For the last 2 years, I have been complaining about Sony’s ridiculous decision, to not include 50mbps 4:2:2 recording on the PMW-320 and PMW-350. I understand why they do it, they want you to buy a more expensive camera, in this case, the PMW-500. The PMW-500 is a great camera, it has a CCD sensor block and has been adopted by broadcasters as first choice for general television production and ENG use. The PMW-350 in contrast, has a CMOS sensor block, which is great and very low noise (less noisy than the PMW-500 and PDW-700 in my opinion) but has been compromised by not having 50mbps 4:2:2 recording option. I know this does not matter for everyone, and I have shot news inserts for the BBC at 35mbps with no issues. But what has happened is that many camera operators have been forced by customer demand to buy the PMW-500, at almost double the original price of the PMW-350 and some have struggled financially as a result.
So what of the PMW-400? Well finally, Sony has woken up and addressed the balance. You can now choose to buy a CMOS based, shoulder mount, 2/3″ Broadcast camera with 50mbps 4:2:2 recording built in. The price will be key, and will need to be lower than the current price for the PMW-500. There are improvements over the current PMW-350, such as even lower noise, in camera flash band removal and most importantly, the option to upgrade at a later date to XAVC 10bit recording.
This last option is the most interesting part of the whole discussion, as previously Sony has made no processing upgrades available for any of its cameras. Preferring users to just buy a whole new camera every other year, as technology moves forward at an alarming pace. This is a big step forward, as anyone buying the PMW-400 this year, will have a good few years use out of the camera with the established XDCAM workflows and could then upgrade, in order to take advantage of the better quality XAVC standard.
Well done Sony. You have given us choice of CCD or CMOS in a camera that meets broadcasters specs, you have given us what we asked for and you have also given us an upgrade path for the future.