Sony stunned us all when they introduced their ultra-sensitive 4K a7s camera to the world at NAB, proving that innovation is still one of their priorities. Not quite as stunning, though still impressive, are Sony's two new additions to their XDCAM line, the PXW-X160 and PXW-X180 cameras, both equipped with a the world's first electronic variable ND filter that allows users to more precisely choose their density range from 1/4ND to 1/128ND. Though these cameras aren't outfitted with large sensors (three 1/3″ sensors), they do pack a pretty powerful prosumer punch with other features that might appeal to those shooting documentaries, news, and event filmmakers.
Here's a video from Sony to get you acquainted with the X180's features (which are also essentially the X160's features).
First of all, what makes the X160 different from the X180? Not much. In fact, they're the exactly same camera, except that the X180 comes with GPS and WiFi -- which also means that the X160 is significantly cheaper. (More on that later.) They both feature three 1/3" Full-HD Exmor CMOS sensors (full HD 1920 x 1080 shooting without pixel interpolation), fixed 25x pro HD zoom G series lens with independent hard stopped focus and iris rings, and supports a number of codecs, including XAVC Intra, Long GOP, MPEG HD 422 50 Mbps, MPEG HD 420 35 Mbps, AVCHD and DV.
As for the new electronic variable ND filter. The dual mechanism allows users to control settings both through traditional filter presets and gradually through a linear dial.
The PXW-X160 is equipped with a variable ND Filter function, allowing you to choose either four conventional mechanical ND filter positions or the linear control dial. The optical filter changes the density electrically, allowing the light amount to be reduced more conveniently. The density can be changed gradually and fluidly. Different from conventional optical ND filters, the ND filter on the PXW-X160 can be controlled from 1/4ND to 1/128ND linearly. By choosing the density value properly, the iris control has more flexibility.
Here are a few key features from both cameras:
- Three 1/3" Exmor CMOS Sensors
- XAVC Intra and Long GOP Codecs
- MPEG HD 422, AVCHD, & DV Codecs
- G Lens with 25x Optical Zoom
- Electronic Variable ND Filter
- Dual SxS Memory Card Slots
- 3G/HD-SDI & HDMI Output
- MP4 Proxy Recording to SD Card
- 0.5" OLED Viewfinder
- Wi-Fi Remote Control via Included Module (for the X180 only)
Check out this video from News Shooter to hear more about what you can expect from these cameras.
According to Sony, the X180 and X160 are ideal for documentary, news, and event projects -- so, it's doubtful that you'll see many indie narrative feature productions utilizing them, especially when large sensor cameras are so accessible.