Sony's PMW-EX1 and its bigger, more shoulder-friendly brother the EX3 came as pretty powerful and versatile tapeless solutions to prosumer shooting. Though they filled out a more modest lower-end to Sony's XDCAM and CineAlta lines, they still saw action in some pretty impressive places, perhaps best known ('round these parts at least) for the DIY indie monster movie Monsters as well as District 9, albeit for a purposely 'more video-y' look in the latter. Now, Sony is attempting to pump some fresh blood into this 1/2" three-chip prosumer family with the newly-announced interchangeable-lens PMW-300.
An evolution of Sony’s industry leading PMW-EX3, the PMW-300 is able to record 50Mbps HD material in MPEG HD422, meeting broadcast standards around the world, including the European Broadcasting Union’s (EBU) requirements on HD broadcast acquisition. The high bit rate ensures excellent capture of fast moving objects, while its chroma subsampling feature is perfect for a wide range of video encoding areas such as VFX and green screen applications. The camcorder can also be upgraded in the future to support Sony’s revolutionary XAVC codec.
The PMW-300 features the same EX-mount interchangeable lens system as the PMW-EX3, making it compatible with a wide range of 1/2 inch and 2/3 inch lenses. [The] two types of lens packages planned to be available for the PMW-300 [are] 14 & 16 times zoom lenses.
Based on customer feedback the PMW-300 features an innovative semi-shoulder design that has a rotary hand grip, allowing comfortable recording over long periods of time. The PMW-300 has the most flexible choice of recording media in the market, [including] SxS memory card as well as other media such as SD, Memory Stick and XQD cards depending upon budget and application. Finally, Sony today confirmed that an optional wireless adapter currently in development will enhance proxy recording, wireless transfers, Wi-Fi viewing and metadata input.
One of my first thoughts is understandably on its 4:2:2 50 Mb/s CBR straight to SxS, which is no laughing matter. Since its release, I've used the EX1 (and still do) in a variety of shooting scenarios, and to this day I'm still fairly impressed with what you can get out its 35 Mb/s VBR MPEG-2 codec -- with 4:2:0 chroma resolution, no less (err, no more). It's almost needless to say, though, that these specs are what EX shooters wish they'd had from the beginning. Sure, you can tap the EXs for 4:2:2 with whatever amount of compression you wish via HD-SDI, but that's admittedly kind of a drag to have to do with a seemingly full-bodied camera with a kitchen-sink variety of options, sliders, sub-menus, buttons, levers, and rocket boosters already built into it.
Speaking of drags and HD-SDI, the EXs' PsF output during 24p shooting has been known to put a damper on otherwise bright and sunny days, too. Of course, both of these considerations are sacrifices easily made when you really care about what you're shooting, budget and whatnot allowing. This is where the new PMW-300 would have a definite advantage -- all the right stuff is finally happening internally, and finally all onboard the SxS cards you (hopefully) already own. And, if you are a shooter with significant investment in the XDCAM EX line, the lens backwards compatibility is another plus. The bottom line and real question will be, is it worth the re-investment?
Pricing for the PMW-300, which I can't seem to abbreviate as nicely as 'EX1' or 'EX3,' has not been announced yet. But given B&H's pricing for the EX3 standing, for the moment at least, at a little under $8,000, it will likely cost a bit. Again, I'm still quite pleased to shoot on the EX1 and often happy with the results, but your mileage may vary.
Is a 3-chip, 1/2" sensor, pseudo-shoulder-mountable, non-RAW 1080p-shooting prosumer camcorder worth +$7,000 to you? How about $5000? What seals the PMW-300 deal for you -- or, what's the deal-breaker? Is this a 'rental only' model for you, where do you see its application in your shooting?