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Sony XDCAM EX PMW-350 Review

Mar 8, 2010 12:00 PM, By D.W. Leitner

The beginning of a new Sony camcorder era, possibly.


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Sony XDCAM EX PMW-350K

Sony XDCAM EX PMW-350K

Sometimes it seems as if little has changed in ENG-style camcorders since Sony introduced the first one-piece Betacam, the BVW-200, at NAB 1989.

The BVW-200 was the first 2/3in. 3CCD shoulder-mount camcorder. By introducing small, solid-state CCDs to replace the fussy high-voltage Saticon tubes of previous two-piece Betacams, Sony shrunk the BVW-200 in size and power consumption. A Sony brochure at the time boasted:

  • Shoulder weight of 15lbs. 3oz. fully loaded
  • Perfect balance—adjustable shoulder pad for different lens attachments and batteries
  • Extremely low power consumption
  • Shorter length and lower profile for better peripheral vision
  • Quick startup and improved layout for all operational controls
  • Uncompromised technical performance that fully exploits the inherent superiority of Betacam SP recording capability
  • Freedom from daily technical alignment and easy maintenance
  • Enhanced reliability.

Breakthroughs then and now. The first-ever 2/3in. 3CCD camcorder, a Sony BVW-200 from 1989, and the first-ever 2/3in. 3-CMOS camcorder, Sony's new PMW-350 with Fujinon autofocus 16X zoom lens.

Breakthroughs then and now. The first-ever 2/3in. 3CCD camcorder, a Sony BVW-200 from 1989, and the first-ever 2/3in. 3-CMOS camcorder, Sony's new PMW-350 with Fujinon autofocus 16X zoom lens.
Photo illustration by D.W. Leitner

Fast-forward to today and substitute the operational weight of Sony's new XDCAM EX PMW-350, 13.9lbs., and SxS flash-memory storage for Betacam SP recording, and, remarkably enough, you have a perfectly apt description of Sony's first 2/3in. 3-CMOS camcorder, the PMW-350.

The PMW-350 also happens to be Sony's first shoulder-mount camcorder with solid-state memory recording. The first with HDMI. The first with no Power Save switch. The first with no color filter wheel, simply electronic presets for color temperature and three steps of neutral density. The first 2/3in. camcorder with autofocus. Ever.

The beginning of a new Sony camcorder era? Let's take a look.

The PMW-350's 16X, f=8mm-128mm, f/1.9 hybrid Fujinon HD zoom with autofocus. At $1,400, a stocking stuffer.

The PMW-350's 16X, f=8mm-128mm, f/1.9 hybrid Fujinon HD zoom with autofocus. At $1,400, a stocking stuffer.

The PMW-350's street price at New York's B&H is $18,900 with the supplied Fujinon HD zoom lens and $17,500 without the lens. That's not a typo. The Fujinon zoom adds $1,400—not the usual $14,000 plus.

What's going on here? The PMW-350 borrows a page from the 1/2in. PMW-EX3's book, which introduced a hybrid zoom that, like those of Sony's 1/2in. PMW-EX1 and 1/3in. HVR-Z7U, can focus either mechanically to permit use of repeatable focus marks or electronically (infinite spin) for autofocus.

The 16X, 8mm-128mm, f/1.9 hybrid Fujinon zoom supplied with the PMW-350, however, is a 2/3in.-format lens with a standard B4 mount. The lens was designed expressly for the PMW-350 and provides autofocus control as well as lens file data (chromatic aberration compensation, dynamic shading) and metadata (aperture and focal length, stored in the video stream). The only electronic trick it neglects is optical image stabilization (OIS). Sony says virtually every PMW-350 sale to date includes the supplied lens. At that price, it's a stocking stuffer.

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