Sony PMW-EX3 – Preview

Sony EX3

Just over a year ago, Sony announced the camera formerly known as the XDCAM EX (which is now known as the EX1). Sony’s first solid state HD camera, with a ‘proper’ lens, at an affordable price, it was nothing short of revolutionary and I predicted that it would do for filmmaking, what DV did for TV. Naturally I was right. However, great though the PMW-EX1 was, it did have some limitations. But now the good news is that most of these limitations have been addressed by the PMW-EX3, which is not a replacement, but a higher spec, higher priced model, that will be sold alongside the existing PMW-EX1.

So what’s new? Well first and foremost the lens is now interchangeable!

Yes, you read that right. The EX3 comes out of the box with almost exactly the same Fujinon lens as the EX1, which means full manual control of aperture, zoom and focus, via properly calibrated rings around the lens barrel (instead of the unmarked, continuous, servo driven rings that are found on every other camera at this price point and which are the bane of every cinematographer and camera operator’s life). However, the lens has been modified and sports a brand spanking new rear end (as opposed to a spanked rear end) which debuts Sony’s half-inch ‘EX-Mount’. Although this differs from the mounts used by Sony’s full size XDCAM cameras, a half-inch B4-mount adaptor is included in the box, enabling you to attach standard half-inch lenses.

There will also be a dedicated EX-Mount wide angle lens, made by Fujinon, that will solve the problem of the EX1’s lens not going quite as wide as some directors and cinematographers might like.

The EX3’s removable lens means that PL-mount adaptors, which allow the use of expensive 35mm film lenses, will (potentially), be connectable directly to the EX3’s body, avoiding the problems inherent in placing such adaptors in front of a camera’s built in lens. This is something that will be of major interest to independent filmmakers.

To go with the EX3’s new (lens’) rear end, is a sexy new body, which Sony describe as ‘semi-shoulder mount’…though others may describe it as a ‘semi Canon’s XL H1 mount’.

Based around an extendable shoulder rest, in the base of the camera, that sits on top/at the front of your shoulder, it makes the EX3 both easier to hold and far more stable than cheaper HDV/DV cameras. It also places the camera’s eyepiece naturally, where it should be…at eye level.

Sony EX3

Probably the most complained about thing on the EX1, was its viewfinder. Taking on board this feedback, Sony have solved the problem by completely removing it from the EX3, replacing it with an eyepiece that flips over the camera’s LCD screen and by which all accounts offers a vast improvement in viewing quality.
Other key features that have been added are a Genlock and timecode synchronisation, making the EX3 suitable for multi camera shoots, music videos and any other situation in which you might want to record synced audio to a separate device or sync to playback from one.

Also of note, is the frame rate dial that has been added to the EX3’s body (removing the need to delve into menus for this functionality), but before you ask, no, it doesn’t allow frame rate ramping up and down whilst shooting. Perhaps Sony will consider making this possible, at a later date, because now that it’s there, this is something that camera operators are bound to want to be able to do with it.

On the downside, the audio is still only 16 bit, but this is no longer much of an issue. Because, as previously mentioned, the EX3 offers timecode synchronisation with external audio recorders.

Of course it would have been nice if the EX3 offered 50 MB/sec 4:2:2 instead of 35 MB/sec 4:2:0, but you can’t have everything…especially for a smidgeon under six grand including VAT. As it stands, the Sony PMW-EX3 is both evolutionary and revolutionary, offering excellent value for money. Now all they need to do is knock a third off the price and I’ll buy three.

More info: www.sonybiz.net/ex

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