Shoulder-Mount Camera is Switchable Between MXF and MP4 Recording

Sony's new XDCAM PMW-500, introduced today at events at IBC in Amsterdam and in New York City, records either MXF or MP4 files to SxS solid-state memory cards. The camcorder is Sony's only memory-based shoulder-mount camera that records 4:2:2 HD video at 50 Mb/s.
The PMW-500 is slated to ship in the first week of November, 2010, for $27,900. That price is for the body only – viewfinder, microphone, and lenses are sold separately. It will work with the CBK-VF01 viewfinder (the same one supplied with the PMW-350 and PMW-320) or HDVF Series viewfinders.

Paired with the just-announced 64 GB SxS memory card, which has a transfer speed of up to 1.2 Gb/s, the PMW-500 can record a combined four hours of 4:2:2 50 Mb/s video in MXF mode by using both of the two recording slots available. When used in MXF mode, the camera also records XDCAM proxy footage – a highly compressed 2 Mb/s MPEG-4 video stream that has become an important part of some XDCAM user workflows.

In fact, Kaori Uno, senior marketing manager, XDCAM, Sony Electronics, said that, in MXF mode, the PMW-500 workflow is exactly the same as that for XDCAM optical-disc cameras, with the addition of memory recording. However, she stressed that the camera is not meant to replace Sony’s disc-based XDCAMs.

That means the disc-based PDW-F800 ($42,700) remains Sony’s top-of-the-heap XDCAM camcorder, with upconversion and cross-conversion capabilities that will not be available on the PMW-500, which only downconverts to SD. The PMW-500 will have 15 seconds of cache recording, compared to 30 seconds on the F800, and will have a more limited range of slow and fast motion recording speeds.

In terms of battery operation time (170 minutes) and power consumption (33 watts) it falls in between the specs of the F800 and the less-expensive PMW-350 ($20,500). But here’s a bonus – the PMW-500 has the same 2/3-inch 2.2 megapixel progressive CCDs used in the more expensive F800.

Don’t expect to switch freely between MXF-mode and MP4 recording to the same SxS card. It doesn’t sound like switching between the two modes will be onerous, but you have to format each of your cards in either UDF (MXF) mode or FAT32 and live with recording to that card in that mode.

For all the details on the PMW-500, download Sony’s PDF brochure.

Sony also announced the new PDW-HR1/MK1, its existing PDW-HR1 XDCAM disc recorder in a “hybrid” version that includes an SxS card option allowing users to copy between the two formats in the field. It’s slated to be available at the end of September for $22,000.

Finally, there’s also the new ML-QD, a 128 GB write-once XDCAM disc clocked at a transfer speed of 333 Mb/s for reading. It’s designed for archiving and should be available next year.