Little fanfare, but Sony's PXW-X500 can be a classic ENG cameraMonday, November 24, 2014 12:00 AM
Cameraman and WTS Production Specialist Patrick van Weeren looks at an unheralded new arrival in Sony's XDCAM series, and discovers that the PXW-X500 has taken a classic ENG camcorder and made it even better.
Sony’s introduction of the PXW-X500 in August was somewhat overshadowed by the launch of its full-sensor cousin, the PXW-FS7. The XDCAM series has quietly been upgraded, and the X500 takes 2/3” cameras to the next level.
Even though the full-sensor cameras steal the show with their cinematic look and shallow depth of field, the need for classic ENG-style cameras – with sensors that don’t bother with shallow depth of field, rolling shutter and flash banding – still very much exists for a lot of television productions.
You’ll doubtless have noticed that the PDW/PMW code of Sony's range of XDCAM-cameras is slowly changing to PXW. The X heralds the use of XAVCHD, which has become Sony’s go-to codec for almost its entire line of camcorders. With the immensely popular PDW-680, 700 and F800 camcorders all now discontinued, Sony has introduced the PDW-850 as their high-end replacement. This now makes the PXW-X500 the first in line below the 850 – and it brings its own interesting array of features to the table. Let’s take a closer look at what it has to offer.
The X500 records to SxS cards – optical discs seem to slowly be losing their place in the Sony product-line up. It is also possible to use some of the cheaper XQD cards via an SxS adaptor (QDA-EX1 XQD). If your budget for media won’t stretch even that far, the MEAD-SD02 adaptor will allow you to use SDXC-SD cards with Class 10 speed. Beware though, restrictions apply to the use of slow-and-quick motion with both the XQD and SD cards. Slow-motion playback might not be properly achieved.
When it comes to slow-mo, the camera is a great upgrade from the PMW-500. This is primarily due to the XAVC codec. Its ability to have slow-motion capture up to 120fps (NTSC) and 100fps (PAL) will definitely prove popular, even if it is a paid option (which it is). Interestingly it is one of the few cameras with both a 3-CCD sensor and slow motion.
Apart from the XAVC, MPEG HD, 422, 420, IMX and DVCAM options, the X500 is also equipped with the SStP SR Lite 422 (220Mbs) codec. This is definitely a plus point, as this codec is based on Sony’s (older) high-quality tape-based HDCAM SR codec – a Sony rival to Apple’s ProRes 422 (117Mbs).
Sony, which is known for pushing its own codecs, has interestingly taken the unprecedented decision to enable the PXW-500 to also work in Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD after a paid update, expected in early 2015. If that were not enough, the camera has the option for simultaneous recording and pool-feed input with 3G/HD/SD-SDI.
The unit has replaced its firewire 400 i.Link output with an HDMI-1 output. Unfortunately this means you’ll need to use Wi-Fi, a USB connector or an external card-reader for laptop editing. Those of you with HDMI external recorders, wireless transmitters or monitors will reap the benefits, though.
Smartphone/Tablet Remote Control
A great new feature of the PXW-X500 is the IFU-WLM3 USB wireless LAN module, which allows you to control the camera remotely, using your smartphone or tablet. This module is also available for its predecessor and several of the smaller hand-held camcorders.
The camera can simultaneously record small proxy files onto an SD card. Both proxy files and high-res files can be shared wirelessly across Wi-Fi and an LTE networks module. If you want to boost your wireless connectivity you might want to consider Sony’s CBK-WA100.
In 2011 Sony made the useful Digital Multicore accessory CA-FB70 (fibre) and CA-TX70 (triax) for the PMW-320/350/500.
These additional units can also be used with the new PXW-X500, turning this ENG-style camcorder into a multi-camera workhorse.
The menu system has been updated and leans towards the F5-/F55-style menu that most users have found they prefer. Included is a user menu page for faster access to your frequently used items.
The PMW-500 has proven to be a popular ENG camera. In the PXW-X500 it has a qualified successor that will allow a faster turnaround of the footage and, with the addition of slow motion, stronger codecs and remote control via tablet, the camera has added an array of new tools to a classic model.
The PXW-X500 is available via the WTS Broadcast website now - or call +44 (0)20 7871 0700 for more information.