Review of the Sony PMW-200

5 years is a long time in the video world. Cameras come and go, technologies change, but for 5 years there has been one camera that has remained essentially unchanged and that’s the versatile and well regarded Sony EX1 and EX1R.

Alister shooting with an EX1 in the Arctic.

5 years ago I was asked by Sony to review a new handheld camcorder, that camcorder was the EX1. A camera that went on to change the way I work and the way many production companies work, because for the first time you had a handheld camera that could take on the bulky shoulder mounts in terms of picture quality.

The EX1 was the first handheld camcorder to offer full resolution and low noise HD pictures thanks to it’s 3 half inch 1920 x 1080 sensors. Not only did it have great image quality but it also had a great lens with 3 separate rings for focus, iris and zoom with accurate calibrated scales on each, this was a real cameraman’s camera, a delight to use compared to anything similar that had come before.

Alister shooting a severe storm with an EX1

As a result the EX1, EX1R and the semi shoulder version the EX3, became the industry standard for handheld production. I owned one of each and never, ever, regretted my purchases. However, there has always been one small limitation with the EX camera line. They record using XDCAM EX Mpeg 2 at 35 Mbit/s. Personally I have never had a problem with this, I think the recorded pictures are fantastic, but the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) has very specific minimum specifications for broadcast television production. There are several tiers within the specifications and the EX cameras are permitted by the EBU within tier 2J for use in news and video journalism, but for long form productions the minimum bit rate for recording is 50 Mbit/s with 4:2:2 colour space. This restriction means that for long form broadcast television production  in Europe you can only use an EX1 or EX3 with the use of an external recorder.  Many production companies do exactly this, an EX camcorder with a NanoFlash is one of the standard set ups approved for many broadcast programmes. In the last couple of years other manufacturers have produced handheld cameras that meet the 50 Mbit/s 4:2:2 recording minimum and some of these have been approved for use in broadcast productions. But most of these cameras don’t have the large ½” sensors of the EX cameras so often struggle in low light. Low light performance is often critical in observational documentaries’ and many of the other types of programmes that involve the use of handheld camcorders.

Now, all that’s about to change. You see, Sony have been listening and as a result of customer feedback they developed the new PMW-200 handheld camcorder.

The new Sony PMW-200

Alister filming with the PMW-200

Designed to meet the needs of broadcast productions the camera records on to solid state media using 50 Mbit/s 4:2:2 XDCAM HD. This is the exact same codec as used in the highly regarded PDW-700, F800 and PMW-500 shoulder mount broadcast camcorders. As well as 50 Mbit/s 4:2:2 you can also record using the same 35 Mbit/s 4:2:0 codec as the original EX cameras as well as standard definition DV. When your using the XDCAM HD422 codec you have the ability to copy your footage as video clips directly to Sony’s XDCAM optical disc system for easy and reliable long term storage and archive. A further benefit of this is that when you copy the clips to an XDCAM Professional Disc you will automatically generate proxy files on the disc, so if you already use proxies in your workflow you can now extend this to all your footage.

But what about the image quality? There’s little point in having a great codec if the front end of the camera can’t deliver great pictures. The PMW-200 uses essentially the same sensors and lens as the EX1R, so the image quality is very good.

Frame grab from PMW-200. Click on the image to enlarge.

The lens is made by Fujinon and is a 14x zoom starting at 5.8mm. It has 3 rings, one each for focus, zoom and iris. Each is marked with accurate calibration marks. The focus ring slides forwards for auto focus and slides back for full manual control. In manual it behaves and feels like a true pro broadcast lens.

The PMW-200 lens.

The lens and camera front end.

The zoom ring can be used manually or it can be servo driven and controlled by the main zoom rocker on the hand grip or a small zoom rocker on the handle. This zoom has an improved servo design and as a result slow zooms are a little smoother than on the EX1R.  The iris ring can be switched between auto and manual and is silky smooth. Should you choose you can add an offset of up to +/- 2 stops to the auto iris to help deal with tricky lighting situations, the widest aperture is a very useful f1.9.  Because this lens is very similar to the original EX lens you can use the same Sony zoom through wide angle adapter if you need extra wide shots and it has the same connector for remote zoom control. One small improvement is the lens servo motor. The PMW-200 lens has an improved servo that give better slow zoom performance. It’s not quite up to broadcast lens smoothness but it’s an improvement over the EX1R.

Side view of the PMW-200

PMW-200 lens, very similar to EX1.

 

Between the lens and the sensors there are 2 ND filters operated by a sliding switch giving you 3 positions, clear, 1/8th  (0.9 or 3 stops)  and 1/64th  (1.8 or 6 stops) so the camera can cope with the vast majority of lighting situations without the need for additional filtration. The 3 sensors are the same 1920×1080 ½” sensors that made the EX cameras so special. There have been some improvements to the image processing and noise reduction in the cameras electronics and as a result there is a small reduction in noise and as a result useable sensitivity.

You can see the reduction in noise in my frame grabs from both a PMW-200 and EX1R.  In my opinion the EX1R was the benchmark for image quality in a handheld camera and I think we are close to the limits of the sensitivity that can be achieved with current sensor technologies. So I don’t think it is a surprise that there isn’t a dramatic change. The small improvements are most welcome and I really like the images the PMW-200 produces.

Noise comparison at +9db gain between RX1R and PMW-200

The pictures are rich and organic looking, they have very good dynamic range, I estimate a little over 11 stops and the noise levels are low enough to allow the judicious use of a little gain where needed. Sure there is a little more noise than you would get with a modern 2/3” or Super35mm camcorder but that’s just down to the laws of physics. Bigger sensors and bigger pixels give a better signal to noise ratio and being realistic your not going to fit 3x 2/3” sensors in a handheld camera. The half inch design of the PMW-200 is a great compromise, small enough for a compact handheld design, but big enough to give good low light performance and dynamic range. This isn’t just my opinion, this is also borne out by the EBU’s specification for long form broadcast production. The specification is know as EBU R 118 (http://tech.ebu.ch/docs/r/r118.pdf ) and for long form programmes (tier 2L) the EBU specifies a minimum of 3 full resolution half inch 1920×1080 sensors (there is an exception for 3 x 1/3” camera’s that can be shown to meet additional testing criteria) recording to a minimum of 50 Mbit/s 4:2:2 and the PMW-200 fully complies with this.

Frame grab from the PMW-200. Click on the image to enlarge.

Picture Profiles: As with every other XDCAM camcorder the PMW-200 gives the end user the ability customise many aspects of the images it produces.  This is done through the use of the Picture Profiles menu.  You can change the cameras gamma curves to fine tune the dynamic range and contrast in the pictures. There are 6 standard gamma curves which can be used in conjunction with either an automatic knee or manual knee as well as 4 Hypergamma curves.

PMW-200 Standard Gamma

Standard gamma 5 is a REC-709 compliant gamma curve and is the default gamma. The Hypergammas are the same curves as used on the PMW-500 and PDW-700. These are very useful as they offer improved dynamic range (460%) compared to the standard gammas but more importantly they do not use conventional knee compression.

PMW-200 Cinegamma 4

The Hypergammas gently roll off highlights in a much more natural looking way than the harsh electronic looking compression that a traditional knee circuit introduces. Hypergammas 1 & 2 are broadcast safe, never recording above 100%. Hypergammas 3 & 4 have the same curves as 1 & 2 but allow the use of superwhite recording levels (109%) to give you a little more data to play with in post production.

PMW-200 Default settings.

As well as gamma the picture profiles allow you to choose from 6 different preset colour matrices and allow you to modify the colour saturation and colour vectors. This makes it easy to match the PMW-200 to other cameras or to create a number of in-camera looks. Matrix 1 gives a warm look with a little extra red, 3 is a little less vibrant, 5 & 6 give deeper blues with 6 being a little less saturated than 5.

PMW-200 Custom Picture Profile.

If you want a sharper looking picture you can use the detail controls to boost the edge contrast enhancement. Just be aware that too much detail correction can lead to ugly black edges around objects. Reducing the detail level below -20 starts to soften the picture if you want a slightly defocused look. As well as the detail controls there is also a separate control for aperture correction. This is a high frequency boost that can be used to enhance subtle textures and fine details on things like fabrics. I found that by setting the detail level to -8 and aperture to +30 the camera produced pictures with a nice crispness without looking artificially enhanced.

PMW-200 Default Settings.

There are many other adjustments that can be made in the picture profiles including knee settings, black gamma, a multi matrix or colour correction matrix and skin tone detail settings. I urge anyone that uses one of these camera to learn about what the various settings do as the picture profiles are a great way to tailor the camera to meet your exact needs.

PMW-200 Custom Picture Profile.

The PMW-200’s main menu structure is again very similar to the EX cameras. It is logically laid out and easy to navigate. There sections for the camera settings, audio settings, outputs, monitoring, timecode and general system settings. In the camera menu you’ll find settings for the more advanced modes that the camera has, which include Interval Record for time-lapse, Frame Record for animation and stop frame filming, Picture Cache and S&Q (slow and quick) motion. The Picture Cache mode is particularly useful for capturing unexpected events. In this mode the camera continuously buffers the video from the camera sensors into an internal memory. When you press the record button recording stars immediately but in addition the (up to) 15 seconds prior to pressing the record button are also recorded. I use this mode a lot when I’m shooting thunderstorms and lightning as I can simply point the camera at the storm, wait for the lightning to strike, then press the record button.

Rear view of Sony PMW-200.

The interval record mode allows you to shoot great time-lapse sequences with ease. For sunsets and sunrises and other scenes where you may have a big exposure change you can also take advantage of the cameras clever TLCS (total level Control System) function.  This is a sophisticated kind of auto exposure mode. I’m not normally a fan of auto exposure but TLCS allows you to set limits for the amount of automatic gain, iris, shutter speed and the response time. By limiting the maximum gain to around +9 db you can be sure that your pictures won’t become too grainy as the sun sets.  With TLCS the camera will still be able to correctly expose while the sun is still up thanks to the auto shutter and auto iris. TLCS is a very useful tool in the PMW-200’s arsenal.

Menu and playback controls on the PMW-200’s handle.

With S&Q motion you can shoot at up to 50/60 frames per second (depending on region settings) at 720p for slow motion and effects shots. You can choose any speed you want from 1 fps up to the maximum in 1 frame increments. Below 25/30 fps you can use the full camera resolution of 1920×1080.

Talking of frame rates, the PMW-200 can be switched between both PAL and NTSC regions. As a result it can shoot at a multitude of frame rates at full 1920 x 1080 including 23.98p, 25p, 29.97p, 50i, 60i and at 720p it can record at 50p and 60p.

Recording Media Choices: The PMW-200 is designed to record on to SxS cards but you can also use SD cards, memory sticks and Sony’s new XQD cards via adapters. When you use the camera in any of the 4:2:2 modes the camera must format the cards using the same UDF format as the full size XDCAM optical disc cameras and XDCAM HD422 cameras. In UDF mode you can only use SxS cards. If you want to use SD cards or memory sticks then you have to use FAT formatting and this restricts you to the same 35 Mbit/s 4:2:0 recording modes as an EX camera. I strongly recommend that you use SxS cards. They are incredibly reliable and very fast. They are designed for video applications and in 5 years of using them I’ve never suffered a failure despite freezing them in ice and washing them in the washing machine (neither of which I actually recommend). You can offload media from your cards by connecting the camera to a PC using USB or by using the Sony SBAC-US10  USB card reader. If your computer has an express card slot you can insert the cards directly into the computer or if it has a Thunderbolt port you can use the Sonnet Echo Express card reader for incredibly fast transfers around 6x real time for 50 Mbit/s 4:2:2 material, even faster for 35 Mbit/s.

XLR connectors for audio in on the PMW-200

Audio is as you would expect from any professional handheld camcorder. There is a built in stereo microphone at the front of the cameras handle as well as two XLR connectors for external microphones or line level inputs. The XLR’s have phantom power if you need it. On the side of the camera there are controls for selecting the internal or external audio along with switches to move between automatic audio gain or manual gain plus a pair of knobs to set the manual gain level.

Audio controls on PMW200

A 3.5mm headphone socket is provided for monitoring, the volume for which can be adjusted using up and down buttons on the camera handle. If your using a single external audio source such as a mono microphone you can map this to both audio channels in the cameras audio menu. Above the XLR audio connectors there is a microphone holder. This is attached to the camera body via a rubber mount and looks to be a lot more robust that the mic holder on the EX cameras that did have a tendency to break off if roughly treated.

New LCD design with ultra wide viewing angle.

Great New LCD! The PMW-200 has both a 3.5” LCD screen and a small electronic viewfinder. The 3.5” LCD flips up and out from the top of the camera handle. This means that it can easily be seen from the left side of the camera as well as above and below the camera. In addition it can be twisted right around and laid back flat against the top of the handle or flipped up vertically. In the vertical position it can be viewed from the right side of the camera.

For self shooters and one man bands this is really useful as it means you can conduct an interview from either side of the camera and still check your framing. When the screen is folded flat against the handle it keeps the camera compact and the LCD is less likely to be damaged when it’s not sticking out from the side of the camera.

The LCD screen reversed and folded flat.

The screen itself is bright and clear and has a remarkably wide viewing angle.  Like many LCD’s the LCD on the original EX cameras only has a useable viewing angle of about 15 degrees. If you are not looking square on at most conventional LCD’s the contrast and blacks are no longer accurate and this can lead to exposure errors. The new LCD on the PMW-200 has a viewing angle in excess of 120 degrees, you can see it from almost any angle. The contrast and brightness remains near constant even when viewed at very acute angles. This makes it much easier to use and should help reduce exposure errors. The new screen is also slightly higher resolution. One small criticism here is that on the pre-production camera that I had for review the screen was quite glossy. I hope the production screens have a less glossy finish as I prefer a matt finish.

The electronic viewfinder on the back of the camera handle is the same as the one on the EX1R.  I’ve seen worse, but I have also seen better. It’s adequate.

Expanded Focus button on hand grip.

If you make use of the cameras coloured peaking or expanded focus assistance you can focus with it, but blink rapidly and you get a rainbow effect due to the way the red green and blue pixels are displayed one after another. The expanded focus function works while recording and is easily selected thanks to a button on the hand grip just by the zoom rocker.

There are buttons on the side of the camera body for zebras and focus so these can be selected quickly and easily if you need them.

Rear BNC HDSDi, HDMI and other connectors.

If you want to connect an external monitor or viewfinder there is a comprehensive range of input and output connections on the rear of the camera. You have HDMI and HDSDi. Both can be used at the same time should you need to. You can down convert from HD to SD while you shoot if you need to provide a standard definition external feed. If you don’t need to connect an external device you can turn off the HDMI and HDSDi outputs to save battery power. If your shooting at 23.98p (24p) you can choose whether your output is 59.94i with pull down or straight 23.98p.

 

Just below the full size HDSDi BNC are two additional BNC connectors. The top one is for timecode and can be set to timecode in or timecode out. This is extremely useful on multi-camera shoots for synchronising the timecode on multiple cameras. Below that is a connector for Genlock In or Video Out, again an extremely useful feature that makes the PMW-200 useable in studio, multi-camera and 3D applications. Next to the BNC connectors is a USB port for off loading footage from media in the camera.  There’s an i-link connector (firewire) and AV out connector that provides stereo line level audio and composite video out.

Playback controls on the handle.

Playback Mode. One frustration with the EX cameras is the need to switch the camera between specific recording and playback modes. To go from camera mode to playback mode takes about 8 seconds, that’s not really that long, but if you are playing back a clip and then suddenly need to shoot something, that 8 seconds feels like forever. There is no separate playback mode with the PMW-200. You simply press the thumbnail button or play button on the handle to view your clip thumbnails or play back the last clip. If you need to record again in a hurry you simply press either of the record buttons (one on the top of the handle, one on the hand grip) and within a second the camera will start recording. This is a big improvement and very welcome.

The battery compartment with recessed power connector.

Power Options: The PMW-200 is a 12v camera. It uses the same BP-U30 and BP-U60 batteries as the EX1/EX3, PMW-100 and PMW-F3 cameras. It can also be powered by an external 12v power supply. The connector for external power is tucked away inside the battery compartment so you won’t be able to use any of the 3rd party batteries that use a separate cable to connect the power. It also means that you can’t run the camera off an external power supply while you hot swap the batteries. I think it’s a shame that Sony have done this.

Power consumption is higher and the camera does get quite warm compared to an EX1. This I suspect is largely down to the extra processing power packed into the camera, not just for the 50Mbit/s 4:2:2 encoding but also for the improved image processing. I still got around 3 hours out of a well used BPU-60. To get rid of the extra heat the camera is covered in cooling vents. As handheld cameras like this get used outside in all kinds of weather I was a little concerned about water ingress.

Alister shooting an airshow with the PMW200

However after shooting for a weekend at the Royal International Air Tattoo in showery rain I didn’t experience any problems. The engineers at Sony tell me that there are shields inside the camera to prevent any moisture that might get in from doing any damage. As always when shooting in the rain you should really use a rain cover with any camera anyway, but we do all get caught out in a shower from time to time.

422 compared to 420 both shot with the PMW-200. Click on the image to enlarge.

Conclusions: Well I got to use the PMW-200 in Singapore in bright sunshine, high heat and humidity. I also shot night time cityscapes with it. It shrugged off the heat and performed flawlessly. The low light footage looks really good. Then I spent a week with it in the UK, putting it through its paces on a couple of paying shoots for clients. One a corporate video, the other shoot involving running around on the apron of a military airbase filming aircraft preparing for an airshow. In addition I used it to shoot the video review that accompanies this written review. At first I just saw the PMW-200 as an EX1R with the addition of 50 Mbit/s 4:2:2, which in itself is a nice improvement. But then when I started to find some of the subtle improvements like the better zoom servo, the wide LCD viewing angle, reduced picture noise and improved handling the PMW-200 really started to grow on me. It’s not significantly different from the EX1R and that’s good. The EX1R is a great camera and the PMW-200 builds on the strengths of the EX series. I believe this camera will do extremely well. It’s just what’s needed for many broadcast productions. Best in class low light performance. Beautiful full resolution images, easy to use and an industry proven workflow that meets broadcast standards.

Disclosure. I am a Sony ICE (Independent Certified Expert). I am NOT an employee of Sony, but I do work with Sony helping with training, education and events. I was paid a fee by Sony to cover the costs of shooting and editing the video and the time taken to write this review. I was not asked to write a favourable review and the reviews (seen here and on the Sony web site) were not modified, edited or changed by Sony from my original submission other than a correction to the EBU R118 specifications (added note about 1/3″ dispensation). The views expressed here are my own and are based on my experience using a pre-production camera for 2 days in Singapore and 10 days in the UK.

118 Responses to Review of the Sony PMW-200

  1. shahram says:

    Hello. I want to buy a Sony Pmv 200. Whether Lens camera is changed? . I work in television production. Please send reply to my email. Thank

  2. Phil says:

    Hi Alister,

    Thanks for the review. Will using your PP advice for the EX-1 be the same for this camera? I am about to purchase one for shooting outdoor action (fishing) and was wanting an image that has the most grading possibilities.

    Thanks again,

    Phil

    • alisterchapman says:

      The basic principles for the picture profiles are the same, but the exact settings will be different between the EX1 and PMW-200 as they use slightly different matrix and gamma settings.

  3. I would like to use the PMW-200 for seminars and wedding video but I was wondering how it performs in low light if compered to the JVC GY-HM650.

    Also does it has constant aperture?

    • alisterchapman says:

      It is constant aperture. The PMW-200 produces less noise for the same light levels than the HM650. In low light, bigger sensors will almost always out perform smaller ones.

  4. Yasmin says:

    So Sony got rid of One Push Auto Iris on PMW200? I guess now it moved to one of 5 assignable buttons.

    Yasmin
    NYC

  5. Hi Alister,

    Great review ,really helpful.

    I just had one thing I missed and is about the new optical stabiliser .

    What are your thoughts compared with the nex 700 or the ex 1 ?

    Can you enlighten me please .

  6. Selina Lewis says:

    I’ve just been using the 200 for the day and it seems to me that the ability to do pull focuses is not as good as the Canon 305, the macro function isn’t great unless there’s another setting involved? The peaking doesn’t seem as good either, when you use the macro function on the 305 you can do wonderful non-sync wide’s and pull focuses with ease when the peaking is on, but it was very difficult to tell whether the background was out of focus with the peaking on the 200? Also, you get constant warning beeps when the battery runs down to 30mins, this beep then continues whilst filming… very annoying. Can this be tuned off or muted?

    Thanks in advance,

    Selina Lewis

    • alisterchapman says:

      I assume you have read the manual? That will tell you how to turn the audio warning on and off, how to set the macro function and peaking correctly etc.

      Macro: Only works with the focus ring in the forwards position, works with either auto focus or servo manual focus, it does not work with the focus ring back in the full manual position. Focussing will be easier on the 305 as you have greater DoF, the larger sensor on the PMW-200 means shallower DoF so focus becomes more critical. If you have a low contrast background peaking is not going to be much help with any camera.

      Peaking is almost exactly the same as the 305. You can choose between white, red, blue and yellow and set the peaking gain level. I normally use blue or red as white is difficult to see. If peaking is not showing as much as you would like turn up the peaking level, full details are in the manual.

      Warning beep only sounds in the headphones when recording, it auto mutes on the external speaker when you hit record. The on/off control is in the audio output page of the menu, the manual will tell you how to find this.

      You can also trim and change the battery warning settings, again in the manual.

  7. Michael Oates says:

    I own an EX-1 and use a NanoFlash with it. I am wondering if the HDI output is actually uncompressed—meaning either 4:4:4 or 4:2:2. The reason I ask is that the image (as recorded by the Nano Flash at 100MB) seems to lack the color depth I have seen in other cameras. Is this the reason or is it simply chip size?
    If the EX-1 output is compressed, I would think there would be a difference in color depth with PMW-200.
    any thoughts?
    Mike

    • alisterchapman says:

      HDSDI video (as opposed to any fancy raw data streams that use the HDSDI connection as a data pipe) is always uncompressed, that’s the only way it works. Standard 1.5G HDSDI can only handle 4:2:2, you need dual link or 3G for 4:4:4.

      The output of the EX1 and PMW-200 is 10 bit 4:2:2, the same as the vast majority of HD cameras. The HDSDI outputs of the EX1 and PMW-200 will be very very similar. The PMW-200 will have a tiny edge due to the improved image processing in the camera, but not due to any difference in the HDSDI signal.

      If by colour depth you mean the vibrance of the colours then this is governed by many factors, whether the signal is 444 422 or even 420 makes very little visual difference. Other factors such as the matrix and gamma settings along with how you grade and treat the material in post are far more significant. Many people see images with stunning colours etc on the web or TV and then complain that their own cameras don’t look the same. Often the beautiful look from these images is a result of A: Great camerawork, lighting and choice of subject matter and B: A well set up camera with a custom picture profile and very careful post production grading.

      • Michael Oates says:

        Thanks for your explanation Alister. I now intend to look more deeply into the settings on my EX-1. Another question: How do the ergonomics of the PMW-200 compare with the EX-1? I do a lot of hand-held work and the EX-1 can be challenging.

        • alisterchapman says:

          It’s hand held and weighs about the same as an EX1, so not hugely different. I think the 200 is better balanced, but it’s still tricky to hand hold steadily for long periods. I’d suggest using a monopod.

  8. John Higgs says:

    Hi Alister,
    Have you tested the Sony PDW680? , looks like a useful tool.
    Regards,
    John Higgs.

    • alisterchapman says:

      No I have not. It is basically a PDW-700 that uses the CMOS sensor from the PMW-350 and is restricted to interlace only. If you don’t need or want progressive then yes it is probably useful, but more and more is done using progressive these days.

      • John Higgs says:

        Thanks for your comments, the price is very attractive compered with a PDW700 if progressive is not needed.
        Regards,
        John Higgs.

  9. Rakesh says:

    Hi Alister,have u noticed when iris is closed in PMW 200 LCD screen is not evenly lit
    left side both corners are very bright and LCD very sensitive to touch just holding makes picture(Mild) flicker.I saw identical behavior in two cameras.SN starting from 2000.

    • alisterchapman says:

      LCD is a little brighter in the corners but have not seen any flicker issues. I checked the 200 I was working with yesterday and this one did not flicker.

  10. Simon Wilson says:

    Hi Alister,

    Thanks for your reviews which I find very clear and straightforward.
    How accurately can the LCD monitor be setup to bars on the PMW 200?

    Best regards

    • alisterchapman says:

      You can use the brightness and contrast controls to set up the LCD. It is very accurate unless the ambient light levels are very high. I have found that most PMW-200 require Brightness and Contrast at about +10.

  11. Paul Sulsky says:

    The specs seem to state that you can only get 1440 x 1080 with UDF formatting. Is this true?

    Also, in the comparison of 4:2:0 and 4:2:2 above, were both images recorded at 1440 x 1080? If so, should there be a comparison with a 4:2:0 image recorded on a FAT 32 formatted card, 1920 x 1080. I noticed when I enlarged the comparison image that the 4:2:0 image had horizontal resolution problems that may resolved by going to the higher pixel size format.

    • alisterchapman says:

      Both the sample images were capture at 1920×1080, one using 35Mb/s 420 FAT and the other 50Mb/s 422 UDF. The horizontal problems you are seeing is the difference between 422 and 420.

      You are correct that you only have 1440×1080 in UDF mode. This is to retain compatibility with the XDCAM HD422 standards which so far have only included 1440 420 on the optical disc cameras.

      • Jesse Alk says:

        Wait… so if you want to get 50Mb/s out of this camera, you don’t get full raster? This is the first I’m hearing that, if I’m understanding correctly. I read those specs and thought that was only referring to the UDF 35Mb/s mode… if this is true it seems like a major trade-off to get to 50Mb/s? Sorry if I’m misunderstanding, I’m a little confused. Seriously hoping this camera will give you 50Mb/s at full 1920×1080. Thanks!

  12. Victor says:

    Hi Alister, I really like your reviews of the Alphatron EVF and the F3 and this review of the new PMW200 is no exception!

    I’ve got a question, I’ve got a SON Z7 connected to a Atomos Ninja 2, but I can see a lot of grain coming from the output, is to due the sensor (heard that the sensor isn’t really great) or somthing else?

    Do you thing that the PMW 200 is going too have the same grain “issue” as the Z7 while outputting to the Ninja ? I really consider buying it!

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

    • alisterchapman says:

      You’ll get a lot less grain from the 200, but it’s not completely grain free. It’s a problem with all small sensor HD cameras. The PMW-200 has the least grain of any of the handycam style cameras, but there is still some grain.

  13. Rohan Barrett says:

    why does the LCD rotate 120 degrees and not 180degrees? so no overhead shots? why? that’s the only “fault” I found. Without a 180degree LCD, I cannot upgrade to this.

    • alisterchapman says:

      The LCD can be rotated 180 degrees the other way so that it will fold flat against the handle with the screen facing upwards. In total the LCD can rotate about 320 degrees. There has to be an end stop somewhere so you don’t twist it too far.

  14. brian becker says:

    had a play with one of these…two functions i couldn’t find…audio monitoring other than the tiny dots on the viewing screen and changing colour temperature on a dial (like my current Z7)…am I missing something?

    • alisterchapman says:

      There is no color temp dial but you can set up different preset white balance in the picture profiles. If you press the status button and step through the status pages you will get to a screen with full size audio meters.

  15. JR Dziengel says:

    Hi Alister, I appreciate your time and reviews. I’m wondering if this is an ideal run and gun wedding/event camera. I am liking the 3 1/2″ inch sensors on this camera for low light at receptions, etc Plus the idea of using Hypergamma for bright/shadows when outdoors (especially, a bride with a white dress and having the sun that is hot on her face from one side, and the other dark while I’m trying to compensate for that, you know). Its a bit more pricey than what I’m used to paying for a camcorder…But its time for me to upgrade. Initially, I was looking at the new JVC and of course, the Canon xf300. Wondering if Canon is coming out with anything new soon too. I am also used to working with Panasonic. But I need something for the next couple years or three that will do the job for event videography and some B camera work. Last question…Does it have a remote input for a zoom controller? Thanks!

    • alisterchapman says:

      The PMW-200 is probably the best camera in this class primarily due to the larger 1/2″ sensors. The 200 really is a very nice camcorder. I have no idea what Canon or Panasonic have planned for the future. The XF305 is also a good camera, but low light performance does suffer a bit due to the smaller sensors.

      The PMW-200 does have a socket for a remote zoom. I have used the PMW-150 which is the European verison of the PMW-160. It too is a good camcorder but not as nice as the 200. It has smaller 1/3″ sensors so sensitivity suffers and the lens, while having a greater zoom range is not as nice to use.

  16. JR Dziengel says:

    One last thing :) Have you worked with the new Sony pmw-160 yet? Thoughts??

  17. JR Dziengel says:

    Thanks Alister! I am leaning very much towards the 200. I need to get it in my hands first before I make the final leap. My Best!!

  18. JR Dziengel says:

    Sorry, just wondering where the remote input is for the zoom control. Is it a LANC input?

  19. Mark Smith says:

    Hi Alistair,
    I sat in on your excellent PMW200 presentation at BVE. Have you found a way of setting the back focus? I have used the EX1 extensively and have had to reset the back focus on occasions. I have tried the same trick to get into the engineering menu but without success. Do you have any ideas?
    Cheers,
    mark

  20. JR Dziengel says:

    Hello again Alister,

    I am renting the PMW200 for an event this weekend. And am wondering if you have any recommended picture profile settings in the Standard Gamma or Hypergamma modes. We will be shooting at 1080 24p and going for a cinema look/feel. So what settings do your recommend for a Cinema look? I am also thinking of not going as high as 9db in low light. Plus, I will be equipped with an LED camera light for low light when needed. I am hoping I do not run into many flicker issues. Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks for your time. Best!

  21. Darren says:

    Hi Alistair

    I own an EX3 and am considering (what feels like because of the difference in cost) ‘downgrading’ to the PMW 200 for projects requiring 50mb/s. How does the LCD screen compare to the screen on the EX3 as this was one of the reasons I originally bought the EX3 over the EX1.

    Thanks

    Darren

    • alisterchapman says:

      The LCD panel is an improvement over the EX1/EX3 but you do loose the eyepiece tube. The rear EVF on the PMW200 is better than the one on the EX1.

  22. Metin says:

    hello Alistair

    I got the sony pmw-200, I used it once, however the audio was not good at all, when I imported the video clips, I find 6 tracks of audio, I used sony wireless rec-trans
    is there anyway you can only 2 tracks of audio when using wirless recivers-transmitters?

  23. metin says:

    hello Alistair
    i used the sony pmw-200 in one event and I was getting the sound directly from wireless sony system, however when i imported the videos i got 6 tracks of Audio, is there anyway you can set the audio chanels to record only 2 tracks?

  24. Lye Kwai Chuen says:

    Hi Alistair,
    excellent review, the company I work for recently purchased a few units of th PMW-200. Have you found a way of setting the back focus? I have used the methods i learned from abelcine on EX1 to get into the engineering menu but without success. Do you have any ideas?
    Cheers

  25. Jaisson Matos Arias says:

    Quisiera hacerle la consulta de cual de los 2 modelos recientes en XDCAM es mejor el PMW-200 o PMW -160. jaissonpost@hotmail.com

  26. Don Ruggles says:

    Dear Sir: My son was killed several years ago, so I returned to flying helicopters and organized the LifeNet EMS Helicopter program here in our city. I was a former army medevac pilot during Vietam. I also own and operate Helicopters Southwest where we use Bell Jet Rangers with Sony Video cameras mounted under the nose of each aircraft. I just purchased a PMW200 to try for video work of powerlines and pipelines
    but I cannot determine how to remotely control zoom and focus functions. I ordered a
    CBK-WA01, but would prefer to use something like our previous Sony RMB 1000 controllers if they would adapt to the 8 pin input of the 200; However, I am told that the focus function perhaps still might not function electronically. If you have time, you may call me or email, and I will be glad to pay for your assistance.
    870-774 2474 , Texarkana, Arkansas

    • alisterchapman says:

      I’m not sure that you can control the focus remotely. You could use a wireless follow focus, but that would be a pain to rig up. The zoom can be controlled by various remote zoom controllers form Manfrotto, Libec and others that connect to the camera via the remote connector on the lens. This lens remote connector shares the same protocol as the Sony EX1/EX1R.

  27. Rustybitz says:

    Hi Alister, just bought PMW 200 and i am shooting a lot of surfing ,problem with blown out whites.if i expose the whites correctly the rest of the frame is under exposed,if i expose the frame correctly the white water is blown out.how can reduce white levels in picture profiles. or do you have any suggestions did not have this problem with my EX 1 .
    regards Rustybitz

  28. Rustybitz says:

    Hi Alister Thanks for the tip,seems to be working although it looks like it has canceled out the zebra’s and i have to judge exposure by eye .I always have a zebra on at all times
    and usually get good results.Do sony have a clear explanation of what type of situation
    or conditions each gamma works well in.Thanks for the reply Rustybitz

  29. Ludovic says:

    Hi Alister,
    Recently bought the PMW-200. The autofocus takes forever to focus on the target, it keeps hunting; this is a real problem, especially with moving subjects. I used to own an EX1 so I know the autofocus is not the best on those cam but the autofocus on the PMW-200 seems worse than on the EX1; have you experienced a similar issue?
    Thanks.

  30. Hey Alister,

    We’re headed to Ethiopia for some very challenging PMW-200 shooting. Dark skin, light desert sand. Can you suggest useful HyperGamma and Black Gamma settings?

    Also, any links to any of your picture profiles for this camera would be much appreciated!

    James

    • alisterchapman says:

      Probably just a case of picking the Hypergamma that gives you the most pleasing image. I’d start with Hypergamma 1. Maybe then add a little – black gamma, say -20.

      • Thanks. Forgot to mention that I will have plenty of time to grade the footage in post, so I might as well go to 109% with HG4, right? This would give me more overall exposure latitude, allowing me to open up the iris to capture the dark skin tones without losing too much highlight detail.

        And I’m a bit confused here – wouldn’t I use a positive Black Gamma setting to get more detail in the dark skin tones?

  31. Jas says:

    Does the pmw200 allows you to record 50mbs on a sd card which allows you to record upto 95mbs. The other thing was I wanted to operate this camcorder on a crane is there anyway I can adjust the iris via a remote?

    • alisterchapman says:

      No, no, no, you can’t record 50Mb/s on an SD card. SD cards are designed for FAT only. HD422 XDCAM has no file size or file length limitation so you cannot use FAT. XDCAM HD422 uses UDF. If you try to use UDF on SD cards the cards built in error correction will be unreliable, so Sony don’t allow this.

  32. Eric Seldin says:

    Hi, Alister! Our docco series production has just received our 2 units of the PMW-200, chosen in large part on your remarkably descriptive reviews. I’ll be using one of them with the Kinotehnik LCDVF and will let you know how that works out.

    Cheers, Eric

  33. Nel Shelby says:

    Thank you Alister for your review. Very helpful! I have been using an EX1R for a few years now and want to purchase the PMW200. Does it have the same connection for the remote zoom as the EX1R has?
    Thank you.

  34. Pingback: New Camera: The Sony PMW200! | Dan Mears

  35. Rakesh says:

    1.Flicker in LCD please see in when room light is dim, like cameraman in dark auditorium and filming bright stage then see try to rotate LCD picture flickers just by touching bezel.2.Lights leaks from vent no 2 left side top put a torch u can see green flash I had green flash when sun behind u sun around left shoulder axis.Sony says they know it needs modification by sending service center.3.Camera Refuse to do Auto white Balance above 10000 Colour Temp.

  36. Stephen says:

    Alister, as you are extremely familiar with the EX1, and have now used and reviewed the new 200, I have a couple of questions; are you certain that the front-end has improved or maybe am I misunderstanding you review? Exactly what improvements have occurred in the PMW200 over the EX1, not including the 50Mbps 4:2:2 recording format? Do they not both have the identical sensor setup and Fujinon glass?

    My second question, where it comes to recording a flatter image with the goal being to gather more information / dynamic range and then later in the editing process or in post, apply a S-curve or a type of grade that basically brings down the blacks and pushes up the highs – does this technique improve the image over most standard picture profiles that have more contrast at the outset on any model camera? For example on the F3 and the newest F5 Sony puts a special emphasis on a LOG but doesn’t the same type of technique deliver improved stops on other camcoders such as the original PMW-EX1? Thank you for your time and advice.

    • alisterchapman says:

      The lens and sensors are indeed the same, but there is a new DSP and the image processing is better. This results in slightly reduced noise. In addition the way the camera reproduces skin tones and things like trees and leaves is a little less “muddy” than an EX1. It is not a big difference, it is only a very small improvement and unless you had one of each cameras side by side it could be hard to see, but the improvement is there.

      There is a limit to how much you can grade any image. This is most often limited by how much noise there is in the image. A moderately noisy camera like the EX1/PMW-200 is not the ideal candidate for shooting flat and then grading extensively. In addition as the dynamic range of the EX1/PMW-200 is under 11 stops you can realistically record that entire range without needing to resort to a full log gamma curve. The Cinegammas/Hypergammas do a good job of capturing almost all the range the camera has to offer.

  37. guest says:

    On one condition: they have the same effective pixels and use most of the sensor area. If you compare a bigger sensor with much more pixels than a smaller one, you can get a worse low light performance and overall IQ. An example is an APS-C sensor with 16 MP vs. 2/3″ 2.2 MP, e.g. NEX-EA50 vs. Sony PMW-350K. The latter performs much better. Generally, a video camcorder with no still image option will always deliver better IQ and low light performance.

    • alisterchapman says:

      Yes pixel size is important. But even an APS-C 16MP sensors pixels (23.7mm wide/4608pixels = 5.1 micron), are bigger than those on a 2/3″ sensor (8.8mm wide/1920pixels = 4.5 microns). With high pixel count sensors you have to also consider that pixel summing, averaging or interpolation will also normally improve the cameras signal to noise ratio. The EA50 has slightly less noise than the PMW-350 and in my opinion the EA50 performs very similarly to the 350 in low light, which is no surprise given the pixel sizes. Other factors like aliasing and moire with a stills sensor may cause other image artefacts and codecs like AVCHD add compression noise, but even so, large sensor cameras typically have lower noise and higher dynamic range than typical 2/3, 1/2 and 1/3″ video sized sensors.

  38. ANGELO says:

    Hello Alister thanks for your valuable advice, I bought a 200 + Pmw the SXS card I read that I can also use SDHC cards to record to 35 mbs, I would like to know that minimum requirements must have these cards. Is there any brand that is not compatible or it is not desirable because it is not reliable, I work for television news and I would not have problems which one should I buy? thanks regards

    • alisterchapman says:

      Lot’s of brands that you can use, some that will give problems. Typically SanDisk Class 10 or better work well. I’ve also used Transcend Class 10.

  39. Danny says:

    I’m using ex1,and ex3 ,and I want to buy pmw 200 ,I just want to know I can shoot 1920×1080 60i with this camera or no ? Thx

    • alisterchapman says:

      1920×1080 30i YES 30 frames per second interlaced, sometimes incorrectly referred to as 60i

  40. Bill Evelyn says:

    Hello, Alister

    I just picked up a PMW 200, replacing an EX3. Can you tell me what the size of the lens is? I want to pick up an up-adapter so I can use my Series 9 filters.

    Thanks…

  41. Steve Maud says:

    Very thorough and useful video. Many thanks. Just a note on your video, the camera shots are not very well lit on a dark background so hard to see details, and bigger CU on button shots would have been handy in the audio section. Sorry as one cameraman to another I can’t help it.
    But overall a great detailed review that has helped inform my decision over whether to buy this good EX3 replacement.

  42. Caesar Darias says:

    Hello, Alister.

    In a post on 10-23-12 you wrote, “The output of the EX1 and PMW-200 is 10 bit 4:2:2, the same as the vast majority of HD cameras.”

    I assume you meant you can get 10 bit if recorded to an external device such as the Ki Pro Mini. Otherwise you get 8-bit. Correct?

    And why don’t they make the camera so that you can get 10 bit 4:2:2 right onto your SxS cards? I’ll gladly pay extra money so I don’t have to carry more hardware.

    • alisterchapman says:

      The XDCAM codec is based on Mpeg2 which is 8 bit only. For a camera like the PMW-200 10 bit recording would make very little difference as the noise levels are larger than a 10 bit sample, so in grading and post it will be the noise that will most likely limit your grading, not whether it’s 8 bit or 10 bit.

  43. Anup Parmar says:

    Hi Alister, I recently purchased a Sony PMW 200m an was horrifically shocked that the back focus was completely out after unboxing and switching it on!… but later resolved this issue after setting the flange back control! Also a very plasticy body, not as strong and sturdy like the body of my previous Sony Z7s. Also not liking the fact that Sony have removed the auto iris switch and button from the grip? Another big let down is the brightness on the LCD and the viewfinder not as bright as the Sony Z7 or the EX even though levels turned up to a reasonable level and the size on the viewfinder is smaller in comparison with earlier Sony camcorders. Handling the camera on a tripod can result in shakey video if you’re handling the lens and other controls..However on the other hand a good camera for capturing sharp clear picture quality, great zoom control with constant apeture, better audio control…but a tough time getting there.. How I miss the Z7 and its interchangeable Zeiss W/A lens, sturdy build quality, but with 1/3″ sensor it doesn’t quite match up to today’s large sensor cameras. Many thanks.

    • alisterchapman says:

      The backfocus going out is an indication of rough handling of the camera in transit. It does happen and is not a major concern, my EX1R and EX3 used to go out of alignment when shipped by air freight. It only took a minute or two to re-calibrate it.

      If handling the camera on a tripod is resulting in shakey video, that’s most likely because the tripod is too light for the job.

  44. Oliver Buckie says:

    Thanks Alister for your very helpful review.

    I would like to use the Sony PMW-200 to shoot a skiing slalom competition. Up until now, most of our work has been done in a studio and we have little experience in shooting outside nor a sporting event! I am a little concerned with the bright sunshine (blue sky), white blending snow and very colorful outfits! We will be using a tripod with fluid head.

    – Should we be using HD422 or is HD420 adequate?
    – What about 50i or 25P?
    – What about picture profiles / settings?
    – How should we correctly white-balance?
    – Any other tips on how best to setup the camera would be cool.

    Many thanks, Oliver

    • alisterchapman says:

      With so many questions I would try to find a workshop to attend. You really need to take the camera to a ski run and experiment and practice first, you can’t beat practice and experimentation. 422 or 420, 25p or 50i all depends on what your going to do with the material, how it will be edited and delivered, who your client is and what they need.

  45. Oliver Buckie says:

    Thanks for your feedback Alister. Yes, of course I will do lots of experiementing before the actual event, I just wanted a few pointers to get started with. We wish to create material mainly for use on the web (public)- the highlights of the event – however, for training purposes (internal) each run for review on a TV (DVD). Editing will be done in AE CS5.5 and our customer is an internationally recognised ski team.

  46. Lawrence Moore says:

    I’m hovering between acquiring a Canon XF300 or the Sony PMW200. The SxS cards at £1075 each seem hugely expensive, but I gather that is the price to pay for shooting at 50Mbps.to conform to the EBU broadcast standard. I use FCP on an Apple iMac to edit, and with Sony products, there can be file transfer problems – is it relatively easy to input files from this camera to Apple Mac computers? Thanks for an exhaustive and useful review.

    • alisterchapman says:

      It’s very easy to get the files into FCP. You will need to instal an included utility called Content Browser to facilitate the import of the files.

      SxS cards are not as expensive as you have been quoted. A 64GB card is about £400. This is professional media with special circuitry to prevent file corruption and lost files as can occur with consumer type media. It is also extremely fast, you can offload an hour of footage in about 5 mins with the USB3 card reader.

  47. claudia burn says:

    I am an engineer in a mainly PDW-700 house. We recently purchased the PDW-200 and our shooters have all commented on how slow the “one push auto focus” terminates. I can’t find a spec stating the duration between activating the function, and the automatic termination. I’ve looked at two PDW-200’s, and both take about 8 seconds. Our shooters think this is problematic, that it should be quicker to terminate. Do you happen to know if this is the normal operation, or do you think we might have a problem?
    I have asked Sony, but no one has responded yet.
    Many thanks for all the useful information your site provides.

  48. Henry Zammit Cordina says:

    I just purchased a Sony PMW 200 . First thing that I had to do was download the latest Firmware .The download has to be transferred to an SXS Card . I don’t have an SXS reader so I used the supplied USB cable . On executing the USB connection in the menu , I got a black screen with the USB logo and showing Connecting . But nothing is showing on my Mac Pro Desktop . I should see an SXS icon . I cannot upgrade .Can you help me out on this please .

  49. James says:

    Hi,

    I’ve been having trouble matching the EX-1 and the PMW 200. Do any of you know of picture profiles for both that would do the trick?

    • alisterchapman says:

      Sorry, I’ve never had both side by side to do this. They would still look very slightly different anyway as the IR cut filters are different.

  50. Tim OBrien says:

    Alister,
    Quick Question – I am currently using the NEX5u, which has a very unique function – it records SD and HD simultaneously to the SD cards and the EXT Drive. This is very helpful in my business where I have shooters trying to capture 200 – 3 minute performances throughout the day. The SD records non stop in case they forgot to hit start/stop on a cycle. Do you know of any other Sony camera that can do something similar?, can the proxy mode be controlled separately from the main recording?

    Thanks in advance!
    Tim

  51. Commander BRC says:

    What about green screen?

    Can one shoot a good greenscreen with this type of camera?

    any suggestions would be welcome.

    peace,
    -CSF

    • alisterchapman says:

      Yes it will shoot good green screen. As always the secret to good green screen is the lighting. The PMW-200 is one of the best cameras for Green Screen at this price. Spend more money and you can get better cameras, but for the money it’s a good bet.

  52. nino rinaldi says:

    I purchased a PMW 200 two weeks ago. I found a big difference between the tone of the color shown in the lcd and the viewfinder. The former turns little bit to green, the latter to magenta . But when i look the image in a monitor via sdi or video, it’s correct but doesn’t match neither the viewfinder nor the lcd. Is it a common mistake or it’s just my unit?
    Thank you for your advise.

  53. John Roan says:

    Hi Alister,
    Very readable review, excellent in fact. As a stills man venturing in to video I am finding my feet a little. Until recently we had to use Pavtube conversion software although Sony had now issued a patch to enable download through Final Cut of the MXF files directly from the camera. Using the same software I cannot convert the files in to iMovie. When using say a Sennheiser mike the conversion does not pick up the sound properly whemn converting to AIC format ( Apple Intermediate codec ). As a novice at this stage, what recording format would you suggest we start at, to correct this problem.

  54. Anup says:

    Does anyone else who owns a pmw 200 have auto white balance issues when in auto mode? It seems to duck in & out of balance??

  55. Tsanibaytchev@yahoo.co.uk says:

    Hi,
    I really like your custom picture profile with which you have taken that picture with the house and the green plants. Could you share the settings with us. It would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks in advance!

  56. David says:

    Hi Alistair,
    I am considering purchasing a 200 and wondering about how much drive space I will need to download / archive xdcam files recorded at 50 mbps as compared to the max 35 mbps on an EX1. Also does it use the same cards as the EX1. Any help would be really appreciated. Thanks.

    • alisterchapman says:

      It uses the same SxS cards, but can also use XQD cards. 50 is 30% bigger than 35 so your storage requirements will also be 30% bigger.

  57. TheVince says:

    RE: Sony PMW-EX1 vs Sony PMW-150
    Thanks for this review.Im looking at purchasing either a Sony PMW-EX1 or a Sony PMW-150 as my first camera. Primary use will be filming indoor conferences, documentary and news.
    Which of the two cameras would you recommend?
    I’m buying used ones and they are both priced at about $3200 each.
    Thanks in advance

  58. TheVince says:

    RE: Sony PMW-EX1 vs Sony PMW-150
    Thanks for your review.Im looking at purchasing either a Sony PMW-EX1 or a Sony PMW-150 as my first camera. Primary use will be filming indoor conferences, documentary and news.
    Which of the two cameras would you recommend?
    I’m buying used ones and they are both priced at about $3200 each.
    Thanks in advance

    • alisterchapman says:

      EX1 every time. PMW-150 is very poor in low light compared to the EX1. Add an external recorder to the EX1 and it meets broadcast spec for most types of production, the PMW-150 because of it’s smaller sensors does not.

  59. TheVince says:

    thanks for the advice Alister.
    Now I know what to buy.

  60. Mete says:

    Hi, Alister Please help me with Picture Profile for outside and inside movie for Sony PMW-100

    • alisterchapman says:

      MY PMW-200 profiles also work with the PMW-100. Only problem is the PMW-100 is not very sensitive and rather noisy, so don’t expect it to perform anything like the PMW-200.

  61. Mete says:

    Thank you very much ,Alister

  62. Tim says:

    I’ve just returned from shooting a doco for an NGO in the Cambodian Jungle with a PMW200 kit and have to say that I wished I’d had the budget for taking something better. I’ve been shooting for 25yrs and eagerly awaited the arrival of a handheld 50mbs 422 camera but now wished i hadn’t bothered. The camera is light to carry and easy on the batteries which is good but is a bit of a dog to use like all these small format cameras. The main problem is focussing with the awful LCD screen and EVF. The LCD cannot be seen in high ambient light and it’s not practical to fit a shade when you need to keep folding the screen away. The EVF is simply rubbish and, as Alister has already pointed out, you experience a nauseating rainbow effect when moving your eye around the frame which makes focussing almost impossible. When set to B&W the effect is really really bad. There is a peaking facility to help focussing but only 3 levels which isn’t good enough. Real world peaking levels vary according to the contrast in a scene so it should be adjustable on the fly. In soft Cambodian light contrast is generally low, especially if you shoot with a fairly flat picture profile. Autofocus is achingly slow and unreliable in low contrast scenes. Why is it that DLSRS have 56+ point focus systems and can find focus in a heartbeat yet in video land these domestic grade cameras are in the dark ages of tech? The headphone amp is very poor, weak and noisy and the audio input levels & mic preamps are also very weak and noisy. To drive a pair of Senny HD25 cans you’ve got to have the volume up to 11! The audio monitoring on screen is poor. Why is it XDCAM supports 4 channels of audio yet you can only access 2? Yes there is a stereo mic on board but it’s totally useless. If physically there is no room for 4 XLR sockets why not at least give a 3.5 mm stereo jack to override the useless onboard mic? Then you could use 2 channels for 2 radio mics and the other channels for a pole mic or FX. Access to white balance controls is rubbish, why no dial in wb control? Why have to use a picture profile to set preset wb? The lens control is unsurprisingly poor as it’s all servo operated so if you use a remote zoom demand soft starts and finishes to a zoom are almost impossible. There’s also a software fault in that if you set the ‘Direct Menu’ to ‘All’ it locks you out of certain functions like FB (back focus) adjustment. How rubbish is that! The Direct Menu must be set to ‘PART’ to access these adjustments but then of course you can’t get quick access via the LCD screen to all the functions you need. Sadly I think the PMW200 is vastly overrated. It does deliver nice pictures but needs so much effort to get them by which time you’ve missed the shot! If you’re thinking of buying one I’d give it serious thought, it looks good on paper but in the real world of hard work it sucks. Give me a PMW500 any day.

    • alisterchapman says:

      Frankly you summed everything up in your first sentence. No one is claiming the PMW-200 is as good as, or a replacement for a camera like the PMW-500. But sometimes people need something smaller and/or cheaper. Of corse there will be compromises. The PMW-200 costs less than a lens for the PMW-500, it’s 1/4 of the size and weight, the power requirements are significantly lower. I am always amazed by people that expect $40K big camera and lens performance and features from a small camera that only costs $8k. Like everything in life you get what you pay for.

      Direct menu has to work the way it does. How can you have a system with both switch and menu control of the same function working at the same time? You switch the gain switch to +9db, but then the direct menu overrides it and it isn’t 9db, it’s something else. No, direct menu is very logical, you either have menu control or switch control, not both together which would really mess up your settings as you would never be sure what has priority. The camera gives you the choice to choose between full soft menu control in “ALL”, switch priority in “PART” or switch control only in “OFF”.

      Using picture profiles to change the preset white allows you to set up several matching profiles that you can toggle between very quickly (using direct menu) to have multiple white balance options. If you just shoot with an otherwise default profile selected changing the WB preset is no different to changing it in any other menu, you just dial in what you want. In addition you can use different profiles to suit different lighting settings and then have the most appropriate white balance for each scenario.

      With a decent remote lens demand soft zoom starts and stops are easily achieved. I suggest you try a different lens remote. My old fujinon SRD does a wonderful job. But you must consider the entire camera + lens is cheaper than most ENG lenses, so don’t expect the same performance.

      DSLR’s are able to have rapid autofocus for several reason. The primary one is that the autofocus system can rapidly shuttle the focus forwards and back to find the focus point THEN take the picture. A video camera must derive the focus from the relatively low resolution sensor in real time without compromising the video being shot. Would you rather the video camera went in and out of focus every couple of seconds ruining your shot to check focus? The deeper DoF also makes it harder to determine when it is actually in focus as the difference between in and out of focus is smaller. Compared to most other similar video cameras the PMW-200’s auto focus is pretty good.

      Of corse a PMW-500 will give you a better end result – when you can or have the budget to use one. But there are also many situations where it’s simply not possible to use a 500, then what do you use? The PMW-200 is still best in class and there have been thousands of hours of good quality programming made with them.

  63. Tim says:

    Can’t fault your reply Alister and I agree that the pmw200 probably is best in class but if only Sony had gone the extra mile. Why is it as PSC ops were always left a little bit ‘wanting’.

    I think the pic profile thing is a bit of a red herring though as unless you’ve had time to set profiles up for locations you’ve never shot in before you have nothing to switch to. Rarely do you get time on location to say to Production ‘ mind if I spend a bit if time playing with the settings to suit Cambodian light?’ I used your AC real Profile which you very kindly posted up, it works really well and is great in the grade but on location it would be great to tweak it a bit without having to switch to another profile. Why can’t I override just the WB and tweak to suit the location (i think even the Z7 allowed that) it’s only a software thing afterall.

    It’s an ‘ok’ camera I agree. It’s built to a low price and fits into the market nicely and I’d rather it over a canon Xf305 anyday and no way am i trying to compare to a PMW 500 (that was just a throwaway comment as the two cameras cant be compared) but I think compromises have been made in the wrong areas such as EVF/LCD and audio inputs and outputs (soundies always complain).These are critical areas for any camera and more should be invested in them. I’d rather pay a bit more cash for better evf/LCD and audio support to get the best out of the camera that it has to offer. It’s like having an ok sports car like an MX5 and putting cheapo rubbish tyres on it. Yes it’s not a Porsche but an mx5 with decent rubber goes really well.

    Having used my pmw200 in anger many times I think it’s fair to post an alternative view from direct experience, just like you kindly have, so that readers interested in buying get as much pre-purchase info as possible. I can’t stand the phrase at it goes against everything craft operators stand for but ‘run-and-gun’ work with the pmw200 is not a very pleasurable experience, the zoom is achingly slow, autofocus unreliable, iris control clunky, manual focus very difficult and inaccurate, audio support poor, onboard mic useless and has clunky menus. Seems such a shame to compromise what is an excellent codec, workflow, chipset and compact form factor package buy lack of thought/investment/care (or whatever) in critical areas.

    You’re doing a great job Alister and you’re a fantastic ambassador for our industry. Hope to meet you someday. Kind regards, Tim

  64. David says:

    Hi Alister,
    I have recently purchased a pmw 200 , very pleased with the results one question I have is what format should I be shooting in for clients who wish to post the video on the internet . A few people gave told me not to use 1080 despite my argument that if you have it in 1080 you can always downscale in post. any help would be most appreciated.
    David

  65. Stephen Vele says:

    Hi Alistair,

    I am wondering if I can set the LCD screen and EVF to be both ON at the sametime. I could do this in my EX1 but with the PMW 200 I can’t seem to find this option.

    Kind regards,

    Stephen

  66. john terendy says:

    I am just wondering if the autofocus has been improved via firmware. This seems to be the only negative I’ve seen on this camera. Thanks!

  67. elias daou says:

    I have a problem in my Sony PMW 200 camera I can’t record with my zoom joystick can something in my camera settings help thanks for your relply

  68. William Chingombe says:

    How do I capture my video files from the SxS Card using the USB Port on my PMW-200 Camera

    • alisterchapman says:

      Just plug the USB cable between the camera and you computer. The camera should then connect to the computer. It’s only USB2 so not very fast. Better to get the US20 USB3 reader or Sonnet thunderbolt reader.

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