I have been giving a lot of thought to the PMW-350 and whether it fits in with what I do. I’m really, really torn. While I love my PDW-700 and the optical disc workflow I also really liked the PMW-350 package. Now to bring my PDW-700 up to a similar package would mean purchasing a colour viewfinder (C35W £6,500) and a new ALAC compatible HD lens (£8k +). The cost of these options is around the same price as a PMW-350 kit with lens. The 350 has a wonderful colour VF as standard and is very nice to use. It has much lower power consumption than the 700 and weighs a lot less, which would be very nice for me with all the traveling I do.
The downside to the PMW-350 is the 35 Mb/s data rate and the use of CMOS sensors. The 35 Mb/s issue is easy enough to get around as I have a couple of NanoFlashes which can record at higher bit rates, making the 350 suitable for HD broadcast without any issues. The CMOS sensors, for most people would not really be an issue, especially now Sony have incorporated flash band removal into the clip browser software, but for me it’s important because of the amount of lightning I shoot. Certainly I can get good results with my EX1 and EX3 but I really don’t know yet how the 350 will perform.
While thinking about all this, it occurred to me that the 350 would probably make a really good camera for Indie Films. The use of 2/3? sensors means that it’s easier to get a reasonably shallow depth of field compared to 1/3? or even 1/2? cameras, without having to resort to 35mm lens adapters. The very high resolution images with very, very low noise would certainly look good projected on to a big screen. If you took the HDSDi output and record it on a NanoFlash at 100Mb/s or higher then it will grade very well. The lack of camera noise (59db) means that you can really push and pull the picture very hard during grading before it will degrade. Even if you only record at 35 Mb/s this low noise floor is going to help with grading as less noise means less stress on the codec in the first place. On top of all that the supurb sensitivity means that you will be able to use very minimal lighting rigs, perhaps just using practicals to light a scene, which should really give you more scope in your composition.
Further PMW-350 advantages include the use of Sony’s Hypergammas, step gamma and multi-matrix. These settings are normally only found right at the high end of the product range and give you excellent control of the look of your images. Add to that 24P (23.98P) and the ability to overcrank and undercrank and it all adds up to an extremely capable camera.
So, will I be getting a PMW-350? Well if I didn’t have my PDW-700 I would certainly be getting a 350. At the moment I’m still undecided….. if only I could work out a way to afford both.