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Sony NXCAM leaves DSLRs in the dust

Sony has unveiled a new lower-priced Super 35mm NXCAM camcorder, plus a smaller-sensor model that is claimed to be the ‘world’s first rain and dust proof camcorder launched to the professional market.’ David Fox reports.

Sony has unveiled a new lower-priced Super 35mm NXCAM camcorder, plus a smaller-sensor model that is claimed to be the ‘world’s first rain and dust proof camcorder launched to the professional market.’ David Fox reports.

The large-sensor NEX-FS100E is an E-mount camcorder (taking interchangeable lenses), while the rugged little HXR-NX70E comes with a built-in lens.

The NEX-FS100E can be seen as Sony’s answer to the use of HD DSLRs and complements the recently released PMW-F3, but with lower-cost recording options. It records AVCHD 4:2:0 at up to 28Mbps internally, either to an optional 128GB solid-state drive (the existing £600 HXR-FMU128) or to a single SDHC card or Sony’s own Memory Stick Pro Duo (which fit in the same slot). It also has a full-size HDMI output, which delivers 8-bit 1920×1080 4:2:2 video, with embedded timecode, for use with an external recorder.

It uses the same Sony Exmor Super 35 CMOS sensor as in the F3 to offer shallow depth of field similar to that of a movie camera, and it can record 1080p 50/60 (at 28Mbs) as well as capturing slow and quick motion (enabled via a single button press and thumb wheel).

“The NEX-FS100E NXCAM Super 35mm camcorder enables budget content creators and videographers to experience a new level of cinematic expression,” claimed Bill Drummond, strategic marketing manager, Sony Professional. “Sony has responded to professional user feedback to create this new camcorder with an ergonomically designed body and accessories offering real flexibility in use.”

Controls and menus should be familiar to anyone used to Sony’s EX1 or EX3, and there are six assignable buttons, a top-mounted rotatable 3.5-inch LCD with touch-screen controls for video playback, and two XLRs built into the camera body rather than in a breakout box. It uses the same batteries as the Sony Z1.

The E-mount lens system is used in Sony’s NEX-5, -3 and NEX-VG10E cameras and has a very short flange back distance (the distance between lens mount surface and sensor surface – unfortunately this means there is no room for built-in neutral density filters, which would be necessary to make the most of the shallow depth of field in bright light). It allows various A-mount lenses to be mounted via an adaptor. It will also be possible to attach a wide range of other lenses, such as PL-mount, Canon and Nikon lenses, using third-party mount adaptors.

The FS100EK lens kit model comes with an E18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS zoom lens, which gives users optical Steadyshot and auto focus.

The grip, handle and hybrid LCD viewfinder are detachable for use in confined locations. The camera weighs about 2.7kg including kit lens and battery. It includes a built in GPS receiver to geotag footage on location.

“The images coming out of this camera are absolutely stunning,” according to Den Lennie, founder, F.Stop Academy, who was the first independent filmmaker to shoot a video with one of the two prototype FS100 models. “The picture quality is absolutely amazing.” He shot a pop promo, mainly at night, and found the sensor worked well in low light (with sensitivity of about 800ISO). “Where there was noise it was very clean noise, very soft noise,” he said. He likened it to a cross between the EX1 and a DSLR.

Sony’s own promo video shows some nice shots in only candlelight, although it was shot with an f1.2 lens.

The NEX-FS100E and EK model will be available in May, and it should cost under $6,000. Its closest competitor will be Panasonic’s AF100/AF101, which costs at least $1,000 less. Although the FS100’s Super 35mm sensor is about 10% larger than the AF101’s Micro Four Thirds chip, that will only deliver a marginal difference in depth of field, and the AF101 does have built-in ND filters.

Dust up

The dust and rain proof HXR-NX70E (pictured) could be useful for news coverage. “Filmmakers and journalists will travel to some of the most remote and dangerous locations in pursuit of a story. We wanted to respond with a camcorder that, like them, can stand up to the rigours of the world’s most challenging conditions,” said Drummond. The NX70 is “a robust ultra-compact camcorder that allows them to not only capture footage in any conditions, but also store it on a 96GB internal memory. When you are miles from anywhere, you don’t want to be worrying about having to find an extra memory card.” There is also an SD/MS card slot.

It can also copy direct to an external drive without using a computer or other back-up device, by plugging in an external USB drive.

The main unit of the NX70 has been proven to reach dust-proof and rain-proof performance requirements specified by IEC60529 IP54. Sudden rain or dust will not affect its operation.

The HXR-NX70E incorporates an Exmor R CMOS sensor claimed to deliver “superior quality low-light footage” and has manual controls plus such features as: CinemaTone for deeper, more film-like colour tones. It also has an infrared light for shooting in low- or no-light conditions.

It has a reasonably wide-angle f1.8 Sony G 10x zoom lens (26.3mm to 263mm as a 35mm equivalent) and optical SteadyShot image stabilisation with Active Mode to compensate for greater camera shake than before. It also has GPS.

Like the FS100, the NX70 can record 1080p 50/60 at up to 28Mbps (not yet part of the AVCHD standard, so not always supported by non-linear editing systems), as well as 50/60i or 24/25p at 24Mbps.

It has a demountable handle incorporating an audio pod (two XLR Line/Mic inputs with selectable Phantom power). However, the audio pod is not weather proof.

The HXR-NX70E will be available in June, and should cost about $3,000.