Your Future is NOW
Passing into a new decade, people are constantly asking what the future holds. Everyone wants to know what new camera, product or technology will impact the future. I am one of those people who get to see the future in what lies in what is here, now. After I take a look at current cameras, lenses and related technology, I am going to close by surprising you with my pick for today's hottest technology.
While every other manufacturer has been leaving tape behind on their higher-end products, Sony bucked the trend to release the first 10-bit tape based HD camcorder, in the SRW-9000 -- basically an HDCAM SRW-1 deck with the F23's imaging system mounted directly on it. Sony will offer an optional 35mm sensor upgrade and digital recording capability for the SRW9000 camera by the end of the year, along with a 25% cut in the price of SR tape stock.
In December, Sony announced "SR 2.0," an updated recording system based around HDCAM SR that will allow for various compression levels, a solid state recording module, direct access to the "native" HDCAM SR codec in MXF wrapped MPEG-4 SStP (Simple Studio Profile), and a 220Mbps "delivery" version of the SR codec via Gigabit Ethernet.
Sony's XDCAM team has also recently updated their offerings with the shouldermount version of the venerable XDCAM EX (the PMW-350), as well as the new PDW-350 XDCAM HD camera. Just as we were headed to press, Sony also released a new solid state professional camcorder, the HXR-NX5U, which records AVCHD up to 24Mbps in 1080P/24, rather than an MP2 compressed file inside of an MP4 MXF wrapper.
The Sony SRW-9000
Panasonic keeps hammering away at the high-end market. Of course, I originally chuckled at the Varicam 3700's limited features, yet this workhorse has, hands down, won me over. The addition of 1080 4:4:4 capture, and 1-60 fps as VFR on new E-series P2 cards or via dual link output changes everything, and allows Panasonic to do in 1080 what is a staple of the 720p workflow. The ability to record 96K audio seals the deal on the 3700's status as a mainline production camera usable in multiple shooting scenarios.
Panasonic also rocked CES 2010 by showing off a working prototype of a one-piece 3D camera that records stereoscopically to dual, interal SDHC/SD cards in camera. A vastly simplified shooting technology using a single camera to capture both streams of video, combined with a projected $21K USD price, and Panasonic once again has chosen to lead stereoscopic production, much like they have done all along in HD. I am looking forward to testing this camera for an extended review here on the Cow later this spring.
The Panasonic HPX-3700
When the world's top manufacturer of film cameras decides to revamp its digital camera line, watch out. When the new Alexa camera system was announced last fall at IBC, you could almost feel the ground shaking on the show floor -- and I was 4 halls away! ARRI came to fight, bringing a prototype imager to the show floor with a baseline exposure at more than 800+ ASA (2x faster than the Sony F35), and an advertised latitude of more than 12 stops.
With an as-yet unannounced tapeless capture system, and ARRI's long standing reputation for unrivaled quality and meticulous construction, I cannot wait to get my hands on a model for testing.
The ARRI Alexa
The ARRI Alexa is set to give every other camera manufacturer a run for image quality and versatility when they release their updated RAW workflow for the camera, which is 1080/60p capable with variable frame rates, live video out, and an HD (1280x720) optical or electronic viewfinder. Here's hoping that the new EVF is usable on other camera systems, as, at first glance, I found it superior to the incredible RED EVF.
Industry watchers, note: ARRI USA has wooed HD guru Michael Bravin from his long-time association with Band Pro and Sony to head up the marketing for their new camera. Things are going to get very interesting, fast.