50-Mbps MXF mode or more than four hours in DVCAM mode and has an increased transfer speed of 1.2 Gbps.

Sony gave veteran director Chuck Fishbein of Crazy Duck Productions, a New York-based independent, the chance to take the PMW-500 for a test drive.

“There’s no messing around with this camera,” he reports. “It’s serious business. When we were shooting at 422 in the 50-Mbps file, the quality was outstanding. Starting with that 422, 50-Mbps file, you already have a richer file to work with [in postproduction].”

The camcorder can switch between MXF and MP4 for recording in XDCAM HD422, XDCAM HD, and XDCAM EX modes. Users also have the option to record MPEG IMX and DVCAM material. The PMW-500 boasts interoperability with major nonlinear-editing systems, four channels of uncompressed 48-kHz digital audio, and lower power consumption for extended record time.

“The battery life was amazing. I took three batteries with me, but I only needed to use the one in six hours of shooting with the camera constantly on,” says Fishbein. “[The PMW-500] allowed me to have everything I need in one package. It was just myself, the camera, a tripod, and it was so light that I was to pick it up, throw the tripod on my shoulder, and walk a dozen blocks and not feel encumbered.

“If I was going to make a next step, this is the camera we would purchase,” he adds. “It keeps us in the same format and workflow that we’re used to. We were very impressed, and we’re looking for it to be out on the market.”

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